The Portugal Years – Year Five: Part 2, No Lights

 

Flood Zone
Flood Zone

As we talked about how to get our two-year old daughter upstairs and out of the flooding, someone outside knocked on the bathroom window. It faced the steps up to the landlord’s flat. Harry opened the window, the landlord told us to hand Elisabeth to him and he would take her up to their flat. Bethy was duly handed through the window, which was large enough for her, but definitely not big enough for her parents to pass through.

Down the steps from our front door we went with me and my baby belly first. I wondered if we would have anything at all after the flood. At the bottom of the stairs, the brown river was already almost up to my shoulders. The neighbors watched us, and told me that it would be easy for me to swim since I already had a beach ball  on my belly to float on. Then, they giggled. If ever I had any dignity, it was gone.

Finally, we reached the top of the stairwell soaking wet and shivering from the cold. Our landlady offered to let us shower down in her bathroom, and I gladly accepted it. The water heater ran on gas, so we even had a hot shower.  They enfolded us up in voluminous blankets and we all sat sitting in the dark which we  alternated with looking out the window at the flooding.

About 6 a.m., dawn reluctantly began to peep through the clouds. The swirling waters rippled like an enormous vat of Hershey’s Chocolate. The water had slowed down and stopped just after it reached the next to the fifth step of our flat. By sunrise, the waters had abated and we were able to trudge back up the steps to our home.

Our flat felt alien to me. The long night had left us exhausted. As a very pregnant woman, I was a bit miffed. The slimy earth was slippery and emitted a peculiarly unpleasant odor.  Everything that we had stored in the garage lay ravaged by the flood. And we had no electricity.

I ventured into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator. We did not have an enormous amount of food in that small appliance, but most of it did not make the cut. I cooked what was salvageable on our gas stove, and reluctantly threw the rest out. That was when Bethy found her way to the kitchen and asked to watch Abelha Maia . Having been saturated in Portuguese language the all night, I  automatically responded in that language: “Não há luz.” Bethy translated it in English as a question: “No lights?” A detailed explanation concerning lights and electricity followed that, sadly, landed on mostly deaf ears. “No lights” became her daily battle cry.

To be continued….

 

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