Sunday, August 19, 2007

Calm after the storm

It is one of those evenings of summer tranquility in the tropics tonight. A pinkish haze is spreading across the watery sky; the intensity of its daytime colour fading away with the hours. The air is motionless and the valley is alive with early evening sounds. These are the precious hours, the cool hours. The disabling heat has dissipated with the falling sun yet there is still lingering light to work by. There is the steady chipping sound of hoes in the ground and music wafting from homes all around. The children are shrieking as they play football in the playing field which sits at the base of the valley, a rare patch of horizontal ground on this island of crumpled hills. The birds are singing their twilight melodies, the dogs are barking warnings to each other across the town and harmonious, heartfelt voices are gliding from the many churches. Two local speed boats are cutting a streak across the harbour, on their way back to St Vincent, no doubt. The seas must be calm enough for them to make their Sunday trip, to come and join the gathering that is Lower Bay on a Sunday. The day when locals and expats go to the beach to eat, drink and play.

There is still debris around the harbour’s edge thrown by the waves which pounded the shore when hurricane Dean passed 100 miles to the north of us. The roads and footpaths are hidden under a film of grimey brown mud; residue from the torrents of rain which produced rivers along every gulley. The, usually dry, storm drains are trickling with water still, 3 days after the storm hit its peak. The harbour is glassy flat and back to its natural blue. For several hours on Friday there was a sharp line across the bay, the boundary between brown and blue. The run off from the hills poured into the harbour, filling it with deposits from all over the island. The storm drains are often used as garbage disposal ditches, people chuck everything in them. Then when it rains the waste ends up in the harbour.

Everything, it seems, has gone back to normal here. It is hard to believe that the southern coast of Jamaica is being pounded by 140mph winds as I type, by the very same hurricane which has since grown into a monster. The Prime Minister has asked people to evacuate their houses to one of the many hurricane shelters set up around the island in schools, churches and hospitals. They have instead stayed at home. Fearful of crime and looting they prefer to put their lives at risk than abandon their properties. I hope for them all that the gamble pays off.

The gunshot murder, the first, remains unsolved but someone has been charged with the drunken brawl one. So tomorrow is Monday, another day in paradise as we like to remind ourselves here. Perhaps this week will be quieter, without killing or storm, but doubtless something will come up to write back home about!

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