Two weeks since I came home, almost 7 weeks after the hurricane Maria. The observatory has finally an internet connection thanks to our awesome computer department. It’s slow and disconnects every once in a while, but it’s great when it works! Especially because my home still has no working internet connection. Mobile data is okay every other day or so, depending on whether my phone connects to AT&T (my actual operator) or Claro (the competitor, so no mobile data but texts and phone calls work). There are also days that neither one works. Power and water have been more or less stable, outages lasting 2-12 hours every three days or so. But I’m still in the lucky minority that has power at all; a clear majority of the population is still waiting to see their ceiling lights and fridges to turn on for the first time since Maria (excluding those with generators).
Life hasn’t been all luck though. One of my dogs stepped on something sharp on the backyard and got a big cut on her paw. I took her to a vet who’s good but expensive. A few stitches with all that comes with them (like meds) cost almost $300, and they like many other places only take cash. And of course the dog got rid of the bandage as soon as I got home and half of the stitches in a couple of days. I’ve had to keep her inside since, with only short visits outside. Luckily, she gets along with the cat nowadays, although I wouldn’t call them the best of friends quite yet.
Also, my other dog’s harness broke a week ago. I needed to go buy groceries as well so I headed first to Walmart. The parking lot was completely full of cars but I managed to find a spot in the far end when someone else was leaving. I walked to the door – and saw the over 30-meter line of people waiting to get in. I turned smoothly around and decided to find another grocery store. I drove to the mall of Plaza del Norte for the new harness. Petsmart was luckily open, thanks to generators. They were well supplied, but the lights were dim, no A/C, no card payments, and they had had to give up on all the fish that used to be sold in the aquariums on the back wall.
I found the harness and bought a new rope toy since I couldn’t find the old toys on the backyard anymore. When I was about to exit, I noticed it was pouring rain. I could also hear a thunder. The umbrella was, naturally, in the car. On the bright side, I wasn't standing in a Walmart entrance line. I stopped by in the main part of the mall, where I could get in without walking through the rain. I bought a pretzel and a drink and waited for the rain to pass by. I sat next to a nail salon where my friends took me for a birthday present. This time it was dark and there was water flowing out from under the door. I peeked in to find at least an inch of water on the salon floor. The manicure tables were still in. A sign on the outside wall said that they had moved to Barceloneta.
The rain hadn’t stopped but I ran to my car. I knew the dogs must have been panicking like always during rain and thunder, and especially now with hardly any cover by the few pieces of porch roof that were left and a dog crate. I drove out of the mall parking lot to find an intersection packed with cars. I took the marginal road towards the center because it looked like the cars weren’t moving forward, except to the marginal road. I found out soon that it wasn’t just due to the lack of traffic lights: the road was flooding heavily. The marginal road was flooding slightly less so I managed to drive through the water. Right next to the flooding part I saw a broken electric pole – not a rare sight anywhere on the island – with cables in the water.
I drove to another grocery store and found it was open, had plenty of parking spots, and no line. I bought what I needed and headed home. The rain had stopped by the time I got home. My neighbors came to bring Bubbles back to my yard. The poor dog had panicked as I doubted she might, and without a harness or a collar she had got easily out of the yard (the fence is still squished by a fallen breadfruit tree) and ran to the neighbors’ house. I dried all the wet dogs with a towel and put the new harness on Bubbles. The rest of the weekend I spent cleaning up the house. I removed the lamp that had almost fallen due to the leaking roof. There was still water in the cover bowl.
We celebrated Halloween as traditional at my neighbors’ house, although in a bit smaller scale than usually. We even went trick-or-treating, but only three houses or so opened their doors. At most houses, we were greeted by a fiercely barking dog. It felt post-apocalyptic. There was a curfew starting at 10pm and the next day was a work day, so everyone left home early. But all-in-all it was as pleasant evening as the circumstances allowed, and something we all need in the midst of trying to get back to normal.