Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Plastic Whale

Plastic Whale
When the wind breathes, all the tarps in Tent City breathe--krshhoouu, kashhhshsh--and I am surrounded by plastic tarps. It's like a plastic whale is passing under my ship. Wind is not kind to this flimsy fabric city. Monday night, thunder rolled in, low and long, to the south. I was lying in my ger, writing. Then the rain, lashing over the decks. I was in bed early, warming up in my bag, trying to keep my lantern lit, wrrewwwrrrew. I have a little handcrack Coleman lantern. Pitter, pit-pit-pit, pshsssh, the rain fell atop me. My toono (ger covering) has started to leak--splat splat--on my wool rug, which is already half-soaked. Perhaps I should roll it up and drag it away? I got down and found the right place and set a wooden bowl out it to catch the drips, then kicked the bowl over by accident, oops!

Last weekend, there were flooding rains and now thunderstorms. We're on a hill and get lots of wind. Waiting for the end, everyday, but they keep forecasting more. More rain, more wind! And the fence keeps blowing down. It's only a fabric screen nailed to wooden posts not staked in but placed atop the ground. Regulations. The posts are held up and guyed out by rock crates (milk crates filled with rocks). Last night, in the storm, the toppling fence put two people out of their tents and destroyed a tv. Mike did his best to get crews together in the morning to help put the fence back together, but many people were sick and some had to go to work and others were still sleeping. I stood around for a while waiting for instructions then decided to collect and right crates and pick up trash. The crew still had a lot to do when I left at 9:30, but I was afraid if I stayed I'd get even sicker. I went to a cafe for hot tea.

I've joined the ranks. I'm sick now too. Seems everyone is here sick and coughing. I woke up with a sore throat, headache and sinus congestion on Tuesday. I've been on a course of antibiotics since before I camp to camp. Now I've developed a terrible cold! I find it difficult to stay hydrated here. There are boxes of apples and oranges, but rarely any juice or bottled water or cups. I prefer tea to the cold hose water, but there's usually a wait for the microwave, so I go away without it and get involved in something else. I was issued a china mug, but getting it out of my wet, dark tent when I want tea isn't always desirable. Getting into my ger requires two hands. I normally just go in when I'm ready for bed and come out when when I'm leaving. The problem with the mugs is that there's no convenient place to store them. We all have cupboards in our kitchens for a reason. It's convenient to have our cups near our food and water. There's also nowhere in camp to wash them. It'd be easier if there were hooks and you could leave your mug in the kitchen, but that wouldn't pass hygiene. Personal hygiene is an issue. There is hand sanitizer by the kitchen you must use before entering--failing to do so will earn you extra securities--but there's no sink or warm water or mirror or place to dry your things. I haven't done any brushing, flossing or grooming here. That all happens at a cafe or my office. Some residents belong to gyms, others go to shower facilities downtown.

A Bed of Milk Crates
I'm finally up off the pallet and on a bed of milk crates. Randy helped me locate six large milk crates. I haven't zip-tied them together, but I set them on the high side of my ger and put my bedding on them. The donation coordinator offered me a 3" thick, cotton mattress. I worried about it getting wet and about it being 2 feet wider than my crates, but everyone said it would work just fine and help me sleep. I put the mattress on the crates and my now damp sheepskin atop that and my wet pillow underneath. My sleeping bag is inside a bivy so, no matter how wet the mattress gets, it should stay dry inside. Just get in and don't touch anything. My ger has so many coverings, it's dark inside, darker than a tent. I crank a little hand-crank lantern to see by. The cranking warms me up, but the light doesn't last long. My headlamp is still pulsing. I need new batteries.

Two cords bring power into the camp from the church. Power is used for a light at the front desk, a light in the office tent, 2 computers in the office tent (no internet just programs for bookkeeping), 2 tvs (one designated for movies only), a microwave and a large coffee maker in the kitchen tent (the two of which cannot be used simultaneously), and a phone charging station. There is no electricity to individual tents. There are parking lots lanterns overhead, but they go out at 10pm. A week ago, someone strung up Christmas lights around the movie and community tents, but the strand between them was hanging too low so the light to the community tent lights was pulled and then the storm took down the other ones.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for doing this. There are lot of complications to living like this people are not apt to think of. It's important to raise people's consciousness about this. I also like your writing. It's colorful and detailed and fun to read, though the topic itself is sad.