Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Hurricane Journal, Part Two.

Saturday, October 1. Day 11. If I didn't have this journal, I wouldn't know it's October. We load up on gasoline. Part of the trick is finding the right station. I see stations with crazy long lines. I find one that takes only 35 minutes.
Now with cash we go to a grocery store and buy some fresh fruit, bread and other basics.
While driving my wife's cell phone snags a signal for a moment. She sends a text message to a query from my family. She has to fight the Spanish auto-correct to get the English words: We are life. We lose the signal.
We go to Domino's pizza for lunch. Internet! It seems too remarkable to be true. I send off some emails and tremulously read about the rest of the world. The rest of the world still exists.
Donald Trump is fighting with the mayor of San Juan. Trump says FEMA is doing a great job and it's only the lying press that says otherwise. Trump says the mayor expects the federal government to do everything, insulting all of the work we've been doing here. Other than the army and lines for ice, I haven't seen the federal government doing anything here. And there is an absolute lack of coordination of information.
Trump is supposed to visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday (Day 14). He has spent years insulting Latinos and his popularity here is zilch.
My sister writes back offering to help us. I don't know what to say. If she sends money to my bank, will I be able to access it? I guess I have checks. Maybe I can find a solar power installer open so I don't have to go through months of no electricity. Maybe they have months-long waiting lists.
We visit Mercedita, the local airport, about the size you'd expect from a town with nearly 200,000. They don't know when flights will resume. San Juan has very limited flights. We are told of a cruise ship that was mobbed by people desperate to escape to Florida, somewhere not destroyed by the storm.
I survived Hurricane Andrew in Florida. Very bad, but there was somewhere to go. Just a little north and you got to Fort Lauderdale, where the hurricane was only a tropical storm and everything was like before.
There is no way off the island.
My son, Carlos, has gone crazy over UNO, playing for hours with the neighbor kid.
The water has disappeared again.
I'm told my neighbor's generator burned out. He's spending the afternoon to repair it. It starts up sounding smooth and survives several hours before firing off a round of explosions and dying.

Sunday, October 2. Day 12. Some water in the morning. We go back to Domino's for lunch, figuring we will get internet again. Nothing, although the cellular makes a connection.
Domino's has a long list of what they don't have. What they do have is thin pizza with a choice of three ingredients. No water, two choices of soda.
I've noticed a lot of this recently. Places are open but they will sell you only what you don't want to buy. Restaurants have two items on their menus.
My neighbor fights with his generator but it only makes it through about three minutes of farting. I learn this is his second generator: he gave up on his first.

Monday, October 3. Day 13. Major goal of the day: refills on medicines. We have three to five days remaining. Walgreen's has "its system down." A group is waiting for the system to return. I'm told they've been waiting three hours. This wouldn't work for everyone because you have to pay in cash: no insurance can be contacted.
I try another pharmacy. This one informs me that without the system of insurance to contact the insurance, the prescription is $277.50, cash. I tell them I can't pay for it. They agree to sell it to me for the price it was the last time with insurance but that I will have to pay the difference if the insurance later declines. With insurance: $5.00.
The generator at the medical school has been out for twenty-four hours before being fixed. All of the scientific specimens are at risk of being lost. The school has also been the place where we've been recharging our electronics which is something we have to skip.
My neighbor now has a small, quiet generator. It purrs softly. He has electricity. Real, uninterrupted, electricity.
To see a movie, we gather around a laptop computer and watch "Die Hard" using its battery.

Tuesday, October 4. Day 14. I see a newspaper. Trump is to visit Puerto Rico today. Fifty-some people slaughtered in Las Vegas.
We come to an intersection with no police guiding traffic. It takes me a moment to realize that it has a working traffic signal.
There are a lot of dead iguanas, killed while crossing the roads. They live in trees and so many of their homes are trashed.
We watch "Die Hard 2." A trail of gasoline on fire moves faster than a jet and can fly into the air to explode it.
Horribly hot night. Humidity, no breeze.

Wednesday, October 5. Day 15. Since I counted the storm as Day One, this means two weeks have passed. That one time we had internet, for all of thirty minutes has spoiled me. I sent out a general email to my family, thinking I would communicate again soon. I'm sure there must be internet somewhere. I am writing this journal with the notion of posting it, but I wonder when that will be.
Cell phone service is extremely spotty. Cars line the roadside in areas where their cell phones work, usually on the peaks of overpasses, their emergency lights blinking.
The car, with air conditioning, is a much more pleasant place to be than in the house.
Trump threw paper towels to hurricane victims. If he had thrown a generator I would have jumped out and caught it.

Thursday, October 6. Day 16. We go back to WalMart and find a butane grill for cheap, thinking we can make some hot meals. No butane. Anywhere. We still haven't found "D" batteries for our portable fan. They have some generators, $800. That's more than I have on me or in the bank. I'm supposed to be paid tomorrow, but will the automatic deposit work?
We get in the wrong line and instead of arriving to pay at a register, I discover that we are lined up for bags of ice. The register at the second line closes on us. The third line works.
We pass a gas station with only four cars waiting. We pull up and wait. Only 10 minutes.
Die Hard 3: Die or Die Trying.

Friday, October 7. Day 17. Worst day ever. I go to work to fix up my office. We have a meeting scheduled for Monday to discuss what we are going to do with the semester. My wife and son arrive at the school, weeping. It seems that when I left for work this morning, I ran over Max, one of our dogs. He's dead.
I had no idea I hit him. No bump, no yelp. I arrange the disposal of his body and clean up some of the blood.
My family want another dog to replace him, preferably immediately. I would rather take time to mourn. They win. We make a visit to Maria Rivera. We call her Maria de los Perros. She rescues strays and makes a home for them. Twenty live in her house and she has another eighty at a fenced in abandoned house in the mountains. She is at her house and we will return tomorrow to go to her dog refuge.

Saturday, October 8. Day 18. We go on a pilgrimage to Maria de los Perros's dog sanctuary. The hurricane has wiped out the last quarter mile of the way there and we have to park and march uphill, carrying water for the dogs. Mudslides cover part of the road. Other parts were washed away leaving a long drop down to the river. Some trees crashed over the fence and several dogs have escaped.
Maria has in mind for us a friendly dog who has been at the compound for four years without finding a home. It is part Shih-Tzu, half-mutt, a Shmutt-zu. Sounds Yiddish. The dog is named Frijolitos, "Beans." She was discovered abandoned when she was tiny enough to be scavenging a meal with her head in a can of beans.
She takes instantly to Carlos, very affectionate. There are several other candidates but we settle on Beans.
We take her home and give her a good scrubbing. She sleeps with Carlos.

Sunday, October 9. Day 19.
I didn't write a post for this day, and now, looking back, two days later, I can't think of a thing that happened.

Monday, October 10. Day 20.
The faculty meet to discuss how to finish the semester. Many options are still open: the students going to Florida or Missouri and the teachers teaching them there. We may continue through December and have final exams in January.
My students, second year, are particularly vulnerable. We have a strict schedule to maintain to prepare the students for the Medical Board exams.
Their classroom lost its roof and is completely trashed. A schedule may include weekend classes.
A main problem is communication. No phone and no internet. I suggest a central bulletin board where we post messages. We discuss PTSD in students and faculty. 
I let out a short scream to summarize my perspective.
My office has internet for a few hours. I read up about the world.
Six p.m., the lights turn on in my neighborhood. Most of the neighbors are outside their houses and break into applause.
Seven p.m. the electricity disappears.
Eight-thirty, it returns. We sleep with air conditioner and fan.

Tuesday, October 11. Day 21.
I meet with my department faculty to plan how we are going to deliver lectures given different possibilities of internet access (we posted videos and notes for the students that were essential to the lectures).
We put together a schedule for the next few weeks using time allotted to my class.
Twelve p.m., internet access, just when my wife and son meet me for lunch. When I return, the electricity goes out for the school and I sit in the dark.


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