Thursday, October 12, 2017

Someone Got My Goat!

I was watching a video in which Congress woman Velazquez gave Ben Carson  a virtual speech really meant for the President.  I am sorry it was Mr. Carson who got it.  Her speech was passionate and full of the hurt the President's words have inflicted on the Puerto Rican people.

So, I was reading some of the comments on the video and I read one from a woman who started talking about Puerto Rico's debt and how it was our fault that we were in the shape we were in.  It was crude and heartless and this was my response:

Your ignorance is so large that I don't know where to start.  People, Puerto Rico was in a financial bind that is true but the financial situation was still bearable and livable. They wanted to renegotiate the debt before all this happened.  Set that aside.  What has happened is that a Category 4 Hurricane went through the island.  If the force of a hurricane of that magnitude had struck your state it probably would have blown off the roofs of every wooden house just like it did in PR. It entered PR as a Category 4 and exited as a Category 2.  This was no small storm.  We are not asking you to pay off our debt.  We are asking the US to give to US citizens the help afforded every other US citizen facing this kind of devastation.  Where I live in PR, all the neighbors got together to pick up debris, clean out the daily trash, and even set up a citizen watch at the Condo's entrance because our security guards could not make it and there had been a mugging the night before across the street.  Our regular custodians could not make it because of the damage to the roads and because they were in evacuation centers! So we did the cleaning BUT we did not lose the roof over our heads.  We were an exception.  The majority of people who did not have concrete houses lost their roofs and even walls.   Where I live we had flooding and damages but we had a place to sleep in the most part.  People you need to have a heart that is not of stone.  Your biases and prejudices blind you.  BTW I go to an English speaking church and many of my friends are from the mainland.  They are in the same boat as everyone else.  I have a friend from NC that is out in the countryside without water or electric power.  Would you talk to my friend Kristie with that same heartless tone? I have friends who run a Christian English speaking radio station and they are surviving on generators.  They can only transmit live.  I mean you really don't know, do you, that Puerto Rico and the US mainland have had more than a 100 year relationship with many intermarriages for this type of talk.  It is obvious that some people are being misled by a lot of ignorance and misinformation.

Her response was moderated and but always had to say that our politicians are more corrupt than theirs.  That is up for discussion.  They may do it with more finesse but there are some that are people of integrity on both sides of the Atlantic.  She thought the people in  Puerto Rico were not properly informed. Ay bendito.  

This is what I responded:

Actually, my niece, Michelle Kantrow Vazquez, is a news reporter- News is my Business.  Many people on Wall Street read her online newspaper.  She writes in English and has a You Tube channel.  Just yesterday she interviewed Lt. General Jeffrey Buchanan, bless his heart, who is in charge of the military doing the best he can in the situation that he is in.  I know a lot of people fanning the flame of discord including the president.   This is no time to look down on anyone in their time of need.  A person with a good heart will help you and not rub it in your face.  I am very grateful for the help but we couldn’t be but hurt and frustrated with how long it took.  

We are helping ourselves in this tragedy.   In fact, many Puerto Rican families and friends stateside have sent their own care packages with batteries, food, and supplies to their families and friends but they are not getting them because there is a backlog at the post offices.  They need additional help but they either haven’t asked for it or have not been given the assistance.  I think FEMA should step in and place some troops to help deliver the mail.  Only ten percent and perhaps less have electricity.  Everyday things are better, thank God—more people have water, gas is more available, and Google is helping to restore our cellphone grid, but many grocery stores don’t have batteries, fresh food, nor the propane gas needed to boil the water they are getting. 

If you want to help and are a praying person, pray.  God answers prayer.  Then look up the Salvation Army PR on Facebook or online and donate there. They do the most good with 11 community centers on the island and two on the Virgin Islands.  They are staying there for the long haul.  





Sunday, October 08, 2017

After the Storm

When the sun came up at around five thirty, the winds were still going strong but they felt more like a strong Category 1 hurricane force winds. I was hungry and realized I couldn't go to the kitchen but noticed I had my purse.  I could snack on a granola bar in my purse. That held me over.  Once I felt safe that the winds had decreased I left the bathroom.    The fact that there was light gave many of us the false security that there was no danger.  There were still some gusty winds blowing that could drop any thing that was loose.  I wasn't taking any chances.  I just looked out the window to see what I could see.  I discovered that our parking lots were flooded.  Nothing new in Costa del Sol since one of the lots tended to flood but the area in front of my apartment rarely flooded.  Many people had removed their cars and parked them in the covered parking at the CVS pharmacy.  I didn't.   I left it near my apartment and hoped for the best.  Thank goodness nothing happened.

Upon opening the front door, I found the hall way blanketed with leaves, the very leaves that had once covered the now bare trees.  Suddenly it looked like an American winter. Stark and leafless without the benefit of an autumn.  My awning was full of water but I wasn't about to release it just yet because the winds were still blowing.  I continued to check each window and discovered that water, dirt, and sand had seeped in with the wind.  I felt it safe enough to go and rest in the back bedroom where both windows could close tightly.  "When will this wind ever stop?" I almost screamed outloud.  About an hour later I heard voices outside.  I saw this woman struggling to walk to a car and place something in the front seat. She labored to stand as she made her way back to her apartment avoiding the wooden fence that once surrounded her small yard. How foolhardy.  What could have motivated her to brave this weather?  It hit me.  It was her phone.  We would see people doing this often after this.


We didn't have power or water. I was fine with that because I had two trash cans full of water.  I imagined water would return in a couple of hours for me and perhaps in a week for everyone else. How mistaken I was.  You don't fool around when it comes to saving water for hurricanes.  In fact, many people have cisterns in Puerto Rico for when we go through droughts.  In my case, I permanently have a trash can full of water in my guest bathroom for those occasions when they cut off the water unexpectedly.  This happens all the time.   So when the hurricane season started to get dicey I filled up my other 45 gallon trashcan.

Anxious to check on my neighbors, I stepped outside.  Sonia and Melvin and their kids were fine.  No damages.  Then I checked on Don Blas, my downstairs neighbor in his 70's.  He was already outside talking to his friends. No damages either but as I looked around, I saw plenty of debris, leafless trees, and sad palm heads bent over.   Some of the debris that littered the ground came from a wooden veranda on the top of the Tropicana Condominium. Roofing and mired yellow insulation littered the ground.  I also noticed tattered yellow awnings as well. I saw some broken or fallen fences, and flooding.  How many other things had flown around while we were sleeping?  I would soon find out.

I knew I had a problem with my sliding glass door which needed a solution.  Since I had an injured knee,  I asked my neighbors if they could help me open my porch door, but they were having breakfast so it would be a while. While I waited, I figured out how to open the remaining glass door open. I shoveled some of the razor sharp glass aside.  Once open I managed to see first hand how those boards had fallen and fixed the loose board in place.

I had to arrange my porch so it could serve as my kitchen but I had much to do first, including lowering the large canvas awning, rearrange my battered plants, store two boards, to finally setting up the gas grill.  I was getting hungry.  I needed coffee but it would have to wait.  I drank cranberry juice instead and made a simple breakfast of crackers and cheese.  It was already mid afternoon and I hadn't gotten my things together.  I had to secure the door and it would soon be dark.

I went downstairs to throw my first bag of glass away and check my car.  I had to get a move on; it would soon be dark.



This is what I saw on the porch that revealed how the boards criss crossed and kept the loose board in place.

This fence divided our parking lot from the Condo next to our and weakened our security.  Security proved to be essential when some of our neighbors heard the shooting across the street at the Hotel Verdanza that very first night after the hurricane.  

Tattered palm trees and fallen fences filled the sidewalk. 

A befuddled bird considered its options.

A few days later, I saw this truck tipped over near my sister's house near Laguna Gardens.  The trees in the background lined the lagoon.  

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Hurricane Maria or What Happened to Me

How could I make heads or tails out of my experience with Hurricane Maria?  I am still figuring it out.  In other words, I am still sorting out the information and drawing conclusions.  What follows is an account of what happened. You all basically know that Hurricane Maria churned off in the Eastern Atlantic for a few days, teetering between being a Category 4 and 5 hurricane while it zeroed in on Puerto Rico, eventually coming in through the Maunabo-Yabucoa area on the south eastern tip of the island and crossing through it at a mere ten miles per hour tearing apart everything in its way.

When we got the news that there were two systems out in the Eastern Atlantic showing signs of development,  I was just getting on my feet again after Hurricane Irma.  The first one was Lee and the second, should it develop would be called Maria.  Well, Lee which was the one furthest out developed first and then Maria.  They were not in what seemed chronological or geophysical order but Maria though developing second, strengthened and then outshone Lee.  In fact, Lee fizzled only to much later regroup in the Western Atlantic.  All this activity in the Atlantic after Irma was disconcerting.

I had successfully battered down my bedroom window for Irma, only to tear all that down before Maria because Irma left me and my neighbors without electricity for four days.  There was a need for air circulation as we were experiencing a sweltering heat in the 90’s without even a fan.  I tried to rewrap the window before Maria’s arrival but it just wouldn’t come together. It was very frustrating and frightening to say the least.  Then came the porch with its glass sliding door.  This time I left the wooden panels in the porch nicely placed where I could easily get to them.  Since they were heavy, I still needed help.  So, when my handyman friend, Anibal gave me a hand putting the boards upright, I really appreciated his help.  For some reason, I thought if they had worked for Irma, they would work for Maria.  At least I thought that at first. 

By late Sunday, September 17,  the news was more and more certain that Maria was not going to make a turn for the north like all the other recent storms had done, but instead promised to slam directly into Puerto Rico.  So on Monday, the 18th, I finally took the mandatory day trip to Maunabo where my daughters have a hillside apartment that faces the ocean.  I knew I had to secure things, including tables and chairs on the open rooftop, that if left unsecured could become flying projectiles.  I could never forgive myself if someone got hurt by them.   There was also a refrigerator that I had to empty.   I went upstairs to their mostly open terrace penthouse and crammed as much as I could in their tiny bathroom and tied down the rest.   I also pushed any cushioned furniture further inside the apartment, closed all the windows as well as I could and then closed all the interior doors to stop cross ventilation.  We will only know in an uncertain future if what I did there worked. *

As I drove back to San Juan, cars whizzed by.  I could sense the uneasiness and see people doing final preparations before Maria’s arrival.  I could only think that Tuesday the 19th was the final preparation time I had left.  Ada Monzon, a well known meteorologist on FaceBook and Lente Viral  was constantly repeating that we needed to have our preparations completed by noon on Tuesday.   She emphasized we needed to prepare for some really strong winds in a hurricane which was moving at a slow ten miles per hour.   She went so far as to describe what wind speeds each town would get and for how long.   I wish I had recorded her reports, because pretty early into the storm we lost electricity and any connection with the outside world vanished except for a couple of radio stations and text messaging.  We were also dismayed to learn that the National Weather Service Doppler radar had been blown away and was no more.  

Frankly, none of us had ever faced such catastrophic conditions and if we were honest we only had a dictionary definition in our heads when we thought of the word catastrophe.  Sure I had gone through Hugo 25 years before but that only hit a corner of the island.  This huge monster threatened to smother our whole island with these Category 4 or 5 winds.  Believe me, we now know what catastrophic damage really looks, sounds, and feels like.   While I was secluded in the bathroom I could hear those ferocious winds sounding like  a race car zooming past.  These destructive winds brought powerful gusts that bent lampposts like wet spaghetti, gnawed on concrete blocks like a dog to a bone, and wiped out concrete houses and beach front properties like they were legos flying.   Not only do these winds do all that, but they also strip trees of all its foliage and then mercilessly topple them harshly showing all their roots.  Hurricane winds are vengeful!  

Since I didn’t phantom what catastrophic meant, I prepared for Maria in a similar way as I had for Irma.  The only problem with that thinking was that Irma only hit us as a Tropical Storm and not with the full force it had hit St. Thomas and Barbuda for example.  They were devastated.   So, I put my boards up, brought the fourth board in and placed it behind the others.  I did find some base boards which I had drilled some holes into so I could screw them onto the frame of my sliding glass doors. I thought I had done an excellent job securing them nice and flush but when I brought the fourth board in, I didn’t secure it to the others. Big mistake.  

Upon hearing Governor Rossello demanding that those who could be in harm’s way get to a shelter and heed the local police, I started to evaluate my thinking.  He emphasized that no first responder was going to be out and about after 50 mph winds started.  The fact that the moment for Maria to turn had long passed, I heeded the Lord’s voice to move my 45-gallon trash can out of the bathroom and into the kitchen.  In fact, I barely heeded the Lord’s voice in time.  I had just finished filling up the now sparkling clean trash can with clean tap water when the winds started to pick up. The lights were flickering and I needed to find my candles, matches, and flashlights. It was then that I noticed that the sliding glass door was breathing! Breathing-- this was not poetic.  This was not personification.   It was in fact moving in and out.  I naively went to hold it in place.  The strength of the pressure against the door was herculean.  I knew I was no match.  So, I thought what can I put to hold it?  I looked around and saw my 20-year-old sofa bed and got behind it and prayed.  “Lord, give me the strength to push it without the sliders.” I went for it.  It screeched across the floor.  Poor downstairs neighbor.  The heck with that.  Next, I pushed the rattan dining table against the other side.  Then I ran into the bathroom.

Once there I realized it wasn’t ready.  I had planned to spend the hurricane in the living room since the door had protection, but all those plans had gone kaput.   I sat on the toilet seat and waited a few moments to plan what I would do next and gather up some courage to get some cushions from the living room.  I peeked out and ran and got a soft rug from the closet, and dried the shower floor, then laid down the rug with three or four cushions on top.  I retrieved some pillows and made myself a comfortable bed.  I should have gotten a blanket but it didn’t occur to me at the moment. It didn’t occur to me to get food either.  Fortunately, I did grab my purse and there I later discovered two trail mix bar which were my breakfast the next morning. 

Then it was just me in the bathroom and texting with my daughter in Rochester.  We texted into the night.  I was comfortable and I drifted asleep, talking to the Lord.  He told me everything would be alright.  I was concerned for my bedroom and he told me to imagine it as a porch. Somethings might get wet but no big deal.  I handed everything over to Him and I fell asleep.  During the night I woke up once or twice with the pipes in the walls gurgling and then a musky smell similar to a swamp seeped into the room.  Thank goodness it didn't smell like a sewer.   Then sometime in the night, I heard the glass shatter like tinkling ice, like many little pieces of tinkling ice. I did not get up to check. I knew what it was.  It had to be the glass door and I couldn't do anything about it.    

I woke up at about five.  I got fully dressed and put on sturdy shoes.  The winds were still raging but it seemed like they were not quite as strong.  Then suddenly a strong gust would blow by and take with it my hope that the worst was over.  It would be another hour before there was a lull, that I ventured into the master bedroom to check the window.   To my surprise, it had opened-up but it was holding up with the plastic wrapped screen.  Three of the four screws were still in place. I got up on my step stool to try to fix it but an occasional gust dissuaded me from fixing in.  It took another half hour to make it feasible to stand near the window with screwdriver in hand.   Water was still coming in but not excessively.  What I needed to do was move my tall Tiffany type lamp that was next to the window.   So, I placed it across the room next to an interior wall. How it had not toppled during the night still surprises me. What flustered me was how difficult it had been to open and close the bedroom door without it snapping my fingers off since there was a lot of pressure coming in through that somewhat open window.  Small details.

Next, I peeked into the living room.  Actually, it was safe to inspect because the wind had changed directions.  Yet, I was having a hard time interpreting what I was seeing.  I had placed four panels over the complete sliding glass door.  Now I could only see two.  I realized the glass on the right-side door had broken, but where were the two panels on the left that I had screwed down to the frame? How was the loose panel standing?  The left door was not broken since I could make out a reflection on the glass but it had been lifted, unlocked, shifted and was left slightly open allowing my curtains to flutter in the wind.  I went to check. I discovered that those panels that I thought were the securest had fallen in front of the loose board and had kept it in place.  I was astonished.  I had imagined water and wind coming in but none had.  I am still amazed.  

The worst of it all was the glass which had shattered.  In the grand scheme of things, that was nothing.  The glass could be swept up.  Yes, it eventually took me six trips to the trash bin downstairs to get rid of the glass, and I did lose practically everything in the refrigerator.  I also became ill because of the heat and the oppresive life changes because we lacked power. Washing clothes by hand is no easy feat.  How I identified with my ancestors.   Rumors of looting and a shoot out across the street shattered our sense of security as well but I survived.  Even when I was on my last nerve after two plane cancellations, my daughters were able to get me on a flight on Saturday afternoon, September 30.  Ten days after the storm where desperation, greed, and fear motivated people to misbehave, argue, and yell.  Yet for all of that, I never lacked God’s goodness and mercy, and for this I give him thanks and praise. 

He astonished me in so many ways.  I was not alone.  I never have been and I never will be.

Amen.

* A relative was able to visit the property in Maunabo.  The apartment fared well with only some water coming into the first bedroom.  It was a different story for the penthouse.  The metal table got blown off the top floor and went reeling to the ground four stories below.  The huge silver BBQ got taken for a ride around the top floor and lost a door but other than that it is still functional.  Not bad for facing a direct hit with the eye of Hurricane Maria its 140 miles sustained winds. 





This is how I crammed things in the upstairs bathroom.

Maunabo. I tied down the furniture to a metal loop that was screwed  into the wall and I wrapped it around the furniture.  The hurricane some how loosed the table and took it flying.  It fell to the bushes below.  

These are the two half panels that I secured real well in my opinion to the door frame.  These are the same ones that got loose and fell in front of the loose panel which to my amazement stayed fixed in place. 

My little Miracle angel.  She survived intact as well.

In the shower. 

After the storm.  The two panels on the left had fallen.  You can see the sofa bed pushed to the door.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Llegan los Nuevos Tripulantes a la Estacion Espacial Internacional



El siguiente articulo aparecio en el website de NASA.  Esta es una traduccion  del mismo. Vease el enlace debajo del articulo.


Tres Nuevos Tripulates Llegan a la Estacion Internacional Espacial

Tres nuevos tripulantes acaban de arribar a la Estación Internacional Espacial.  Las compuertas de la estación espacial abrieron a las una y ocho de la mañana hora del este señalando el arribo de los Ingeñieros de Vuelo Mark Vande Hei y Joe Acaba de la NASA y Alexander Misurkin de Roscosmos.  El Comandante de la Expedicion 53 Randy Bresnik de la NASA y los Ingeñieros de Vuelo Sergey Ryazanskiy de Roscosmos y Poalo Nespoli de la ESA(Agencia Espacial de Europa) le dieron la bienvenida a los nuevos tripulantes a su hogar orbital.  Proximamente, la tripulación hablara con su familia y amigos desde BAikonur en una ceremonia de bienvenida que ira al aire en vivo en la TV de NASA.