It's 3:47 am and I'm wide awake because tomorrow at noon will start the most profound day of my life. A super typhoon is set to hit the small island I'm living on in the Philippines - Boracay in the Visayas - head on. My emails and Facebook messages are buzzing with well wishes, prayers, and thoughts of concern. I appreciate all of them. I am also hearing reports that super typhoon Yolanda is picking up intensity, and that winds could be up to 225 kph, or 140 miles per hour, with sea swells up to 25 feet high.
It's 3:50 am and I step outside my apartment again and look down over my balcony to try and count how high 25 feet is. I think I am one floor or so above that line, but tomorrow morning at first light I better go out and hit the ATM machine again, while it's still working, and go to the market near the beach again, while it's still there, and buy more supplies: Spam, Snickers bars, bread, canned hot dogs, another flashlight, canisters of water. I'll look around for a nice resort inland, in the hills, because the higher up the better when the storm hits. I would rather not be here at all, and I did try to evacuate yesterday. All the flights north to Manila from the mainland town of Caticlan across the sea channel were booked, but I found one from the town of Kalibo further south. But when I went to the ferry at 7 am, there were hundreds of people waiting against the closed chain link gate - the Coast Guard had issued a strict order not to let any boats sail, so we were stuck on the island.
I try to guess what this place will look like about 8 hours from now. I see a lot of palm tree branches ripped into a frenzy, cheap tin roofs flying around like tempest razor blades. The line of shops and restaurants lining the beach, now boarded up with bamboo and plastic wind screens secured in front of them, will face 140 mph winds and a rising sea swell of 25 feet head on, twice their height. I think of all the people...
It's now 4:02 am and I walk back inside to the cold air conditioning of my little apartment. I might as well enjoy it while I can, because, even best case scenario, we'll be without electricity for a while. I sit down and take out my computer and think about work - I should write a few more blogs, schedule them to go out for next week, just in case. I don't do that, realizing that this time is precious and not to be spent on work. I write an email to my mom and assure her that my apartment is high up and that I have plenty of supplies and that I have local friends looking out for me and that I'll be just fine, of course. I end the email with "I love you, Norm." I stop and look at those words. I should say more - there's so much - but what, without worrying her? I add a smiley face.
It's 4:07 am and I open my computer, which will soon be just a slab of mechanical parts when the power and internet goes out, and write this, to you. More messages come in from people who are praying for us.
I do not worry about myself. If it's my time, it's my time, and I feel like I've lived 2 lives, no - 10 lives - in these 41 years on earth. I think about the others on the island of Boracay, and in the Philippines, and in the world, who suffer. Those without money or others to care for them or the capacity to get to higher ground. I think about the little school kids in uniforms I see running cheerily down the path, and the old woman braiding hair in the beach's palm shade, and the barefooted fishermen, bent from a life of work but still offering a smile. I hope that someone is praying for them, that someone will be a witness to their existence, because, believe me, their souls are good.
It's 4:13 am and I better wrap this up. Thank you. Of all the places I've been in the world and all of the experiences I've had, the simple kindness of good people is the thing I treasure most. I need nothing else. Perhaps I'll get a chance to have more days, to bring more light into this world, to serve, but it's cool, either way - I'm at peace.
I'll keep posting and emailing tomorrow as long as I can before the juice goes out, and then the second we are back up and running on this island, however long that might be. I hope this email reads like sappy hyperbole by then, and that things weren't as bad as they're saying. But just in case, there's one thing I want to say:
I love you all.
Is that enough to express all that I'm feeling? No, but I'm not in the mood for grand poetic gestures and soliloquies about life right now - they seem useless, more things set to sever and fly about when the storm hits. It's 4:24 am and I'm exhausted and I can't sleep but I can't stay awake, either. Things are calm now, so I'll leave it at that, after adding one more thing:
I love you all. :-)