Alive together: Life in a post-hurricane world

Hi friends and family.

So, there was a hurricane. You may have heard. A crazy powerful devastating hurricane that ripped through this island and tore people’s lives apart.

We are all okay. The home we rent was undamaged (amazingly) and kept us safe and (mostly) dry.

The kids got a 2-week vacation from school and had a great time playing and building a fort in the big mango tree that fell over the fence from the neighbor’s yard.

They started school back this week and are glad to have the routine in their lives.

The farms are devastated. It’s difficult to find fresh produce.

The supply chain is disrupted and everything takes longer. The fuel delivery has regulated a bit now, so it’s no longer a big problem to get gas. But the grocery stores are mostly picked clean: they’re not getting their regular deliveries. Some restaurants and businesses are open – the ones with generators and big water cisterns – but most are closed.

Everyone is getting past the initial shock of seeing our world stripped bare.

(The first morning after the hurricane was surreal. It was as if a giant machete came through and chopped all the trees off at about 12 feet high. Huge trees were just laid down on their side. Everything was brown. Now there are tiny green leaves coming out on all the broken branches. Life cannot be stopped.)

Now we are all thinking about how we do this long-term. Many people can’t work. (I’m one of them; no reliable power and wifi means I can’t connect to editors and publication and do my normal writing work.)

All of your love and prayers and thoughts mean so much to us. And your donations and care packages lift our spirits so much. We feel that connection, that friendship, that love you are all sending us. We are all one world and here in this part of it, we need help.

Our family has food, water, a safe and dry home, and fuel in our car. Joe has been working almost nonstop, fixing generators and chainsaw, so that is bringing in a little cash. (Not everyone is able to pay, but they give what they can. Sometimes we barter. Joe fixed one generator in exchange for clean, dry towels and batteries.)

Two days ago I did dishes in the front yard in the pouring rain. We have a long PVC pipe hooked up to one of the gutter downspouts. You know what that means? RUNNING WATER TO RINSE THE DISHES IN! It started pouring and I ran out with all the pots and pans. Super exciting.

It’s the little things in life. It always is.

Yesterday I used some of that rainwater we collected to do laundry. Zeke and Lily helped. Zeke likes the “agitator cycle” — we dump detergent on some rainwater in a bucket, add clothes, and then swish and slosh and spin them all around, yelling “AGITATOR AGITATOR AGITATOR” the whole time.

I’m sure our neighbors enjoy it, too.

We filter rainwater so we can use it for drinking water, or we go to the nearby spring and fill up all our containers. I like the spring water better, but it’s good to have multiple sources. We have a 300-gallon cistern, and it has about 60 gallons left in it. We use that water in our outdoor shower that Joe rigged up, and he’s setting up a way to collect more rainwater in the cistern.

Today we drove to Mayaguez to find power and wifi so we could plug in our laptops and connect to the rest of the world.

This is a long post, but I’m not sure when I’ll be back to wifi. I’ll try to update weekly but no guarantees.

Our town, Rincon, is doing okay. The main issue is a) inability to work, which means no way for people to make money and b) the difficulty in getting the basic supplies of life. In our neighboring town, Anasco, an entire little community was flooded and the people lost everything. One lady said she could see her house but she couldn’t get to it because, “It’s in the ocean now.” The hurricane just moved it out to sea. People in Rincon are gathering donations for our neighbors in Anasco, businesses are donating food, and the communities are helping each other.

We saw FEMA for the first time this past Sunday. I have no idea what’s happening with any of the major relief organizations or government assistance. On Sunday and Tuesday, FEMA was taking names (there was a long line) and giving out some canned food. There was a van with a Red Cross sticker on the back, so I guess they were here, too.

For the most part, though, what is making things happen is the people who live here helping each other.

We appreciate any help you can give as far as donations or sending supplies. You can mail packages to us, if you’d like to do that. It’s best to use the flat rate boxes available at the USPS, as I’ve heard that FedEx and UPS are very pricey for shipping to PR. (I have no way to confirm that, though.)

I’ll attach a list below of items that are useful. Some of these we can use, ourselves; the rest we can pass on to friends and neighbors in need.

Most of all, share ALL THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT PUERTO RICO THAT YOU CAN. The media shares the crazy, negative, dramatic stories because, well, ratings. But it’s not anarchy here; it’s community. Sure, there are negative things that happen. People get desperate and make stupid choices. But that’s a small part of the story of Puerto Rico, post-Maria. The real story is a multitude of strong communities coming together, people sharing resources, neighbors becoming friends, people helping each other. Puerto Rico depends on tourism and desperately needs tourists to come, stay, play, and spend money to help rebuild the local economy. But people are canceling reservations even into 2018. You – sharing good news, stories of rebuilding, stories of community, pictures of the beautiful beaches and towns – you can help reverse that trend.

Tell people: Puerto Rico is strong. Puerto Rico is beautiful. Puerto Rico is rebuilding. Puerto Rico se levanta.

If you want to donate money to us, you can use the GoFundMe.

We thank you so much for your help. I’m so grateful and just blown away by all that’s been given.

For sending supplies, you can use this mailing address: Joe and Annie Mueller, 100 Carre 115, Unit 1834, Rincon, PR 00677.

You can shop from this Amazon List that Joe created: it’s full of basic necessities and nonperishable foods, as well as shop tools and repair parts. It’s very difficult to find repair parts on the island right now.

But please know that we are okay. We are well. We have an undamaged home, food, water, working cars, fuel, helpful neighbors, and work to do. If you know of others on the island with greater needs, send your help to them. (The list below might be good as you decide what to send.)  

Of the donations and supplies we receive, we are using what we need personally and we are passing on the rest to others.

Supplies and items that are helpful for a post-hurricane environment:

– nonperishable food items (beef jerky, nuts, trail mix, sardines, granola bars, protein bars, tuna, sardines, snacks, etc. Protein is important; we have lots of starches but fresh produce and protein are more difficult to find.)

– SEEDS! (Organic seeds are best. We can plant and grow seeds that will thrive in a tropical climate. Seed trays, etc., helpful, too.)

– insect control (safe for the environment, as we don’t want to use things that will go into the water table and pollute the springs that are keeping us alive. Mosquitoes and ants are an issue.)

– personal hygiene supplies (travel-sized personal hygiene items, soap, hand sanitizer, baby wipes/wet wipes, etc. There are very helpful for the people who lost their homes and all their possessions and are staying in shelters or with friends/family.)

– cleaning supplies (mop heads, cleaning cloths/rags, disinfectant soap, etc.)

– water filters, water filtration straws, water filtration tablets

– drink mixes (lemonade, etc., to mix in water. Room temp water gets old really fast. Having drink mixes helps ensure that kids stay hydrated.)

– battery-powered lights and batteries (D, AA, and AAA batteries; LED lights, lanterns, small flashlights, clip-on reading lights, etc.)

– entertainment/toys (crayons, activity books, cards, small board games, travel-sized games, chalk, watercolor paint, etc.

– Reading material would be AMAZING. Books, comics, and magazines…We have now read all our books about three times over.