Friday, October 21, 2016

Black Rain

I thought I knew rain. That was before Hong Kong.

my phone alerts
I mean, I grew up in the misty Pacific Northwest of Washington State. I was that girl who, upon moving to the East Coast, giggled in my Columbia raincoat as people ducked their heads and bumped umbrellas down the street. Growing up in the PNW, rain has about 8 different types and definitions: misting, drizzle, sprinkling, light rain, showery, pouring, downpour, heavy, blowing sideways, partial-rain, rainy spurts, sleet, hail.... I guess that's plenty more than 8. And counting. We are intimately familiar with the wet stuff. But we don't have rain-by-the-color.

Amber Rain - wear your Wellies (fashion is not worth having soaked feet)
Red Rain - forget finding a taxi or bus (schools closed if announced early enough)
Black Rain - take cover! and stay put!

Last week, Hong Kong straddled two storms coming up from the South. The second one being a 'super typhoon' headed for the Philippines, then us (well past typhoon season). We were hit with a deluge of rain unlike anything I've seen in my life, flash-floods and landslips. Most of the scary stuff happened when we least expected it - on a day in between the two storms.

It was a normal Wednesday. We (teachers) got drenched ushering kids out to the afternoon buses (boots weren't cutting it). We hunkered down for our weekly meetings (distracted by the weather, of course) and were in the thick of it when Red Rain, and then Black Rain were announced.

Must be a good newspaper!
disclosure -- This pic (of an uncle in Chai Wan) and those following, of the storm, are from hongkongers out and about Wednesday afternoon. They are not my own.

The amount of water that released from the sky was astounding. Unreal.

yes, there are people in that bus
Streets were immediately flooded all across the city. Not by a breached riverbed. By rain.
this is around the corner from us - at Pacific View, near the Manhattan - this, among other spots, between myself and ABear
We were told not to leave the building. Vehicles were stranded. School buses were gridlocked. Some were able to turn around (lucky for my oldest daughter) and get kids safely back to campus (she's on a different campus than me).

Stanley Beach Road

our bridge - over Tai Tam Reservoir

Stanley Market
ABear ended up being bused home after 8:10pm that night. Even knowing that she was safe, I was unable to think, eat, or do anything until she was safely back in my arms. I was ravenous for information. Thank goodness she remembered my number and found someone's phone to borrow.

Safe she was, along with hundreds of other children well cared for by the amazing teachers, bus drivers, TAs, and peers around them. I am so grateful and, after the shock, in awe of the warmth and capable response of everyone in the community. Everyone stepped up. Every story I heard (and there were many from friends, colleagues, and students) was filled with positivity and care. Spirits were good the next day, though every person was physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. I'm feeling pretty proud to be part of a gritty, capable, and caring bunch of people. And HK was prepared for the typhoon headed our way. Further precautions were taken.
home at last!
apparently she learned "flip cup" while waiting it out at school  :) hahahaha
Today, we all huddled cozily in our flats watching the T8 gale force winds blow past, whipping rain against our window sills. This, while we ate fresh baked cookies, sipped coffee, napped, and played Twister.

Lessons learned:
Black Rain is no joke.
Flash Floods are fast. Really fast.
Trust your peeps. And do what you can to help.

The gorgeous day (Thursday) between Black Rain and Typhoon
and last...
The reason everyone is safe is largely because of the many people who made split-second decisions in the moment of chaos. They kept their wits about them. They were zen. They didn't imagine it away, or pretend it wasn't happening. They didn't panic. They didn't let that sense of the surreal take them over. They saw the reality and took action. And the next day, they didn't curl up into an internal canvas of personal breath-catching. They got up, went to work, swapped stories, offered support, exhaled together. Together. And it was good. (And it's also good that we had today to do some at-home unwinding.)

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