I honestly have struggled putting words to paper. I’ve attempted multiple times and it’s just been so difficult. Finding the right words, finding the initiative to write, finding the motivation. Every ounce of energy and focus it takes me to write a blog post had been depleted since Irma and Maria. But there is no time like the present to attempt to update you. The words might not fit together perfectly and this post might have lots of random, miscellaneous, scattered pattern but I can promise that I’m going to try.
First, it’s been a little over 5 months since our first hurricane came barreling across the islands and although so much has begun to feel back to normal, we are far away from recovered.
Since Irma, my roommate had been living in darkness and without hot water, cable or internet. We basically spent our lives “camping” in our home. Let me try and paint you a picture.
- LIGHTS. What lights??? The island was in BLACKOUT. This required the utilization of head lamps, flashlights, solar operated-inflatable lights, and our phone lights. Walking around the house wearing a headlamp is something I don’t wish on anyone. Seriously, the amount of bugs that come flying at your head when you’re trying to read, cook, or even just pee is very unpleasant. Even showering (I use showering lightly), required 1-2 flashlights. During the daytime, the lack of lights didn’t cause too much difficulty because of the sunlight that would come through the window. Unfortunately for me, this was only in the kitchen and living room, because my room’s only window is half-way blocked by my bed and for a good 2 weeks was blocked by a tarp (construction on the property). The months of total darkness, morning, noon and night within my home/room, caused me to get what is commonly referred to “Seasonal Affective Disorder”. Yeah, I get it. I live on a tropical, Caribbean island that is know to be summer all year long, BUT no amount of sunlight help reverse the affect of the complete darkness.
- SHOWERS. Showers were another frustration and one additional cause of my self-diagnosed “SAD” (seasonal affective disorder). FYI no power= no hot water. Cold water showers are never fun or enjoyable to take, and through this “adventure,” majority of the showers I took were either cold or from a bucket. BUCKET SHOWERS! Truthfully, I preferred the bucket showers because I would spend 8ish minutes heating up the water on the stove. And no I’M NOT JOKING. Call me snobby if you must but…Let’s be real- a hot bucket shower beats a cold “shower” shower ANY DAY. Thankfully, we had a gas stove that allowed this to occur. And yes, I put in the effort to heat the water ON THE STOVE and I don’t regret it or feel ashamed one bit. Lesson to survival- Do whatever you can to make yourself feel like a million bucks!
- ICE. SO MANY bags of ice, and they were needed just to keep perishable food in our home for “maybe” 36 hours. We, unfortunately, were unable to acquire a decent cooler (shockingly, the island ran out of them), which basically meant we had to utilize our non-functional freezer as our “fridge”. We had to line the bottom of the freezer with a towel to prevent the melted water from covering our floor and separate the ice bag into 4 smaller ziplock bags to surround the food with coldness, all in order to maintain some type of freshness in our food for a “maybe” 36 hours. If we were late on buying ice, our food would rotten. Do you know what that’s like to not be able to keep certain food in your home for extended period of time? The amount of planning, modification, and thought that went into breakfast and dinner on a daily basis truly started playing with my psyche. AND canned foods GALORE…oh my. I still struggle so many months later, to eat food from cans or PBJ sandwiches. I’ll never look at canned tuna the same.
- FOOD. I mean, we were some of the lucky ones. Since we spent majority of our time post IrMaria volunteering at MBW, we were able to eat very nicely for one meal per day. I’m talking home-cooked, “hurricane” fancy food that was DELICIOUS! MBW has an amazing staff and can cook up delicious food and if you ever do visit St. Thomas, I recommend making a visit to the bakery on backstreet. However, for all other meals, things got interesting. We spent a lot of time eating out at restaurants and bars that were open or we were using what we could with our stove top, only. Thank goodness for gas stove tops! Quite frankly, food was one area that I didn’t have an issue with or cause me any distress!
On October 30th, it was finally time to return to work. Seven long, exhausting, and grueling weeks waiting for our “call” to return to the job that I moved here to do. But it wasn’t a walk in the park, but boy oh boy, did it feel good to finally feel like I was back in my “normal” routine. There were several things we struggled with, during the first month or so of work, but those first visits with those children and seeing them smile, reminded me of why I am a Speech Language Pathologist and why I chose to stay. Unfortunately, we did have to battle some issues during the first several weeks of school, including moving offices, minimal power and no internet, all of which have now recovered, except for the wifi. We are still only able to connect to our server via ethernet cable, but it’s something and I’m grateful for it!
As for the schools; they all back in session but started in waves, between October and mid-late November. There are about 6 public schools that are split sessions with many preschools still closed due to damage. We are short staffed as to be expected following the hurricanes, so I spend many hours during the week driving between my schools trying to see all my children each week and as much as I love my job, my stress level is high. I’m making it work because it’s my job. Plus, I’m still overly blessed and have minimal to complain about. I never lost my house, still have my car, and above all, I still have a job, which many St. Thomians cannot say the same. Plus, because my stress is high, I have started working out again, got back on track with my healthy eating, and minimize my drinking.
Majority of the islands power has been restored, which for us came on December 12th 2017. That’s 99 days without power, literally total blackness and tons and tons of batteries. Well not quite 99 days with total blackness. Our landlords had purchased a beautiful, massive generator, which basically just sat unused for a solid month. But on November 27th, the generator became fully functional, which gave us power, including HOT water, from the hours of 4-10 pm. These beautiful 6 hours of power were the BEST 6 hours of the day. Granted it required me to change my routine, including changing from a morning shower girl to an evening shower girl, but power is power regardless! And I also got power several weeks even a month or so before many of my friends, so again can’t complain about 99 days without power.
In addition to power, we had cable returned to our home end of January, which seems small but each small step makes it feel a little more normal. Plus, our amazing landlords provided us with an AT&T hotspot for internet. Granted, the AT&T service at our apartment is spotty and several hours during the day hardly works, but internet is still internet. MEANING….I’M POSTING THIS BLOG POST FROM THE COMFORT OF MY OWN HOME!!! DO YOU REALIZE HOW HAPPY THIS MAKES ME?!!!!!
I’m not sure if I have touched on everything but that’s all I have right now. I’m just happy I have finally be able to put words onto “paper.” Hopefully this paints a little picture of what my life has looked like since September. But if you have made it this far, just know I’m happy and I still very happy I have stayed put. St. Thomas is just as beautiful now as it was before the hurricanes so don’t shy away from visiting this island and the surrounding Virgin Islands!