The Waiting Game

I’ve done this before. Hung out at home, laid low, kept my outings within my neighborhood. Of course, in the out-of-the-way residential neighborhood in Tegucigalpa, Honduras where I lived for the past five years, I never worried that something might happen to me as long as I just stayed in the house. Protests often passed just a few blocks from my street on a main boulevard, close enough that I could hear the music and chants, but I knew they wouldn’t turn into our quiet neighborhood. So while the car bombing in Beirut last Friday brings scary to a whole new level for me, I know how to lay low.

I’ve also stockpiled before. In Honduras, I wasn’t as worried about the day-to-day ramifications of political protests and uprisings (of which there were plenty), as I was about the effects of natural disasters. Although 1998’s Hurricane Mitch may be a distant memory for those of us who weren’t affected, over 7,000 lost their lives, and some 33,000 their homes in Honduras – with millions more affected by water shortages, power outages and the like. For weeks. Upon arriving to Honduras, my family was advised to keep a six-week stockpile of necessary items – boxed milk, bottled water, canned food, toilet paper, on the off-chance that a disaster of that magnitude could hit again. And although six weeks’ worth of supplies were more than we ever came to need, they was darn handy in 2009 when Mel Zelaya was removed from the presidency  and the country was subject to frequent curfews during the following weeks, where we were all confined to our homes.

So the routine of the past few days was not a new one for me – hanging out at home, going only to nearby shops and restaurants (because eating lunch out can seem like a “necessary movement” when you have two young kids trapped all day in an apartment). And as a firm believer of the philosophy “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst,” I headed to the grocery store yesterday to do some stockpiling, making sure we have a few days worth of food supplies, including things we could eat even if the water and electricity were cut. Boxed long-life milk, an extra box of corn flakes, canned tuna and vegetables, and a few five-gallon bottles of water.

Stockpiling was common in Honduras year-round, for the simple reason that you couldn’t count on your favorite item being at the store the next time you went. But with apartment living in Beirut, I don’t think it’s commonplace. My cart got a few double-takes. Was it obvious to other shoppers that I was stockpiling? How could they even tell? There were only four cans of tuna, and two cans of peas, and who would know that the corn flakes were going into a bedroom closet rather than the kitchen? My stockpile was only intended to carry the family for a couple of days. Did I look crazy?

Oh, wait a second. I also had two enormous, twenty-five pound pumpkins in my cart.

Pumpkin is a local crop in Lebanon, normally cooked in syrup and eaten as a dessert.

As you might guess, I’d picked up one for each of my kids to carve for Halloween. Those supermarket ladies doing double-takes? They weren’t thinking I was crazy for stockpiling. They were probably thinking that I had a crazy amount of canning ahead of me.

The kids are back at school today, and my corner of Beirut has been quiet for the past few days. Along with every single person with whom I’ve spoken in Lebanon, I’m hoping and praying that events don’t get worse. But should we need to stay home another few days, I’m ready now. We’ll be busy eating corn flakes and carving pumpkins.

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