Sunday, November 27, 2016

Six weeks after the flood

Dear Northwest aikidoka, Yes, we’re hosting a seminar this weekend, Dec 2-4, 2016. It has been quite a journey to bring us to this point.

Usually when we start preparing for a seminar, we begin with a set of “givens” in the basic infrastructure and then plan hosting activities on top of those fundamental components. For example we usually have a floor, a mat to train on, a roof overhead, a place to take off your shoes, a registration desk, dressing rooms, working restrooms. All of these basic accommodations were disrupted by our flood of October 14th.  At this writing, six weeks after the flood, one week before seminar begins, this basic infrastructure has been restored and we are just now putting the dojo back together.

Here’s what happened.

Friday night Oct. 14, 2016 a storm hit the Portland area. Tremendous wind and rain beat down upon our dojo and overwhelmed the drainage system. The gutter overflowed. The downspout could not drain effectively. The water came flowing down the wall to meet a ground already saturated. The water flowed in. Like an uninvited guest, the water came in and took over the place, demanding our attention. It took out the floor from under us. About 70% of our floor was impacted.

The morning after the big storm I came into the dojo and discovered the damage. I contacted senior members and asked them to come in if they could. Class that day was just the fourth session of a new beginners series. I had to ask participants to help move wet items before we started class. Everyone pitched in. I am grateful to all our students and teachers for their efforts.

How did we respond to this flood?

First order of business was to move stuff out of harms way.
As in many disaster situations, a certain practicality kicks in. Emotional response is set aside to deal with later. We set right to work and moved stuff off the wet floor. We separated wet items from dry ones to minimize further damage. Members and the new beginners pitched in to help. We got wet vacuums in and fans set up to start drying the place out. These tasks helped us assess the damage.

Next step was to consider our options.
We communicated with the landlady, we reached out to professionals and we gathered information. From there we generated options and decided what our best outcome might be. From there we defined actions to take and set into motion steps to take us in the right direction.

We decided a concrete floor would be the best solution for our dojo interior. This solution required significant preparation. We would need to move everything off of the floor in order to remove all the carpet and laminate flooring and make space for the concrete professional to come in and install the new floor. With 70% of the floor affected, that left only 30% to receive and store all the items. Most of that area is our mat space!

We stacked up part of the mats to make more floor space. We trained in a smaller area and trained with the visual distraction of all our stuff piled up just adjacent to the mat. Our habitual ways were disrupted and our training changed.

photo provided by J.P. Oliva
We had to check our habits at the door and keep our shoes on. We had moved the shoe racks and the flooring was ripped up to expose the old, uneven concrete underneath. It felt strange to walk around the dojo with shoes on, but in extreme times safety is a higher priority than observing our customs. The edge of the mat was jagged and unsecured. We had to be attentive to that and adjust our training to take care of each other during class. It served as a metaphor and reminder of a martial principle; we’ve got to adapt and be present to what is actually happening.

In the fourth week after the flood came, our new concrete floor was installed. For three days we had to close the dojo. These three days corresponded with the days following the presidential election. Personally, in those three days I observed myself fluctuating through the various stages of grief. I was grateful for the space of time to be at home and absorb the impact of the election results.

By the fourth day, I needed to come back to the dojo, teach class and be with people again. I found a certain comfort and meaning in our concrete floor. There it was, pristine, fresh, cool and not yet ready to support weight. We entered the dojo from the back door instead of the usual front entrance. We trained on the mats next to the floor but did not walk on it. The old floor is gone and the dojo will never quite be the same again. We have a new floor now. That was Saturday November 12th.

Our new floor needed a few days to dry completely before it could be sealed and finished. During this time it was essential to keep the floor clean. Any speck of dirt, even oils from walking barefoot would compromise the finish. It was during this period that the city worked on the sewer system just down the street for the dojo and, on November 14, disaster struck again.

I was locking up the dojo for the night when I noticed the toilet didn’t look right. The bowl was so full it looked like it might overflow. A plunger did no good. I noticed the shower pan was full of water too – dirty water. Then I noticed a sound from the other room. The other toilet was overflowing and the water was rushing out from under the base and flowing all over our new floor. At the rate it was flowing the whole dojo would be flooded with dirty water in a matter of minutes.

I called the landlady who called Rotorooter and I waited for them to show up. “Thank the gods” the flooding slowed down on its own and the water receded from the toilets. At the time I did not know that the city was working on the sewer system, which caused the sewer back up. I called the concrete vendor to let him know our new floor had been compromised with dirty water.  He agreed to come in, clean the floor and put down another thin layer of concrete. After more drying time, the sealant was applied.

Monday November 21 was the first day we could start putting furniture back on the floor. Attendance was thin in the days before Thanksgiving but on Saturday November 26th we put in a robust workday. By end of day all heavy pieces were put back in place and the mat perimeter was set back in place. Now we are attending to an issue with the mat frame; a result of another concurrent floor repair project.

This week, the final days before the seminar begins, our focus in “seminar hosting” is to make a supreme effort just to provide a reasonable space to train. Our dojo teachers and members have met the challenge and put in the time and sweat to restore the dojo to basic minimum functionality.  We’ve had to make that our priority. The usual set of seminar hosting activities you have come to expect from Multnomah Aikikai will not be prepared. I hope we can enjoy coming together and find gratitude in our opportunity to train. For us, your presence will be a welcome reward for all our efforts. We are looking forward to training with you.

Seminar schedule and information on our "Seminars" page of this site:

-Suzane Van Amburgh