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Michael in the Philippines Update #7: Hitting the Wall
Busy morning, loaded another truck and then went for a gas run in Samar. Fuel can be purchased here in Tacloban, the problem is the line waiting for it. Could be several hours before you reach the pump, if at all. This other station is always empty and the prices are lower, it's just a 20 minute drive away. We had a real problem lining up a freight truck (we ended up using a dump truck) for the distribution today, but in the end everything worked out.
Stake President Aban had a meeting with all his bishops and they created their distribution game plan. He asked me to meet with him each morning to go over the immediate needs of each day, which I look forward to. Tomorrow, we have a big shipment to pick up in Tacloban, and we still need to get a big truck for that.
I have a meeting with my good friend Craig Arnold who will be arriving. Craig is working with Salvation Army and will get larger loads of food coming in. Salvation Army will also assist us getting my 100,000 meals in, if it isn't done correctly, the Ph Government could possibly seize the aid, and I have already spoken to someone that had this happened to.
It wasn't until this morning I remembered about "the wall". It is a something I've felt on all my trips a few days in, and is best described by extreme exhaustion. Disaster work is one of the most physically demanding things I've ever done, including all my years playing football, the reason it is different isn't so much because of the constant sweating & lifting (you may be doing it all day, a week at a time), it is the constant stress that never leaves. It is like you are constantly trying to solve one problem after another, and as soon as you solve one problem, another pops up.
"Decision Fatigue" is what I called it shooting weddings, sounds like a pretty innocent gig, but until you do it for 12 hours you just don't realize how exhausting it is from making thousands of decisions every hour, from exposure settings, posing, remembering names, dealing with your flash, your position, the schedule, all those rapid decisions wear on you throughout the day.
Similar thing in disaster aid, it is still exhausting, just much bigger problems that are not easily resolved.
It goes on and on and when combined with the very early hours and late nights, lifting, not eating enough, worrying about security, dealing with death, suffering, all kinds of worry, your body eventually starts shutting down and you go into a mental daze. The only way to recover from it is to rest & get calories into your body. Sometimes when I hit the wall I don't really have a choice but to just deal with it and fight on. It's after times like that I have the most amazing sleep ever.
I need to do a better job of managing how I deal with mental stress, as well as take enough time each day to rest and unwind. Getting here and into position was the hard part, now I have to pace myself for the long haul. As of right now, myself, Andoi and Taylor are the only volunteers here working with the Stake President. I know of 3 other return missionaries that showed up at a different chapel, but they are doing their own thing, last I heard they recovered 25 bodies.
Quick note to end- It is interesting to me how so many different people can see the same exact thing and come to so many different conclusions about what the most immediate need is.
It appears that the ability to perceive and discern the heart of the matter, as well as being aware of how the situation is changing is a skill set not easily mastered. We spent a lot of time today researching and tracking down industrial grade water filters for each church, only to learn the church is supposedly having them installed this weekend. While I wish we would have thought of and resolved this earlier, the chess board has changed and it is no longer a long term concern.
More to come
Andoi, Peter (another volunteer who works with us), myself and stake President Aban. I really really like these guys, they are busting their tails everyday to help their people.
This is my right hand man Andoi.
I hope this gives you a hint of how crazy things are here. Here some church members are making their dinner on a fire they made on the lawn of their chapel.