Right now, I am thinking about rotting meat. Ounces and ounces of raw meat. Frozen fishball packets. Cut up bits of tofu. Half-eaten porridge. Mushrooms. All festering within the creeping warmth of an inactive refrigerator.
Forty-eight hours without electricity.
Did you know, Seafarer? A hailstorm has hit Brisbane. To quote a friend’s words, “Thirty minutes, and the city is broken.”
Uprooted trees have fallen within pedestrian paths and roads. Dead, wet branches and leaves are strewn all over the place. Powerlines have tumbled. Windows have been shattered, smashed in by hailstones the size of golfballs. Cars were getting submerged. I’ve read news reports of roofs getting blown off, people getting trapped within houses.
I recall being at home when the storm hit. There was a strange feeling stirring inside of me, when I realized that this was no ordinary storm. It was an almost childish sort of excitement. I saw trees go horizontal, bearing the full brunt of the storm. Downstairs, I heard my housemate yell that a tree had fallen, blocking the entire entrance of our residential area, and closing us in. I heard crashing and clattering. Hailstones cut through the house netting.
From the window within my room, I felt like I had glimpsed apocalypse. I was made aware of how small I was, pitted against the titanic force of the nature. It takes less than a minute to fell a fully grown tree, to rip off towering powerlines. It could equally take less than a minute for lightning to strike me, and that would be it. I would be gone before I had time to register what happened. I was nothing. I was a tiny, insignificant human, daring to occupy the matrix of this expansive, powerful universe, daring to be alive.
The second reflection I came to was how dependent society had become, upon the advancement of technology and electricity. One of my immediate concerns was the fact that I would lose Internet connection. It would mean losing access to a huge part of my world. Throughout the years, I have somehow assimilated myself into multiple cyber homes; Tumblr, Facebook, Gmail, Google+, Youtube, 8tracks, Livejournal, Wordpress. I have also branched out into multiple social channels; a piece of myself on Whatsapp, a piece of myself on Skype, a piece of myself on Messenger. Having the Internet was akin to having a lifeline. Before I knew it, it became as natural as breathing to be constantly “logged on”. Did it mean that the “real world” had melded and reconstructed into the “cyber world”, and the two were no longer mutually exclusive? Or did it mean that I had forgotten how to live in the “real world”?
When was the last time I did something with my hands? Wrote in a journal? Doodled with a pen? Picked up a book and read, for hours on end without stopping? Sat within the stillness of nature without reaching for my phone? Such a time seemed like a faraway dream. And in all irony, here I am again, connected to the Internet in the university library at 1.50 am, reflecting upon my dependence upon the Internet, using…well, Internet connection. I jest, at myself.
The third reflection I had was how astoundingly blessed I am. I have been given so much. I’ve been given an opportunity to further my education in this beautiful country. I’ve been living within a beautiful home, with access to electricity, food, water. I’ve been surrounded by good people. I never have to worry about going hungry, or about having to struggle to pay rent, or thinking about where to spend the night. Even in times of emergency (like this one), the Universe, God, has been kind to me. It is as if Mother Nature has shown enough of her wrath to be appeased, and has now allowed her maternal instincts to surface again. In the aftermath of the storm, a mellow, gentle weather sweeps through Brisbane. The sun burns with just enough intensity. There are just enough clouds in the sky. The wind balances out the heat. Nights are cool. There has been no need for fans. Accessible shopping malls are still up and running. I may not be able to cook, but I’m still well fed (too well fed!). The tree blocking our pathway was cleared much earlier than expected. Little things like that.
To some people in some parts of the world, having no electricity, water, or Internet is a reality. It is a situation that they face day to day. To some people, it is a constant struggle for food, for a home. To some people, a thirty minute storm and a half-wrecked city would be the least of their worries. Forty-eight hours of no electricity and I already feel the pinch. How would I fare, if I were thrown into war-torn, impoverished countries? In my weakened, spoilt state, I would possibly not last a day. The thought that I could have everything taken away from me within an instant, and be left grappling for survival is one which haunts me from time to time, especially during situations like these. I am blessed. I repeat. I am so, so fortunate.
Seafarer, if you were here with me, we could watch a broken city heal. Until electric surges once again through the streets and the suburbs, there really isn’t much we can do, but wait. In the meantime, let’s bring out the boardgames, the playing cards, the food, the wine. We’ll gather around in candle-lit circles and tell ghost stories deep into the night. We’ll go stargazing. We’ll have the kind of conversations that make us forget about our dying phone batteries. And when the electricity comes back on, we’ll all have a good laugh (or cry) about it, and be thankful that we made it through the storm, because when it comes down to it, we are an annoyingly resilient bunch, and life moves on.
Take care, Seafarer. Stay safe.