the big storm, in time order, with gaps of days
I have the only working contraption in the house, except for the phone, since our electricity went out. We were eating dinner when the rain finally came (predicted for a week). It came for 10 minutes. But it didn’t come down; it came everywhere but down. The saplings flailed in the wind, my towel was thrown into the mud, a third of the tomato plants were killed, the neighbors’ roof tiles were hurled throughout the neighborhood, and the other neighbor’s outhouse was tipped over. Everyone went outside as soon as it had stopped, and walked around, dazed, picking up roof tiles. Someone had a random antenna on the roof. Our electric pole pulled the fence down with it, and the lead poles that rested on our neighbor’s shed were propped up like pick-up sticks near our outhouse. The car in the garage was dripping as if from a carwash, from hood to trunk, although there is a gap of less than a foot wide along the top of the garage. The water did roughly what a firehose would, and the wind was strong enough to do a lot of damage on its own. We haven’t had electricity since – 5 hours. I’m worried that the things that have been in the fridge that whole time, warming up, will be served tomorrow as if there were no problem. At 10:15, it became too dark to read, although we’d started talking much earlier than that. I started to get ready for bed, although even now, at 10:40, it’s light enough outside to see. It was, however, difficult to determine which toothbrush was mine.
[written the same hour as the entry above]
The news from the city (my host mother just got off the phone with her sister) is that everything was much worse there. Marshrutkas rolled, all the electrical poles fell on things, the gas tubes were severed, the electricity is all gone. I wonder what happened at the airport, a mile away from here. My host mother just called another aunt to find out if she’s okay. Her nephew answered the phone. “How are you?” she asked.
“Did you have rain?”
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s standing on the street corner.“
"Foo, Dauren, get out," said my host mother. "Let me talk to her." Dauren woke his mother up, and she talked for an hour about the storm.
[written a day later]
Well, here I am, two weeks from a vacation in America, and suddenly I am having the expected Peace Corps experience: no electricity, no water, indefinitely. The 10-minute storm was much worse than I first thought. Roofs were blown off everything, and trees fell on virtually every electrical line in the village. It’s not really such a hardship, except that we aren’t set up for a no-electricity, no-(running) water kinda life. The fish in the refrigerator turned from peach to black, and the milk smelled like rotten milk plus rotten fish. The nearest well is not that far away, about a five-minute (with empty buckets) walk, but the buckets aren’t at all good for carrying. I want one of those Amish yoke things. One bucket splashes more than two, but two hurts old injuries more than one. And we also need candles. Samal, Dinara, and I walked through all the village shops looking for candles yesterday and finally found a woman who had a few left. We bought one. They said it would be a week before the water would be restored. I don’t know about the electricity.
This morning I had a nosebleed, not a bad one, but what do you do without water? I felt guilty using more water to wash my face again, since we only got a couple small buckets and need to keep drinking in the heat. I wasn’t sure it was okay to go pump water in someone else's yard at 7am. I’ll ask my host mother. The flies aren’t so bad early in the morning, but in the evening . . . . augh. I don’t know how anyone can stand it. They swarmed around me as I was pumping the water yesterday, and I got them up each nostril (my fault – I inhaled) and in each ear. And I stink. So I need water to wash my hair and me and my clothes, too, probably. There will not be hot water in Uralsk until November. Which means that my pleasant weekend showers at various friends’ apartments will become, essentially, more bucket baths. As I said after my most recent well-cold shower, I sure hope mortification of the flesh has some long-lasting benefits.
[written one day later]
Well, after all my whining about hardship, the electricity came on this evening, right before it was too dark to read. And as we were lounging in the living room after first tea, we heard a pleasant gurgling noise, and the water came back. I immediately filled a bucket for a "bath," distilled water, and washed my hair. Aaah. You just can't stop being grateful for everything after having it taken away for a little while. We're all in extraordinarily good moods.