Costa Rica Hurricane report from Tee Bushnell

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Tee Bushnell in a photo from her school's website

Letter from our member Tee Bushnell, sent Friday, October 13, 2017

Dear Ann & Phil: I am amazed and truly grateful by how quickly restoration and repairs are being made here. I cannot believe it has only been one week since Hurricane Nate struck. It really seems like an eternity.

On Thursday morning, October 5, when Nate first started, I was scheduled to have parent/teacher conferences. We received notification early in the morning that conferences would be rescheduled because of the weather. We had begun meetings with parents the day before. The rain had been positively overwhelming that day. It had been raining for over a week. It is the beginning of rainy season, so I didn't really think much of it. Only that I had been wet for a week and felt like a wet sponge.....LOL.....I had no idea what we were in for.

Shortly after receiving the message about school, the electricity went off. It happens sometimes during storms (though only temporarily) so I didn't really give it a second thought. Cell phone power went off shortly after that. Water was the next thing to be lost.

There was a knock at my door and my neighbor told me "We are essentially an island. We have been cut off. All the roads leading to and from Monteverde are gone." I was so overwhelmed and frightened by hearing the news. Shortly after, my roommate Karolina, who had spent the evening before away, came to show me a picture of what the road looked like where we are. I was so truly grateful that she was safe. Where the road used to be there was a huge hole, filled to the top with water. The other roads had either been washed away as well, or there were mudslides that blocked them.

My neighbor had informed me that there was a meeting at Casem, the community arts co-op. It is the town plaza at the bottom of the road where I live. When I walked outside, our path leading to the main road was literally a river. I walked down to Casem and the whole community was there. It was announced that we would be organizing to take care of each other as there was no way for any officials to get in or out. We were told of the damages caused by Nate. We learned of the roads being destroyed, very sadly about neighbors who had lost their homes, and that we would probably be without power for several days. Luckily, there was no news of death or injury. Surveys were made to see who had water and food, and if there was anyone who required medication or medical attention.

I had food, though no way to prepare it. I had no drinking water. My friend and neighbor Sarah came over and hugged me. She said, "Don't worry, we have got you. You are not alone." They had a tap outside their home where water was still flowing and supplied me with fresh drinking water.

The entire community came together that day. And Sarah's words resonated over, and over, and over again. Another community meeting was called for several hours later. We met at the Monteverde Institute in the afternoon. Everyone spread the word to neighbors who had not attended the first meeting. The community was encouraged to check on neighbors to ensure they were safe in the meantime. A plan was made to meet twice a day daily.

I was and am completely overwhelmed by the community here. I am here alone and initially felt that I had NO ONE. I was very afraid. I was TERRIFIED. I have never been in a hurricane situation before........I was alone, cut off from my family and friends, with no water, limited food, no way to safely travel, and I had no idea what lay ahead. I was truly, truly incredibly thankful that I was safe, and that my neighbors and members of my Quaker meeting community were safe. At the time, I had no idea about the safety of members of my school community, which was on "the other side" of the impassible road........…

The community here is ABSOLUTELY incredible!!! When we met in the afternoon, We learned that Marisela, the community organizer, had risked her safety to travel to retrieve medications, supplies, and information. We learned that we really were cut off. We learned that we only had each other. We learned that we THANKFULLY had each other.

Volunteers came together to form a mini commission. We were in contact with the "outside world" only by radio.

Neighbors who had gas offered to let those in need prepare their food. Those with wells or taps with drinkable water shared. We met everyday. It is incredible to be a part of the Monteverde COMMUNITY. As we gathered each day, we learned about the progress that was being made and about the difficulties we still faced.

On Sunday, we had Meeting for Worship. For me it was the most moving, spiritual meeting I have ever attended. I felt gratitude as I never have before. People who have lived here since beginning Monteverde shared tips on dealing with varying, if you pour the water forcefully into the bowl to flush the toilet, instead of filling up the tank, you use less water and the toilet will flush. Initially, I walked just outside my door to gather buckets of water from the newly formed streams. After a couple of days, the water receded and I had to walk down the hill to retrieve water. That tip was later greatly appreciated. It was wonderful to check in with each other to see how everyone was faring. I was very moved to see everyone and to have a first sense of "normalcy."

At meeting, it was announced that the Friends School would hold a camp for kids during the week. I very happily volunteered to work with some of the kids. It was such a blessing to have the opportunity to do so. I enjoyed being with the children so much. It was wonderful to be surrounded by their positive energy and spirit. I felt so incredibly uplifted.

A local hotel called the Fonda Vela has been set up as an emergency center for anyone needing shelter or a doctor. They have a generator. In the evening they setup a charging station for people to charge their phones. At the time we had NO cell phone or landline phone service or internet access. It was comforting to be able to have a phone available if service resumed. I checked my phone constantly. I was unable to sleep and frequently checked throughout the night and early morning hours. One night I checked and I had one bar. I was so excited. I immediately called my children, my family, and my spiritual support group. It was the middle of the I gratefully left messages for my children and family to let them know I was safe. I left a message for my spiritual group letting Ellen know I was safe and to ask for prayers. It was such an overpowering sense of relief.

We continued to have community meetings daily. A helicopter came to deliver food and supplies. The road was still cut off, but there was a makeshift crossing that community volunteers had been using. It is very unsafe and we have been advised not to use it. The volunteers however, continued to risk safety to cross to obtain supplies and medication for those in need.

Members of the community came together to volunteer to work on roads in our neighborhood that were becoming impassible. They formed road crews using shovels and carried in rocks and gravel to fill the roads. Power was beginning to be restored to some. There was electricity in some areas. Phone service was restored. My electricity was restored, but I still had no water. The line for my service had been destroyed when the road was washed away. They were working day and night to restore it. I continued to collect water from the bottom of the hill, carrying 5 gallon buckets several times daily.....I will definitely have muscles when this is over.....LOL

Water was restored to many on Tuesday. I was still without, but I showered at friends' houses and collected drinking water at the Institute which has a tank for rainwater and a line for fresh water. They also have a shower and a washing machine.

A community kitchen was set up at the Institute as well as at several local restaurants so people can cook and eat together.

We had a community gathering at Casem. We gathered to just hang out and spend time with neighbors and friends. It was a wonderful experience. We had coffee and tea, homemade chocolate ice cream, the art studio had supplies for painting and drawing, the yoga studio brought out mats and equipment, there was a drum circle, and there were games for children and adults. It was incredible. The feeling of community here is so very overwhelming. I feel more blessed each day.

They have made tremendous progress on the road. There is new, safer passage. It is limited for the time being. There is no vehicular travel yet. Almost everyone has actually been thankful that there is no vehicular travel. It is very nice to walk down the road, with no speeding cars, taxis, or tour buses. I love that we stop to greet each other when walking and check in to see how things are going.

They retired the waterline. I now have running water. I never realized how much water I use each day, though I always thought of myself as conservative. I have a much better understanding of the importance of water reservation and conservation.

I also have a truly greater appreciation for COMMUNITY.

The storm is over here, we are SAFE. Living here is truly a testament to the Quaker testimonies. The COMMUNITY came together to support, protect, care for, and provide for each other. There is true EQUALITY. EVERYONE is truly a meaningful, important person in the community. Everyone is checked on and everyone has what they need - FRIENDSHIP, LOVE, SUPPORT, FOOD, and WATER. The community and the emergency volunteers, risked their own safety to be SERVICE to the community and to those in need. No one put their needs or wants above those of anyone else. Everyone shared everything they had with others. I have found a PEACE that I have never, ever known before.

It is incredible when I think about how I got here. Leaving my job at SFS was one of the hardest, most painful decisions I have ever had to make. I feel so very truly blessed to be a part of Chestnut Hill Friends Meeting COMMUNITY. It has impacted my life more than I ever knew. I am grateful to have Monteverde, when my life was in such turmoil. I have never shared with anyone, how truly afraid and sad I was. The support of CHFM and wonderful friends such as you and Ann made my choice to come here so very much easier. When I came here, I felt and still feel that I am on a spiritual journey.

One week has impacted and changed my life in more ways than I can ever express. I am so very grateful for everyone and everything I have in my life. My life, my spirit, my very soul have have been touched in more ways than I ever possibly imagined.

Please continue to hold me and the community of Monteverde in the LIGHT.

So much PEACE and LIGHT,