Help for Puerto Rico and the Caribbean

I know first hand what it is like to live through the aftermath of a hurricane. But the devastation that was seen in the Caribbean last week from Hurricane Maria far surpasses anything I know. Our government is not moving fast enough to help the situation that is very quickly becoming cataclysmic.

If you want to help, I am posting a link that I donated to earlier today. Global Giving has a goal to raise $2 million dollars that will go directly to buying food, water, medicine and other emergency supplies for Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and other islands in the Caribbean that were toppled by the hurricane. They are vetted and legit.  As of this posting they have about $700,000 left to raise. Every little bit helps.

These people are hot, thirsty, hungry and afraid for their lives. Please consider donating.

Summer Swelter

Here is how we coped with the heat for the next few days:

  1. We moved as little as possible. (After taking down the storm shutters on the patio and office window we sat outside, trying to catch an elusive curl of breeze. There was none to be had–the world was still as death. )
  2. Drank as much water as possible. (We couldn’t get still water before the storm so we stocked up on bubbly water. Bubbly water is not fun to drink when it’s warm. But you do because it is 2 in the afternoon and you haven’t peed all day.)
  3. Went to bed when the sun set. (It got dark about 8:30 and the heat from even tealights was too great to stand. And that bed we were dying for when lying on the floor of the shelter? It was now akin to lying in an oven like a roast chicken.)

Then one night we were sleeping and I rolled over and opened my eyes a crack. I nearly shit myself when I saw the light coming from the living room. My first thought was, “There’s someone in the house.” But then it dawned on me that it was the little lamp we had purposely left on so we would know then the power was back on. It was about 10 pm and we both bolted from bed and ran for the air conditioner. Sweet relief!

We got our power back earlier than most, and we were really lucky we only had to live a few days in that exhausting heat. Some people today, eleven days after the storm, are still living in the stifling and oppressive darkness. The power company says they will have all power restored by the 22nd, which is still two days away and I feel for the folks who are last on the list.

But even though we had the power back on things were far from normal. There was a boil water notice in effect which meant you could take a shower, but good grief don’t open your mouth. No washing dishes, rinsing food, or disinfecting hands.

And then the sewers started to back up.

Florida is FLAT. And when water goes into the sewage system it is sent along to the treatment plants by a series of pump stations. But if the pump stations have no power then all the water (and the STUFF in the water) sits there and builds up until it’s exploding out of manhole covers and backing up into people’s drains.

Ew.

Gas was scarce. There were only a few stations with generators that had fuel and the lines were hours long. We waited in line for 2 hours one night to get filled up and missed curfew by 20 minutes. I have vague recollections of the gas shortages in the 70’s and the lines where people would shut off their engines to wait. This was no different.

The world, for a few days, was a scary place. But the thing is, this is how life is like for many people on this earth. I am thinking about the folks in Mexico City today digging out from a far worse disaster than we could imagine here. What’s a little heat compared to being trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building?

Things are getting back to normal. More than 80% of the power in my county has been restored. Gas and water are readily available again. The curfew and boil water notices have been lifted. But this whole experience shows me just how thin the veneer of civilization is. The power goes out and you’re left in miserable conditions. People get angry, hot, tired, and thirsty. Fist fights break out over gas. You can’t flush your toilet every time you use it.

A disaster like a hurricane puts things in perspective. I know exactly how lucky I am to have a roof over my head, food on my table, and running water and electricity. I hope I never take them for granted again.

The Calm Before the Storm

The house we left behind.

We just went through a hurricane. Irma barrelled through Naples just a week ago and heavens did we have an adventure. Things are still not back to normal but they are getting there.

But let me start at the beginning. Last Saturday we were all prepared for the hurricane. The storm shutters were up and my parents had moved in to weather the storm with us.  We had food and water and were as prepared as we could be.

Then we looked at the storm surge map on NOAA.gov.

They were predicting that we could have 6-11 feet of flooding. Six feet of water is taller than I am by a good stretch. After seeing the horror that happened in Houston we started calmly freaking out. Would our house be underwater?

We did what we had to do–less than 24 hours before the storm hit, we left. We packed up what we could take in an hour, bundled the cats into the car (and boy were they unhappy, I have the scratches to prove it), and we headed north out of Naples. Irma was coming and we weren’t going to wait around until the water reached our lower lip.

I never thought there would be a day when I would take what I could grab and flee my home. From time to time in our lives we look around and think about what we might take it we had to leave at a moment’s notice. For me, I had my computer with my novel, some of my good jewelry, my Grandpa Wally’s wedding ring, and the cats. Other than a few changes of clothes and some food and water, we left everything behind, not knowing if there was going to be anything to come back to.

It was surreal. How do you mentally prepare for something like that?

We left at about 7 pm and headed up I-75 towards Tampa. Both my parents and Kosta and I had full tanks of gas and that got us to Ocala. We were down to a quarter tank and there was no gas to be had anywhere. All the gas stations were EMPTY. Everyone evacuating in the days previous had sucked up every last drop of fuel that remained. There were no hotel rooms available anywhere. So we went to a hurricane shelter.

But my parents had to split up with Kosta and me. We had to stay at Vanguard High School in Ocala because it was the pet friendly shelter, and Mom and Dad had to go to the special needs shelter because she is oxygen dependent. It was hard to say goodbye to them for a few days, but we did what we had to do.

We were late–it was after 11 pm when we got to the shelter.  We were so late they didn’t have space to keep Shady and Fingers at the high school. They had to transport them to the local animal shelter for the duration of the storm. But they probably had better accommodations than we did. We registered, and were shown to a windowless classroom.

To be continued…

A is for…

AAgios Nikolaus

There are many towns in Greece named Agios Nikolaus. He was the patron saint of fishermen so many coastal villages bear his name. This particular village is just south of Kardimyli on the Peloponnese in Greece. In 2014 we stayed there overnight with our friends at a lovely place called the Pension Anna. It was so wonderful I wish we could have stayed several nights instead of just one. The rooms were new and clean and each one had a small terrace with a table and chairs to sit and enjoy the gardens that surrounded the pension house.

Pension Anna

Pension Anna

But the village itself was the most breathtaking. In the warm light of the morning sun we breakfasted right on the water. How could one be anything but blissful in surroundings such as this with a cappuccino as big as your head? Lovely, beautiful, Agios Nikolaus. I long to spend a month or two writing, eating seafood, and watching the water.

Our view at breakfast.

Our view at breakfast.

Be Kind. Always.

be kindSomething happened at the Reference Desk yesterday that won’t get out of my head. Shortly after opening at 9 am a man approached the desk and asked if he could use the phone. It’s our policy to say no, but he said he had lost his debit card and needed to report it, so I allowed him. I should have been mad when he made a second call, but when I heard the desperation in his voice I bit my tongue.

He was making calls to find a drug rehab facility that would take him that day.

It wasn’t busy, so I stepped away for a little bit to give him his privacy, since he was having to answer extremely personal questions. But when I came back fifteen minutes later he was still at it, searching for a place that would be able to accept him. When he finally found a place in Ft. Myers I felt relief wash over me. Not because he would be getting off the phone, but because he was tugging at my heart. He was trying so hard to be brave and find help that I realized I had been silently praying for him. When he was done I offered him a bottle of water and he nearly burst into tears.

Like I said, his story has been sticking with me since it happened. He left shortly thereafter, and I hope he found his way to the clinic. We’ve all had desperate times and I am so glad I didn’t refuse him the phone. It reminds me that we all need to remember to be kind to others, because you never quite know the struggles others are facing. Even a stupid bottle of water or letting someone use the phone is enough to make a difference in a desperate situation.