Ponderances of the Planet

Some final thoughts. On my way home from Puerto Rico, I watched the movie An Inconvenient Sequel, released 10 years after Al Gore’s, An Inconvenient Truth. You truly get the idea what a champion he is for the planet. The movie follows him as he goes to the Paris Climate Accords and to Greenland where you can see active melting of the glaciers. He is the right person to spread the word about global warming. He’s informed, articulate, knowledgable, and has clout around the world. He was a major player in getting India to lean towards Solar and Wind power instead of building more coal plants. China is now also a major solar/wind player as well.

Last year, 2017, was a horrible year for natural disasters. Winds in California drove horrible wildfires, several hurricanes affecting the Caribbean and Florida, massive flooding in Houston. It never seemed to end. 1 in 100, 500, 1000 year events. It was the first time I thought to myself….we’re losing the battle…to protect the planet…and seriously, survive.

Heck, on today’s morning news there was a story about the North Pole being 50 degrees above normal at 43 degrees. Wow. No doubt the planet is heating up. There is an unusual wicked Nor’easter passing along the East Coast as I write. Winds with gusts up to 50-60mph. What is going on?

When I first started going on disaster relief assignments following Hurricane Katrina in 2005, there just weren’t that many to “choose” from. It’s not an easy thing to align your life and available time to coordinate with a natural disaster. With the Red Cross, I need to leave within 24 hours once I make myself available. I have a little more flexibility with All Hands. Lately it seems they have 5-10 projects going at a time. I can pick one. Sheesh. Last year I could see Red Cross volunteers jumping from one deployment to the next to keep up with the need for help. Volunteering for months at a time rather than the usual 2 weeks. The demand was higher than the supply of volunteers.

It is seriously disturbing to have a choice of disasters that I can support. And very alarming the rate at which these disasters are happening. I am more than a little worried about future generations and this apocalyptic looking future. The only thing we can do as those living and taking care of the planet is become active in making this stop. I’m not sure everyone understands how. I’m not sure I understand how. Some thoughts:

  • Reduce your consumption…of everything! Clothing, paper goods, you name it. Buy used goods and clothes, recycle everything you can. This stops production and carbon output.
  • Turn your thermometers up or down more. There was a time when there was no air conditioning and heat was from the wood stove! Again…reduce your consumption.
  • Switch you electric bill to Wind and Solar with companies like Clean Choice Energy. We’ve already seen some funky happenings with the power grids on the east coast, as have the airlines.
  • Buy hybrid or electric vehicles. ASAP! Heck, in 15 years you may not be able to buy a gas vehicle. Yay!.

I could go on. The message is THINK! How is what I am doing today affecting the planet for tomorrow? Actively, responsibly make changes in how you consume and live your life. Think about the next disaster and how you could be affected!

Random reflections and photos

It is an awesome feeling to arrive on base to friendly hellos and meet people with like minds willing to help the less fortunate. There were MANY non-US citizens on this assignment from countries including: Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Japan, Morocco, Wales, UK, and probably more I am forgetting.

I love the new friendships made. When 5 of us got together online to share a ride from the airport to base, it was quite the coincidence that we became the Women of A Certain Club (thanks Patty for coining the saying). We relied on each other during all our stays.

Then there were the friendships with the locals. Some evenings I would go down to la Colmada (the corner store), part sundries and groceries, part local bar. We would chat and dance with the locals and I worked with Winda on my salsa!

A few images from around base:

We should have named her. Donated by the city, she kept us alive electrically. Sadly, we had refrigerators, plugs for electronics…things the locals didn’t.

The pavilion. The central hangout.

If you don’t have these, get them! On physical work days, I would come back and lay on them. From tailbone to shoulders. They use your body weight and it completely opens you up. Amazon.com. Haha

The fleet. Ready for the next day’s work.

Pooped!

Corrugated roofs typically were ripped off in the storm with the contents inside disappearing too.

This photo personifies Puerto Rico right now. Spaghettied power lines, tarped roofs.

Frequent radio adds advertised PTSD help. Very sad. Just imagine your life without electricity for 5 months with absolutely no end in site. You have no generator. No refrigerator. No TV. You’re retired. You either have all your relatives living around you or they all went off to the US. I’ve talked to folks with both scenarios. The days with no lights are short…the nights long. I can’t imagine. Keep these folks in your thoughts. They have a long way to go.

Puerto Rico will rise!!

Day 15 – There shall be rest!

Today I had to leave at 11:30 am. I putzed around base packing up, doing some sweeping, cleaning and waiting for our driver, Gerardo.

Goodbye shot with sweet friends, Lynn and Leana.

Nearby bunk buddy, Haley.

Chatting with Gerardo on the way to San Juan, I realize it would be nice if he had one of our purple shirts to identify him at the airport and a sign for his car. I email back to base to see if that’s possible. I also talk him into starting his own fundraising page as he has relatives in the US. Woot!

Found a cute little Airbnb near the airport and beach. Take an immediate 1 hour nap! Then just hang here. Never left the property!

Kitchen and dining at the Inn. Lol. Kinda cute. And guess what…for the first time in 2 weeks, I’m alone! Yippee!

Day 14 – Assessments in Humacao

It’s time to pass the torch. Previous Spanish speaking assessors Britt and Marion are off on a 3 day break. Today I head out with Eva and Emily, both fluent. Second time for both, they do a great job.

We were in Humacao, about 20-30 minutes from base along the shore. Nice coastal ride. So many beautiful vistas! We meet 2 ladies at the local community center who actually escort us to homeowners in need. With their help, we wrap up 5 assessments in good time and then have lunch with one of these ladies.

View from one person’s home we had assessed.

View from another person’s back door as Eva and she look at damage in the backyard.

I hadn’t really eaten at any of the restaurants here but we were taken to one that had less fried food and… vegetables! Imagine that. Later back at the office, the 3 of us are in some kind of coma. I realize it’s doggone MSG that they put in everything here. Plus the rising humidity. A deadly combo…especially when working on inputting data into the computer!

I said my farewells at the nightly meeting. Sad to leave so many new friends. But ,alas, it’s time for rest.

Day 13 – Sunday is funday…again!

Four of us took off for the beach after a stop at the grocery store to buy steak/chicken/salad for dinner later. We planned on grilling on base after the day out.

Luquilla! A nice beach with nice sand and some shops/restaurants near by.

Although I consider the food on base fairly good, it’s still not what I usually eat. There’s one entire fridge dedicated to personal food so I had stocked up as best I could. Believe me, organic does not exist in PR! Fried, fried, fried!

Dinner! Yum!

There are always 2 staff members on base through the weekend. Here’s George and Jon treating themselves to 1 1/2 lb steaks!

Day 12 – Office Work and karaoke night

I was supposed to be driving to San Juan today for some shopping at the big box stores. Figure PR is an extension of the US so any of the stores like Costco and Walmart , etc. all exist here. Our closest Walmart is closed due to damage. I see a lot of repair activity going on so hopefully it’s not long before it opens.

Instead I am in the office doing data entry of the assessments. Easy. Quiet.

Last night we had an auction on base. A fundraiser which made $1500! Not bad. Crazy things auctioned like “how much would you pay for me to shave my head? ( says the girl with hair way down her back). Apparently $190! My last office duty of the day was to come up with a spreadsheet of winning bidders, payments made towards bids, etc. Easy peasy.

The office which I imagine was the school’s office as well.

Fatigue is beginning to set in. I feel like I’ve been sleeping well but am easily wakened in the commune by a weird scrunching noise the air mattresses make against the metal rings that serve as a platform for them when people turn at night.

The green bug tent is where I’ve slept for 2 weeks. I was lucky to have no one overhead while I was here….scrunching away.

Saturday nights we have an extra 1/2 hour before lights out at 11pm. Woohoo! Lucky us had a volunteer named JG who had a fabulous Josh Groban type voice who DJ’d. A local lent us his equipment. Fun! Thank god it ended around 9:45pm because I was starting to imagine the locals being upset with the noise. Although they LOVE to blast music just about everywhere. Seriously, with most having no generators, I can’t imagine what they do after dark but go to bed.

Karaoke night with JG in neon yellow.

Day 11 – Assessments in the hills…oy!

Holy cow! The mountain roads around here are crazy. I feel like many are greater than a 45 degree angle. Heading up hill, I’m always leaning into the steering wheel…as if that will help. Several times I have wondered what it would take to flip the front end of the car over the back on a steep hill. Then you get to the top and can’t see the (very steep!) downhill. Freaks me out!

Today, Marion and I found another high priority case. 3 Elderly siblings living in a mold infested house. Broken louvered windows. Many trees down on a large property. Massive amount of work.

You bet we had a crew out the next day. They started to cut up the trees. What else can we do on a property like this? A debris removal team will move all the cut up wood to the front of the property for pick up by the city. They will also remove tons of other debris including 2 refrigerators.

Hoping we can get a roofing team out next to clean up and seal the roof. Then the mold sanitation team to clean up the mold on the inside. Hazmat type suits and all. The trees out back felled another building on the property, one that will not be rebuilt.

We will also replace (with FEMA aid) 12 doors and Windows. That’s a lot! Huge job all around but the homeowner is experiencing asthmatic type symptoms from the mold. We’ve got to move quickly.

These folks have no generator. Without it and the refrigerators they are keeping things cool in a cooler. I noticed the homeowner adding ice. Still…she offers us coffee or water. Super sweet.