Paradise and Parenting: Hurricane Willa

I was reminded of snow days last weekend. If you’re from Manitoba, you’ll know what I’m talking about. The weather would call for a big dump of snow, and you’d just wait for it. All you could do was cross your fingers and hope it came on a Sunday night, or even a Thursday (but never a Friday).

When the flakes would start coming down, you’d just pray for a white out and -35 degrees Celsius so that MAYBE you wouldn’t have to go to school. The worst thing that could happen was if you were a town kid and they only canceled bus service. That meant all the farm kids could stay home with two marshmallows in their hot chocolate, and you’d be trudging to the high school against that biting, frostbite-bestowing wind.

I was reminded of this because last weekend we had a hurricane day. My kids reacted to the news of the possibility of a hurricane with one urgent question: will school be canceled? I was too busy engaged in frivolities such as buying batteries for flashlights and checking the drinking water supply to answer them, but I did check my cell phone for any messages from our school. Of course, as you know, the answer came back as a yes, and I shared the news with my children. The resulting fist pumps and shouts of YESSSSS brought me back to Manitoba, 1989 with a little nostalgic shiver.

Hurricane Willa didn’t bring a lot of damage to Vallarta. This meant that most families along the coast spent two days in our homes watching the drizzle for a couple of days. I know it was probably somewhat inconvenient to keep the kids home for two days, and (not probably) irritating sometimes. Not only were they not in school learning something useful, but they were under your feet, arguing over the flashlight that they didn’t need, asking for the one snack you actually forgot to buy (and rejecting the year’s supplies of the ones you did).

But here’s the thing. I was here when Hurricane Kenna whipped her tail at us in 2002. I cowered in my bedroom all alone, watching the palm tree getting a good lashing outside my tiny window. I am nothing except grateful to those who decided to err on the side of safety. I’m impressed with the local government’s quick planning and efficiency, and I’m so glad they prioritize the people under their care.

And here’s the other thing, and it’s a big one: Hurricane Willa wasn’t a no-show, as so many people are saying all over social media. She showed up in force just north of us, and in places where the infrastructure is much more basic. She poured herself into little towns that didn’t have a chance.

We might have seen Willa as a wasted day off, but to many others she was a total, unprecedented disaster. There were people trapped in towns like Tuxplan and Tecuala. Many of their roads were obliterated under the rivers that burst their banks.

We can certainly be grateful for our misfortune, and in that gratitude, we can reach out to help those whose school doors will most certainly be closed for longer than two days. We can lend a hand to people who wish their greatest inconvenience was a missing snack or a flashlight that needed AAA batteries when you bought only AA (true story).

Happily, we live in a place surrounded by helpers, so you can find one that would be happy to take donations. My friends Victor (singer of the much beloved Gecko Band) and his wife Rosy have an amazing grassroots program you can find more about on Facebook called Brigada de Mano en Mano (@helpinghandtohand). There will be a fundraiser at the Drunken Duck in Bucerias on November 5 at 5pm, and they are also collecting donations and supplies any time.

Let’s all lend a hand in gratitude to the people of this wonderful country. Together we can make things a little easier as families begin rebuilding their lives.