If you were a visitor to Vallarta about a week ago, you will have likely been warned about the arrival of Hurricane Lorena along the south-western coast. If you have never been to a country in a hurricane zone, you may have found this disconcerting. You may have lined up at the hotel’s customer service desk and commiserated with other guests while you waited for information. You may have called your country’s consulate and asked them if you should be getting on the next flight out of town. You probably had to talk calmly to your families back home, even if inside you were as wild-eyed as they were on Facetime.
You probably wondered a little at the unnerving calm of the hotel staff as they let you know that everything was going to be fine. But you didn’t wonder much, because that’s what they are paid for, after all. They can’t panic because then they would upset the guests, who would never return. These erstwhile guests would also be sure their wild-eyed families and friends would never travel to Vallarta either.
Allow me to let you in on a little secret: the staff you spoke to didn’t remain calm because they were paid to (because no one is paid enough to be that cool under hurricane pressure), or because they want your return business (even though they certainly do, as long as you’re nice).
Did you hear anyone say “well, it’s only a category one” or “we’ll get a lot of rain, that’s all”? Did you watch them laugh and congratulate their colleague Lorena on getting school canceled not one but TWO whole days?
When I first moved to Mexico, I absolutely did not get how people could remain in a place where wind is determined to flip your car on its back. I couldn’t imagine myself sitting in a shelter wondering if my house would be there when I returned to it. I couldn’t picture losing everything but what I was wearing (and it would very likely be pajamas or an outfit I didn’t really care for).
But then I lived through Hurricane Kenna in 2002. It was a category 5 storm. Vallarta received a slap from Kenna’s tail end, and it was devastating. I huddled in my little apartment and watched my one and only palm tree get the beating of its life.
Once the storm was over, I crept out to find some people with whom to commiserate. What I found were people who were fascinated by the enormous waves that Kenna left us. I found people who were already smiling, even though the power was out and we didn’t know when it was coming back. I saw people beginning to help pick up the debris littering the streets.
And there was the answer I had been seeking. Even in the face of such destruction, people simply began to clear away the wreckage, rebuild and keep going.
Every time we have a hurricane or tropical storm warning, I go into Preparation Mode. I get water, candles, food, snacks, and extra food. I keep myself current on the latest news. I share it with others. But I’m calm, and I would be hard put to find a single person ready to panic. People are smiling at the gas stations and grocery stores. Nobody is rushing, but everyone is ready.
Let’s reach out to the communities affected by Lorena, such as Chamela, Jalisco whose town was flooded. Let’s help them clear the wreckage, rebuild and keep going. You can drop off food, clothes and hygiene products at any Starbucks store in PV, Quetzali Spa & Steve’s Bar in Old Town .