The autumn rains arrived with a vengeance. We splashed in the puddles on our way to our little grocery store. Dodging raindrops whenever the deluge slowed to catch its breath was our exercise. The Portuguese women washed their clothes in the washtub, and hung it under the eaves of the varanda where is never completely dried. Out came their irons to finish the drying process.
Bethy, who loved to play out-of-doors, made do with indoor games and occupations. Every morning she looked forward to watching (click here for Abelha Maia theme song) a children’s program that originated in Germany and communicated by Portuguese subtitles. Maia brightened up the leaden skies for a short spell.
I was 8 months pregnant the night we decided we needed a change of scenery. After dinner, we went to pay a call on Dona Isabel, our Portuguese tutor. The first thing I noticed as we walked up to her flat was that her Chihuahua, Sniff, was not barking. We asked Dona Isabel about him, and received the sad news that he had died. Sniff and I had enjoyed a tenuous relationship at best with one another. One centimeter too close to Dona Isabel and he wanted to take my ankle off. Nevertheless, I joined in condolences to my teacher. Dona Isabel loved visiting with Bethy, whose name in Portuguese is Isabel.
Meanwhile, the rain had picked up momentum. We left around nine. There was limited visibility, and the traffic did not slow down. We rejoiced to see our flat again. By the time we had put Bethy to bed, it was eleven o clock, and I was ready for a good night’s sleep.
Then at 2 a.m., someone started beating on the door, and kept on knocking until Harry got there. The river on the other side of the road was about to flood, and our neighbor advised Harry to drive the car to higher ground. Harry was off like an arrow well shot.
The flooding river had effectively killed sleep for the duration. (Macbeth had nothing on that river.) We stared out the window as the river rose, flooded the street and kept on going. I had passed panic around 3 a.m. and then started working on anxious. Then the water began climbing up the steps. Then, the electricity faded away with the phone lines.
Harry made an executive decision. He waded through the murky liquid (which had passed over some drowned farm animals) and walked up to our landlord’s flat on the second floor. They immediately invited us to stay in their home. By the time he came back to take us up, the water was higher than Elisabeth was tall. Under the water, a muddy bottom of water was slimy and waiting for us to slip. We could not figure out how to safely navigate the water with Bethy in tow.
To be continued…