Saturday, May 19, 2018
Tuesday, December 5, 2017
The light at the end of the tunnel. We have passed the hump so to speak. We are now without power for over 80+ days. Actually, longer than that if you count back to Hurricane Irma. When Hurricane Irma hit us it knocked out power for 6 days. The power came back on for three days then well you know the rest. Some of our friends call this adventure glamour camping. It is fun at times and maddening at other times. We play a lot more card games. We go to bed a little earlier than before. We watch a lot of shooting stars. So this is kind of funny. We decided to invite several friends over to share Thanksgiving dinner with. We needed a generator so we borrowed one from a friend. Shortly after connecting the generator to the house I remember walking into the kitchen and saying, “WOW, that oven light is super bright!” Jenn then looked over to the oven and said the same thing. The best way to describe it is when the sun’s rays shine through the clouds. It seems like God is getting ready to say something to you. Then there is music is in the back of your head. Tah duh….Something like that. You know the feeling. At this point I knew something was severely wrong. Then we saw smoke coming from behind the stove and dishwasher. Ok, maybe it was a small fire. Somehow the generator was producing too many Volts or Amps (whatever) and it ended up blowing up the stove, microwave, dishwasher and all the electrical outlets in the kitchen. We quickly turned off that generator and cooked the turkey on the BBQ grill. Jenn (my lovely bride) held it together better than I expected. We opened a bottle of wine and made a toast to the dead stove, microwave and dishwasher. Nothing was going to ruin her day. BTW: I thought the turkey was one of the best I have ever had. It was a little challenging cooking everything outside but overall it was a success. So I guess we can add the kitchen items to the long list of items damaged by Maria, kind of. And now for some good news, the water returned last week. Yes, we can take a shower in the actual shower. Sadly, no more rain gutter showers for us. I will admit I kind of liked scaring off the last few remaining neighbors as I ran under the rain gutters in my underwear. Plus added massage feature was amazing. I remember standing outside alone enjoying my rain gutter shower during a thunderstorm. I looked to my left and Madison was taking a rain gutter shower too. Like father, like daughter. It is the little moments we treasure, right? I don’t know how true this is as we really don’t have access to any real news. I have heard that we lost over 450,000 residents so far to the states. It is predicted to be around 750,000 after all the dust settles. That will make a huge impact on the remaining residents. As for now we are seeing multiple stores, restaurants and bars (yes, the bars too) closing down for good. Most people say only the strong stayed. But honestly, if I knew the power, water, internet, cable was going to take this long to return I would have flown the coop too. The people that left were pretty smart. So let me go back to the title, “The light at the end of the tunnel”.” Unfortunately, this is a very long tunnel and the light is really dim at the end. But we can see things happening. We have water in our house. We can see lights in the far off distance and the mojitos have ice again. So, it’s not all that bad.
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Day 17: October 5, 2017 Today was a great day. I had a visit from two DEA agents. They legitimately were checking on how we were doing. I cannot tell you how much that meant to me. I have never been more impressed with a government agency than I am with them. THE DEA ROCKS!!! I wish the postal service cared that much. The Postal Inspectors really are not doing much other than driving around in an air conditioned car. Such a waste! The Postal service sent several agents to Puerto Rico from all over the states to drive around Puerto Rico and check on the offices. Nice thought, but give them the tools they need to really do something. Plus, they really don’t understand security at individual offices. I have asked them repeatedly to check on my missing employee and they seem to forget as they walk out the door after every visit. I know they are out of there element, but come on! A missing employee should be job one! I wish I had time to drive to Isabela to find my missing employee in an air conditioned rental car. Anyway, My lovely bride finally cracked and asked for a hotel for a few nights. I agreed as it would be nice to take a real shower and watch the news. It is nice to step out of reality as right now it is completely, FU#%ed! I saw on the news President Trump was in town and throwing out toilet paper to a crowd in San Juan. I thought, Ok, that’s funny. But in reality he was tossing out paper towels. Not sure why that made news. Maybe the news wanted him to throw out $100 bills. I am sure if he threw out $100 bills that would not have been enough and the news would have spun it another way. I really don’t understand the CNN News entertainment sensationalism. I understand it makes people watch news but do people really believe anything they see on the news anymore? I know, I don’t! So back to the hotel. Yes, we left the house and we are at a hotel. We have spotty WIFI at best. The room at the Holiday Inn is very nice. The employees are great and the hotel is full of Homeland Security, FEMA, and National Guard members. We spoke to a few of them and they have all said this is a F’d up situation. And they also said Katrina was under control within five days. This situation out of control and its over 16 days. They also cannot believe what is going on here. Day 18: Friday October 6th, 2017 Interesting day. I keep hearing from our family and friends when we get Wi-Fi that things are getting better and the troops are on their way. But this is not entirely true. They are here. But the lack of communication has grounded all operations. A plane full of supplies from the Dallas Mavericks arrived yesterday. Somehow, a basketball team was able to get some supplies in and distributed but the US government could not? Anyway, we met with some troops that are waiting for some direction and mission info from FEMA. We drove them around because they do not have vehicles yet. We showed them the most damaged areas of western PR. They also are blown away by how bad it is and can’t believe nothing is happening yet. They have nothing to do but protect a small airport for now. They explained that FEMA only sent one employee to the west side. How can one person without communication actually do anything? This guy doesn’t even have a SAT phone. The troops are as disgusted as the rest of us but did assure me all this will change soon. The day at the post office was crazy. We are still about 10 days behind. At least that is our guess based on the dates on the mail. Everyone wants and needs the items that are coming in the mail but we just can’t control what they send us. We are processing all mail daily to make sure everyone can get their mail. The volume of mail is unbelievable. The Aguada Post Office employees just don’t have the resources they need to process their mail. That mail is backing up and we they just can’t keep up with it. All employees are starting to breakdown. I know it’s hard to imagine working 10-12 hours then start a quest for water, food, gas and/or cash. The lines for necessary items are getting shorter but you do have to have time to wait. Most lines are now less than 2-3 hours. The frustration is beyond comprehension. We all just can’t continue to do this. My bride and I broke down and went to a hotel. It was nice to sleep in a bed with air conditioning. I took a much needed long shower and used a flushing toilet. The hotel doesn’t have everything working either. The satellite television in the room has about ten channels. Most channels are blacked out. The ATM in the hotel casino is out of cash and they have no bottled water. The phones in the rooms do not work. The restaurant in the hotel has a limited but pretty good menu. I had a cheeseburger without veggies. I love tomatoes. I am convinced I could eat a tomato and onion only sandwich if it was available. I forgot to mention. We have no fresh fruits or veggies. Occasionally, you can find someone selling pineapples but that is kind of rare. I was told the entire crop o pineapples was destroyed. No fresh fruit or veggies available anywhere. I am so glad I am not a vegetarian. Another day has past and we seem to be in the same situation as day one or two of the hurricane. What is an expectable expectation after a hurricane for things to go back to normal or just improve a little? If we could get at least one of the four essential items (water, food, gas and cash) taken off the daily chore list that would be an improvement for me. Ok, maybe add cell service to that list. That would be nice too.
Thursday, October 5, 2017
The saga continues............. Day 12: Continued…………… September 30th, 2017, 2:30 AM it was a quiet night no street walkers, it was kind of strange. I can the see the glow of lights over Mayaguez and Aguadilla again. It appears both towns are starting to get power. It is still possible to see the milky way and all the stars. They are so bright it lights our upper deck. All night long the wind has been blowing at 15 mph allowing all the lose roof tiles to smack around. It was actually a cold night in the 70’s. The dogs continue to bark at nothing driving my paranoia. The smells are becoming more and more intense. The garbage cans all over are overflowing with rotting food. The dead animals are starting to smell as well. We noticed that the insects are in greater abundance. I think this is due to the lack of birds. The skies are empty of birds. Every morning I used to have a wood pecker that would land on the hand rail and stare at himself in the reflection of the glass window. He was kind of vain. We haven’t seen him since the hurricane. The hurricane either scared all the birds away or the worse killed the birds. I hope we start to start to see some progress today. It’s been a long two weeks. Found Wifi YEAH!!!!! Today’s quest after cleaning the house was to find Wi-Fi. We drove to McDonalds about thirty minutes away in Mayaguez. Sadly, no Wi-Fi. So we ordered a couple of Mcflurry’s. Ok, I am not a fan of McDonald’s but that was one damn nice treat. We then sat down and enjoyed the A/C. The weather since the hurricane has been very strange. Some days are over 100 degrees and others are in the 80’s. But the even stranger thing is we all seem to get easily sunburned now. Anyway, while sitting there we noticed a girl using her phone for FB and snapchat. So we asked, how are you getting through to the internet. She told us she had Claro (Mexican owned Cellphone Company) and she allowed us to piggy back onto it using something called hotspot. This was great! We all checked email, made some calls and were able to check the future weather forecast. It has been very difficult not to be able to have any communication whatsoever. So she ended up leaving after about ½ hour but told us where we also could get the same thing. Jenn was like the Tasmanian Devil and took off leaving a trail of dust. She returned about an hour later with a working hotspot. We all ended up trying to use it for the rest of the day. It worked great in Mayaguez but when we returned to Rincon it did not work. I guess the cellphone towers over here are too far gone. We saw one twisted up on the road down the street from our house. It is unbelievable to see something that tall lying on the road. Overall, it was a better day. Still no sign of the Military, the police, the National Guard, Red Cross, FEMA or anything. Despair is setting in all over Rincon. Day 13: Sunday, October 1st, 2017, today’s goal was to find a working ATM. In a non-third world country this would be easy. As the days continue to go by I realize that Puerto Rico now is actually worse than a third world country. We have no Cellphone Service, No Radio, No TV, No power, No water, no security, and no food. We (Jenn, me, Liam, Madison and Paul) left Rincon at 11:30 and headed towards Ponce. We figured this won’t be so hard as that area wasn’t hurt that bad by Hurricane Maria. Big mistake! We drove to every town in between Rincon and Ponce to no avail. We stop at grocery stores, shopping centers, banks and anything that could possibly have an ATM. We put over 100 fun filled miles on our car and burned over a half a tank fuel. But in the end we prevailed. We stopped at the San German Hospital and by chance an armored truck was there. He was refilling the ATM in the emergency room. We jumped out of the car with great joy. Can you imagine? It was like an old Beatles movie when they all jumped out of a car at stoplight (Chinese fire drill). We only had to wait for 1 hour to get $100 out of our account. They limit the amount you can get out so everyone will be able to at least get some money out. Let me tell you something. One hundred dollars goes a long way when there are no restaurants open or grocery stores with anything to sell. All stores shelves are completely bare. It honestly doesn’t feel real anymore. The basic fundamentals of life are in jeopardy, safety and health. As we drove home with one item completed for the day we all said, it could be worse. Really? How? Then the car went dead silent. I really believe the lack of internet is probably the hardest thing on the kids. For me it’s just finding the basic essentials to survive another day. We arrived home ate some canned food thing and all slipped off to sleep. I of course took first shift on the roof. All is good, all are safe. BTW: around 1:00 am I gave up and went down stairs to sleep in my own bed. Day 14: Monday, October 2, 2017. First day trying to open the Post office for real. I took 10 gallons of diesel from our home generator supply to add to the Postal Service Generator. At some point in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria someone broke in and siphoned out all the diesel fuel from the Postal Service generator. My personal generator is useless right now anyway as it blew up on day one. I will at some point try to take it apart and fix it. I filled the Postal Service Generator and started turning on all the essential items. We still do not have basic services like power, internet, cell service, phone service and most importantly running water. I am hoping that the Postal Service will fulfill my request for fuel soon as my supply will run out fast. We opened the retail window and sold our first money order in over two weeks. The public was very anxious to see something go back to normal. At 11:00 am the employees from the Aguada Post Office arrived. The Aguada Post Office was submerged in 4-5 feet of sewage. It will take a while to clean up that facility. So for the near future we will have an additional 20 employees working in our facility. Keep in mind no running water or working bathrooms for over 40 employees. We love having our coworkers from Aguada with us. We just wish we could provide them and us some basic essential needs. We do what we can. So anyway, after we left the Post Office we stopped at the plaza. We heard that FEMA finally arrived in Rincon and they were located near the lighthouse. Why did they pick the lighthouse location to set up? The lighthouse is on a dead end street at the far north side of town. It’s actually 3 miles from the Rincon town center. No one even knew they were there. Maybe that was the point? No announcements or postings were made. I swear this recovery program is being run by the producers of Southpark. Maybe this aftermath is going to be a pilot reality TV show. Or a, what not to do show? I did end up with an orange from a passerby. It can’t get any more screwed up can it? Can it? We left the plaza after that crazy news and headed up to our roofless abode. We then filled up 20+ gallon containers from a garbage can that collects rain water so we could flush toilets. We then fed the dogs the little dog food we had left. I guess we will have that chore tomorrow. They do protect the house so they are earning their keep right now. Next week they might be on the rotisserie. Every few hours I ask myself, this cannot be real, it has to be a dream, right? Its two full weeks after a major disaster and nothing still makes any sense. No one is making rational decisions and all aspects of communication continue to breakdown. Only one word truly describes our situation. -----------------------------------------CLUSTERFUCK! Sorry, if I offended anyone. But I cannot think of a better word. The good news of the day, we made it to through another day on our own and I mean ON OUR OWN. Day 15: Tuesday, October 3, 2017 was actually a better day. We saw our first helicopter. It was huge! It flew by slowly looking at the debris field then left. Then we received some water and MRE’s from the Postal Service. This was a nice surprise. We distributed everything among employees and we have a few items left that we are going to drop off to several families in the hills. We had visitors from the DEA and the Postal Inspection Service. The DEA brought additional food supplies and water. That was incredibly thoughtful. They also have no form of communication with anyone out in the field. We still have no radio, no TV, no sat phones, no internet, no real cell or phone service, nothing. They too called this a clusterfuck as no one knows what is going on. It is impossible to coordinate any consistent relief effort. They also told us that several million pounds of relief supplies will be arriving soon, possibly Thursday? The cell service works on and off for only a few minutes at a time. I was actually able to go on line for 1-minute last night. My phone chirped then nothing. I was hopeful for that one little moment. We have a hotspot but it only works about 20 miles away from Rincon. It is virtually useless due to the gas situation. We still cannot find diesel fuel for the Post Office generator so we are using the last of my personal diesel fuel supply. Not sure if that is a good idea as I was using that to barter but I really don’t have a choice. I now have almost forty employees relying on us to be open daily. We mixed the Aguada Post Office employees into the Rincon Post Office. We all are under one roof without A/C. We feel very bad for the employees of Aguada as their facility was flooded with sewage. That facility should start to be cleaned this week but it has more problem. The mold has taken over in the last two weeks. This afternoon I noticed that it is going to be a full moon. So the next few days are going to be more challenging than they should be. Everyone jokes that the full moon brings out the crazies. It doesn’t but, it does bring out everybody’s short temper and believe me we all are short tempered now. And now for some more positive things. We have some food. We have some fresh drinking water. We also have several residents doing more for the community than expected. I have witnessed people giving fuel to others, giving generators to others, giving water filters, passing out fans, people helping move trees/debris. The Puerto Rican people are strong, loyal and caring. I have never witnessed such compassion in my life. The gas lines are starting to get shorter now. This is a great thing. Can you imagine waiting in line for fuel for 6-12 hours for $20 of fuel every other day? I have heard the grocery stores will open soon. Not sure when but, that has to be true. I have seen people laughing and crying when they embrace their friends and family. I see this daily. I have seen so much good in this little town. I can only hope the good will continue. Oh, no street walkers last night. Weird, huh? Several people have told me that these days are similar to the TV show, Walking Dead. Thank god it isn’t…. Day 16: Wednesday October 4, 2017 So today we decided nothing was going to bring us down. We still have no communication with the outside world. But we have hot dogs in the ice chest (yum) and a bag of Ice from Hotel Cofressi. The hotel owners/staff have done so much for this community. They have provided a home including meals for multiple families that lost their houses. They have allowed anyone/everyone to use their phones so people could call the states (when the phone works). They have passed out water/ice. Keep in mind that half of the hotel was destroyed by hurricane Maria. This season will probably be the worst tourist season in Puerto Rico’s history. Almost all preexisting reservations have cancelled for this year. The owners and staff of that hotel are truly amazing. Again, nothing is going to bring us down today, right. We spent over an hour driving three miles to get to work. I decided to go to the Anasco Post Office to check email and run some computer programs. That was a huge mistake as it took over two hours to get there and return. I did get to open Outlook and review some emails. I tried to reply to as many as I could but I knew I needed to head back to my office. At 11:00 am the post office generator at my office ran out of fuel, as predicted. We have been trying to get diesel fuel for over a week. Then two postal vehicles broke down. One carrier had to hitch hike back to the post office as she had no way to communicate. Luckily, she made it back to the post office in less than two hours safely. The traffic is horrible everywhere. The gas lines are shorter now but you still can’t really drive anywhere after 8:00 am because that is when the gas stations start selling gas and most streets become impassable. The banks have lines of over 200 people or more. The grocery stores have lines to enter. They have security guards in front of the doors. They only allow a few people in at a time. Thank god we have ice and hot dogs and don’t have to worry about that mess for a few days. I will admit we sweat more and we eat a lot less every day. It seems the day by day task is that of a hunter/gatherer (caveman). Most days involve a quest for these four essential items water, food, gas and cash. Not necessarily in that order but each one does affect the other. We finally got about forty gallons of fuel for the postal generator around 2:00 pm. The postmaster from Aguada and Aguadilla went out and found a 55-gallon drum. Had it filled somehow. We were able to syphon the fuel over then they headed off to Ramey and San Antonio to provide fuel to those post offices as well. The rest of the day we smelled like diesel fuel. We have lights now but no running water to wash up/off. Then the mail truck finally arrived from San Juan. Normally our mail arrives around 6:00 am. The truck is full of Rincon mail and Aguada mail. If we don’t process this mail, we will not be able to move around inside the building. It seems every customer wants to know the same thing, “When will my mail arrive?” It is so hard to repeat the same thing and stay positive. “We just don’t know!” We now have 500+ customers daily but that doesn’t include the 500+ customers from the Aguada Post Office. Overall, having one thousand customers doesn’t sound that bad. But when half your staff is unaccounted for and you only have two employees working mail. The task insurmountable. It appears that the mail is about eight days behind. We are not sure as we have little to no communication with Postal managers. We did however have two postal inspectors show up again and ask how we were doing. They left the employee gate wide open and we had customers coming in our back door looking for mail. It was very frustrating as that is there primary job to enforce security. The 30-40 employees use rain water from a trash can to flush toilets. We have more mail in the building than two Christmas seasons. Customers that are mad as hell because they don’t have their Amazon products. We have no access to any form of communication with the outside world or our immediate world. Nothing! And our last two digital TV antenna channels went off air yesterday. The hotspot is useless and cellphones just plain don’t work. If it was getting better shouldn’t we be getting more information, not less? I finished as much as I could at work and headed home. On the way we stopped by to check on a few friends and ended up having some pizza and a few beers. Wait, cold beers. You have no idea how good a cold beer is after weeks of post hurricane stuff. See, it all worked out. As I stated in the beginning, nothing was going to bring us down today. In fact, pizza does the opposite. It puts a smile on everyone’s face unless it burns the top of your mouth.