I honestly have struggled putting words to paper regarding the hurricanes. 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 Hurricanes 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 thoughts. Hopefully, this post can shed some light on what I’ve been dealing with in a post hurricane world.
5 Months Post Hurricane
It’s been a little over 5 months since Hurricane Irma came barreling across the islands. Although so much has begun to feel back to normal, we are far from recovered.
Since Irma, my roommate and I have been living in darkness and without hot water, cable or internet. We have basically been living our lives “camping” in our home.
What lights??? The island has been in a BLACKOUT state. This has required us to use head lamps, flashlights, solar operated-inflatable lights, and our phone lights as our light source.
Walking around the house wearing a headlamp is something I don’t wish on anyone. 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” required 1-2 flashlights.
During the daytime, the lack of lights hasn’t cause too much difficulty because the sunlight would come through the window. Unfortunately, for me, this was only in the kitchen and living room. My room’s only window is half-way blocked by my bed and for a solid good 2 weeks was blocked by a tarp due to construction.
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”. 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 were another source of frustration. They also played a huge role in my self-diagnosed “SAD” (seasonal affective disorder).
For starters, no power means no hot water. For me, cold water showers are not fun or enjoyable to take. Through this post-hurricane world, 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. I’M NOT JOKING. A hot bucket shower beats a cold 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. 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!
My roommate and I went through SO MANY bags of ice. We had no choice. They were needed to keep perishable food in our home for maybe 36 hours. We, unfortunately, were unable to acquire a decent cooler, which meant we had to utilize our non-functional freezer as our fridge.
To start, we had to line the bottom of the freezer with a towel to prevent the melted water from covering our floor. Then we had to separate the ice bag into 4 smaller ziplock bags to surround the food with coldness. This was required each time we had to restock the ice. All in order to maintain some type of freshness in our food for at least 36 hours. If we were late on buying ice, our food would rot quickly.
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. I still struggle so many months later, to eat food from cans or PBJ sandwiches. I’ll never look at canned tuna the same.
I won’t like when I say my roommate and I were some of the lucky ones. We spent majority of our time post Hurricanes Irma and Maria volunteering at My Brother’s Workshop. We were able to eat one meal per day while volunteering and the food was alway delicious.
MBW has an amazing staff and can cook up delicious food. If you ever 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; no oven. Thank goodness we had a gas stove.
Quite frankly, food was one area that I didn’t have an issue with or cause me any distress!
School and Work Update
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. Although, It felt really good to finally feel like I was back in my “normal” routine.
There were several things we struggled with during our first month or so of work. But, those first visits back 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 school, they are all back in session as I’m writing this. However, they didn’t all start at the same time. The started in waves, between October and mid-late November.
There are 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. I spend many hours during the week driving between my schools, trying to see all my children each week. As much as I love my job, my stress level is high.
I’m making it work because it’s my job, but it’s not easy. I’m still overly blessed and truly have minimal things 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. I’m slowly getting back on track with my healthy eating, and minimize my drinking.
WE HAVE POWER
Majority of the islands power has been restored. For my roommate and I, our power turned back on December 12th 2017 at approximately 2pm. That’s 99 days without power, literally total blackness and tons and tons of batteries. I’ll never forget that day. I was sitting in the office with my roommate and co-workers, and I hear my roommate scream “WE HAVE POWER. BYE.” She left so quickly, and I couldn’t help feel relieved.
However, I will clarify that we didn’t go exactly 99 days with total blackness. Our landlords had purchased a beautiful, massive generator, which sat unused for a solid month due to issues. But on November 27th, the generator became fully functional. That generate 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 did required me to change my routine, including changing from a morning shower to an evening shower, but power is power regardless! My home also got power several weeks even a month before many of my friends, so again can’t complain about 99 days without power.
WE HAVE WIFI AND CABLE
In addition to power, we had cable returned to our home end of January. That might seem 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. The AT&T service at our apartment is spotty and several hours during the day hardly worked, 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. 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!