Stet by Ria Bacon

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Waterbeds II

Back online after a month in the netherworld of the unplugged, after a month of unpacking furniture we no longer need and machines that no longer work. Our house, like many here, has built-in closets in every room upstairs, rendering our re-packed flat IKEA wardrobes redundant. As for the machines, the switch from 220V to 110V was catastrophic on the computers (both now refitted with native power units), half-hearted with the power tools (blender and drill whirr at a mellow Caribbean rhythm) and ineffective on the rest (needed new vacuum cleaner and VCR). We also have two DVD players: the old one for discs produced for Europe and a new one for Region 1, the US. Stupid marketing plot to control when we watch new movies in different parts of the world. Go BitTorrent!

Also in the last month, my feet have been bitten by mosquitos over a hundred times and could now stand in for a photoshoot on the effects of smallpox. I sit typing with a citronella candle burning under the desk, my feet slathered in time-release DEET cream. No more toe sucking for a while.

So previously I left you with a cliffhanger ending, the dark and stormy waters raging round the bedspread...

I then made the second oddest phone call to a hotel lobby, telling them that our room was sinking underwater.

(The first oddest call occurred some six years ago in the Hotel Batafoé in Abidjan when I calmly explained that there was a large brown snake slithering across the floor towards me. The night clerk burst in, grabbed one of my best shoes and pounded the snake to pulp. I then heard high-pitched screams as he ran victorious back to the prostitutes in the lobby.)

"Yes we know about the water," sighed the desk clerk, "we're sending someone over". No sooner said than there was a rap at the door and our hero of the night appeared, the hotel security guard. He first told us to put our stuff on the beds, but it was immediately obvious that the water was rising as we watched. We'd seen shock horror docu-drama reenactments of floods on Discovery after the New Orleans disaster, but still it really was shocking to see how fast the water could rise.

We carried the kids up to the first floor, then thought what the hell and took them up to the top floor, just in case. Mr B and I then took turns to go back down to rescue our clothes, suitcases, toys, books, everything we had. We were sloshing and sliding along the corridors in our underwear, wide-eyed and adrenalin-driven. On the third trip I realized that the water was almost at the level of the electricity sockets. Would the system simply short circuit or would I be fried alive in my underwear while trying to save a suitcase of spiderman accessories? Tune in next month ... just kidding.

I shouted to the security guard who was helping us move out and he got the hotel handyman to shut off the power to our block of the hotel. So there we sat at dawn's first light, soaked and tired, reading to the kids by candlelight.

We managed to save most of our possessions - our biggest loss was some great children's toys and books (The Gruffalo and other books by the same team). We tried drying them with a hairdryer but the pages were just too pulpy to survive. We had left the children's stuff in a ground-level cupboard so that they could get to them easily, but of course so could the water. The suitcase with most of my clothes inside was also waterlogged. The hotel owner offered me a token for the laundromat the next morning. When I complained that one token was not going to cover the damage, she gave me ... two more tokens. Plus a little bag of washing powder.

Still, our losses were minor when we saw the cars being swept down the street before coming to rest six feet under water.

We moved to a different hotel the next day. We took a room on the sixth floor.