We are Mark and Judy Handley. We have been writing about our experiences on this website for almost eleven years now. For six of those years, we were sailing around the world on our 42-foot sailboat, Windbird. During those six years and the five years since our circumnavigation, we have posted a log almost daily. We lived aboard all of those years and loved every minute. But we have now sold Windbird and are living in a harbourside apartment in the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod. The website title has been tweaked just a bit to reflect our new status, “The Voyage of Windbird . . . and Beyond.” We decided not to change things totally because we want to leave the three and a half thousand daily logs and all of the accompanying photos on the website for anyone who might be interested. But for those who would like to continue to follow the current “Voyage of Windbird”, her new owners have a website that will chronicle the adventures. We are proud to introduce you to Sam and Dawn Weigel whose blog “Weigels on the Water” can be found at: http://wotwater.blogspot.com/
NOTE: Due to Google upgrading Picasa to Google Photos, many of our old photos are now broken. We are actively working on fixing this – thanks for your patience!
2017 Life Logs, Day 284: Good News from Justin
Date: Wednesday, October 11, 2017
Weather: Partly Cloudy; High 69, Low 52 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
My morning was listening to an online summit about best ways to deal with osteoarthritis. I seem to know someone very well who suffers from knee pain due to this. And yes, that person would be me. I didn’t learn a lot of new information, but I was reminded sternly that not drinking enough water can exacerbate the pain. So, I once again have that water bottle by my side. In the middle of one of the sessions, I got a call from Justin. He had been standing in line for two hours to try to once again to get the cash I sent to him on Saturday via Western Union. When he finally got to the head of the line, they couldn’t give him the money because I had not included his middle name when I sent the money. The name has to match what is written on your government issued ID. The person who met with gave him a number I could call to fix the problem, and because he was in town, he had a cell signal so he could call me. I called the number and I was able to add his middle name without too much fanfare. But by the time I sent Justin a text to let him know the name was changed, the people manning the Western Union window had gone to lunch. While he was once again waiting, he saw that people were getting money out of a nearby ATM machine. He gave it a try and was actually able to get money out of his account for the first time since the hurricane. Very good news. And then he was successful in getting the cash that had been sent through Western Union. So, I can breathe a little easier now knowing that at least Justin and Jo have cash . . . and hopefully continued access to their bank account. But that could come and go, so they can’t ‘bank’ on it. At least in terms of the ability to get cash and to communicate, there has been some improvement. Unfortunately, that has not been the case for food and water, at least not in western Puerto Rico where Justin lives.
There was a little bit of unsettling news from Justin, along with the good. Coco was not feeling good today. Justin said he had a bug of some sort a couple of days ago and Coco seems to have the same symptoms. Justin thinks it is just a result of eating too many carbs—just rice and beans and more rice and beans. He thinks their bodies are just telling them they need something green. But there is nothing green to eat right now. So hopefully he’s right and hopefully those sprouting seeds and trays will arrive soon. And hopefully our Coco Belle will feel better by tomorrow. But I don’t have my head buried in the sand. I know that the Governor of Puerto Rico today said that the first deaths have been reported from the water borne disease called leptospirosis. It is treatable if you have the right antibiotics, but people have no easy access to antibiotics. The deaths so far are close to San Juan, not in western Puerto Rico where Justin and Jo live. And J & J did receive the water filters they ordered before the storm. So hopefully their water is safe. I have sent hundreds of water purification tablets for others, but those have not yet arrived. It was three weeks ago today that Maria ravaged the island of Puerto Rico. I knew that if the hurricane hit hard, the entire island would be without electricity and cell service, but I guess I really didn’t believe that an entire island would be left without any source of fresh water. And even if they were, I naively thought that our government would find immediate ways to air drop water bottles to the people. But that hasn’t happened. Our government is still traveling around asking people to fill out forms to get relief. And I am still having a hard time believing this even though I know it to be true. Where is the government of the country I thought I lived in? There are good people down there ready to deliver food and water, but somehow the leadership is not allowing that to happen. Mail has not reached Justin yet, but so many things have been sent through the generosity of so many friends and family members with more on the way. So even if the government support system is broken, the goodness of the people of this country shines through. Thank you so much to everyone making contributions.
I’m headed to Concord, New Hampshire, tomorrow to attend a Concord Yacht Club meeting. And then on Friday I head to the coast of New Hampshire to visit with other good friends. I need some input from others to help me figure out how to prioritize what we are sending to Puerto Rico. This trip will give me time with friends who can help me with this task. Sitting here at my dining room table without input from others is leading to dysfunction. So I am really looking forward to brainstorming with friends.
I invited myself to dinner at the Goldstones tonight so I could see Heather, Jed, and boys before heading to New Hampshire for four days. And then I went to see Victoria and Abdul with Terry and Olivia White. The movie is about the unlikely relationship between Queen Victoria and a young clerk from India who is sent to England to deliver a ceremonial coin to the Queen. It is a cross between comedy and drama and Dame Judith Olivia ‘Judi’ Dent is as spectacular as ever. And Ali Fazal, the young Indian actor, quickly becomes a favorite. The movie certainly spurred me to learn more about the life of Queen Victoria.
2017 Life Logs, Day 285: An Evening with the Concord Yacht Club
Date: Thursday, October 12, 2017
Weather: Partly Cloudy; High 68, Low 34 degrees F
Location: At Home with Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg, Bow, NH
What a lovely evening I had attending the Concord Yacht Club meeting. We met at the home of my very good friends, Alan and Helaine Kanegsberg, in Bow, New Hampshire. Everyone brought heavy hors d’oeuvres that made a great dinner with no one person having to bear the total responsibility. I don’t get to see these folks very often, but I always enjoy it when I do. We talk about sailing, we talk about life, and tonight I did a lot of talking about the dire situation in Puerto Rico. People read and hear things in the news, but I don’t think they really start to fully understand until they talk with someone who has a friend or family connection there. We have shared news about our children for years. So, when we get together, it is natural to ask how each other’s kids are doing. A couple of people in the group read this blog regularly, so they were aware of how Justin and family are faring in Puerto Rico. During the evening, they shared what they have learned with others who don’t read this blog, and pretty soon everyone was asking what they could do to help. They decided to make a donation from the group allowing me to order the most needed items and send them to Justin to share with the larger community there. I know Mark would feel as grateful as I do that the group stepped forward like this. Thank you, thank you, thank you to the Concord Yacht Club. And thank you to all of the others of you who are sending donations. Justin would want me to remind you that he and his family is doing fine, but that there are so many who are not. It’s hard for me to comprehend how they are really doing ‘fine’ with no electricity, no source of fresh food, no running water, and very few opportunities to communicate. I think saying that they are doing a great job of coping in these conditions is probably a more accurate way to describe it. But they are coping and they are trying to help others do the same. And so many friends have stepped forward to give them a helping hand. With so many disasters coming so fast and furiously this fall, it is very heartening to see how deeply people care about one another.
2017 Life Logs, Day 283: Meeting a Fascinating Woman
Date: Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Weather: Back to Beautiful Summer Weather; High 80, Low 58 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
At 11:15 this morning, I was picked up by a fascinating woman I had never met before and she whisked me away in her Mercedes Benz ‘top off’. This is what the Goldpebbles call a convertible with the top down, and it was a great day for a ride with the ‘top off’. It was sunny with a high temperature of 80 degrees. Just wonderful. But back to my new acquaintance. We were introduced to each other in an email by a mutual friend who thought we should meet. Good call, Patsy (the mutual friend). We went to a luncheon meeting of the Wood Hole Woman’s Club which included a climate change presentation by yet another incredible woman. Sue Natali from the Woods Hole Research Center focuses her research on the permafrost in the Arctic and how it relates to climate change. And she does a fantastic job of explaining the importance of this to a lay audience. I won’t divulge the name of my new acquaintance as I didn’t ask her if I could, but what an interesting person. She earned her PhD at the University of Toronto in the early 1960’s in Physics. This came as a shock to me, not because she earned the degree which was record-breaking in itself, but because she doesn’t look like she could possibly be old enough to have done this. She is an active pilot who owns what she refers to as one-and-a-half planes (full ownership of one and joint ownership of the other). I must introduce her to Sam of Windbird the next time he visits here on the Cape. And any woman who got her PhD while I was in high school and still drives around in her convertible with the ‘top off’ is my kind of woman. She listens to my daughter on public radio and invited the two of us for a fly over Cape Cod. Looking forward to that!
Before and after the luncheon, I spent the rest of my day corresponding with people who want to make contributions to Justin and Jo and their wider community. I packaged things that I took to the PO late this afternoon even though I still have no confirmation that anything I have sent has arrived. But I am still hopeful. I’m also overwhelmed with the number of people who want to help-out. Tomorrow I will spend time researching items and prioritizing them the best that I can with the information I have. And on Thursday morning I get ready to leave on a four-day visit in New Hampshire. I’m really looking forward to visiting with good friends.
2017 Life Logs, Day 282: A Bit of Good News from Justin
Date: Monday, October 9, 2017
Weather: Second Day of Rain and Wind; High 71, Low 65 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I was on the phone this afternoon when I got the buzz-buzz telling me someone else was calling me. Since I almost never get phone calls during the day, I just figured the person on the other end could leave a message. When I got off the phone, I looked at the number that had called and area code told me it was a Puerto Rican number. I frantically looked for a message and found one. The missed call had been from Justin. I called back and Justin answered. How could this be? He explained that he had purchased a Claro go-phone and was in an area with a signal. Claro is the Puerto Rican cell provider and they have more cell signal than other providers. Hurray! Unfortunately, the call dropped fairly quickly, but then Justin sent a text asking if the text got through. It did. I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. Just knowing that Justin and Jo can find a signal and contact me if there is an emergency is such a huge relief.
Now to how to best help Justin and Jo and their neighbors. Justin’s Facebook post that I shared in Sunday night’s log outlines most needs very clearly and includes his address. In addition, when I talked to Justin on Friday night, he said that he knows that one person in Rincon received a package from Amazon that was sent from the US the day after the hurricane. Hopefully this means that packages from Amazon will arrive. If you have Amazon Prime, you can send things to Puerto Rico with no shipping charge. One caution is that items produced in some countries cannot be shipped to Puerto Rico, but Amazon will let you know that when you enter the shipping address. Justin’s address for Amazon:
100 Carreterra 115, Unit 870
Rincon, Puerto Rico 00677
The address for flat-rate Priority packages sent through the US Postal system:
PO Box 870
Rincon, Puerto Rico 00677
A few items that Justin did not mention in his Facebook post are Home Depot gift certificates and organic potatoes, especially sweet potatoes, that will be used as seed potatoes to grow more potatoes. There are also items that are specifically needed by Justin and Jo. I won’t list those here, but if you are interested in knowing more, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would prefer to have me order and send things for you, I am glad to do that. Just let me know and we’ll figure out the best way to pay for that.
The most important thing right now is that Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco are doing fine. They are all pirates at heart and don’t mind the temporary (hopefully) absence of running water, electricity, and reliable communication. But people who have never thought about living without these necessities of life are struggling desperately. And the federal response is just not getting through to the people. FEMA is visiting towns to have people fill out forms for assistance, but those same people need food and water and electricity and access to cash, not more forms to fill out. The American citizens of Puerto Rico have been thrown into conditions of a third world country which they were not before the storm. Before Hurricane Maria, the people of Puerto Rico enjoyed the same life style as you and me. Try to imagine that tomorrow morning you wake up with none of the basic necessities of life and with no way to do anything about your situation; no way to buy anything using a credit card and no way to get cash; no way to drive anywhere because there is no fuel; no way to get drinking water except to collect rain water or find a spring. At least that is the way it is in Rincon where Justin and family live and I think it is that way for much of the island. It is truly a desperate situation.
2017 Life Logs, Day 281: Trust the Wait
Date: Sunday, October 8, 2017
Weather: Rainy and Windy; High 75, Low 64 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I still don’t know if Justin and Jo received the money that was sent to them Saturday morning via Western Union. Still none of the packages we have sent have arrived. So saying ‘trust the wait’ is difficult. But dear friend, Detta Porat, attended a teacher workshop on Friday about dealing with trauma and she shared what she learned with me. Cassie Yackley, Psy. D., led the workshop. She is committed to understanding and effectively addressing the impact of traumatic/adverse experiences on children, caregivers/families, and systems. So, she should certainly know more than I do about dealing with catastrophic situations. The summary of what she said was that what helps people most survive serious trauma isn’t therapy, as one might suspect. It is the belief in hope. Reading that made me think about Justin and Jo and the way they are trying to spread hope to their children, to their hometown of Rincon, and to the surrounding area, especially hard hit Anasco. To their credit, they innately know what Dr. Yackley has confirmed in her more than 25 years of study. Hope is the key that leads to recovery. The following advice that was shared at the workshop is harder for me to do than the written words imply, but I am trying to subscribe to this.
Trust the wait.
Embrace the uncertainty.
Enjoy the beauty of becoming.
When nothing is certain, anything is possible.
In a bit of hopeful news, I learned from Mark’s brother Steve in Florida that “The Federal Communications Commission has given Google approval to deploy its Project Loon balloon-based communications system to provide cellular connectivity in hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico.” The FCC chairman said on Saturday that “More than two weeks after Hurricane Maria struck, millions of Puerto Ricans are still without access to much-needed communications services. That’s why we need to take innovative approaches to help restore connectivity on the island. Project Loon is one such approach.” A Google spokesperson expressed appreciation to the FCC and Puerto Rican authorities for their support in this effort and I will most certainly appreciate it if this happens. But the next step is to get wireless companies on board and Google reports that those negotiations are underway. Let’s hope the wireless carriers cooperate. Evidently Facebook is also working on an emergency communications effort through AT&T and T-mobile. I don’t care who does it, I would just be so happy if there was some way to communicate.
Last night I promised to share my ideas for how to best help Justin and Jo and their neighbors in Rincon. But I was too busy today shopping for more specific items that are needed there, and just didn’t have the time to completely organize all of the information. So that will have to wait one more night. In the meantime, let’s all remain hopeful that the positive energy that many of us our sending to the people of Puerto Rico is really going to make a difference. I see evidence that it is already making an impact.
2017 Life Logs, Day 280: Now Here, Now Gone
Date: Saturday, October 7, 2017
Weather: Foggy Morning, Partly Cloudy Afternoon; High 75, Low 64 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
As I write this log, I can hardly believe I am watching television coverage of yet another hurricane. I can hardly focus on that, however, as I am still reeling from Maria’s devastation. Hearing from Justin and Jo and getting to see Ziggy and Coco on Skype video last night was wonderful. It was just like they were here and they do seem to be doing just fine. But this morning, they were gone just as quickly as they appeared last night. I got a message from Jo at 8:48 this morning while I was at the Rite-Aid trying to send cash to them via Western Union. But any trace of communication that I can find ended before 10 am and Western Union says the money has not yet been picked-up. That could mean nothing as the Western Union where they went to pick up the money in Mayaguez might not have a way to confirm. Still, I worry that they didn’t get the money. On the other hand, as any parent knows, kids usually find a way to contact you when they need money, so hopefully Justin be able to find another way to let me know if they are penniless. It is just so hard to get cash in their hands. I know it must be very frustrating to Justin that he has money in his bank account, but cannot access it. So once again, I wait until I hear from them again. Justin posted on Facebook this morning, so I am going to copy that here. Like Jo’s post last night, this one from Justin gives you a great deal of insight into what life is like for them and those around them in Rincon. I spent my day today ordering and buying additional things they need, and many of you have asked how you can help. Justin and Jo have outlined their ideas on Facebook, but both also gave me specific ideas that I will share in tomorrow night’s log. Que viva Puerto Rico, viva!
Justin Handley’s Facebook Post, Sunday, October 7,2017
So, in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, many of our friends, family, and associates have asked what they can do to help. It has taken us these last weeks just to get our bearings. As the shock wears off and we become comfortable with the new state of life, with no power, no running water, and very sporadic communication of any sort, we are now trying to look towards what we can do to help those that are less fortunate than we are.
Because of tax incentives, this island has its fair share of US internet-based businesses. In the last weeks, we’ve watched as almost all of the people who were here in any capacity like that got up and left. It was disheartening and scary at times as people rushed to leave. We also make our primary income from an online business. At this point, I have no idea how that business is doing, and I can only hope that it will be there when we get through this.
We chose not to leave for many reasons, though. Primarily, this is our home. We. didn’t move here to get a tax incentive for our business. We moved here to put down roots and start a farm that could sustain our family now and hopefully for generations to come. We spent almost two years working through the financial bureaucracy to get to the point where we could finally buy our little 2-acre farm.
And then Maria came and wiped the slates clean here. But we were incredibly lucky. We had the financial resources to buy plywood before the storm and make storm shutters for all of our windows, and our house is in a beautiful little valley that is fairly protected from the wind. While our land was hit hard, and it is going to take months of hard labor just to clear the trash from a shed that was torn apart and all of the trees that are down, our house and family came through the storm unscathed. We lost one chicken and one baby chick. And we took in a baby cat we found a couple of days after the storm that also died. But in general, we are alive, well, and in many ways thriving.
But here is the story of our little island. About 10 miles south of here where the river meets the sea, flooding came from both directions and wiped out a lot of homes and families. I believe (and I say that because there is no news, everything I know is based on rumors) that around 17 people died and there are 28 listed as missing. And that is just right here.
Because all we know about is right here. We have heard rumors, some crazy (armed gas truck hijackers and the head of our local military base scared because they are out of gas) and some calm (if you go far enough south, there are still leaves on the trees and flowers blooming).
I heard a woman today saying that she was trying to get to Utuado, but after KM 30 the road is just… gone. One the interior of the island I believe there are still places people haven’t reached, and haven’t been able to check.
We finally got in touch with a friend from San Juan who said the feeling there is very ‘post-apocalyptic’. People who lived through George 15 years ago used to tell stories about the big storm. Now they just say ‘George was nothing’.
One friend said she saw a palm tree shoot out of the earth into the ocean like it was a rocket. Another said he saw a whole tree levitating about 6 feet off the ground, and then shoot off, after which a cow flew by.
There is no real way to describe what is going on here, as I think a lot of it is emotional – the product of a whole society in a state of shock. But the Puerto Rican people are amazing, putting one foot in front of the other, trying to move forward.
I wish I could say ‘now it is time to rebuild’ but I don’t think we are there yet. I think we are sttill just trying to survive, and we’d like to help people do that. So, here is what we are doing, and what you can do to help.
First of all, unless you can verify that something is happening, don’t give money to big organizations who say they can help. Ask for proof of what is happening. Because right here, right now, there is nothing happening. I met one man from FEMA who came to check the old nuclear power plant to make sure it was OK. I hear rumor that one day a van showed up with food and water, earlier than it was supposed to, gave out a little bit of stuff, and left by the time it was supposed to get here leaving lines of hungry people, some passing out in the heat.
The only person I have personally seen giving any assistance was a local business owner who was out of town when the storm hit and came back in with about 10 suitcases full of supplies like water filters, bug spray, gummy vitamins for kids, diapers, and a couple of satellite phones. No FEMA. No Red Cross (actually, with the internet just now, I did see a post saying they showed up today – unclear on the actual impact). Almost no one official at all – the mayor has closed up shop, the police presence isn’t much different than any other time.
Also, be careful of GoFundMe campaigns. Some of them are legit – for example, the guy who came into town with 10 suitcases I think did it through a GoFundMe campaign. On the other hand, I have heard that a family ran a GoFundMe to help with ‘hurricane recovery’ and then flew out on a private jet.
Maybe things are different in San Juan, it is hard to know. There have been a couple of internet hotspots that have gone up and down, and one day we drove an hour to get to a landline that was working so we could call our Moms. But with gas dwindling and no cash or way to get any, it is hard to go chasing rumors that there might be a phone or internet connection somewhere.
Claro, the local phone company, apparently has restored some cell service, but without cash, there is no way to get gas to go to where you might be able to get a Claro phone. So we are limited in our communication right now. And that means we don’t know much of what is going on beyond what we hear from people who have made calls, or found internet, or had relatives come and find them.
So, we are looking to establish direct and local assistance. Make no mistake – if you follow any of these plans you are only helping a little pocket of the world. As things expand, if there is a lot of support, we will do our best to spread the love. But you can also know that what you give will go to directly improve the quality of life here. There will be no big organizational overhead. You will just be helping real people.
Plan One: Immediately usable supplies. If you want to put together flat rate USPS boxes and ship them to
PO Box 870
(Or, if it won’t go to a PO Box, you can use 100 Carretera 115, Unit 870)
Rincon, PR 00677
We will make sure that the items get distributed. What kind of things? Well – we are going to be working on putting together a very specific list (as a starter, I know of an 85-year-old man who lost everything, including his shoes, who could use a pair of size 10 and a half shoes. Please don’t send them yet, though, because…) but until we can do that, and find a connection, and publish it (remember – this message was written days before we found a connection to post it) everyone can use…
Non-Perishable Food. The healthier the bettter. Meat helps with really hungry people – beef jerky wouldn’t go astray, but again, healthy beef jerky. People who are very hungry DO NOT NEED junk food as the litttle bit of food that they get. Protein bars. Granola. Powdered milk. Things that don’t take cooking – for people who lost it all, that often includes the stove. I can’t even imagine what a normal food shelf in North America looks like right now so you can use your creativity here.
I’m working on the camp stove idea, but I don’t think you can ship gas canisters, and I don’t know where to find them, so until I do, that’s a ‘let’s hold’.
D Batteries. After Irma, there were no more D batteries on the island, and that hasn’t changed – lots of useless flashlights sitting around.
We are also trying to plant as much as possible on our land right now. With many of the big trees down, we suddenly have arable land where it used to be a dark forest. So, organic (ORGANIC) seeds are welcome – if you send us GMO seeds they will be thrown away. Also, we live in the tropics – so nothing that can’t handle the heat. Root vegetables – potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, radish. We are trying with lettuce. Hearty spinach. Tomatoes. Eggplant. Not sure – if you have access to the internet you can find zone based growing charts easier than I can.
If you send seeds, know that you are funding a personal and experimental project. We are hoping to generate more food than it takes to feed us, and if we can, that food will be distributed for free to people in need. This won’t happen for 2 to 3 months, and at this point, we have no idea what life will look like then, and if there will still be a need, etc. so.. Consider this a donation to the future of Finca Maravilla. Although, if we get lots of seeds, we can do starts and start handing out starts the wider community so everyone can plant.
In a more immediate sense – sprouting trays and sprout seeds – the more the better. When there is no refrigeration fresh vegetables can get deprioritized. If we can start sprouting and distributing fresh sprouts to the community, that will give some live/fresh veg that people can work in with the loads of rice and beans that are now being consumed around here.
My wife is going to be doing some workshops with kids, and she is looking for art supplies – crayons, plasticine, beeswax, paper. I know she wrote her own epically long post (in the hot afternoons when it is too stifling to cut back any more fallen wood, we get some good quiet time these days) and if you want her take, it is here…https://www.facebook.com/jujumojo/posts/10155540493821413
Joseph Mueller is putting his tech expertise to work and fixing every generator in a 100-mile radius as far as I can tell. He has a hard time getting parts – keeps a list of needed parts here if you want to send them.https://www.amazon.com/gp/registry/wishlist/3BEZNQP8HRJ5D
If you really want to aid the island, when flights start, come visit us. Bring cash. Go to restaurants. Go to stores. Get massages. Pay for surf lessons. Rent some boards. Help a community that really depends on tourist money get back on its feet. We’d love to see you.
And I almost forgot – here is the obligatory for friends and family … we are fine. We are fine. We are fine. Kids are happy. We are fed. We have a roof. Now let’s try to help everyone else get there as well.
2017 Life Logs, Day 279: Contact with Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco
Date: Friday, October 6, 2017
Weather: Beautiful Day; High 72, Low 64 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I had contact with Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco tonight. Hallelujah! As you will read here, they are doing fine. But earlier today I was getting very worried. I had not heard from Justin since Monday morning. Normally we only talk every couple of weeks, but normally I know I can contact him if-and-when I want. This is not the new norm. Now I just wait until he can find a random way of communicating. So, I have been worried, and when I get worried, I go to the water. It somehow calms me. I spent part of this beautiful, warm sunny afternoon just sitting in the sand on Falmouth Heights Beach. I love the feel of sand between my toes, but as enjoyable as it was, when I got home, I still felt uneasy. I tried going to the gym and then food shopping. It was almost 7:30 when I got home and I hadn’t checked my phone for two hours. When I did, I immediately saw Justin’s message on WhatsApp. Thankfully, I hadn’t missed a call. At 5:30 he sent a message saying they were in Mayaguez for the night. They were going to dinner and he would call me later. Finally, I could relax.
There are only 78 cities in Puerto Rico. And although I am concerned about each and every one of them, I am most concerned about Rincon where Justin, Jo, Ziggy, and Coco live. North of Rincon is Aguada where they used to live and north of that is Aguadilla. South of Rincon is the third largest city in Puerto Rico, Mayaguez. And tonight, it was from Mayaguez that I heard from them. They had checked into a hotel there for the night so that they could make contact with the outside world. We had a Skype video call so we could see each other and they all look great. There were big smiles from Ziggy and Coco which tells me they don’t realize they are in the midst of one of the most challenging humanitarian crises we have ever faced as a nation. The Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is an island, really 143 islands. But only the big island and Culebra and Vieques are inhabited full-time. But the problem for Puerto Rico right now is that it is not a country and can’t make its own decisions. It is a territory of the United States and this puts Puerto Rico in a sort of lala land. They can’t really make their own decisions. We have sent help, but many parts of the island are not getting it, even two weeks after the storm. And from what I can tell, it is not always because the roads are blocked. Help is blocked by a bureaucracy that requires people in dire situations to first fill out forms. I will stop here and let the passionate words of my daughter in-law, Jo, tell you their story. As she states, it is long, but it gives you first hand insight into what is happening in the lives of one family in Puerto Rico.
From Jo’s Facebook Page posted Friday Evening from Mayaguez:
This post is so long. I wrote it at home on Tuesday afternoon, waiting for a chance to send it when I found a hotspot… tonight we have internet, so – boom!
No major updates to report from Rincon. Still no sign of any aid, official donations, official representatives of any nature. No news from the rest of the island apart from word of mouth, very little communication – the odd, unreliable wifi hotspot is all – no electricity, no running water and no cell service.
I have very little to say that others have not already said.
I am grateful for our rural haven in the hills, for our peaceable and calm neighbors, for the resilience and grace of my fellow women, men and children here on the island. I am humbled daily and have been brought, literally, to my knees several times during and since Maria: in beseeching prayer, in thankful relief, in grief, and again in prayer – prayers of hope, for courage, and in open surrender.
Many people who have considered the island home for some time have already now left, seeking respite with family, a place to be able to continue their business lives, schools for their kids, the securities afforded by modern industrial civilization. People have been departing however which way they can – military flights, cruise ships, long drawn-out waits for humanitarian flights by air carriers, even private jet…
I imagine that many of these residents will return once the going is a little smoother and what we used to call normal life begins to start up again in whatever form that may be. Many are now stateside raising funds for the island – deep thank you.
I am conscious that if things do not improve there may be another, yet more troubling, exodus of Puerto Ricans; people who are unable to remain at home due to lack, and are forced to migrate to parts of the US in order to find new opportunities by which to feed their families and live their lives. I fear that many will lose their homes. Businesses have been trashed and lost. Homes swept away.
Further economic exodus of Puerto Rican nationals would be a huge loss for the island. For the island to recover, she needs to be able to hold onto her young families, key service workers, small local businesses, graduates, fit and able workers, deep connections…
The worst hit area in the west coast region appears to be dear Añasco. It is a low lying coastal town in the flood plain of a river. 28 people are still unaccounted for. Many more are, tragically, dead. No help has come. Nada. It is an agonizing reality.
Maria has changed everything. We, personally, as a family are well. We are survivors, off-grid hardened, we have each other, our house is in tact. In many ways, I am more at home with this reality than with the strange, suburban soccer mom, hey-let’s-go-to-the-mall side of life that tries to half-smile at me during times of extreme comfort. Although I know that we have escaped lightly compared to so many, and for this I am both grateful and horrified in equal measure. We also have the gift of much responsibility – for our many animals and as caretakers of our land – so we are not idle, and we are connecting to the recovering earth daily, which brings both comfort and joy, as well as easy sleep.
We collect rainwater for drinking, have a small solar battery to charge our phone and provide a light. Night times we use an oil lamp and candles, we have very little gasoline so driving anywhere is to a minimum. We have been eating many bananas and roots from our finca, clearing fallen trees and planting many seeds. We try to keep a very clean and sanitized house, wary of sickness at this time of little or no medical provision, and we are grateful for our store of homemade folk medicines. We have a good water filter and are religious about hand washing and cleaning teeth.
Town can be a wonderful chance to exchange and meet other community members, but can also be a challenge due to hysteria exchange, rising panic, and the rumor mill. Everyone is a little shell shocked still – and many are still frantically calling and trying to get out, which can be an unsettling energy when one is remaining in place for the foreseeable, and trying to carry on, rebuild, renew…
Yesterday was a good day of friends to the house and children playing, laughter and joy, sharing and ease. Then a fifteen year old’s birthday party and more celebration, togetherness and light with dear ones.
Now, today, we recover from the late night (curfew has been pushed back to 9pm so we were out until what felt very LATE indeed for us in recent weeks). We are resting and siesta-ing, staying close to home, carrying out all the usual daily chores and tasks.
Earlier today I told the children how proud I am of them that they were coping so gracefully with all the changes.
‘Well, yes, school is different,’ responded Coco.
‘What else is different?’ I asked.
‘Yes. The whole world,’ she replied.
That’s about the size of it.
They are having fun. In many ways more fun than ever. They are learning more than ever, reading their own books, speaking to one another in Spanish, making projects, building an amazing fort, cutting and storing wood, building a wormery, collecting bugs, keeping field journals, painting, sewing, drawing, walking, biking, potioning.
No one is distracted by phones or to-do lists in the regular vain – although in many ways there is more to do than ever. But the schedule comes from us and from the sun, not imposed from the outside, which is a blessing. There is always time to read that book, look at that picture, examine that bug, climb that tree and have that cuddle. No alarm, no ‘we’re late’, no ‘hurry up’. Life is beautiful.
We are exploring ways that we may be able to share learning experiences, healing and positive growth with the children who will also remain in the area.
Money is tight, or non-existent, and all resources are limited, but children need their communities – as do their families – and need to heal and share their experiences in constructive, playful, and beautiful ways. Working with the young is, as always, an integral part of my reason to be.
As for the few of your many many messages of support, love, concern, offers of help, and refuge in your own homes that I have been able to read, words (for once!) fail me. I feel so lucky to know so many truly wonderful, kind, open and loving people. So many people from so many threads of our lives, people whom we cherish and yearn for and value and respect. It is an illuminating, chastening, sobering, reassuring, and soul enriching feeling to know that there are people such as yourselves not only that one can count on as friends, but to whom one is actually truly held as ‘friend’. I am happy to be your friend! I am happy to still be here, happy to be breathing and loving and working and creating. Happy to know you and to have shared time with you during my life so far. May we share time again in person, by a fireside somewhere, smiling and at ease.
I will soon have a comprehensive list of the needs of local people whose lives were completely washed away by the 6-10ft wall of water that barreled through their homes in Añasco, taking everything they own and many loved ones with it. As soon as I have concrete ways in which you may help these people, I will share.
In the meantime, if you would like to mail anything either to us specifically or for general distribution in the surrounding area, our mailing address is:
PO Box 870, Rincon, PR 00677
We have most of what we need personally. However, any organic seeds suitable for the region would always be welcome, same goes for art supplies, as these are things that we can use to help our community directly.
Already we have starts appearing from what we have planted, but we need to be able to feed as many people as our garden will allow, and to share seed far and widely; so, all the seed stock that you can spare, please send our way.
Same goes for seeds for sprouting – alfalfa, broccoli, sunflower, radish – and sprouting trays… sprouts are a great way that we can share fresh, green food with people very quickly…
Additionally, and for immediate relief, shelf stable food, and adult and children’s underwear, baby diapers of a range of sizes, as well as camping cookware, camp showers, water purification tablets, baby formula, baby bottles, reusable water bottles, personal hygiene products, lightweight towels, are all items that the people of Añasco’s playa community are in desperate need of…
The island is just as beautiful as ever. The waves are tasty, the ocean is clear, turquoise, refreshing, the rivers are full and fresh, and the island’s businesses need to open to serve people. So come! Book your flights, come down, enjoy the slow-paced life, get away from the winter and be a part of the regeneration of Puerto Rico.
Many blessings, much love, and deep gratitude to all of you.
Peace, from Puerto Rico ?? and to the world. ¡Hasta luego! ? ? ?? ?
2017 Life Logs, Day 278: Holding It Together . . . Sort of
Date: Thursday, October 5, 2017
Weather: Partly Sunny and Windy; High 77, Low 61 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I’ve lost track of the days since we have heard anything from Justin or Jo in Puerto Rico. I got can email on Saturday, Jo’s mother got a WhatsApp message on Sunday, and I heard from Justin via Skype messaging on Monday. And that was it. No more communications. Obviously, the source of wifi comes and goes like everything else in Puerto Rico right now. The US Post Office tracking system keeps saying packages I sent are on their way to Rincon, but they have been saying the same thing since Monday. The postman here thinks it is possible that the packages I sent have arrived but there is no way for the Rinco PO to get that information into the system. He encourages me to keep sending packages, so I sent batteries today. Maybe Justin has received the money I sent tucked in between water filter and snacks, or maybe he has not. The only source of local information I can find is on Rincon Facebook pages. Supposedly one person received packages sent since the storm, but the package was opened and the super expensive water filters were not in the box. This is one time that I hope the information I read is Fake News! A day or two ago I read that there was a way to send money to Rincon via Western Union, but today the posts indicate that the nearest pick-up is 15 miles south of Rincon in Mayaguez. And evidently even the local bank, which is not Justin’s bank, does not have enough money to let people have more than $100 here and there, and other banks are not open. So, no communication and no way to get money to Justin and Jo. I just hope, hope, hope that the package I sent with water filters and money arrived intact and that they received it. For now, Facebook is the only way I can feel connected. I have never really been a Facebook user, and now just as they are under such intense scrutiny, I have become a believer. At least for now, I am so grateful Facebook is there to keep us all connected. With the little bit of Rincon information I get on Facebook, I am holding it together . . . sort of. I just can’t imagine what it must be like for Justin and Jo who have no source of information and challenges greater than they have ever had to face. Hopefully they, too, are holding it together.
Now on a happier note. Happy birthday (a few days early) to my good friend Jane Woodin. Bruce and Jane are headed to Europe on Saturday, so Olivia and I took Jane to lunch today to celebrate. When I looked at the photos we took, I decided we look like ‘The Three Amigos’! Safe and wonderful travels to Bruce and Jane.
2017 Life Logs, Day 277: Trip to the Aptucxet Trading Post
Date: Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Weather: Sunny and Windy; High 72, Low 59 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
Today I went on my first field trip with the Newcomers Teacher Group. This group plans one field trip per month during the year, and I can only hope that each month’s trip will be as fascinating as today’s. When I told Heather we were visiting the Aptucxet Trading Post here on the Cape, she said she had never heard of it. Neither had I. But it is definitely a hidden gem right here in our own backyard. When the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth in 1620, they brought with them debt owed to support their travel across the ocean. We all know the story of how they struggled for survival once they arrived, and as they struggled for life, they also had to deal with the reality that they owed a huge debt to the Plymouth Company. This was the English joint-stock company founded for the purpose of establishing colonies in North America. Those first settlers had to find a way to repay their funders and in order to do this, they started trading with the local Native Americans—the Wampanoag tribe. This trade spread from Maine to Connecticut to New Amsterdam in what is now New York. And the first physical trading post was right her on Cape Cod. It was a simple structure to hold goods for trading. What stands today is a replica of what once existed. The current building was constructed from as many materials from the 1600’s as could be acquired. I was especially impressed by the hand-made bricks in the fireplace. They were excavated on-site, so were a part of the original building. The traders had to come up with a form of money and much to the consternation of the Native Americans, that ended up to be wampum. Wampum is made-up of white and purple beads made from quahog clam shells that the Native Americans had in abundance. Once it was used as the monetary system for trading, each white bead was worth so much and each purple bead was worth twice a white one. A six-foot long string of beads was the main measure. The Dutch from New Amsterdam had sugar from the Caribbean, spices, and pottery to trade. The Native Americans in Maine had fur pelts. Salt was made here on the Cape. And the English had pewter and various metal tools that were most desirable. All of these things were brought to the Trading Post for the exchanges. The docent at the Trading Post made history come alive for us. We sat at a table where traders would have gathered for meals and discussion. We held the metal spoons they would have used as their only eating utensils and saw the cone of sugar that would have been sitting on the table. We got to hold the deer, otter, beaver, and raccoon pelts. I’ll definitely be visiting The Trading Post with the Goldpebbles as I think they will love it. After the tour, the group went to lunch together. And at the end of the luncheon, I was called upon to describe the November field trip to the Harvard Museums that I will be leading. I’m really looking forward to that trip and I think I am definitely going to enjoy this group. Learning new things is what retired teachers do.
I picked Ollie and Jonah up from school today while Heather picked-up Sam. Sam was returning from a three-day school field trip to the Cape Cod National Seashore. All of Falmouth’s fifth grade students went on this field trip. What a wonderful opportunity for them. After school, Ollie and I played word games and giggled for almost an hour at our silly made-up words. Then I took Jonah to soccer practice and headed home. Falmouth schools have a four-day weekend coming up, so Heather and family are headed to Maine after school tomorrow. They are going to attend the Damarascotta Pumpkinfest & Regatta where huge pumpkins will be hollowed out and raced as boats while others are dropped from cranes onto trucks. It is one of the top five New England pumpkin festivals and it sounds like something little boys will love.
No news from Justin today. And what news I did hear from Puerto Rico was not good. The damn to the west of San Juan is still in jeopardy and there was a major sewage breech to the east of San Juan. That breech could taint the only sources of water for the people on that side of the island. I still have no confirmation that the first packages sent to Justin and Jo have arrived. And I don’t know if we didn’t hear from them yesterday or today because they don’t have the gas to drive to town or whether the wifi spot in town is no longer working. Worry. Worry.
2017 Life Logs, Day 276: How to Help
Date: Tuesday, October 3, 2017
Weather: Still Cool and Sunny; High 66, Low 50 degrees F
Location: At Home in The Studio, Falmouth, MA
I spent a fair amount of time today watching the television coverage of the aftermath of the mass shooting in Las Vegas and President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico. From what I saw, the Las Vegas community is coming together with grace and dignity to deal with the catastrophic event in their town. The first responders did everything possible to save lives, the people attending the concert did everything possible to help each other, the law enforcement was in action immediately, the medical community went into overdrive to try to save lives, and the powers that be and the businesses and citizens of the town are supporting the hundreds and hundreds of people affected by this—the family and friends of those murdered, those who were injured and their family and friends, and the people of Las Vegas who are living through this horror. This is the way Americans respond. But what I saw reported from Puerto Rico today was very different. Neighbors have been working non-stop to help neighbors and businesses that have the resources are doing what they can to help in their communities, but our President made no mention of this. In fact, he really didn’t acknowledge the devastation to the people of Puerto Rico. The powers that be are still boasting about what a wonderful job is being done there without evidence to back that up. There is no doubt that the people who have been sent there to help are good people who are doing the best they can. And I believe General Buchanan will do the best he can with the limited number of people and resources that have been deployed. But there are not enough people or machinery to do the job and the needed leadership was delayed in arriving. Things are steadily improving in San Juan where all the help and supplies are arriving, but it is the rest of the island that is in such dire need. Once again, I find myself feeling shame for the way our President conducted himself in San Juan today. When others are hurting so desperately, you do not go in announce what a great job your people have done to save them without acknowledging the incredible job they have done in saving each other. And you don’t remind them that their problem is causing you a great financial burden. Shameful is once again the only word I can find to describe Donald Trump’s speech and actions in dealing with Puerto Rico. I can only hope he does better in Las Vegas tomorrow.
Despite my disappointment in the way things continue to move so slowly in Puerto Rico, I’m still focused like a laser on doing what I can to help. The title of this log, How to Help, should have a series of question marks after it . . . and I don’t have the answer. The packages we have sent via the US Postal Service are still delayed in transit according the USPS tracking site. And until those packages arrive, Justin and Jo have no source of money. Their bank is still closed. So hopefully they have enough gas to continue to drive to town to check on the mail. I read on a Rincon Facebook page that the Red Cross did make it to town yesterday to hand out water bottles and some food to those willing to wait in line. That is the first help I have heard that has reached their area of Puerto Rico. Justin and Jo still have food and they are collecting rain water and spring water to drink. But they need the water filters in one of those packages that is still in transit. There was a video on a Rincon Facebook page demonstrating some items that would be welcomed if they could be sent. Tomorrow I will go to Walmart to see if they have some of these items. One was a device that looks like a light switch that can be mounted on the wall. When you turn the light switch on, it emits light. Another was a light bulb that screws into a battery-operated socket that can be switched off and on. I’ve never seen either of these things, but I can see that they would be handy if you had batteries. Another particularly heartening thing I saw on Facebook is that the Rincon Beer Company in downtown Rincon is in the process of temporarily changing to a donation center and soup kitchen for local residents. They are serving as a community hub and are open daily from 9am to 5pm with free wifi. So Jo’s parents and myself are now communicating with Justin and Jo using WhatsApp on our phones. We can send messages and if they go to the Rincon Beer Company, they will receive them and can get back to us. The Rincon Beer Company is accepting donations, but at this point, Jo’s parents and myself would rather make our donations directly to Justin and Jo. We know they will share with those in need. Jo’s parents, Phil and Margaret, and I have formed a united front. Since they live in England, it is much easier for me to buy and do the sending of items through the US Postal Service, but we are sharing the costs. We’ll have to come up with a catchy name for our little organization! If you want to contribute, let me know and I’ll get information to you on the best way to do this. There is no end to the things needed by Justin and Jo and the people of Rincon.