Earthquake Shoes and Other Tales of Clean-Up

My flip-flops are carefully aligned alongside my bed each night, a habit acquired from growing up in quake-prone Los Angeles. In case you have to jump up in the middle of the night and make a mad dash over rubble to get to the doorway as your house collapses around you.

Fortunately there was no falling rubble last week when the 7.3 earthquake hit sleepy (and sleeping) Roatan at 2:24a.m. Our houses did not collapse and in fact suffered minimal damage. Pictures were askew, the pools lost gallons of water, and the heavy procelain lid flew inexplicably off the toilet tank in one bathroom and crashed in a hundred pieces. We did have a film of plaster dust that coated floors and furniture in the bedrooms, but we needed to sweep anyway.

The wood and thatch home of Maria-with-the-twelve-children by the side of Mud Hole Road is also still standing. And so are the dozens of other shanty-like dwellings that dot our little villages. Click here to read more about the underwater shock resulting from a “left-lateral strike-slip faulting on the Swan Islands Transform Fault, a segment of the boundary between the North America and Caribbean plates”:


Islanders responded to the subterranean roar by going to church. The day after the earthquake, and the day after that, and even the day after that, there was a big collective “hush” over the island. Only 14 patients at the clinic, instead of the usual 60, reported Carrie-Ellen, our Hartford nanny who is here volunteering. (It was Carrie’s first earthquake ever, so now she has lots of stories to tell about her first clinic post since graduating with her UConn nursing degree.)

All schools were cancelled by order of the Municipality the next morning, so we were stuck at home. Delaney and Hayden helped with clean-up by “moving” neatly swept plaster piles from one spot to another.

Needing something productive to do, that afternoon we organized a massive wash of all porch toys and the very dirty foam alphabet rug. This occupied all afternoon, thankfully, and now the tool bench, barnyards, blocks and baby dolls all sparkle.

As the dust settled over the weekend, we apparently experienced some 300 aftershocks and an unrelated 5.0. Various clean-up efforts continued.

Through neighbor Heather, we learned that our mutual housekeeper of more than nine months has officially ditched us, taking advances on her salary from both families and departing for the mainland. That leaves us with lots of far more mundane cleaning than dusting around the earthquake shoes or participating in the Great Alphabet Rug Scrub.

So we were happy to quickly find new housekeeper Norma, though like her predecessor, Norma speaks no English. My instructions were limited to “limpiar aqui, aqui, aqui.” Clean here, here, here.

This seemed to work, but at dusk I realized she had scrubbed all of our many windows with a wet sponge instead of newspaper and windex, leaving a streaky residue that makes you think the plaster dust is still coming down.

Norma comes back manana and I will attempt to explain that agua doesn’t work on windows. It was also just as well that she didn't get around to washing the kitchen floor, since David and Isaac came over and urged Hayden to have a glass of juice in a big-boy cup. That, of course, required cleaning up afterwards.

On Monday Mike and I attended our final parent-teacher conference of the year (yes, the babies have now completed their first year of school!). Delaney got high marks for leadership demonstrated each day at --guess what -- clean-up time. Apparently she tells the older boys and girls when to pick up their toys, even following them around with a bullhorn (OK, a trumpet) to get her point across. That's my girl.

Hayden takes his cues from her and helps with clean-up too… though if, for whatever reason, Delaney is not in a clean-up mood, then Hayden can't be bothered either. This sounds more like the behavior demonstrated at home.

In fact, Hayden's final report card sported three sad faces for hitting and biting. "Hayden takes turns...sometimes," it said.

But both kids received "good" or "excellent" in the 38 measures they were graded against. Discovery Bay is a very thorough preschool.

We'll always remember their first school year, marked by no less than a massive earthquake. Hayden even noted the occasion by planting a Honduran flag in the sand, looking out to the mysterious sea.

1 comment:

  1. So glad to hear everyone is fine after your shake rattle and roll episode. The kids look great as do you! I know it isn't easy with 3 kids (Mike included) and a dog.


Hola! We want to hear from you!