Friday 6:30 in the morning. There has been thunders during the night. I am awake but keep my eyes closed to try hold to the last moments of sleep. It is raining and the air is pleasantly cool. I sit up, look outside of the window. The familiar garden of the Swedish Camp. House N. 2 in front of us. The badmington court has already some paddles. Rain drops draw circles in them.
We eat breakfast. The rain is heavier now and we phone to the kindergarten to tell us when the school bus will be close to home to bring Olga and Venla at the right time. The phone rings and I go out with the girls. Carry Venla in the carry bag, holding Olga in one hand and the umbrella in the other. It is all a bit shaky and we get quite wet. Outside the gate of the camp the flooding has already started. I have to take Olga in my lap and walk through ankles high water. It is 8:15. I go back home, change t-shirt and start to work. I am reading about bovine TB in Ethiopia and my mind wanders to a country I have never been trying to imagine what the life of communities living of pastoralism is.
A go downstairs at around 10:00 to make some tea. The phone rings and it is Loan, our nanny, who says she cannot come to work because in her house water is at knee level. While I talk with her, I look outside the window and see that there is water in front of our door and under the two harmchairs we have outside. I see my flip flops, which I left outside yesterday evening, are floating away. The staff working at the Camp is walking from house to house, with their rain proof ponchos. The grass between us and House N. 2 is dry only in the middle, the highest point, all the rest flooded at ankle level. The drainage system cannot cope with all this water and the level in the garden rises.
It is not all the time strong rain, but most of the time. There are very short moments where the rain seem to reduce, only to start again even more strongly. There is no wind and the feeling is of km of clouds full of water hanging above our heads.
At 10:30 the staff of the Camp rings our door bell. I open and a man is there with bricks and cement. He need to build a barrier to the rising water, otherwise we will get soon water in our floor. He works quickly, but by the time he put the last brick of the two level barrier, water has reached the floor level. The cement is not dry enough and some water starts to get in. At 11:00 there is a truce. The rain reduces and in on hour the water is below the door level again. The sky is still heavy, though. I try to get back with my mind to Ethiopia and pastoralism without much success.
At 12:15 the girls come home. The bus had to manage the flooded streets near the Camp, but is high enough. Olga says that there is also water in her school, which is next to one of the many lakes of this town.
I phone Katja who is stocked in UNDP office which goes regularly under water with any heavy rain. This time, however, it is more serious. Water at the front door is knee high. She tries the next road at the right corner and it get even higher, almost hips level. She phones home saying she will not come back. At 13:30 the heavy rain starts again and will continue until after 23:00. Katja manages to get home at 16:30. Kim Ma, the large road which links this part of the town with the centre is ok. It is a bit higher than the narrow streets that depart from it to enter the intricate labyrinth which is typical of this town. Those are flooded.
Is getting dark early today. At 17:00 the water flows directly from the road into the Camp. We live in the north-west corner, which is a bit lower, so the stream reaches our doorstep. It rises. The men from the Camp come to check the situation and put some more cement on the brick at the door. Our neighbor has already brought furniture upstairs and we do the same. The water has reached the first brick level and is rising quickly. I have a look behind the house, water is between ankle and knee level but not leaking into the kitchen and dining room yet. They come again to check the door and they decide to put another brick level for the night. The cement, however, had not enough time to dry and water is leaking from underneath the bricks. We manage with towels and mop. The biggest problem comes when the pipe below of the sink in the toilet downstairs starts to leak. More than a leak, is a like a spring of sewage water which has reached the level of the floor. Water comes up quickly and we do not manage to stop. They come with some special plastic/plastiline after 30 minutes and close the pipe. It works and we manage to collect some of the water on the floor which is really stinky. Katja and the girls with our guests Evelina and Anna, go to eat upstairs. I try to collect water and dry it underneath furnitures. So far is not too bad, but what if it does not stop raining? I check the BBC weather forecast and they say heavy rain until Sunday!
I go outside and look at the simple houses on the other side of the Camp wall. Some have no glass on windows and they were built more or less illegally. They may not have a proper drainage system. How do people do in villages or the older part of the town. How do they do in Bangladesh when this happen s so often and is much worse than this? Is this due to our CO2 emissions? is this also due to the fact I fly so much lately? Do I need to carry water upstairs? Food? Will it be the same tomorrow? What happens when water reaches the plugs in the walls? All sorts of thoughts come to my mind.
I go upstairs. Play a bit with the girls. They are almost ready to sleep. Olga has cried. She feels the tension. The rain which was so funny in the early afternoon is no longer so. I talk with Katja and we remember our wooden house in Kampong Thom. It was on stilts as the Khmer houses are and not in danger of flooding. There were of course heavy monsoon rains, with heavy winds, water coming in between the wooden plates of from the wooden shutters, but they never lasting very long. I experienced something like this only in 1995 when doing the civil service in Italy and when the five of us were called to a village to help strengthening the huge dike of the Po river who was at his highest. I remember standing at the bottom of the dike, in the rain, climbing up in my wellingtons the 5-6 meters high dike, reach the top and see that the rive was no more than half a meters below me. I could not see the other side. So wide it was. We carried many sand bags to close wholes under the dike which was at risk of breaking. I remember my friend Aurelio who took control of a contingent of very young army conscripts shouting to them that he was an architect and he knew how to do with this. I did not bother commenting that actually engineers build dikes, not architects.
I go to check a last time downstairs. Walk to the door water is slowly spilling to the floor of the living room, but not too much so I leave it. Walk to the kitchen and feel water on my feet. Go out, and call for one of the men who are here in standby. He comes and put some of that magic plastic around the bottom of the pipe of the kitchen sink but is a bit late. Water slowly comes in. At least this does not smell. He is tired. Says he his sorry for this but cannot do more. No need to be sorry. I wonder how is with his house. He has been here the whole day helping these useless foreigners, but what about his house? He says water has come in there as well. I do not feel too good about this.
Try a last dry up and go upstairs. if tomorrow morning the living room and kitchen are flooded we will deal with it. Sleep. Hear the rain. Hear the clouds. Still some lightning. How can it rain so much? Fall asleep. Wake up. Is still dark. Look outside the window. No more rain, but the whole Camp looks like a lake, reflecting windows lights. No rain. Let’s hope it holds until the morning. I am up again around 5:15. Emerging daylight. Little rain. No more water on the ground! I imagine walking downstairs and feel after the last step, water at my ankle. But it is just my imagination. When I go down, the floor is almost dry. Water outside has gone. Few plastic bottles, cans, and plastic bag litter the garden of the Camp, but they tell us that maybe the worst is over.
It continues to rain the whole morning of Saturday, but never as strong as yesterday. I see a shy sunray at about 15:00 reflected on our house door. We walk in the afternoon nearby the Camp, many roads still flooded and many people working to dry their shops and restaurants. It has been the heaviest rain in two decades for this town. 24 people died in Vietnam for yesterday rain, several here in Ha Noi.