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Sunday, January 24, 2010

This is MY house (tent #7)

He took my hand, and we ran down the dirt path separating rows of tents. The green tents (which looked like the kind of thing my family camps in on the bank of some indiana river for one night, except these tents are smaller) are actually called "shelter boxes." Donated by the Rotary Club, these green shelter boxes have been the home for 67 families from Verapaz since...November 2009. Verapaz would be what I call "ground zero" of hurricane IDA. Definately the hardest hit, basically a chunk of the San Vicente volcano buried the town and its roads and bridges and some of its people.

For Aid purposes, a refugee camp is super efficient. Families all in need of....everything...are in one place. And they do eat three times a day. And doctors and psychologists come. Basic needs are definately covered, but still, who wants to live in a tent city? And WHEN will someone help build something better.

History tells us that it could be next week, or it could be never. On the way to Verapaz, I drive my San Martin, which has a little neighborhood where the most common construction material is cardboard and plastic. Trashbag homes became the temporary solution in 2001. Its 2010, and the temporary homes became permanent, as they often do here.

Manuel, 6 years old, doesnt understand, and frankly, does not care about that political back story. Manuel lives in Tent #7. That is his home, and he is darn proud of it. Manuel became my friend during a trauma therapy session, and grabbed my shirt as I walked towards the car to go back to my San Salvador life. "You can't leave yet."

And he drags me to his home, down the dusty path past dozens of other families, to tent #7. There is a blue woman sitting outside, who refuses to meet my eyes. Manuel's mother. "My grandfather sleeps here!" Manuel's dirty finger waves towards one corner of the tent, next to pots and pans.

The car starts. I run back, leaving Manuel at his home, tent #7, and he grabs me again "I want you to stay..."

Verapaz shelter was choatic and disorganized. the kids were unusually violent. in our van, a psychologist was trying to placate a screaming woman. What happened to her? Descompensando. What? Descompensando, you know, she lost it, she is out of her mind and body and place, shes crying and screaming, she is emotionally sick.

Verapaz has food and water. Verapaz does not have peace, organization, or much happiness. How the hell do you reconstruct THAT?

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