Monthly Archives: October 2017

GI Junk Food and Other Tales in the Struggle

Posted by Cassie

Cassie food
With government food in the plaza

I have to admit that this has been a struggle and it still is. At first it’s exciting. You’re in the middle of it. There is a massive storm, you must react in the now. Then the next day there is the aftermath to deal with. Then there is the learning. Where are the resources? How am I going to survive? Is everyone alive?

Beef with juices
Beef with Juices -yuck!

Now, though, we are just in it. No one is worried about us being alive anymore. Hurricane Maria is not in the news anymore. And so we are just here living without electricity and water for over 4 weeks now! And I am having a hard time. What is your breaking point? Is there any one point? Or is it a slow burn that drives you to the point of lunacy?

No aceptamos huracanes
We don’t take hurricanes -and we reserve the right of admission

It’s not any one thing, but like dust accumulating on a surface, it starts to add up. I am not eating well because food is just not appetizing. Beef with juices and canned foods is great to survive, but terrible to thrive. GI Junk Food is about the worst of the worst!

Church Aguada hotspot

I have a layer of grime on me that I just can’t wash off. Even my fingernails are dirty and all I want to do is wash my hair. And when I do, I am holding the hose handle outside under a royal palm tree trying to wash off the suds that I can. And don’t even ask about the bed sheets…Oh how I miss the washing machine! But worst of all I feel lost and purposeless because there is no way we can start any new projects without resources. How can you pour a concrete pad without water?!

Pool break
A welcome break at the pool of a neighbor!

We work outside clearing trees and have some hope of beautiful days to come when we can plant tropical exotics, but it is hard to want to work in the hot sun when we are trying to use less than 5 gallons of water a day! I am constantly hot and find myself drawn to any body of water. I miss running the fans throughout the day. We are not even accustomed to air conditioning, but fans! Oh, fans! How I love and miss thee!

Britton upside down world
Upside down world

Military vehiclesMilitary vehicles everywhere

We have some mobility now that gas is fairly available, but we don’t have many places to go. The grocery stores are nearly empty and even restaurants that are open have a menu limitado. All I want to eat is fresh food. A cold salad! The worst is probably the boredom. Without a TV or internet or anything to do, I begin to feel very depressed. Why am I just laying or sitting here sweating, I think. Even my laptop died so I can’t even edit videos!
Aguada at PO

Aguada sharing the Rincon Post Office

I try to console myself with the fact that we have it a lot better than many people. Most of our neighbors don’t even have a generator or cistern. I don’t know how they do it! Though we have more than many, our neighbors still share with us what they have. They bring us the military food and want to spend time with us. We feel loved and cared for down our little street.

First MRE

Our first MRE meal

It is disheartening to see our enchanted island so ravaged. It feels like we are in a post-war scenario with all the military vehicles, soldiers and aircraft flying overhead. This has been a true test of wills. Of endurance. Can you handle this? I have had many a break-down; I am certainly not impermeable to the difficulties of this time.

Govt desalinationGovernment Desalination of water
Military rations
GI Junk Food includes Pringles, Pop-Tarts, Puddin’ cups and Chef Boyardee!

Some people my think that we are not living too far from where we were before. And it’s true. We live in the jungle, we don’t use a phone, we try to live off the land, etc, etc. But in reality this has shaken our world. Partly because there is the collective consciousness that is desperate for some semblance of normalcy. People try to have an “actitud positiva” – it’s something! “Algo es algo” as they say! But when you feel the weight of the situation, it becomes a little harder to bear.

Empty shelves
Empty shelves

But we’re doing ok. I am just wearing down. My emotions are closer to the surface. I cry a lot more easily. I try to be strong through this but sometimes I feel very weak and powerless. We still look for the small joys in life. Mini missions of pool parties, ice runs (a milagro if you can find it!), water refills at a local spring or the FEMA water station, and of course the constant quest or internet provide us with a welcome distraction from the destruction and the “waiting place” that we are in right now.

Friends at YukayekeHaving good friends help!

Some people have ask how they can help. The Red Cross is present and a few businesses like the Rincon Beer Company have become non-profits. If you want to send us a care package or would like us to forward something to a group, you can reach us at: PO Box 609, Rincon, Puerto Rico 00677. Even words of encouragement would help to lift our spirits.

What do we need? Well, we will survive in any case, but some things that might be helpful through this time include anything that you can think of for extended camping conditions:

-light sources like flashlights and lanterns and their batteries
-anything crank powered
-fans -crank/wind-up and/or battery powered
-non-powered games and toys
-TV shows/movies/music/books/coloring books/etc
-food -healthy food that can last!!!!!!
-floaties/fun stuff for the sea/pool
-bug repellent/nets
-camp showers
-bottle spritzers
-solar powered anything

Thanks for thinking of us. We’ll get through this. It’s just been a rough go.

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Posted by Cassie

Maria Go Home

Here we are at the 3 week mark. It has become apparent that this state of living will be a long-term thing. The apocalypse life, or apocalife if you will!


Houses claimed by Maria

Some people try to prepare for something like this.  In zombie movies. The preppers. But it really depends if you are trying to prepare for something long-term or short. In this case, it is something in between. We know that EVENTUALLY we will have power and water and all the usual things in modern life, but when? That is the question. We know it will come back, but we have to live as if it won’t. These are a few ways our life has changed to the apocalife.

Boulder in Aguada
Landslides and falling boulders abound

Gasoline- In the early days there was little to no gasoline available. We had a full tank in our cars, generator and a two-gallon can. We used less than 2 gallons in the generator and about 4 gallons in the car in the first 2 weeks. This was a smart move because the lines for gas were tremendous, if it was available at all. We walked to the nearest gas station with our can, but most days there was none to be found. We found how dependent we are on gas, which is not too much if you never drive and rarely use the generator. Gas now means movement in a car as well as electricity to our house. We need it to power the chainsaw too, to cut ourselves out of some very dangerous hanging trees and clear the property a little more. Now, gas is a lot easier to find, though it still runs out. At least when it comes, it comes to all the stations and there is not much of a wait.

Screening water
Britton screening out some of our rainwater before it goes in the cistern

Washing clothes by hand
Washing clothes by hand during a rain storm

Hanging our laundry out on the deck and bananas!

Water- The 400 gallons in the cistern is going quickly. We have set up rain water catchment with lots of buckets and trashcans. Like gasoline, we have learned the importance of water. The non-potable water we use it to wash clothes by hands in buckets or in the kitchen sink, to flush toilets (if it’s yellow it’s mellow is now a mandatory rule!), to wash floors and counters, and take showers which have been outside in order to heat the water through the hose. We drink filtered rainwater as our main potable water source. The most shocking thing to me has been how much I took for granted flushing the toilet!

FEMA food
Our neighbor dropped off some FEMA food

Food- Many of our meals have a base in canned and dried foods. Fresh meat, fruits and veggies have become luxuries as well. There is virtually no meat in the stores and very little produce. Anything perishable is not smart to have around. All of our food goes in the freezer to chill the 1-2 hours that we run our fuel-efficient generator while we also charge our lap-tops, phone and other small appliances. We really appreciate warm and home-cooked meals! Really anything other than something straight from the can is amazing!

No meat
Empty freezers in the grocery store

Econo food lineThe lines to Econo have decreased now from this

Alcohol- Early on there was ley seca, the dry law. This law prohibits the sale of alcohol. People still drank at home and even in some small bohios, but the idea behind this law is to try to keep people somewhat sober and serious in a serious time. Similarly there was a curfew early on. First until 6pm then they extended it to 9pm and now I think it may be nearly gone. Without water or electricity or even gas to run a generator there wasn’t ice. If there is no ice, a warm rum and coke is not nearly as refreshing. Nor is warm beer! So when we saw the first bags of ice being sold, there was much rejoicing!
At Bonet

Internet and Entertainment- Internet is so useful for so many things. Especially entertainment. We downloaded some shows prior to the storm, but are running low on them. It’s difficult to do much on a clogged system with everyone on it at once. We have resorted to books, card games, acoustic music, parties and get-togethers with friends as the main form of entertainment. There has also been a mass exodus of people and I think this tourist season will be the quietest in a long time. People who rely on internet for work and people who rely on tourism are both jumping ship. Like the trees in the hurricane, only the strong and protected will survive in this new environment. We call this the anti-cruise, basically we went from a gluttonous adventure to living without. We also “celebrated” our 4 years in Puerto Rico in a hurricane! We have basically wiped out the property back to not much more than when we started. Always an adventure here!

Half Mango
This mango above the cabana lost half of its leaves in the storm, but they are now coming back

It is not all bad though. I have come to appreciate quite a bit about this time. For example: Connection: though we have very unreliable internet and phone service, but have had much stronger connection face-to-face with friends and neighbors than I ever have. Yesterday I spent about 5 hours playing cards and compartiendo con mis vecinos. I have seen friends that are normally such hermits! Digital detox: Life is real. Really real. Maybe a little too much. What would have been an argument on Facebook may be an actual argument now but it is so much better than the hiding behind a screen. There is also no light pollution. The stars and lightning shows are incredible.

Ardilla Mongoose

And I love watching the wildlife and nature as they sort through their new normal. There has been a sort of forced autumn with all the leaves dropping and a quick spring with many of the trees re-leafing and re-flowering. Bees and hummingbirds are scavaging, the mongoose have been fun to watch, and the iguanas are very territorial. Rain water: It tastes sooo good and feels so good to shower in the rain! Cleansing and clearing: the hurricane has a cleansing effect of both people and nature. Hopefully we will come back stronger than ever!

Ginger flowerEven in apocalyptic conditions, the sun still shines and the flowers still bloom

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Weathering the Storm and After

Posted by Cassie

A man from the Puerto Rico Telephone Company personally came out to find us and make sure we were ok!

Wow, where to begin. I suppose right here, right now. We are again at a little hot spot with Wifi. It’s a liquor store called Bonet and the loud hum of the generator reminds us of the state we are still in. There are hopeful signs all around that the system is booting up! I see people buying bags of ice; something unheard of in the last two weeks.

The lines to the gas stations have gone from kilometers long with 12 hour waits down to a line of about 5 cars and 20 minutes. We now feel a little more mobile. When you are uncertain if you can fill your car or your generator you tend to want to stay at home. Part of the reason many people didn’t hear from us for so long. The cell phones are starting to work and we saw the energy company for the first time in Rincon. But we are still in for a long haul before everything is restored. I take these little improvements as little joys.

Cabin from above
We can now see the wooden house from the other side of the property!

We passed the storm in the wooden house. There were a few moments that we didn’t know if that was the best decision, but by then it was too late to change our minds. Thankfully, we experienced no damage to the wooden house though we lost many, many trees and hearing them crack and creak all around us for the long 24-28 hours of howling wind and rain was enough to fray the nerves.

All we know

Throughout the storm we had absolutely no news. We listened to the one radio channel that was broadcasting throughout the storm, but they had no info either. We tried to recall the last information that we had seen before the storm started in order to calculate when it would be over. When the winds turned to the west we figured the storm was leaving the island. It was an endurance test. In fact, it still is an endurance test!

Britton Binoculars
Britton watching the destruction all around as it occurred

The worst of the damage was the complete destruction of the chicken coop. Those poor chickens were inside when a humongous tree fell over and one fell directly on the coop. But they lived!!

Chicken Coop RemnantsThe chicken coop is completely destroyed!

Sad chicken
Sad chicken

But just as I thought, the worst part of the storm is the aftermath. It has been hard to live without electricity, water, internet or cell phones. When the storm first happened, we couldn’t even leave the neighborhood because of the vast amount of trees that had fallen on the roads and on the power lines. If I had any power in Puerto Rico I would say BURY THE POWER lines! The roads were cleaned up within about 3 days, but the power lines will take a long time to repair. The power is needed for the cell phone towers as well as the water pumps, so everything goes back to energy. Thankfully we have a generator, a cistern and a safe place to stay. But we couldn’t get a hold of anyone back in the states. We were completely cut off from all communication. We went back to the tried and true: face to face connection!

Electrical Pole
A down pole in Stella

We left the property on the Saturday after to check out the damage and check in with some friends. We also had some great friends come and check on us! This is the time of the best and worst of humanity. Helpful hands and some exploitive ones too. Resources have become very important.

Water refill stationFEMA, Homeland Security and other branches are coordinating for things like generators and potable water

Where is the water? Where is the gasoline? Does anyone have power? A satellite phone? Are any banks open? Cash is king! And then there is the discomfort of extended camping conditions. It is very uncomfortable because we don’t even have fans. Britton has resorted to sleeping on the tile floors in order to try and stay somewhat cool. Warm food and cold drinks are huge luxuries.

Cooling down at night
Britton with the lantern and bug spray

Playing music on porch2
Trying to stay sane. Our days include chopping up trees, playing rummy and music on the porch

La Cambija Water supplyPeople gathering non-potable water from a natural spring in order to flush toilets, shower or washFila line for gas

Smooshed food shackA friend’s food shack got completely squished under a tree!

Rincon Down Town sign
Rincon used to be the mejor lugar para vivir….but now needs some work!

House gone


Chopping the travel palm

The internet is sort of blipping in and out right now as more people come to connect to the wifi so I better leave it at that. I have a few videos I will also try to upload in the upcoming days. We are doing well considering. We feel tough! I think we are much more prepared to go on the TV show Survivor now!

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We Are Alive! Post Maria

Posted by Cassie

We have very limited internet right now. I am currently at a hot spot in Rincon. A little liquor store drinking a cold beer for the first time in a long while. This is because we have not had ice or cold refrigeration in a while. It has been quite the survivor experience, but we are alive and well. We survived Hurricane Maria, in our wooden house! A scary experience for sure.

We couldn’t get a hold of anyone for nearly 2 weeks and I have so much to say, but I am afraid that if I don’t get this out I won’t get anything out. Thank you for the love and concern. We are ok. There is no electricity or water and very little communication out of the island though it is improving. It is uncomfortable, but we are grateful and resetting. The power of mother nature and humanity is strong. Destruction and creation.

Everything is in limited supply. The lines for groceries and gas are long, but spirits are high and patient. We are very thankful for rainwater. It’s a strange time. The littlest things that we normally take for granted are now luxuries. Thank you for thinking of us and for all the friends and strangers who have come out to find out if we are alive. I hope to update soon!


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