22 August 2011

TS Irene Does Her Thing

Let's start with the good news: My girlfriend, a second-year student at the Ross University Vet School, did well enough on her final exams to pass each of her classes, and indeed raise her overall GPA.  She will thus be allowed to continue her schooling here in the Caribbean.

...That might be about it.  In what proved to be a very difficult weekend for both of us, there were not a lot of upsides to lean on, apparently.  What followed this happy news was Tropical Storm Irene, which effectively knocked out all on- and off-island travel for all of Saturday and Sunday.  The flight that my girlfriend had been scheduled to leave on was booked Sunday, and summarily canceled.  However, apparently contrary to standard airlines procedure, she was not contacted regarding the cancellation, and did not find out about it until she checked online at the recommendation of her school friends, most of whom were also vying for available flights to the States.  By the time she checked, the earliest flight available was Thursday, four days later than originally scheduled.  In lieu of using her local phone and rapidly running down the minutes, she needed to get to a landline at the school, something that under the conditions of the storm proved to be difficult: we hitched a lift with a friend, whose car ran headlong into the first 18-inch deep puddle it saw, and flooded.  In a drive that takes less than 5 minutes, we were stalled outside the gate to the Ross University parking lot for about 15 minutes.

When we finally got to the student center, the facility was happily open to students, but naturally most of the services, including the coffee shop and telephones, were unavailable.  With no phone, breakfast or dry feet to comfort us, we walked about a quarter of a mile in the storm to the on-campus dorms, where we were able to use a friend's phone to call American Airlines.  By this point, nearly an hour after checking online, the first available flight out of St. Kitts left Saturday.  Over the course of a long and fretful conversation with the sales representative, even that changed to the following Sunday, meaning that all American Airlines flights were booked solid for a week.  What with students all leaving at the same time, in addition to the usual travelers, plus the two daily flights that had been canceled, my girlfriend could not book a flight in the time that she had to leave.  Unwilling to pay full fare for a trip that would now last, at best, 5 days, she refunded her ticket and is now looking for ways to occupy herself in the two weeks she has free now.

All this might have been enough to deal with, had it not been for an incident, somewhat existentially comical in nature, that happened Saturday night: while laying in bed, she heard creaking and cracking under her, and presumed the cats were being particularly vigorous and unrestrained in their faux boxing.  But instead, when she looked, she observed a perceptible incline in certain tiles on the floor of her bedroom, both directly under the bed and around the large vanity dresser.  She quickly jumped out of bed to safer, not-sinking ground, and alerted her landlady to the increasing displacement in the slope of her room, and the subsequent cracking of tiles at the joints.  Naturally, her landlady dismissed it, citing a similar incident in an adjacent apartment the previous summer.  This scenario would cause any reasonable person discomfort, but doubly so to one who was dealing with the realities that she will not get to see her family as planned, in conjunction with all of the stresses and concerns over the most difficult semester of graduate school she had faced yet.  The poor girl felt like the ground really was sinking right underneath her at this point.

So what all this means for me is that I was stuck away from my apartment for the duration of the storm, and even stuck in it for some.  Fortunately, though the rainfall was torrential, the winds and flooding were not destructive, and the island and my apartment look not too worse for the wear.  I had never planned on leaving my apartment through a storm without my being there, however, and a few oversights may yet come back to haunt me: I left my grill out on the porch after preparing Grilled Jerk Chicken on Friday night, and the exterior window in my kitchen was left open all weekend, ensuring that my previously-clean dishes got an extra washing, and the floor accumulated just a smattering of moisture as well.  By all appearances, everything else remained dry and intact.  Though I was caught off-guard this time, I'll be extra cautious and prepared to get even a last-minute lift back home in time for the next big storm, whenever that may be.

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