Wednesday October 18th 2017
It’s amazing what lists you start compiling at 3.00am in the morning. While these used to be mainly concerned with our home life and what I would cook for dinner the next day, they’re now consumed with all sorts of lists of where I can go to different stores to buy useful things that might help someone on the island. Amazon is no longer my go to for prime options because their shipping is far from prime. If something can be purchased on the island or flown in it’s definitely a better option than UPS, FedEx or USPS. The problem is most of the items badly needed at this point cannot be purchased on the island. Items such as battery fans, batteries, solar lights, chargers, battery packs, water filtration tablets are impossible to source here but yet are amongst the things that are needed the most.
So it’s been a month. Improvements have been slow. It’s taking much longer than I anticipated. Corruption is rife from news reports. We are hearing reports of aid supplies going missing, local authorities confiscating and distributing as they wish rather than where it’s needed and the poorest being neglected. It’s hardly surprising that so many Puerto Ricans are leaving or have left the island. It’s a sad state. Lines for grocery stores are still insane although now a month later they do seem to be slightly better stocked than before and have food on the shelves in most places. Fresh fruit and vegetables are still hit and miss but becoming more readily available. Gas lines for cars are back to normal thankfully, however I’ve been reading about the shortage of fuel on the island and I hope that it wont get worse.
We have had some minor issues in securing propane gasoline for our generator but nothing too major – I just need to hand around a lot and wait for the gas truck as if you miss them when they come then it may be days before you see them again.
Water is still a huge issues on the island. While 60% of water has been restored, it is not safe for drinking purposes. Huge lines within stores form to try and buy bottled water if it’s available and it’s being rationed. It’s so disheartening to see a month later that something as basic as this is still severely lacking. We have managed to buy a filtration system for our house and will hopefully get it fitted this week by a plumber. It’ll give me peace of mind with the baby and also mean that I won’t be another person that is draining from an already valuable commodity and there will be more for others.
Michael has started back at school and its been great to have some sense of routine. Because he’s in AC there I also don’t need to worry about keeping him cool during the day so it’s been a weight off my shoulders also.
I don’t think I would have believed anyone a few months back that would have told me that I would survive a month without power. But we have. Sure we have the generator now and I’m so so grateful to have it but its still not the same as having electricity 24/7. We can only run it for 12 hours at night so it helps with sleep and the fridge etc. but they need to rest.. They’re not built to be on all day every day so it still means a hot and sticky house during the day and a fridge that I need to keep closed.
Cell networks are still pretty bad. I’m still only 33 weeks pregnant so I have a few weeks to go but we have had a friend in the US source us an internet hotspot that should hopefully boost things here at the house. That way if there is an emergency I have better options for contacting Rob such as imessage and email – at the moment I have to drive to a tower and then hope that he has network which in work which he rarely does, but he does have internet. Little things like this will start to make life easier.
People have still been sending me the most generous donations to allow me to buy things for the children’s home and the shelter. I spoke to Giane last night and she’s also been going into remote areas providing first aid to the sick and elderly that can’t get into hospitals. I’m in awe of her willingness to help and her skills to do so. She’s still providing me with lists of things that she needs and I do my best to try and source and purchase them. I wish I could be more hands on but with my lack of Spanish and my expanding bump I can’t go with her.
The children’s home was expecting a newborn baby yesterday and it breaks my heart to think about something so small and vulnerable not being able to be taken care of by it’s parents. They will be well taken care of at the home but it’s still hard for me to think about. I’m waiting to hear more information about if it’s a boy or girl and what the home needs in terms of supplies and I’ll get them today. It’s heart breaking.
It doesn’t look like things will return to any sense of normal any time soon here on the island. I had originally hoped for power to be restored by Halloween but I’ve long scraped that notion. I’ve still to even see a power truck in Dorado. I would love to have it back before the baby is born. I fear it would be bleak Christmas here in Puerto Rico with no power for everyone. Fingers crossed I’m wrong and it’ll be back up and running by December.
With no power and water for a lot of people it’s difficult to see how the death toll will not continue to rise. Sanitation and hospitals running on generators are a huge concern. This is a humanitarian crisis and it’s disappointing to see a lack of coordination from the Puerto Rican and the US government. I’ve seen more aid, coordination and care being distributed from churches here in Dorado than the local government. I’m being told that FEMA are here – but yet I’ve not spoken to one person who lost their home on the island that has received anything at this point from FEMA.
I haven’t been able to help a quarter of the people that I would like to but I hope that we have made a difference to those that we have. I went back to Starbucks a couple of days after I last posted with a $100 Visa gift card for the barista who told me that she had lost her home. She started crying as I was apologising for it not being more and that I wanted her to buy what she needed for her kids. She told me that it doesn’t matter if it was $2… that it was more than anyone else had offered to help her. I can’t wrap my head around that. How a young mother with young kids can be left homeless and one full month later to not have received any sort of government or FEMA assistance despite having filled out the relevant paper work and waited in lines for aid. It just proves that if you can support people directly on the ground it’s more impactful.
Here’s hoping my next update will have more signs of improvement and some restoration of essentials for the poor people of this island. For the moment it’s just one foot in front of the other.