Thursday, August 25, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

current color enhanced goes east infrared image
(GOES Satellite shot of Hurricane Irene taken on August 25, 2011 provided by NOAA)

It's all over the social networks (FaceBook, Twitter, IMs, etc.) in the United States at least. Hurricane Irene has rapidly built itself up from a mere tropical storm into a Category 3 (winds are at 115 mph as I write this) hurricane with threats of intensifying. As you can see from this infrared satellite shot from the National Oceanographic and Atmosphere Administration (NOAA), this is an impressive storm, well over 400 miles in width, taking direct aim at the Outer Banks of North Carolina. (NOTE: This information was accurate at the time of posting, but overnight the storm was downgraded to a Cat 2 and while this is a huge weather event, it clearly is not the monstrous Cat 4 that was threatened earlier.)

As I listen in on the chatter, I realize that this storm has the potential to hit every place I've lived in the past 50 years, barring the western states. If it comes ashore the first time in Morehead City, NC, it will cause enormous heartache and devastation. I lived aboard a sailboat there for almost three years. Then it is forecasted to head for New York City, NY, and while I didn't live there that long, I have visited and been with relatives and sailed those waters for years so it is as familiar to me as any home I've lived in far longer. The last stop could be the Boston area and whether it is Boston itself or Cohasset or Scituate or Cape Cod, those are all places where once I called the place 'home.'

I think the information I've gathered today in listening to some of the questions asked on a live chat (there were over 16,000 on the chat, so I didn't hear ALL the questions) is that many people have never been in a hurricane, never went to volunteer for a service agency after a devastating storm, have never even had a friend or relative in a major weather event or earthquake, and have NOT A CLUE as to how to be prepared or what to do.

In case you were not aware of it, there was a 5.8 earthquake just last week in Virginia, felt as far south as South Carolina and as far north as New Hampshire. The social media network was almost overwhelmed with all the chatter, and from what I could interpret, the greater percentage of those sharing had never been in an earthquake before either. The natural tendency is to run outside of a shaking building. But the suggested safest choice is to find a secure doorway and wait there until it is over and the falling stones have landed.

Although 9/11 awakened people to dangers, it did nothing to educate them to becoming prepared for them. I will be willing to bet that after Hurricane Irene has passed by, there will huge pockets of whiners who complain that they didn't have enough water, or food or batteries or common sense to see them through it all. And for a few, like the 16 minutes required to be able to outrun the Japanese tsunami, it is too little, too late. Depending on a commercial meteorologist to answer your question on a live chat three days before a major hurricane hits your area is like asking a new barber a political question. It's not very productive and is coming from a source that knows nothing about you and your lifestyle.

Perhaps because I lived on a sailboat for almost eight years, I learned about being proactive and being prepared for various eventualities. The day we almost sank because of a tiny, tiny hole in the bow, I learned my lesson. The hole doesn't have to be big for that mistake to nearly cost you your ship. And while helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina, I learned that small things can cause infections, be driven  by wind like bullets into concrete, and stop engines from working. It doesn't take much to stop technology... wind, water, shaking. And being unprepared to deal with the consequences can stop you.

Prayers go out ahead of the storm to all the friends I've made in all those places that Hurricane Irene is planning to visit and intending they are avoiding danger, heartache and loss in this difficult time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

If it's not Baroque, don't fix it!

Iglese de Santa Barbara, Barichara, Colombia
sits on a hill overlooking the city and was the
first church built here.
Ha ha! Bad joke, but this is the Second year for the Musica Baroque en Barichara ( and if you click on the link you can find out the entire program. It is in Spanish, but you'll get the general idea from the names of the composers... some of my favorites: Handel, Vivaldi, Bach and Buxtehude. (I know a few of my readers are adept in this language, so  enjoy!)

Not only do I have a chance to get dressed up a little bit (wearing sensible shoes, however) but I will have the enjoyment of listening to music that was created about the same time that Barichara was just getting started.

Friday night there was a performance in the Chapel of Santa Barbara, the first church built in this old city. The acoustics of this recently renovated historic building are quite impressive. It was well attended including various representative sponsors of the three-night event. I found it interesting that all the reserved seats were up front in the old wooden, very straight (and hard) pews. So I wasn't sad to be excluded from that august group to sit in the white plastic, somewhat form-fitting chairs instead.

Saturday evening there was another concert in the Arts Park, which is a fairly new semi-circle of local stones laid out in a form reminiscent of European amphitheatres with a broad stage that has decent acoustics even without microphones. The moon was full, a few clouds hung around it for effect and the slight cool breeze didn't stop the rocks from radiating the earlier sun-heat into our derrieres, making a soothing environment for listening to violins, oboes and harpsichords delivering music from the Baroque period. It was a night of 'free' music, drawing a fair number of families with small children, allowing exposure to music they might not otherwise have, and because of the more casual nature of the outdoor arena, the younger ones were able to get up and move about. Amazingly they were not as big a distraction as little children sometimes can be when they aren't focused on the central activity. A pleasant evening.

Today- Sunday - the final concert will be at the Iglese of San Lorenzo, also known as the Cathedral. Expecting a fairly decent crowd, I will try to find a seat closer to the front as I don't think the acoustics in the Cathedral are as good as the smaller chapel of Santa Barbara. I'm sure the reason for choosing this venue is that it will accommodate a larger crowd, it is a Sunday evening at the end of a sunny holiday weekend,  and probably - even out of boredom - lots of visitors will decide to come and listen.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Taking a Fall

Street in San Gil, looking toward the
central park area. Notice cross on the
surrounding mountainside.
It usually catches one by surprise. And later you ask yourself, "Why was I distracted? What was I thinking?" In my case, I had just finished getting some papers copied, and was planning to stuff them back into my backpack before getting on my scooter. I had a mental list of things I needed to get done before seeing my son off on the bus. The next thing I realized was my foot wasn't supporting me and the ground was rushing up to my head - and right after that I was totally - and painfully - aware that blood was gushing out of someplace on or in my head into my hands and onto the floor. People were surrounding me, speaking in Spanish, and unfortunately the face-plant didn't do much to improve my understanding.

Mutterings about "hospital," "police," and "amigo" were flying like gnats above my consciousness while I was trying to sort out what kind of damage I had incurred. Someone got me a towel, sat me up, and soon the police were there to cart me off to the hospital insisting that I needed to be seen by a 'medico.' That medico was a young and efficient woman about 30 who clarified that nothing was broken - much to our mutual surprise (I was certain I had broken my nose at the very least) - and gave me medication for pain and swelling. I had actually fallen on my knee as well, possibly breaking the impact to my nose, and it was incredibly sore, more than my nose, for several days afterward.

I forgot to mention that while I was at the hospital waiting to be seen, before I could get confirmation about the situation, I immediately started doing Reiki on myself and that, at least, kept me from freaking out about everything. Curious that the medico never took my temperature or blood pressure before assessing the damage; long ago as an EMT in training I learned that a broken anything will cause a rise in the body's normal temperature.

But in a few days, the bruises on my face were all that everyone saw - and asked me about. Concerned friends and people in the places where I shop wanted to know if I had done this on my scooter, "No, with my feet..." said as I tried to smile. The vast (it seemed to me) amounts of blood on the concrete and tiled floor are typical of cuts to the head, and it scared the owners of the internet cafe near the Cathedral enough to put down some black tape on the little step that I missed so that other people may not fall, interrupting a placid day with cries from a stranger, "My nose is broken!" in even more broken Spanish.
Taken from the hill above Barichara, looking down at the
Cathedral, which is close to where I took my fall.

What did I learn from this? First of all, the police were quick to respond and be of assistance and riding in the back of a police van, when one is hurting, on these bumpy village roads is not at all fun. The hospital staff was very attentive and even though the building and equipment may be old, it was clean. Second, as a older traveler, I need to wear shoes that hug my feet and not put me at risk of stumbling or falling because my footwear is inadequate to the terrain. That is not why I fell this time, but I don't need to increase the risk of a second fall by not paying attention to that little detail.

Early morning view from the western edge of Barichara, looking out over
one arm of the Andes; hard to believe they are over 14,000 feet tall.
Sorry, no pictures of my bruised face, which is now almost back to where it was two weeks ago. Instead, enjoy these scenic shots of Colombia and my little village, where the people talk a lot about what goes on, including the Gringa's fall, but that's part of why I love it here.