Hurricane Maria Journal by SarahJoy

The following excerpts are snippets of Hurricane Maria journal entries written by Sarah Joy, one of our team members in our campaign for Positive Regeneration for Puerto Rico.

She share her raw emotions, current state of Ponce and San Juan, and her positivity amidst the struggles she faces. Journal entry 1 starts off from the night before Hurricane Maria hit.

To read her full blog entries, please visit her page here. 

The journal will be continuously updated as Sarah Joy writes more content about her personal experience post-Hurricane Maria.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

As we sleep (hopefully restfully) tonight, Maria’s eye will begin to move across the island. I am not fearful. I knew in April that I would be back here soon. I knew a couple months later that I needed to be here for an extended period. And* I knew that when the first reports of a hurricane came and people started asking when I was coming home, I was already home. 

I expressed to someone earlier–I feel like this is a right of passage. A ceremony. I will give thanks and continue my journey, come what may.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hola familia,

We are safe! Luckily, the house sustained no damage, but the yard is another story – and another blog post.
 
It has been days with absolutely no cell service or power in the entire city of Ponce. The following is my account of Maria, beginning on Wednesday morning.
 
Wednesday, 4:40 am
 
I was awoken at 3 am by the sounds of whistling winds and a whimpering dog. The sounds of the wind are much louder than anything I heard during Irma–and it’s only just begun.
 
A little while later, unable to sleep, I got up to use the bathroom. Upon returning to my bedroom, I found I had accidentally locked myself out when the wind blew the door shut. I found a paperclip, to try to pick the lock, and proceeded to twist and turn in the the keyhole’s abyss for at least 5 minutes. I aborted the mission, and not wanting to wake anyone, found a couch to nap on.

 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Silent Storm

It is 11:16 on Thursday night. I cannot sleep. Most likely that’s because I napped most of the day, as I hadn’t been feeling so well.
 
A few minutes ago, a light, cool breeze began flowing through my window, followed by flashes of lightening…but no thunder. Not a single roll or clap or boom, making this storm eerily silent.
 
I’ve been rather inspired by silence these past few days. It seems a lack of internet, communication and input from the outside world is a great catalyst for creativity. No wonder many writers and artists seek solitude.

 

 

 

 

Friday, September 22, 2017

Toño spent most of the morning chopping up the avocado trees with a machete. ¡Pobre árboles!

Millie mentioned one of the neighborhood boys was wearing his Walmart uniform so they might be open. I journeyed to the Walmart on another quest for WiFi.  
 
It looks very apocalyptic out here. Trees, light poles, and cables are strewn about the streets. Most businesses are still closed with all of their windows boarded up, and the few brave food establishments that are open have extremely long lines. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017

The Nothing

It’s Saturday at 9:46 pm, and it has been 5 days with zero input from the outside world.
 
ZERO
 
There are no batteries for the radio in the house, and besides seeing the damage in Ponce for myself, I can only guess as to what’s happening on the rest of the island.
 
Until this evening, I have mostly stayed positive and focused on the present. That has been very difficult tonight. Across the street, a neighbor’s generator loudly churns nonstop, the rainless lightening streaks becomes flashes from bombs or gunshots in my mind, as my imagination plays into fear for a moment. The neighborhood is alive with voices of people, and animals, shouting back and forth in conversation.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

The News

It’s Sunday, 5:27 pm.
 
This morning I awoke with a sense of determination. I would rent a car or get a taxi and see what was going on in San Juan. The lack of news from anywhere was starting to get to me.
 
I had to wait for Toño to get back from his 3rd day of going out in search of gasoline. I made myself breakfast and started to pack up my things. In the middle of packing, I overheard Millie talking to someone out in the street. 
 
A neighbor had come to check on her because my Aunt Denise was able to get ahold of him via a landline. Not knowing how far he had come from, I thought perhaps our landline would work too. I checked the phone, and luckily, it had an option to use batteries. I scoured the house for AAAs and salvaged some from one of the ceiling fan remote controls. I put in the batteries, plugged in the phone, and said a little prayer.

Monday, September 25, 2017

“It’s 8:23 pm, and I just finished soaking my hair in cold water, hoping it will help with the heat. 
 
My personal food stash has almost run out. Before Maria, I planned to be on a farm further west on the island by now. I hope we can find an open food store soon, but even then, I don’t yet have cash to pay as most card systems are down. 
 
A good friend of Denise’s, who lives in Ponce, came by the house today and offered to take me to look for a rental car. She heard on the radio that there is safe passage to San Juan. 
 
Aside from the many people driving around, or in lines at the few stores that are open, Ponce looks like a ghost town. We drove to a few rental places near the house, but no luck there. The last hope was the Ponce airport. We arrived and noticed people standing around outside, so we got out of the car to see if anyone was renting cars.
 
Todo están cerrado. Everything was closed. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

It has been one long silent week. 

 
A couple days ago I started to crave a nice big fresh salad. Today I had a lovely experience in the art of creative cooking. Breakfast included an odd mix of red beans, supplement powders, and oatmeal. For lunch (an answer to my plea) raw salad of carrots, peppers and avocado and I even made a dessert out of banana, maca powder and cacao! (See photos below) 
 
I gladly delivered another message of concern to a family down the street yesterday. It’s been amusing to see the look on their faces… as they probably wonder why this silly bike riding, barely Spanish speaking lady is coming up to them. 

Friday, September 28, 2017

The Waiting

It’s 6:28 pm. It gets dark around this time and since there is no electricity, Millie and Toño usually go to sleep soon after. Depending on the night, I stay up to write letters, read, or join the sleepy time party. Tonight, I’ll be writing.
 
I had hoped to travel to San Juan today or tomorrow, but as of now, I’m still waiting to hear from Denise’s friend. Maybe I’ll soon find a taxi or an open rental car office–but all I can do right now is wait. 
 
The banks, supermarkets and post offices were open today, but there’s a catch! To get anything from the supermarkets you need cash. To get cash, you must wait in a very long line at the bank. The post office line was wrapped around the block, and they would not allow anyone to walk in on foot! Luckily, Millie was able to sweet-talk a stranger, who was already in the gate, into dropping some of my letters into the mailbox.

Saturday, September 30, 2017 & Sunday, October 1, 2017

Last Night in Ponce

 
The last couple days have been full of ups and downs. 
 
Yesterday started well enough, as we were successful in our quest for food. We got to Walmart early, filled the carts ,and checked out with no problem. Still no bottled water, but as soon as they get some cash, Tonio and Millie will be able to pick water up from another store. 
 
With the phone lines not working and no word still from Denise’s friend, Tonio drove to ask someone about Taxi options for me. $140 was the going rate. It was a bit much but I decided if there was no other option by Monday, I would take it.

“At 7 am Monday morning, October 2nd, Denise’s friend Aimet came to gather me and my belongings to make the trip up to San Juan. 

I thanked Millie and Tonio for opening their arms and home to me during this tumultuous time, said “hasta luego,” and got in the van. Aimet’s two nephews, son and his new puppy joined us. Her reason for visiting San Juan that morning was to take the puppy for a specialist vet visit. 

The first interesting thing I noticed as we drove was the Iguanas.  Hundreds of them covered trees limb to limb, as they basked in the morning light.  Then I started to realize just how widespread the devastation was to the trees. It looked as if the monsters from that arcade game Rampage had thrown a dance party. 

We passed fields of Papaya, Plantain, Coffee and other crops, most of which looked to now have few plants that would make it to maturity. While it hurt my heart to see, I also hoped this would bring more attention to how important agriculture is for the island.”

“I am writing from one of my favorite places in Puerto Rico… the inside of a hammock. The sun is setting and soon we return to “vida sin luz.” Finding our way using flashlights, listening to the now familiar sound of generators humming, and eating dinner by candlelight. 

It gets dark early here, it’s 6:23 on Wednesday and when I went inside to do something I’d forgot, the flashlight was handy. We are very lucky, Yuri’s next door neighbor runs a generator at night and generously extends a cord over for our use. 

Despite the war against the tiny terrorists (mosquitos,) battle to save our produce against the jaws of the rat sized mouse, and missing the sound of music… I feel better today than I have in a while. I spoke with Bryan on the phone this afternoon and he said “You sound more you.” I feel more me. 

Maybe one upside to not having music to listen to is that I can’t stop singing or thinking about these songs I’ve started to write. Even though I’m not intentionally writing pieces about the hurricane experience yet, subconsciously some of my lyrics are reflecting on it. ”

“It is Friday, 10:41 pm. I was sleeping soundly two minutes ago. I’m not a squeamish person. I like animals and insects, bees don’t bother me, mice don’t make me scream… UNLESS THEY ARE CRAWLING ON TOP OF ME! 

I felt a disturbance near my feet, woke up and realized the mouse was scurrying up the sheet covering my legs. I shook my uninvited bedfellow  off, let out an audible cry of distress and quietly called out to one of the guard dogs on duty. He is now on patrol.

The last two days have been a whirlwind of mostly mental activity and lots of communication. Considering the previous two weeks of almost total silence, I am finding it more difficult to be in constant contact. Hopefully I will find a way to balance this aspect of modern life.”

” We scanned Kmart for water, none on the shelves where the water should be. Further down, gleaming like the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, was a one gallon jug of water, just sitting on the bottom of an end cap. Yuri asked around to make sure no one else had claimed it. There happened to be another gallon in a box right next to the jug, success! 

When we went up to pay there was a bit of frustration as only one gallon per customer was allowed. In hindsight I should have just grabbed one and waited in line but we didn’t know. After a bit of discussion we were allowed to purchase both, and quickly left. 

We made our way to Costco, waited 20 mins in line in the car to get into the parking lot and another 10 minutes in the line to enter the store. 

We saw many people leaving with carts containing two large packets of bottled water. Surely if they’re allowing 2 per person they have plenty of water, I thought. Once inside we found the next line, to wait to put water in our cart. I stood in that line while Yuri darted around grabbing produce. After about 5 minutes a lady with an empty cart announced “no hay agua,” there is no water.”

“It’s easy to get caught up in the suffering. All around there is destruction, death and disease. It will not be going away anytime soon and is not confined to this island.

I had started to spiral into a state of panic. Alarmed by all I’ve seen and becoming desperate to show the whole world what is happening. The Heavy began to weigh on my heart. 

Luckily, I am blessed with friends and family who kindly remind me that suffering leads to fear and then I think of Yoda, who reminds me that fear is the path to the dark side. 

Over the past couple days I have felt grateful to  utilize my skills assisting others with their very meaningful and noble endeavors. I have made new friends, rekindled my passion for photojournalism and editing, and taken some of the load off the shoulders of very busy people. But I must remember that this is not where I am to focus the majority of my energy.”

It has been almost a month since hurricane Maria. Less than 15% of the electrical grid has been re-established. This means a large number of businesses are not operating. Many people have lost their jobs, or they’re unable to work. Many businesses which are open rely on generators, and these are expensive to run. The people who are able to go to work have commutes that are now 3 to 4 times longer, due to the lack of working traffic signals. There are fewer than 70 hospitals operating–and only 44 of them have power.

Lines still wrap around buildings for ATMs, Grocery Stores, Costco, Walmart, and Home Depot. Food, especially fresh produce, and water is still difficult to acquire, but it’s slowly improving.
You can check out www.status.pr for more about the status of things on the island.