Author Archives: Cassie

Apocalife


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!

House

IMG_1404
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

Laundry
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
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

Weathering the Storm and After


Posted by Cassie

Survivors
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!

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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Ave María and Huracán


Posted by Cassie

Ave María is a religious expression that is commonly used in Puerto Rico. It’s sort of like Ay, Caramba or Mother Mary please help us and in this case it’s: Really, there’s another hurricane headed right for us?!

Religion, science, camaraderie and legends all try to help us make sense out of the craziness that life throws at us it seems.

Hurricane Maria
The projected path of Hurricane María could be anywhere in the red

After the last hurricane, we’ve decided not to move out of the wooden cabin to the concrete cabana for María. It’s actually far less windy in our little protected valley of the cabin. The worst part of Hurricane Irma wasn’t the hurricane, it was waiting for the power and water to come back. So we again got more gas for the generator and are again filling up the water cistern.

The stores are out of drinking water again. I asked a woman at the grocery store why they don’t just fill up their bottles from the last storm with tap or rain water like we are going to do. And she seemed a little confused. “Pues, las usamos y luego las botamos…Well, we use them and then throw them away!” Hmm. I guess I have a harder time just throwing stuff away, especially knowing how useful they are. It’s pretty simple to sanitize them!

Guacamole
Is it a coincidence that avocados are so abundant this time of year and guacamole is so easy to prepare even in a hurricane?

We also learned from the last storm that it is open game on junk food! Calories don’t count if you have to live without water, internet or electricity, right?! In Econo, not only was all the water gone, but also all of the Chef Boyardee, an apparent hurricane favorite!

In addition we heard a cool legend story that the Tainos (natives of the island before Columbus) apparently believed. Hopefully I don’t screw it up too much:

El Yunque better

There were two twin brothers. One was named Yukiyu (which was later translated as Yunque the same a the national park near San Juan) and the other was Huracán. Yukiyu was the good god who cared for Borinken (the island of Puerto Rico) and all of its inhabitants and was especially present in the mountain areas. Huracán was the evil brother who was always jealous that the islands loved Yukiyu more and so he would try to come around nearly every year to destroy Yukiyu and his beloved ones. He and Yukiyu fight and most times Yukiyu wins. Therefore you must give thanks to him by being kind to the land. But this battle rages on to this day.

Wood
Some of our old wood is being repurposed as hurricane boards

Some people get really worked up about these storms and many others are pretty calm about it. You can tell who are the (calm and collected) veterans and who (ahem, lots of gringos) are the newbie scaredy-cats. We are trying not to be as freaked out about this one as the last even if the storm is super hyped. There is a real psychological screwiness to watching the models as they descend RIGHT OVER YOU! It makes even the calmest person get a little agitated.

Generator
In our neighborhood…hooking up a new generator and propane delivery

We are learning from our neighbors who have lived here their whole lives and have survived many tropical storms and hurricanes. We figure, they know much more than we do about living through a major storm. Some people are boarding up windows, but mainly just those with full glass fronts. We stopped and talked with Julio, our 86 year-old neighbor who must weigh about 100 lbs, and Berto who’s in his 50′s to see how they were doing for the storm. Berto said he was tying some things down with rope and that they better tie up Julio so he wouldn’t blow away! haha!

Window Prep
One neighbor is weaving plastic trash bags through the window to cut down on the water spray

I am trying my best to be calm because I know the odds and I know what we can do during and after. The storm seems to be moving north and losing some steam and the only real danger is directly in the eye. Anyway, there’s only so much you can do and the worst case scenario (afterward everything is ravaged and there’s no water or electricity for weeks and weeks), we just take a month-long (or longer) vacation to visit family in CO before dealing with the mess. Don’t sweat the small stuff as they say, and it’s all small stuff.

We’ve learned a lot throughout this very active hurricane season and feel even more connected with this land, people and culture by going through this. We are all in this together!

Also, just FYI, we were contacted by Channel 31 (which is also Channel 2 News) out of Denver last night and did a Facetime interview with them explaining our connection to Colorado and Puerto Rico and what we are going through with Irma and María. The segment should air sometime tonight around 9pm local Colorado time. Let us know if you see it!

Ave María, please be good to us! And Yukiyu, please convince Huracán to leave us unharmed (and preferably with power and water quickly too)!