While our life has returned to relative normal (aside from periodic power outages when they work in the area, which results in the darkening of major stop lights on the highway – whahoo! Free for all!), life is far from normal for our cleaning lady, our babysitter, and our kids’ school. All who still have no electricity. And from what I hear, many inner island municipalities still are cut off from regular infusions of supplies and reliable medical care. I haven’t ventured up to the inner mountains but from the sounds of it life up there still resembles life immediately post Maria.
There are, however, morsels of after effect that are harder to see. We still receive a newspaper everyday (never signed up for it) and it mostly gets recycled straightaway. But today I glanced at the disturbing and heartening articles.
Municipalities are getting creative to build themselves up. A few are receiving help from volunteers and retired electrical employees to get back to normal. Others are waiving rent fees for their Plaza kiosks in an attempt to re-stimulate the economy and probably entice residents not to leave.
On a more disturbing level is the reports coming from the police departments. No money = officers workin for free. Not gonna happen. City cops are getting paid through channeled federal money. Overtime pay has dried up months ago so thy any cop on duty avoids overtime at all costs. So if that cop patrolling is nearing the end of their shift, let’s just say they are a little less inspired to take any action that might require lengthy paperwork (arrests, tickets). Hm.
Many times around the holidays my reunions with friends result in some sort of hurricane rehash. Whether to mention nightmares during the aftermath, to feelings of helplessness or the psychiatric process our brains and society travels through after something like this.
I have several professor friends and they said the university’s meal program now serves over 1000 free meals daily to students who might otherwise be sustaining themselves on a few crackers a day. We’re not sure what the students situations are specifically. Many have parents who no longer have a roof on their house or are still without power. Maybe some simply don’t tell their parents they are going hungry because they don’t want to be a burden. The professional line between student and professor is blurred when the teachers are exposed to survival stories of their students and their families. How can you keep a professional detachment when you know your students are so stressed out and hungry? Can you really deduct points for students who submitted their English essays handwritten because use of a computer let alone a printer was a little too much to ask? Security around campus has also been reduced due to budget so students are a little more reluctant to walk around after dark. Sad.
Puerto Rico will rise. But oh is it so slow. Thankfully the impromptu junk pile in my area has been cleaned up. Work crews are clearing the felled trees on the sides of the road. Electrical workers managed to repair our electricity when it was out for 12 hours on Three Kings Day (a national holiday), and if the crowded malls, restaurants and movie theatres are an indication of the economy, it seems to be doing ok on the ground level.
Mayaguez also managed to have their traditional Christmas festivities in the plaza. But it was smaller than usual. We still enjoyed it.