A few snapshots of our basement on April 2. Trust me, it's worse than it actually looks. We have had about four specialists swing by to give us quotes ranging from $1200 to $4200 to repair this thing. Enjoy!
Posting here this week has been spotty for a very good reason. After the desi bloggers gathering in Manhattan on April 2, I returned home to do battle with a very leaky basement. Though we weren't “flooded” in the traditional South Asian sense [my mother reminds me of the 1962 flood she experienced in Pune], the 60 gallons of water we vacuumed out in the middle of the night was disconcerting. Just as I vacuumed the floor a fresh supply of water seeped through making our efforts really pointless.
So, the routine for the past week has been to get up in time to call a basement specialist [imagine there is a guy who calls himself Mr. Basement], set up an appointment, wait around for him [it's always a guy] to come in to check the basement out and to give us an estimate. Prices for a sump system have ranged from $1200 to $4200. If it will save us from using a wet/dry vacuum every other rainy week this season, it will be money well spent. So, anyway, that's just the head's up on what's going on here. There are other things in the mix, things that are wee bit private and I would like to leave it that way for now. It's all good, though. Those who made it to the blogger's meetup know what I am talking about.
Back to the bloggers gathering – I will post more about that on Monday, with some photographs. [Yes, Stan, if you are reading this, I was able to “salvage” the images from a very faulty compact flash card – more on this real soon, I promise.]
Via Shahidul Alam
Shanika clung on to her dad Priantha, when she realised we were near to the sea. She had been in her aunt’s house in Hikkaduwa which had survived the waves, but had felt the fury of the sea. It had taken away her mother, her twin sister and her two other sisters and their home. The sea was to be feared. She did not want to go back there, photographs or no photographs. Priantha tried to explain that it would be safe, but Shanika was not convinced.
It was my digital camera which changed things. Most people in the sub-continent love being photographed. The joy of seeing her own image instantly brought a smile to Shanika’s face, and soon we were friends. She took photographs of her dad, her aunt and of me. Soon she was taking photographs of me by the sea, but telling me to be careful!
There are no direct flights from Dhaka to Colombo and I left on the 29th December, the first flight I could get. I didn’t have a very clear idea of what I would do once I got there. Dominic put me in touch with wildlife photographers Rukshan, Vajira and some other friends who had all gotten together to try and get relief goods to the worst affected areas. Margot and others had also helped. Dominic and I had bought some stuff, but it was pale in comparison to the truckloads that Rukshan and his friends had put together. Our convoy of twelve vehicles followed the two lorries though Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Timbolketiya, Uda Walawe, Thanamalwila, Wellawaya, Buttala, Moneragala and Siyambalanduwa until we came to the Lahugala military camp.
It was there that we realised that our planning was less than perfect. The initial outpouring of support had resulted in places being overstocked, while we heard of other places which had received nothing. A military anti-landmine vehicle helped pull one of our lorries from the rainsoaked fields, and except for a small amount of rice, lentils and medicine which we left for families in most need, we put things back on the lorries to be returned to Colombo until we had a better idea of what to do. Soaking in the rain we piled back the tons of rice, milk powder, medicine, soap, clothes and all the other things we had emptied from the vehicle. While the others headed back, Rukshan, Vajira and I went on to the eastern coast of Pottuvil. There was an eerie emptiness. Only the scattered toys and other remnants gave away the fact that there had been a vibrant village. There were no bodies, no sounds, no wailing for the dead.
As a Bangladeshi, I was used to disasters, but the spontaneous collectives that would form when we were kids, singing songs, collecting old clothes from door to door, forming community groups who tried in their own way to stay by the needy, seem to have given way to the more ‘official’ methods of relief. Nowadays NGO efforts and organised disaster management seem to be our standard responses. Our own efforts seem to be restricted to the prime minister’s relief fund. In Sri Lanka, I could still sense the outpouring of sympathy that people felt for their fellow being.
I came across wonderful stories of human compassion and bravery. And while I lamented the lack of early warnings and the bureaucracy that prevented those who knew, from warning those who didn’t, I still came back convinced that it would take much more than tsunamis to tame the human spirit.[This note above arrived from Shahidul a few minutes ago. Shahidul's stories from the ground may be one of many, but his is indicative of our need to work together and seek a common future ahead. If you are still interested in donating to the Tsunami Relief Fund, you can do so by clicking on the button located at the top right of this page. Thank you!]
Noticed that I have been gone now for about a week? Well, I have been swamped. Really swamped with a move from an apartment to a house. My wife and I are now owners of a 26-year old home. No matter that it will take us 30 years to pay the loan off, but this way at least our hard-earned money doesn't disappear into the ether.
So, the last week has been full of drama, or was it a joke? A mortgage broker, a real estate agent and a lawyer are on the edge of a cliff … Well, jokes aside, it was a stressful week, full of 11nth hour wheeling and dealing. I am glad it is over, though the move from apartment to home took an interesting turn when we had movers do their thing in sub-zero weather. Not fun at all. But that too is done. Now the task of unpacking and sorting through 20 years of junk.