Homeschool Happenstance

I’m not overly paranoid about my kid’s education.  I know they’ll learn what they need to learn with gentle guidance and self motivation.  Over summer they resisted learning to read because “it’s not school work time!”  I didn’t sweat it.  Summer is supposed to be chillax anyway.

Fall is for back to school, new school clothes, fresh Trapper Keeper plastic ‘let’s learn something’ smell.  (oh wait, that was back in the 80s).

Anyway, school starts mid-August in Puerto Rico. My son is in a new classroom after being with one teacher the past three years. There are new routines and new expectations for him. I knew once he got into the swing of it he’d stop asking, “Do I have to go to school?” in the mornings. Give it time, he’ll be fine!

Hm.  Time is one thing we haven’t been given this fall. Hurricanes cramped our style.  No time to get into a groove.  No rhythm. No routine. We had two and a half weeks of school then a week off for Irma. Then seriously ONE week of school, a puny half day the next Monday and the school principal sent out an email that basically said, “Closed until further notice. Take care of yourselves!” Ok, she was more eloquent and optimistic than that.

Google translate is a little rough. (Maria hit on Wednesday)

At first it was a little joke when my son asked, “Do I have to go to school today?” and I could, in all seriousness, repeatedly answer, “no.” But when it became overly clear that we wouldn’t have school again for another month, I’m not sure if it was guilt or motivation to tackle a challenge, but I realized it was time for homeschooling! Bring it!

Right away in Wisconsin I whipped out some worksheets I had stored at my Mom’s – math and writing. Workbooks aren’t necessarily Montessori approved but I let them pick what they wanted. I hit the library for reading materials and was gifted more workbooks by a local first grade teacher. We took nature walks and learned about hickory nuts.

We went to the zoo and made posters of our fav animals. Yes, one poster had a pic of an elephant butt. Know your audience, right?

In a few days we will embark on a Route 66 roadtrip – a vacation planned way back in spring.  So, without any other rhyme or reason to my homeschooling, I decided to teach them about things we’ll see on the Mother Road.  Geology of the Grand Canyon, science of asteroid craters, chemistry of neon lights, physics of hot air balloons, and the artists who covered various versions of the song “Route 66”.  Heck I’m learning a lot too!

The chemistry lesson about neon went a bit over my 5 year olds head, but she did pet a snake at the ecology center!

If we got 30-45 minutes of work time in a day I considered it a success. All in all, I’ll be happy when school starts again! What a crazy fall.

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Birthdays on the fly

My kids were very curious about Hurricane Maria. Thankfully they were never scared. The only concern my son had, was when I told him we were going to Wisconsin he quietly asked, “Are we going to have my birthday in Wisconsin?”

Oh yeah…I was in the middle of planning that when Maria arrived. I had made cute LEGO themed invitations that I texted out to his four chosen friends for a party on Sept 30. I ordered edible LEGO bricks and bought a huge LEGO set from a British seller on eBay. I was prepped!

Hurricane Maria hit Sept 20. When his party day rolled around our city had been powerless for 12 days and we were already in Wisconsin.

I assumed the invitees assumed the party was off. After all, we were all busy surviving and Toys R Us still had its hurricane shutters over their windows.

But you can’t cancel a kid’s birthday because your life’s been uprooted.

Amidst all that uncertainty of leaving PR I had to give some thought to 7 year old birthday parties. I packed some LEGO books I had yet to give him. I hoped they would stand in for a present since his big present was God knows where in a shipping container detained somewhere Maria (and Irma) hadn’t gone. Oh, and I took the rubber cake mold of a LEGO figure. The one we bought in Wisconsin this summer to use for his birthday cake. It was now flying back to Wisconsin. Oh the irony.

We crowded in my moms nice condo and ate tacos and my LEGO dude cake. Thankfully, he didn’t seem too dejected that his big present was not, well, present. I didn’t tell him that I’m not 100% sure it’ll ever arrive (!!) And maybe those edible Lego bricks can adorn our Thanksgiving pie.

Kids are flexible. Gracias a Dios

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Fleeing Maria

Fleeing seems like too strong of a word. I should reserve it for the people actually fleeing Serbia or other war torn countries with lives at stake. We got outta Dodge? Sounds like a weekend getaway.

Anyway, it was Friday – two days after Maria hit – when Trevor declared we needed to leave. Ever the optimist I was sure power would be restored in a couple days and school resume in a week. But when we heard on Saturday it would be one more week without power or water, I was convinced we need to scram too.

So, how does one book airline tickets without a phone or internet? You drive to the airport and talk to an agent in person. Problem: we live 40 minutes from the Aguadilla airport and 2.5 hours from San Juan’s. (These are on normal days). We had no idea about the road conditions, if the airports were functional, if there were any flights, and how many other people had the same plan. Remember – there were exceptionally long waits at each gas station and some gas stations were running out of fuel altogether. We had 3/4 tank in our one car. If we wasted gas going to an airport (or worse getting almost there but having to turn around due to road blockage) we would’ve wasted gas for nothing. Or been stranded at an airport. We decided to try Aguadilla on Monday morning. Come what may.

While checking in on nearby friends, we noticed that their neighbor had a satellite phone! We wandered back over there twice on Saturday, managing to see him the second visit. He allowed us to make a 30 second call (at $25 a minute this was very generous). I got my moms voicemail and left the most frantic message instructing here to contact our friend Sheila and work together to buy us airplane tickets. I wasn’t done talking when her voicemail cut me off and the guy wanted his phone back. Ugh! Crap! No! I wasn’t done. I didn’t get a chance to say make the tickets for Tuesday or Wednesday, or that I’d call her back as soon as I could… at least I think I blurted out that we were ok. Immediately I felt like I make matters worse with the frantic tone of my voice. I envisioned her imagining riots and chaos that we were paranoid about. Really we were just stinky and bored and knew we needed to leave so Trevor could work online again. I fretted over how poorly it went. ***later on I learned that Mom and Sheila sprung into action rather than freak out. Great job ladies!***

(I was sick of seeing ‘no service’ on my phone)

I had so much pent up energy flowing in me. With such a overriding desire to get away and not being able to talk with my family, I wanted to be strong and calm but slipping into a depressed funk seemed oddly alluring. My neighbors helped ground me, my kids helped make me laugh. Thankfully they rolled with everything, only occasionally asking for TV or YouTube.

We literally packed our bags, and they sat waiting for whenever.

Hero Gilberto saved the day. He announced to the neighbors on our street that he finally got his landline working and managed to make some long distance calls. We could use his phones to call whomever we wished. Giddy, several other neighbors and I tried calls only to hear busy signals (how do you work landline again?). Oh please oh please God have this work! And yes! It did! After hours of hand-wringing that afternoon, on Saturday night I spoke with my Mom! She was so happy to hear my voice. She was able to tell me that Silvina’s friend contacted her Friday to relay the message that our family was ok. Hurray for phone tree!

Gilberto let us use the phone as much as we liked. Gracias a Dios! Sheila and Mom scrambled to find a flight with four people to travel together. Wednesday at 2pm Delta out of San Juan. We did it! (Merry Christmas and Happy Birthdays to us) Now…we just had to get ourselves there traveling 3/4 across the hurricane ravished country on roads with questionable traversability (is that a word?)

Over the next few days we learned that only 10 commercial flights were leaving San Juan each day. The radar at the airport was squashed so they were using temporary tracking equipment, and keeping traffic flow open for military and aid aircraft. And many of those flights were still being canceled, stranding people at the airports. Rumors swirled about San Juan airport having no water or restaurants open, the news described the scene there as ‘chaotic’. Great! As we tuned into the Weather Channel each night, the news seemed to lesson about Puerto Rico so we didn’t learn much. CNN kept talking about national anthems and football players, so the 15 minutes we could watch the news didn’t give us any useful information. Back to hearsay and the one functioning Puerto Rican radio station for news.

The main question: do we take the northern route or the southern route to San Juan? Northern route = many more stop lights and traffic but more opportunities to get gas in case we ran out due to traffic jams. But that’s where those dams were breaking and flooding was prevalent. Someone said they were u-turning traffic at some point. Enterprise rental car guy said it would take 8 hours going that route. Say what? Southern route: through the mountain so fewer gas stations. Were there rock slides? There was a flood around Yauco that could take hours to get through due to back up. That route might take 3-5 hours.

We called Tuesday midday to confirm that we still had a flight. Mom gave us big news: flight was now at 11am, not 2pm! OHMYGOSH WE GOTTA LEAVE NOW! There was a curfew for the whole island 7pm – 5am. Even if we left at 5am with all these questionable road conditions we didn’t want to risk missing our sacred flight. Our best option was to drive Tuesday afternoon and figure out sleeping accommodations at the airport. We rented a car to avoid paying for long term parking, finished up details and hit the road. As we were running around our babysitter Madison stopped in to check on us. She also told us of drivers getting robbed at gunpoint in San Juan and gas tanks being chainsawed out of parked cars. Don’t tell me this right before we leave!!!

I was so sad to leave my neighbors Sonia and Ron without saying goodbye in person but I left them a note. I told Gilberto to eat our frozen chicken before it rotted and use the generator as needed.

As fate would have it we broke speed records getting to San Juan. The flooding in Yauco was dry and no debris blocked the road. Not wanting to stop along the way (those looters! Actually we didn’t know which rest stops actually had running water or if we’d be stuck in a three hour traffic jam) we put our kids in pull-ups just in case. They weren’t too thrilled about that.

We saw many strange sights along the way. Groups of people were gathered in the most unusual spots holding up their cell phones apparently gathered at a purported hotspot. Other groups were stopped along the side of the highway reaching into random bushes. It took us a while to realize they must’ve found a trickle of waterfall or natural spring and were filling up water jugs. Tank trucks traveling with valuable gasoline were given police escorts (one driving the opposite direction on the shoulder of the highway!).

5:30ish we rolled into the airport. Expecting chaos, we saw a nearly deserted departures area with plenty of security milling about. Delta ticket counter would reopen at 6am. It looked like many other families had the same curfew issue because they were claiming spots on the floor to hunker down for the night.

The airport hotel was booked and didn’t have A/C anyway. We had a picnic dinner and ‘slept’ in the car in the parking structure.

Enterprise rental car office looked decimated and wasn’t open in the morning so we were forced to park the car with the keys inside in the public area of the ramp. We took video and photos documenting our drop off. What else could we do?

Lines were long and slightly confusing but they actually moved relatively fast. I felt a little guilty because people who had flights booked before the hurricane hit had their flights completely canceled. The new flights were sold to people like us who bought tickets after the hurricane. What a mess.

Only one security checkpoint was open then we took a hike to our terminal. Can you tell from my photos that there was no A/C in the airport? Everyone was fanning themselves and those of us with German heritage were especially dripping sweat. Literally dripping.

This screenshot says it feels like 92 degrees. Outside. It was a sauna inside.

A friendly Homeland Security guy told us we’d have good luck of our flight going out because it was a morning flight. The afternoons ones were more likely to be canceled. Good! We did indeed board ontime and the airplane felt so cool and comfortable! We had to rearrange seats to sit with our kids.

I told people that I wouldn’t relax until the airplane was at least halfway to Florida so if there was an emergency we wouldn’t u-turn to San Juan. Maybe that was a premonition because about 10 minutes after take off I kid you not, they TOTALLY made the dreaded announcement “if there is a doctor on board or anyone with medical training please identify yourself to the flight attendants.” I’ll admit I felt anger at whomever had fallen ill. Thankfully there was a doctor onboard who tended to the lady and they laid her on the floor near the front of the plane. Her elderly husband was sitting next to Trevor and they kept asking him questions about her medical history and her meds. Poor guy. We shared our snacks with him.

Arriving in Atlanta was emotional for the whole plane. I could sense a collective relief. We all waited patiently for the ill lady and her husband to leave first.

I only broke down in tears when we were rearranging our seats on the second flight so our kids could sit next to us. One guy was reluctant to move away from his window spot. The flight attendant tried to be helpful by reminding me that next time I should select seats when purchasing the tickets. That did it! I explained that someone else bought us tickets on Sunday etc. etc. After that nobody complained too much about being booted out of their seats and the flight attendants kept asking me if I was ok all the way to Milwaukee.

I don’t know if anyone read this far, but thanks for taking an interest. I feel sad for leaving my friends. We had to take care of our own family but I want to be there to support them. I’m sad for Puerto Rico but hopefully this will allow improvements to blossom in the long run. I’m actually looking forward to getting back and starting a routine again. After all, it’s home.

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Maria – immediate aftermath

The rush wore off. Time to take stock on the day after.

Already at 7am the neighbors started creeping out of their houses. I with my phone – which for the next week was nothing more than my camera – others with work gloves and saws.

My neighbor Gilberto was springing into action dragging the large branches to one side of the road to make room for vehículos to pass. Others joined in the clean up effort. With my clinging daughter I wasn’t able to jump in and help as much as I’d liked. I’m strong. Why should us women just stand aside? Sigh. I brought out my coffee I had made before we lost power Tuesday and my neighbor Ron and Sonia heated it on their never-before-used Coleman stove. My contribution was appreciated. It was still rainy.

It was a strange kind of block party. I’ve heard that our dead end street is unique because all of us get along and socialize with each other. Questions of, “are you ok?” and “how’s your house?” floated around until everyone could answer.

Above photo shows our back yard. This was morning one of day one. More adrenaline. More action. Before 11am we had cut our fallen tree, moved the broken trampoline, climbed on the roof, and ventured to the destroyed walking path.

The path was surreal. I could see houses I never knew were back there because the trees were stripped. This was perhaps the most emotional aspect to behold simply because it was an obvious enormous destruction. And so sad that our tiny nature area was destroyed.

It was still raining as the last tentacle of Maria passed overhead.

Trees down everywhere! Random satellite dishes around the ground.

Thankfully no apparent structural damage aside from ripped awnings and signs.

Above photo is before and after.

Our community pool that had been drained for maintenance was now full.

When we picked up enough to feel somewhat accomplished our thoughts turned to “how bad was this?” “What’s the rest of Mayaguez look like…San Juan?” In other words, “how big of shit are we in?” With no way to contact the outside world the best option was for all of us to stay home and wait. Pray. And hope that my family in the states assumed the best not the worst.

To keep a breeze in the house during the stifling daytime heat, everyone either stayed outside or kept their front doors open. Leaves blew in but I didn’t have the gumption to sweep them up for days. Friday’s highlight was our friends Silvina and Carlos stopping by. They recounted to us their trek down from Rincon. So many trees were down, no power anywhere and electrical posts fallen. A river in Añasco flooded the highway.

Silvina had a brilliant idea! We swap phone numbers of loved ones abroad and whoever got to a phone first would call on behalf of the other. Nice!

At night we gathered the neighbors to watch our tv news. Some horrible videos were shown of San Juan damage.

The sun finally shown Saturday.

It’s super surreal to be completely devoid of informational sources other than oral account. This inevitably leads to spotty and contradictory details. Grasping for some scope of what was happening outside our gated community, whenever someone drove their car home we all swarmed them for tidbits of news.

Not even active military personnel had cell reception on their phones. The woman across the street works for the electrical company. Apparently they had an emergency meeting to analyze and plan. The regional director literally started the meeting by simply putting his face in his hands. The three hospitals in Mayaguez would receive power first then the policía central command center which is three blocks from our neighborhood. We should get power when they do. In one week. No less.

Other news was that the lines at gasoline stations were 30 cars long – hours of wait for only a ration of $10 of gas. One gas station on Post Rd was reserving gas for only doctors, military and police.

Familiar with a tiny gas station in the hills on our steep route to school, we ventured in the car to top off our tank. Leaving our little haven for the unknown of the crazy wild mess of the hurricane made me anxious but it was good to finally see things first hand. If the first part of our usual school route looks like this there’s no way we could make it all the way to school. Nothing like squeezing under tilting power lines! And alas, no gas at the station.

roof blown off

A doctor neighbor told us that Parea Hospital had two shooting victims in the ER. One was shot in a fight at a gas station and one was shot while arguing with a neighbor about which of them owned a piece of roof that blew of!!

We also heard that people were stealing the copper from the downed cables lines. Great.

We also ventured to our grocery store Pueblo. We heard rumors that you had to wait in line to enter. Maybe we’d get money out of the bank too!

We did wait briefly outside the store and when we entered all the perishable food was cordoned off. No fruit no meat no ice cream or cheese! That’s why we went- we Wisconsinites ran outta cheese!

The employees were systematically inspecting the food. I assume all the meat got tossed right away.

A dry law began the day of the hurricane. I have no idea when it’ll lift.

And the bank line was at least 60 people long outside and around the corner. Not going to wait in that. It was a cash only society for the moment.

Over the next six days post-hurricane I went into five different neighbors houses. We wandered over to each other’s houses unannounced. We played games. We did yoga. Neighborhood kids all played outside together like I did in the 80s. It was amazing and uniting. AND SO HOT OUT!

Most of us had off work. There was no school. No electronics. Looong days. Hanging out together was a lovely way to give moral support to each other, pass the time and share information of the craziness outside our walls.

Gilberto wins the Hero prize for our block.

He got his staticky land line to work and let EVERYONE use it to call loved ones. We received many busy signals at first because of overwhelming traffic on the lines (and after remembering how to use a landline. Have to press 1 for long distance). I prayed so hard to God to let it work. Finally I got thru to mom. She was so happy to hear my voice. She was going to help us leave this rock ASAP. Those details to come…

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Twelve hours of Hurricane Maria – the day

I’m writing this in my car, where I will sleep tonight. We’ll get to that reason later …

Today is Tuesday. Hurricane Maria hit last Wednesday and it feels like a month ago. Hurricane Irma, last year.

A week and a half after we arrived back from Georgia during hurricane Irma, the island was directly hit by a much larger category five hurricane. By the time everyone figured out that this was going to be a bitch, every single airplane was jampacked and sold out. We were stuck and destined to experience a hurricane first hand.

Tuesday night before the hurricane, the kids hunkered down on our bedroom floor on inflatable mattresses. Rumors surfaced that our power would simply be cut off at 6pm Tuesday, but we had until 1am to enjoy our A/C. It was generator time till morning. (It was SO muggy out)

We brought in the last few items from outside and sat looking out the windows. And sat. And watched the wind. It was exciting!

For the first four hours.

I couldn’t believe this bird clung onto this branch as long as it did. I wanted to scoop it up and perch it on our porch lamp.

The eye was supposed to pass the closest to us around 1pm, but we could tell by the shift of the wind it passed a bit earlier.

Every wander around the house showed us new branches that were downed. Our neighbor’s tree leaned into our yard.

A few houses down a trampoline flipped over the house from the back yard and landed in the front. Neighbors from the surrounding houses ran out in the storm to tie down the trampoline before it did more damage, even resorting to cutting it with a knife so it wouldn’t relaunch.

Our balcony was flooding! Too much debris was clogging our drains, so Trevor ran outside to clear them several times before the accumulated lake spilled into our bedroom. The branch slapped him once

So…we later learned that Mayaguez received 100-120 wind speeds. Are we horrible parents? We never got in the closet. And I had hung up pretty Christmas lights and everything. Our earphones sat untouched. We sat in front of patio doors and I took selfies near the end. I’m as stupid as those meteorologists who report outside and get blown away haha

After eight hours of watching the world blow by, we got bored. We made Lego hurricane hunter airplanes. We played doctor and looked at X-rays on our lanterns. We watched out the window some more. I got my 10,000 steps in walking around the house. I imagined all my friends squirreling in their homes. I took a nap. I started reading Harry Potter book one (for the ninth time)

We ate crap food. You know how you’re supposed to shop around the parameter of the grocery store to get the healthy foods? Hurricane foods are all in the middle. I had too much adrenaline and my kids knew I had Fruit Loops and wonder bread so well, we all had the ‘hurricane munchies’.

Oh and the water went out too.

The kids slept on our floor again so we could just run the most efficient air conditioner on the generator. Believe it or not, our TV still received SD channels and I watched the Master Chef finale!

My feelings from the day were a mix of odd excitement, adrenaline, fatigue, and a realization that the real trial was not the storm itself, but the aftermath we were about to face.

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Hurricane Maria: the emotions before

I realized preparing for a hurricane is like waiting to give birth for the first time. You know approximately when it’s going to come but have no idea how the event will pan out, how horrible/wonderful/painful it will be. You prepare by purchasing supplies, forming your support network and praying.

I offered my neighbor space in our garage for her car, and she reassured me that we won’t be all alone 🙂

Then you wait. And wait…with restlessness and adrenaline that has no way to release. Seeing everyone else prepare reassures me that we’re all in this together, but seeing them take this storm much more seriously than Irma is disconcerting at the same time.

Bottled water was all gone by Sunday afternoon

Having a baby also totally interrupts the life you were previously leading. In a fascinating and wonderful way of course. Two hurricanes exactly two weeks apart however has demolished any pretense of getting into a rhythm this fall. Two and a half weeks of school then a week off for Irma. One full week of school then a week off for Maria. Then three weeks of school before we leave for a previously scheduled vacation.

No rhythm. No groove. Preparing and decompressing only. Except we don’t have the lovely hormones and bundle of love given to us in the end. We just have to take our patio furniture out of the living room and watch the rivers of rain flow in the streets.

Will your baby be a girl or boy? What color hair? Will we have broken windows? How long will we be without power and water?

Gimme a 20 minute tornado scare or a beautiful, silent snow storm any day. Just not in PR. A snow storm here would be much worse than a hurricane haha

I’ll be here with the kids while Trevor does a skating weekend in Minnesota. Wait, what happened last time Trevor took a business trip? Lol

We’ll be fine. Siempre hay una aventura!

Update: Trevor decided to stay home with us!

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Irma’s aftermath

Last Wednesday was an anxious, all consuming day.  I watched Irma topple over Puerto Rico from Google’s live radar and we watched the Weather Station on TV more than ever before (side note – Dear Weather Station: Puerto Rico is part of the United States. So are the US Virgin Islands. So every time you dramatically stated that Irma could make landfall in the US next Saturday (when it would hit Florida) we all kinda felt forgotten)

Only moving about 14 miles per hour, we were happy to see Irma float north over PR with very little effect on Mayaguez.  Not surprisingly the island lost it’s electrical power, water and internet.  I was surprised by the organization of the internet company in keeping us updated on their progress.

Almost all damage was in the east and north.

a cute meme I shared with my friends

Thank you God, very little damage occurred in our city and neighborhood.  Downed branches were about the extent of it. Many of my neighbors keep me informed when the power, water and internet returned Friday afternoon.  Three days without power – I’m actually impressed.  I saw some videos on Facebook of the crazy maneuvering the AEE power company had to perform.

Our return flights were rerouted because we were scheduled to layover in Miami, but we returned to a hot and thankfully unscathed home Saturday night.

Internet availability update

Crazy week.  I’m glad to be back to relative normal (not all places have water yet – like my gym this morning).


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Preparing for Hurricane Irma

I’ve decided I’m a tornado kinda girl. I mean, if I had to chose a natural disaster I’d pick tornadoes. You can detect a storm is brewing, you have a little while to hunker down, usually have time to run to the basement, and only have maybe a half our of anxious uncertainty then, it passes, you’re done. Devastation is usually isolated.

Earthquakes give not enough warning and hurricanes give to much. Too much? Well, enough time to baton down the hatches but unfortunately enough time to be overly optimistic.

We first heard about Irma just about a week ago. Wednesday I went out and bought extra water and food. Thursday (five days ago) Trevor and I seriously weighed our options and, since he works online and needs consistent internet access, decided to leave the island. At 10:30 Thursday night we bought tickets to Atlanta.

It was an expensive decision. One that I anticipated my friends scoffing at.

Sunday morning we brought everything on our patio inside including the huge train table and grill. We lifted inside things like books, toys and rugs off the floor and stashed our computers and printer in our master closet.

We packed the essentials of our business and important external hard drives in our carryons and headed to the airport. With a layover in Miami, we were in Atlanta by midnight.

Everyone I spoke with was certain Irma would turn north. We seemed to be the only ones preparing and taking action. It’s not that we were worried about our physical safety. We could ride out a storm hiding in our closet. It would make a great story. But knowing that our power blinks out for no reason on perfectly blue sky days, we knew that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was in NO way prepared for this kind of disaster. The roads could majorly erode or have fallen trees clog them for days.

Today, Tuesday, the director of the Electrical Authority publicly stated that parts of Puerto Rico could be out of power for four to six MONTHS. Thats why we left. Let’s size up the situation from far away thankyouverymuch.

It just goes to show how little Americans think about Puerto Rico. As we diligently watched the news so many of the meteorologists we sooooo concerned about this hurricane hitting the USA. Of course that is anxiety inducing, but little was mentioned about the 3 million of people in Puerto Rico and the other island residents. Although, before I moved to the Caribbean I must admit I barely gave them much thought either.

PR gets more and more colorful!

Our neighborhood got organized and the internet company started a hotline to help us keep up to date with the recovery process. Cool!

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Guaguas e Indios 

Field trip time! The school was taking a trip to Centro Ceremonial Indígena de Tibes in Ponce last spring. It’s over an hour away!

The school offered a school bus.  But…people are crazy drivers here.  No seat belts! What if the driver is reckless? What if we hit a giant pothole and tumble down a cliff? What if? what if? I wrestled with if I should drive separately. In the end, we went in the guagua. (Bus). I said a few Hail Mary’s. Literally.


No seatbelts!


The park is nice.  The tour was interesting, though not necessarily for 4 year olds.  We did walk through plazas that were 3000 years old.

wait, will i be on Google maps now?

While we were listening to the tourguide, a dude with a Google imaging backpack trekked by.  I checked…my image is not on Google. Bummer.

I think this is a pre-Taino replica of a hut


This bush was used to make canoes. or baskets. or something.

My Spanish is getting better and better, but when I’m unfamiliar with the vocabulary, contextual hints only help me so much. I’ll admit, most of the time I was lost.  But my fellow parents filled me in with the most interesting tidbits.

The bus was safe. I’m sure my prayers helped.


The place is well done. Cute little museum with nice facilities. I’m glad we took the bus.  It not only gave the kids their first school bus opportunity but I could chat with the other parents.  I was the only Americana but I spoke with a Spaniard, a Colombian, and a Frenchman. Of course, plenty of Puerto Ricans too.

Posing in front of artifacts in the little museum.

My sister, Dr. Archeologist, would love this place.



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Español dontchaknow

So this is the third summer we’ve vacationed in our home state Wisconsin. July is by far the best month in our beloved cheese state, and we can escape the humidity of Mayaguez while visiting family and keep some annual traditions.

Eager to practice mi español, I want to speak to strangers who I think speak it. The problem is, some people who look like Spanish speakers don’t speak Spanish, or aren’t Latino at all (my bad, Filipino guy. Sorry).  For example, my cousins-in-law who live in a small town adopted a Mexican girl who doesn’t speak much Spanish.  But people keep stopping her on the street and speaking Spanish to her. Kinda makes things awkward.  I like to avoid awkward.

At a swing dance a firefighter made an announcement for a charity event, and he mentioned his Spanish accent.  An obvious in, I spoke with him at the bar afterward and practiced my Spanish. Lo and Behold – he’s Puerto Rican.  His eyes lit up when I told him I lived there.  His family is from Bayamon, but he’s lived in Milwaukee a decade. Then his eyes got all confused and he asked, “Why do you live there??” haha


Home Depot checkout clerk’s apron boldly read, “Yo hablo Espanol!” Ah ha! I spoke Spanish to him too. Told him I live in PR. His eyes lit up, his family is from Utuado, PR. He called over to the lady cashier next to us – his sister! She got excited too.  Then he got all confused and asked, “Why do you live there??” haha

At Great America the cashier’s name tag said “Dominican Republic” under her name, and her eyes lit up when I spoke Spanish to her too.

So, when there was an obvious chance I took it. When it’s not obvious I’m a little more shy. If I hear others speaking Spanish around us I’m inspired to speak Spanish to my kids then too.  But I wonder if that’s weird from the other people’s perspective.  There’s a part of me that would like to be speaking Spanish to my kids before I hear others speaking it around us.  So it’s like, “Oh, I was just speaking Spanish to my kids like always, not because you’re around me.”  I’m so weird.  And I probably think too much.



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