Hurricane Otto.

Living in central America hurricane news are to be expected each year. Most of the time Costa Rica is spared from direct hits. However, in recent years, more and more hurricanes have come closer and closer.

In 2016 hurricane Otto hit Costa Rica and Nicaragua. In what was one of the biggest natural disasters in my memory. After watching the devastation it created. I felt compelled to go and help.

The cantons of Upala, Los Chiles, and Guatuso were the ones worst hit by the rains. 10 people died due to Otto. And many families lost pretty much all their belongings.

I talked to a group of friends and manage to put together several bags of food and essentials in half a day. And jump into a car the next day to travel around 4 hours to help with the cleaning of the houses.

The experience was surreal. The path and feeling of desolation was something I’d never experienced before of after… We arrived around 7:00 am the sky was covered by very thick and homogeneous gray clouds. I remember that the amount of light did not change during the entire day.

It was as if the clock stop. And the hours of the day all looked the same.

By the time we arrived, people were already cleaning the houses. All their belongings were on the street covered in mud. Some houses had at least 30 cm of very thick mud.

We arrived at the house of a friend of someone traveling in the car with us. But they told us it will be better if we move a bit further ahead. Because houses there were in the worst condition. And so we did…

We started cleaning as soon as we found the place. 3 of us in one house the other 3 in another house. We began around 7:45 and finish around 2:00 pm. But still wasn’t completely clean. At least it would take another day or two of deep effort to clean it properly. I understood that after all, we had to manually equal the force of the hurricane that put all the mud inside in the first place.

Around 3:00 pm we went to a different house. Where we were told there. Only the father was cleaning the property. He had sent his wife and two children to stay with a relative in San José. Just before the hurricane hit.

Another 30 to 20 cm of thick mud was covering the floors.

I remember, he told me. His oldest daughter was going to have her first communion next Sunday. A tradition where boys and girls are fully dressed in white. Not long after I started swiping. I found one of the white shoes she was supposed to wear for the event. Completely ruined and cover by mud.

That day I learned about the power of nature. And how fast things could change. And how lucky we are not to experience this event regularly.

But I also remember feeling proud about how the Costa Rican people jumped to help, clean and provide food and other essentials to our brothers and sisters hit by the hurricane. Hundreds if not thousands of people travel to help clean the houses of complete strangers. And many thousands more donated to ensure, health and food.

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