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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Home from FEMA!

Just got back home from 24 days in Elkhart County, Indiana, where I was working for FEMA Community Relations on the disaster response/recovery operation for the January floods. We had the best little team in the universe (and the most tolerant, funny, and "FEMA Flexible"one, too!), and in 3 weeks the 5 of us did everything in our power to get the word out to Elkhart County, IN residents that if they'd suffered damages from the flooding they should call and register with FEMA for disaster assistance. This was truly the best team I've ever worked with in my 10 years with FEMA, and if we did a good job it was because of them.
I also had a chance to enjoy a bit of Indiana, including great Amish food, beautiful quilts and woodwork, Michiana wines (especially the cranberry and sour cherry-ginseng wines!), beautiful rural scenery of snow-covered fields and farm houses, and the great, flat, wide, straight roads that have Plenty of room to pull over onto when you get "glazed" (as I do after 2 hours of great, flat, straight roads...). I also got to experience (again) some of that Ab Fab Midwestern winter weather! Only the two "native Midwesterner's" on our team could possibly have referred to -11 degree cold, topped by sleet/freezing rain/iced snow and 60 mph winds, as "A Norman Rockwell Painting"! As for food, besides 3 great local meals, I mostly got to experience a wide variety of Wal-Mart's microwavable gourmet delights in my room... But I can't complain: with my FEMA computer, printer, & phone, plus the Holiday Inn's coffee pot, fridge, microwave, & ashtray, we were able to run the "Reports Section" of our CR Field Operation right from my hotel room!
Got to see myself on TV, too, following an interview with WNDU, and was so appalled by what I saw, that I got my hair done in Indiana, too! I also had a chance to go to my two Fave Places To Shop, which I almost always try to get to when I travel: Goodwill & the Salvation Army! Almost nothing beats the joy of finding that $100 dress (with the tag still on!) for $5!

Although I came home to a WV snowstorm (all that pristine, gorgeous snow now gone, following a day of rain), after again experiencing what constitutes "normal" winter weather in northern Indiana, I will NEVER harp on how @!#$%&*! cold it gets in West Virginia! I only wish that we hadn't lost our little airport in Bluefield; driving 4 hours in blinding snow from Charleston to Landgraff was NOT fun... I am still convinced that the State of WV should make Route 52 a Certified Tourist Attraction; there is no Thrill Ride at Disney World that can even come Close to the experience one has driving Route 52 from Bluefield to Landgraff at night in the dark in a snowstorm. Or in broad daylight, for that matter. People actually pay Big Bucks to experience stuff that isn't half as terrifying- why not let our winding, narrow, mountain 2-lane make some dosh for the county? After 6 years here I no longer scream Oh G-d, Oh G-d, Oh G-d for 45 minutes straight (much to the relief of my husband), but I do gasp audibly (and pray silently) when those coal trucks whip around the hairpin turns, comin' at you half into your lane, or when someone who thinks he's been magically reincarnated as Dale Earnhart decides to pass you on a double yellow...
For all that, however, it Is good to be home again...
Many thanks to the residents and officials of Elkhart County, IN, and to the staffs of the Goshen, IN Holiday Inn & Marriott for making us welcome and able to work, and to Unit Members (Yes, we were a Unit! Not a Team!): Corey "Energizer Bunny", "Special" Emilio John, George "The Navigator", and "Wonder P" Ken, and to our Team Leader (Yes! That's what you are! And we were one of your Units!) John S., who shielded us from the chaos as much as was humanly possible! (And extra thanx to George, for referring to me as "Fearless Leader"!)