When Super Typhoon Yutu hit Saipan and Tinian on October 24, it shut-down the power and water utilities island-wide. Without a generator, private well, or solar power, most were left without electricity or running water. In a typhoon three years prior, it took 3 months for the power to be fully restored to the island. The infrastructure at that time was poor and since it had been improved significantly when it was rebuilt, most people felt the damage would never again be that extensive. However, the sheer severity of Super Typhoon Yutu, with sustained winds over 180 mph for more than 3 hours and over 100 mph for 8 hours, crippled the new system. Even new concrete power poles were laying on the ground or tilted at grotesque angles over the roads. Life without power for most of us these days is a challenge to figure out. I have always loved camping, preferring rustic tent camping to motor homes that had all the amenities, and I’ve spend time in places around the world where water is carried from a well and power limited. But it seemed like that was all in the distant past and I couldn’t remember how I use to complete even the basic tasks in life work without power. As each day passed, however, and each problem resulted in a solution, the ability to live without power slowly came back. Planning ahead was key. Always have a headlamp, or some form of light, in your bag because it gets dark quickly once the sun sets below the horizon. Charge phones and power blocks every time you get in a car and set them to max power save at night. Plan easy, fast-cook, single pot dinners as if camping, loaded with beans, pasta, and vegetables, plus lots of spices. Remember how amazing the wind feels blowing through an open window at night. And remember to look at the stars. They are brilliant when the world around you is dark.
As the days slipped passed and a routine developed I began to realize there was a simplicity to the absence of power in my house that I almost enjoyed. It was challenging at times, but it made me think and be resourceful. It took the absent minded convenience out of most of life. The dulled feeling I had been noticing build over the past few years began to give way to feeling alive. Again, I emphasize the fact that I still had a house and a roof and that my broken window and doors had been repaired at this point. I had shelter, which many still did not, that gave me a foundation for security. I knew that I could have these thoughts of simplicity and thriving in challenge because of this blessing and that I was fortunate compared to many, if not most, others around island. My silver lining in this situation was the ability to simplify my life while energizing it at the same time. I began to realize that I had been relying on electricity, and the comfort and convenience it brings, too much in my recent life and that I wanted that to change. Even when the power came back on.
On December 13th, the lights in my house came on. Total time without power to our house was 7 weeks. About half of the island is still without power.