Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Typhoon Nona - I was in it

Hello Family!

Gosh I feel like I haven't talked to you forever! 

I cannot even believe everything that has happened in these last couple of days. I'm not even quite sure how to explain it. 

I guess I'll just throw it all out there! I was in the middle of a Category 3 Typhoon. This has been one of the most insane experience of my whole life. Mind you, Hurricane Katrina was this same category. There weren't nearly as many deaths though because there was no storm surge - when the water rises. That's what killed the majority of the people in Typhoon Yolanda. 

It is absolutely insane how little everyone knows about what's coming here when it comes to the weather. No one has any way of finding out for some reason! 6 in the morning on Monday is when we were told the storm would hit in it's strongest. At this time we were expecting a category 1. There was hard rain throughout the whole night so that it was hard to sleep because it was so loud but nothing too drastic. We got up, got ready for the day, but stayed in because the rain kept getting stronger. Finally the power went out and the water. We then got a text from the mission office that it was now supposed to be a category 2. Our phone died before the Category 3 text. 

We all should've been evacuated. 2 sisters in another area were. They're in Tacloban now and we don't know what they're doing. Thank heavens though because we're told their area got hit the worst. 

Anyways, the weather outside just got absolutely insane. You couldn't even see hardly a single thing outside because it was just gray with the rain. We are on the 3rd floor of a strong cement building right on the ocean. Because we're so high, we didn't think we'd have to worry about flooding. We were mighty wrong haha. Many pieces of glass are missing from our windows so there was a lot of water coming in...everywhere! The room that was the worst we figured out how to cover by cutting off the cover of a plasic binder and belting it to the bars on the window. This covered about a 6 x 6 opening in the wall and you will not believe how much water we stopped from coming in in just that little space. The wind was so intense that I had to throw all my weight against the small binder cover, while Sister Mortensen belted it down. We are such a team. Our roommates left the night before to go home, they finished their missions! - so we were the only ones in the apartment. 

Next, in the same room with the window, water up to my ankles was just coming in everywhere. We couldn't figure out for the life of us where it was coming in and we needed to figure it out because it kept rising. We'd stop for a minute and test some different stuff, and then use the two dust pans we had to scoop up the water, put it in a bucket, and scoot it to the bathroom where there's a drain. Everything was soaked. We were soaked. Somehow there was just water flying around the air all around us and everything was just wet. Plus it was super loud. We were screaming at each other above the noise of the rain so we could hear. Finally, we both paused and said a prayer that we could figure out where the water was coming from and that everyone would be okay. 

While my companion was fixing something in another room, I realized that the water was coming up through the door - the balcony door - which balcony was on the same side of the apartment as the ocean and the direction the storm was coming from. With all of our strength we pushed the door open against the wind and saw that the balcony drain had be covered by something and the balcony was full of several feet of water and coming in through the door. Sister Mortensen bravely went out and tried to undo the drain while I held the door open. This was not an easy task at all. I have never been in this strong of a storm in all my life. I'm honestly no doubt completely amazed one of us didn't fly off the balcony. The rain felt like it was cutting into your skin it hurt so bad.

For the next couple hours we scooped water and went back out a couple of times to move leaves off of the drain. Once we got that situation figured out, we were able to relax a little bit. The apartment was a complete muddy wet mess. People came in earlier from outside to stay in the attic room above us so we checked on them and the people below us to see if they were okay. They were in and out of our apartment all night for food and the bathroom. It was nice to have someone specific to focus on helping because there was only so much we could do with the water situation. 

We finally ate dinner and tried to get some sleep. Our beds were wet. My clothes were all soaked because I had done laundry the night before and the humidity from the storm was just not getting them anywhere near dry. So that was a super fun night:) 

The next morning, Tuesday we wake up, decide to throw on a t shirt and shorts and go check on all the members. Oh my gosh, everything was just a complete disaster. It doesn't  even feel real still. It felt like a movie. We walked around to check on everyone and most peoples houses are destroyed, if not completely gone. Trees were broken everywhere and ripped out. Broken glass and garbage and tree trunks and pieces of houses and clothes were all over the streets. We found out all the members were okay. No one we know was injured at all and we only know of a few deaths out of everywhere the storm hit. Helecopters were in the air flying to Catarman where they were going to deliver out the relief, and soldiers were all over  the place helping clear the roads. It was absolutely insane! 

Everyone immediately got back to work starting to fix their houses. These Filipinos can really get stuff done when they need to. We went to the church where we found out over 100 people took refuge and we brought them a lot of food. Then we just walked around and talked to people and tried to help in anyway we could. Technically we were breaking rules by doing that because after a typhoon, you're supposed to stay in your apartment until your leaders come. Around 3 we tried to buy food because we didn't know how long we were going to be here and then decided to return home to see if the District Leader would come. Let me just tell you, it's a very eery thing realizing how little your money is worth in situations like that because the only thing that's valuable is food and shelter. Most every food place closed down, probably saving the food for their families. Some places were open so we were okay, just hoping those places don't get robbed. 

We were in the apartment the rest of the day trying to clean up. The District leader didn't get to our house until 9 that night, in which he told us to pack a bag because we were going to Catarman straight in the morning. 

Catarman was supposed to be where the eye of the storm was, but it's also the emergency evacuation spot for our zone. Yesterday, we got there and saw all the other missionaries in the zone had gotten there too. The damage was pretty bad. Overall, I'd say our area was somewhat worse because we have a lot more poor people in our area. Less houses made of cement and more made of bamboo and garbage bags and wood and cardboard.  

We didn't have electricity or a phone signal, so we were hoping someone would come. The stake president in the area left to Calbayog to call the mission president and told us he would be back by 12. We just hung out in the church building all day with the rest of the zone but he never came back. Finally around 4, the zone leaders decided to go to Calbayog and call the president themselves. They went and found out the stake president had some sort of emergency come up. So they called president and got back to the church around 9:30 at night with news for us. 

We don't really know what's going on. We're all going back to our areas tonight and staying there until we drive to Tacloban on Monday for the Multi zone Christmas Devoltional we were already going to go to. We're just supposed to help the members as much as we can until then. I don't think we're going to be teaching the gospel much, there's too much else to do. 

At first it wasn't really a question if we were staying in our areas. Most every telephone line has been ripped right out of the ground, so no electricity for probably a month, no running water - though we do have a filter and access to a well. We thought for sure we were going to be transferred out to other areas. But today we found out we might stay because the last time they moved all the misisonaries out of an area because of a storm, the members felt like they were being abandoned and it caused some problems. The president will have to decide what to do these next couple of days and let us know when we get to Tacloban. 

Until then, we're okay! We have enough food, and emergency lights, and supplies we need. 

This whole thing is just a mess. Completely crazy. My companion keeps telling me how amazed she was with my behavior during the whole thing because a lot of the new missionaries were freaking out. I just cant believe something this crazy has happened so soon on my mission. I will keep you updated as soon as I can!

Parentals - please get a world wide calling card. If I'm in Allen over Christmas, the chances of skyping are slim. So I can just email you my phone number and you can call me. In case skype does work however, you might want to set  up an account so we can try that:)

I miss you all tons! Love hearing from you! Don't worry about a thing. These last few days have been crazy but all is well in the world and I'm totally safe and sound. 

Also, please don't worry about sending packages. They're way too expensive and I can do without. Also, the whole pumpkin bread thing was a joke. Don't send that because ovens are nonexistent here:)\

Love you all to pieces!

Talk to you soon!

Sister Russon

P.S. I'm in Calbayog right now, that's how I'm emailing, so I don't have my camera with me. I promise I'll send pics when I can!

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