The devastation of Hurricane Odile: How canned food saved my life!

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As you all know, I’m the first person to poo-poo canned food. I also advocate whole foods and lots of raw, rather than processed foods. Living through a devastating hurricane, however, changed my tune! I was surprised to discover that sometimes, canned food and avoiding raw is actually the way to go!

Hurricane Odile crashed into Baja California Sur on September 14, 2014, a date many of us in Mexico are unlikely to forget anytime soon. I prepared as best I could, but how can you ever fully prepare for something you have never experienced before? Norbert the week prior was a fresh breeze in comparison to Odile!

We were all told to take in all patio furniture, stock up on food and water, fill up our gas tanks, secure our windows and doors, and pray for the best. This is what I did, but for me, stocking up on food means lots fresh produce and some frozen items. Right! Without electricity for over two weeks due to the hurricane knocking down almost 8000 poles, in a very hot climate, how far do you think that food took me?

In two days, everything that was uneaten was either spoiled or on its way to expiring. I was surprised at how quickly frozen peas, for example, can go bad. Within one day of no refrigeration, they had spoiled.

If it weren’t for canned food, none of us in Los Cabos would have had anything to eat. The grocery stores were all severely damaged by the hurricane, and what was left of them got looted.

I was scared and saddened not only by the wreckage of the hurricane itself, but also by the ordeal of the aftermath. We had no power, running water, phone or Internet for over two weeks. My home was severely damaged and flooded. Not only were my windows shattered, but the ferocious winds ripped out the frame too! My whole bedroom, in fact, was gutted out, closet doors, clothes and all!

bedroom after Odile

Unfortunately, my living room did not fare much better, broken glass everywhere and furniture soaked.

living room after Odile

Once the windows and patio doors had shattered on that horrifying night, water gushing everywhere, I wasn’t sure my beloved animals and I would survive. As water dripped from the light fixtures on my ceiling, from all my air conditioning units, my laundry room overflowing with dirty water into my kitchen, I prayed the house would not cave in on us! Thankfully, none of us were injured (we hid in the bathroom for hours) and I am just so grateful to be alive!

Canned food is what we lived on for weeks and even if nutritionally inferior to fresh, whole foods, it kept us alive! In fact, I had my first salad a few weeks after the hurricane when one store reopened, and by the next morning, after a night of severe stomach pain, I had a high fever.

Two days of fever, muscle pain, nausea and diarrhea, urged me see a doctor who lives in my community. He said I had a bacterial infection, likely from contaminated water or vegetables. He prescribed antibiotics and told me to avoid raw food completely. He explained that after natural disasters, the level of bacteria is out of control.

This experience has surely taught me a lot about survival, but mostly it has been a lesson in hope and gratitude. I was pleased to actually meet my neighbors, talking to some of them for the first time, and I was really impressed by how we came together as a community and helped each other out. Although many of us had lost so much, and we had so little, no of us went without basic necessities because we were all there for one another.

It has been almost one month since that sleepless night, and Cabo is recovering quickly. Many stores and hotels have already been repaired and are open for business. I continue to be grateful every day, despite my moments of despair and uncertainty. Here is an excerpt from my gratitude journal I’d like to share with all of you:

1 – I am grateful to Hurricane Odile for teaching me, in a very concrete fashion, the impermanence of all things. What incredible pride we get from acquiring things. A house, a car, a fat pay cheque – wow, these make us feel accomplished, successful. But really, they can and will be taken away at any moment. Similarly, all relationships end at one point. They all end in the physical realm, whether they be through break-ups, or through death. There is no permanence in the physical world, there is only change. The permanence lies only in the spiritual realm. Therefore, maybe, we should invest more in our spirituality (whatever that means to each of us) than in material wealth. Thank you, Odile, for teaching me the transitory nature of physical existence.

2 – I am grateful to Hurricane Odile for showing me how truly “wealthy” I am for having lived my whole life with running water, enough food to eat, a roof over my head, electricity, enough health to make a living and the possibility of getting better when ill, resources to help me achieve university degrees, the companionship of loyal animals, true friends and loving family. Thank you Odile, for showing me my riches.

3- I am grateful to Hurricane Odile for allowing me to experience the importance of community. We need one another. We belong to each other. Our purpose is to serve all beings and treat them with kindness and help all those in need. Thank you, Odile, for allowing me to experience the power of community.

It seems to me that in those moments when much is taken from us, much of our true riches are revealed. Namaste.

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