Thursday, 26 June 2014

Nothing.

That's my answer to the question, "if your house were on fire, what would you save?" Okay, maybe not nothing... I did make sure Malcolm wasn't still asleep and I did also somehow automatically grab my phone.

We've learned some important lessons this week. If you follow me on instagram, you'd have seen our building in smoke, us camped out in the stadium waiting for information, and our rescued pot plant.


We woke up on Tuesday morning to engines and shouting outside. I peeked through the blinds to see flashing lights. I thought somebody in our building was injured, and we went outside to see. I quickly noticed it was fire engines outside and Malcolm asked if he should bring important papers.

LESSON #1: Listen to Malcolm when he has good ideas like grabbing important papers. 

I shrugged it off and said it doesn't look serious, everything was calm. We jumped over our fence and walked into the playground. There was smoke coming from the top of the building, and I could hear crackling under the grate outside our veranda which I thought might be debris from above. The firemen asked some people higher up if there was smoke in their apartment, and they replied no. I briefly went into ours again to check if there was smoke and noticed the fire alarm in the lounge ringing... I went out again and joined Malcolm, still not sure what was going on.

Suddenly a gust of smoke blew up from in front of our veranda. Thick, grey, choking smoke. The firemen got the couple and their baby who live above us down with a ladder and the situation suddenly got more urgent. People started shouting down from their balconies and things went by in a blur. The fire was directly under our flat and the smoke was rising through the stairwells and filling the building from the inside, while the smoke from outside filled the air on the balconies. We were directed to the parking lot, and were relieved to see friends exiting the building- having run down five stories through smoke unable to see anything since electricity was out and the smoke was so thick. Other friends were still stuck on their balcony and we prayed together for them and the rest of the building.

LESSON #2: Nothing brings people together quite like hanging out in the parking lot in PJs in the cold feeling afraid. 



The situation would constantly fluctuate and the smoke would get really bad, then die down. Families trapped on their balconies on our side of the building were slowly being reached. Cellphones were ringing with people trying to find out if friends were okay. We were lead to the street to sign a register and then board buses waiting for us. I was sort of relieved to not only be warm in the bus, but also not being able to see the smoke billowing out in front of the garden bench Malcolm assembled so lovingly for us, and the plants we cared for and that brought us so much joy.

That said, there were still people trapped in the building and we could hear the firemen breaking windows to try let the smoke gathering in the top of the building out. The bus eventually took us to the stadium where we sat on mats, kept warm with foil blankets, and waited for news.



We read the news reports online on our phones and tried to figure out what the situation was. We got in touch with friends who headed down to come and fetch us. News arrived that we wouldn't be able to return that day, and that we should find alternate accommodation.

Our friends took us and some others in our building back to their apartment. We got decked out in their clothes (finally out of PJs!) and were given breakfast.

LESSON #3: Donate clothes to the Red Cross; people evacuated at night in their pajamas are happy to get a change of clothes or a pair of shoes or socks. 

Eventually, after going to have a look at the building, finally evacuated, we got information to go back to the stadium.

Also, this side of the building is now where all the action is, but the smoke was on the other side...
it's always been dirty like this... it's not fire damage! 

We went there but found out that we didn't actually need to be there since we had been provided with accommodation by friends. We got some water and chocolate from the Red Cross, and then headed back to Richtsberg.



After a call to the info-line, we found out that we could return to the building to fetch important things from our flat. Such a relief! We gathered there and since we live on the ground floor, we were the first to be escorted in. The two policemen with us were so kind and helped us so much, pointing out anything they thought we might want and might overlook; money, jewelry, electronics. Fortunately there was only smoke and no damage to any possessions. We had 10 minutes and threw the essentials into a suitcase and Ikea bag.



LESSON #4: Wash your dishes at night. You never know when police will be in your flat shining a torch on your dirty dishes. 

That night, after buying some groceries, we went to the house we're staying in with 3 other couples that we're friends with. We're so fortunate to have a house with everything we need provided for us for at least the next week and a half until we hear more news about where to go.



LESSON #5: Peoples' hearts can stretch unimaginably. 

Yesterday we went back to the apartment to fetch anything we need for the next few days while we wait to hear when and if we'll be allowed back to live. 20 minutes that we had to pack our clothes and anything else we wanted. It was strange, packing our clothes into a suitcase in such a surreal situation.
We also needed to empty the fridge out... while some could take their things, everything in our fridge was hot... butter melted and the milk carton swollen... I started piling it all into the bag. Throwing away the dinners I'd planned to cook us. The cake we had left over and were saving for dessert.

LESSON#6: Life is short; eat the cake. 

At some point it just became too much and I called to Malcolm to help me - it was so gross and hot and disappointing and confusing, that while I burst into tears he took over and sent me to go pack the throw/blanket we brought from SA from our first home together.

LESSON#7: I cry at the strangest things. 

LESSON#8: Malcolm knows me better than I thought. 

Feeling better somehow, choosing a pot plant to take with us, we lifted our bikes out into the playground, locked up our flat, and left with our suitcase, still with the sticker I wrote 21kgs on from when we came from SA.



Since then, we're getting back to normal... university and work go on. I went back to our flat today to take the rubbish bin out since we forgot it yesterday. And got some more plants from our balcony and took them for safe keeping.



People have been really sympathetic and lovely and I'm so amazed at how our God has provided for us. We are lacking absolutely nothing. When I think logically, we have everything we need and have no fear of being homeless. But in my heart, I long for home. I realise how drastically my heart has shifted, longing for our little home in Richtsberg.

31 comments:

  1. Raffaello isn't chocolate!(an important lesson you learn watching German commercials...)
    But in all seriousness, I read about the fire in the paper yesterday and thought of you. So glad to hear you're ok!

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  2. Really?! What is it then? Clearly they need to expand their advertising to Youtube, since it's about the only place I see commercials ;)

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  3. Really?! What is it then? Clearly they need to expand their advertising to Youtube, since it's about the only place I see commercials ;)

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  4. My Golly! I am relieved to hear you both are okay. Sho!!.. So how are the temporary living arrangements? Keeping you in our prayers.

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  5. It's some kind of milk cream. I would have thought it was chocolate, too, but their tagline has always been some variation on: It's not chocolate :)

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  6. Interesting... Either way, they taste goooood!

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  7. Thanks Angel. We're living in a house of friends' parents who are away on holiday so we and 3 other couples have a Married-digs thing going on ;) It's really nice though, we have absolutely everything we need, the washing machine has been going non-stop so we all have clean clothes, and we have a kitchen where we can cook for ourselves, which is a luxury many others don't have.

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  8. That they do! They also make a pretty great cake: http://www.webkoch.de/rezept/raffaello-torte-mit-aprikosen-32979

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  9. That question caused quite a discussion in Life Orientation in my Matric class. From saving the pet, to grabbing the cell phone, to the laptop to a special piece of clothing. We did agree upon putting all important documents in a safe place and taking them, because some may be very difficult to replace once gone. I suppose in theory its easy to say, but in reality it is different. Just glad all of you in the building are safe and that you have a comfortable place to wait till what happens next.

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  10. Thing is, we have all our important documents together all in a drawer that's really accessible... I just didn't think it was serious, and then we weren't allowed back in. So yes, have them together, but then also actually take them is good advice! :) And to always have ones wallet next to the bed or at least in the same place helps so one doesn't have to search for it. No ID, no money, no bank cards make one grateful for friends!

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  11. Dankie! I'm also really thankful, it could be so much worse!

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  12. Erica, how terrible! Thankfully you are all safe but what a nightmare! I hope everything settles down and gets back to normal soon.xxx

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  13. So glad you are safe! This has made me think how we have some things in our house set up and perhaps they should be a bit easier to get too!

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  14. Oh my goodness! How scary! So glad y'all are okay!

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  15. How scary that was... I'm glad you're all okay. Keep safe!

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  16. Whoa! How scary for you guys, but it's so good that neither you nor your things were hurt at all. Hopefully you will be back in your home soon!

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  17. ohmygoodness, eek! i'm so sorry this happened to you - it kind of seems like one of those things that only happens in the movies. i'm so glad you're okay, and i'll pray that you feel comfort and security despite all the movement <3

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  18. So glad for the hospitality of your friends, and that most of the things in your apartment are fine. How scary for you during that time of not knowing about all those little sentimental things, but at least you were together at the time and didn't have to worry much about each other. I'm sure the whole ordeal is quite emotional. Keep us updated!

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  19. Wow so glad there are still good people around!! We had something similar happen except no one have us clothes so I was living in my pjs! Luckily, I slept in sweatpants and a hoodie so I didn't feel too too bad!
    -Marley
    http://www.afandlove.blogspot.com/

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  20. I'm so glad you and Malcolm are ok and taken care of. What an awful thing to happen. Did fire damage the whole building or just parts of it?

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  21. My goodness, Erica!! What a crazy ride! Definitely can put things into perspective. Glad you all are okay!

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  22. Definitely! Having them easy to grab makes a big difference!

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  23. Absolutely, very grateful... there was a moment where I thought our flat had caught fire, and when we weren't sure where some of our friends are, and those were definitely scariest- it can only get better :)

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  24. I think most of us couldn't believe it was actually happening! Definitely odd moving around so much, but it's been okay :)

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  25. It was pretty emotional, but we've all become closer over this time!

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  26. Absolutely! I'm also really glad that my PJs included a hoodie!

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  27. Me too... SO well looked after! The fire only damaged wiring and water supply, and there's smoke damage in the basement and in the higher apartments on our side; some apartments aren't damaged at all and only smell a little of smoke!

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  28. Perspective certainly changes in a moment!

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  29. So sorry to hear this happened. Thank goodness you're both okay! You have a great outlook on the experience. I'm sure it does make you evaluate your life. Hope you return home soon. x

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