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Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria
As some of you know, we had to lay low for a bit, as we were busy dealing with the aftermath of getting the full force of Cat 5 hurricane Maria, an intense and fascinating experience that I do not recommend for anybody with any measurable level of sanity.
Those of you who have been interested, probably have seen plenty of description in the news. I find it very difficult to adequately convey just how intimidating and overpowering it is to have a huge hurricane doing its best to try and blow you to bits as it passes over your cave.
Fortunately, I was inside a sturdy nest built well above flood waters, so we didn't experience any significant damaged, beyond broken trees and toppled fences, plus many days with no electrical power, fresh supplies or communications. All the same, we were extremely lucky and privileged to be located in a relatively protected area,and within 10 days we already had running water, some electrical power, and usable cell phone communications. At the moment of this writing, there are still lots of people in Puerto Rico who have none of those things, and precious little food.
If you care, I encourage you to donate generously to your favorite Puerto Rico relief or aid agency; they're easy enough to find by googling Puerto Rico, Maria, Relief, Aid.
Unlike what the President seems to thing, a few rolls of paper towel are not enough for the tremendous losses that a great deal of the population of Puerto Rico has experienced.
Rather than attempting to tell my tale, I will simply share a few photos of what could be seen near my cave. You should keep in mind that the previous day the whole island was lushly covered with dense vegetation, and also that these photos are all taken in a place that saw relatively minor destruction, compared to what happened in the rural or coastal areas.
This is what happened to about 85% if the trees in Puerto Rico:
A volleyball court
A large proportion of street lights, stadium lights, and electrical posts ended up like this. Which is why at this state still only 10% of the island has electrical power.
We were fortunate. Within a few days we could get some food from the supermarkets (running on generators and with limited supplies), simply by going through a long line and paying in cash only. Lots of people still don't have access to supermarkets.
Eventually some shopping malls had large generators running, and allowed people to bring their electronic devices and rechargeable batteries for charging within the premises. Every single outlet was taken.
The birds and bees were distraught because they could find no cover and little food
Things may seem bleak...
...but lizards are resilient and will carry on!
Our own community room! We need to decorate!
¡Nuestro salón comunitario! ¡Necesitamos decorarlo!
A trip to Spain 1
This little story started about 30 months ago towards the end of 2014.
Two oldish prats who had never met each other were fed up sitting home alone in each their own abodes.
Prat One lived in Melbourne Australia the other not far from Heathrow airport in England. They planned an escape from their solitude and agreed to meet up in Spain in September 2015 and drink and eat themselves silly. Plans were carefully made and tickets bought.
These plans were scuppered by fate and ill health so new plans were made.
These included meeting up in Barcelona on Tuesday the 3rd of May 2016 and then going to Denia, a smallish coastal town midway between Valencia and Alicante.
The first old prat made his way to Melbourne airport departing on a Sunday while the other one departed on the following Tuesday day from London.
Good planning and a lot of luck meant that the first old prat arrived in Barcelona just 45 minutes before the other one. The Melbourne prat had been propelled half way around the world for about 36 hours when they met up in the arrival area in terminal One in Barcelona airport, which is also known as El Prat.
So far so good.
IF you would like more let me know.
A trip to Spain part 3
Where was I up to in Barcelona?
Oh yes, having mountaineered over that inconsiderate bridge at terminal two to reach the train to Barcelona we managed to buy tickets to board the train. Not much to write about that journey apart from the fact that it was the correct train.
Worth mentioning maybe is a word of advice about big suitcases with 4 wheels. They are great when pushing then along platforms and other flat surfaces, except those that for some reason have had 1000s of mini speed humps the size of half golf balls superimposed on them.
On a train they can be near lethal. Park one next to where you are sitting and as soon as the train pulls away from the station the suitcase decides to go in the other direction, rolling down the aisle and bowling over old ladies minding their own business. I suppose when the train slows down again it might roll back to you, like a dog bringing back a stick. Only, of course, if it hasn’t knocked over a few fellow travellers on its way back.
We managed to get off at the correct station and Prat One headed straight for the ticket office to buy our tickets for the train to Valencia.
A quick break here and a leap into the future because my sister and her husband, who have a place in Javea not far from Denia, have just popped in for a quick visit to me in hospital on their way to a place they like about 3 hours south of Denia.
Now back to Barcelona and the ticket office to buy the train tickets to Valencia. Prat One knew the procedure because he had done this before – take a numbered ticket and sit down with and wait with scores of other would be ticket buyers.
About 45 minutes later it was our turn but someone got to the ticket window before us. What we didn’t know was that our ticket had a window number on it. Window number 7, which was hidden behind a partition so that we could not see it where we were sitting. We rushed over to it, well Prat One did with me straggling on behind. After some discussion two tickets were bought for the 10 AM train the next day. That train would arrive in Valencia in time for us to get the bus to Denia in time to meet up with the lady who was kindly renting us her flat at a ridiculously low price; we didn’t want to miss her and lose the flat, plus that we didn’t know where it was.
Then while I was having a coffee and a delicious Danish Pastry Prat One zoomed off to find us a reasonably priced hotel for the night. He returned beaming asking me how much I thought our room had cost. I had no idea but was thinking of the extortionate prices charged for London hotels, I was pleasantly surprised at the price, contrary to my expectations.
Staggering again, pushing my 4 wheeled suitcase over the golf ball sized wheel-wreckers barring my way, we found the taxi rank and arrived at a very clean hotel not far away. After a visit to a local restaurant I was knackered and now worried that sleep would be near impossible for me. It wasn’t and we awoke the next morning at about 4AM wondering how that had happened.
WE never did get to see any of Gaudi’s masterpieces. Another time maybe, they are not going anywhere are they? I saw La Sagrada Familia about 15 years ago. It is almost unbelievable and when it is finished, in about 100 years from now, will be even more so.
Lunch has just arrived in my private room at the Marina Salud hospital.
I’ll be back later.
To be continued - if you want more that is.
Por cierto...hoy ha caído la de San Quintín en Madrid y Toledo.
Look at the size of these hailstones...amazing .
A trip to Spain part 2
So far so good.
Prat number two had collected his brand new suitcase minutes before only to find it had been jumped on by a very heavy baggage handler or run over by a small bus.
First port of call was for a coffee and a quick visit to a loo. The Melbourne Prat knew where the loo was, although it is carefully hidden out of sight, because he had used it a year or so before. How he had held out for so long before needing another pee I have no idea.
Now all that was needed was to get the train into the heart of wonderful Barcelona and take in some of Gaudi’s master pieces. To do that one has to first find a bus to terminal number 2 to catch the train to Barcelona.
Having been dropped off there, some miles away by the bus from terminal one, they found that the train left on the other side of railway tracks which meant lugging a big suitcase up onto a bridge about 100 yards long and down the other side. Prat number two found this very exhausting.
Let me jump ahead a little in events.
Prat number two is writing this on his tablet in a nearly new hospital in Denia to help pass the time away. He arrived here the Saturday morning after his arrival in Barcelona.
Believe it or not dinner was served here at 8:30 this evening! Not like in England where it is served at 5:30 in the afternoon. Very good it was too; a delicious fish soup followed by a ham omelette and small fruit salad.
Now back to earlier events.
No wait a bit because just as I was preparing to sleep a nurse came in squirted some liquid into the thing sticking out of my arm, took my blood pressure and blood oxygen count then put a mask over my nose and mouth and told me to breathe in normally and said “I’ll be back in 20 minutes.”
It is now nearly twenty passed midnight. Good job I had not already been asleep because I would now be attempting the near impossible, for me, of having already once gone through my “fall asleep routine”. I will try again now.
I succeeded and it is now Sunday morning but still can’t go back to write about Barcelona which is where I started this little story.
I slept ok, which has been a near impossibility for me since 2008, but that is another story.
AS I wrote earlier yesterday's evening dinner in the hospital was served at 8:30 PM; in England that is when they give you a sleeping pill and put the lights out in a hospital and then come round at about midnight to wake you up to give you an injection of some kind.
To compensate breakfast arrived at 9:20, over 2 hours after I woke up. I am wondering if breakfast was served that late because it is Sunday.
Where was I up to in Barcelona?
To be continued - if you want more that is.
A trip to Spain part 4
Not much has happened since lunch – they brought me some coffee and biscuits about an hour ago. In about 3 hours from now dinner will be served,
Since lunch I have had several pills to swallow and an injection in my stomach and another in the thing attached to my arm. My time has been taken up by trying to find out how to connect the tablet I am using to write this on to the free internet so that I can check the football scores from England. I have been given all the codes and passwords but no luck so far. About an hour ago a hospital employee tried to connect me but failed and left saying he would ask a colleague. Of course I have not heard from him since.
In my very nice private room I have a sofa bed and arm chair for overnight visitors. I also have a nice flat screen TV mounted on the wall but again no one can get it to show anything. Pity that because maybe there is some Spanish football on it or the final of the Madrid tennis.
Hospitals, necessary as they are, can be frustrating hence the earlier frivolity in my writing has forsaken me. Getting to know a new hospital and its peculiarities is a bit like arriving in a new country, it takes a while.
Let’s go back to Barcelona.
We left the hotel in very good time to catch our train, so much so that we sat and had a coffee. About 9AM I suggested we join the queue to board our 10AM train to Valencia. After a while we did, join a queue that is. Something didn’t seem right so Prat One asked someone and showed our tickets.
“Those sir are tickets for the 9:27 train to Valencia” he was told. It was now 9:35. Old Prat One ran to the ticket counter and not wanting to miss the 10AM train by waiting say 45 minutes again he did what many had done the previous evening and ignored the rules went to the first vacant window and bought tickets for it. No refunds on the old ones of course. We had thought about treating ourselves to 1st class tickets but decided on cheaper ones and had now finished up paying twice which was more than 1st class tickets.
Back to now in Denia it is Sunday about 7:30PM so dinner will be brought to my bedside in about an hour.
Still no internet but I have a TV that works. My room opens on to a passageway about 100m long , by walking to one end I found an information desk I did not know existed and asked how I could get my TV to work. “You need to buy a ticket sir, there is a machine behind you.” I walked as fast as I could back to my room to get a 5 Euro note for one day of viewing then back to the machine that only took coins. “Go to the other counter and ask for coins sir” it was about 100 yards away but what option did I have? On arrival I was told that this one took 5 Euro notes. A Spanish guy was feeding coins into the machine and complaining that he was obliged to do this. I bought my ticket but the TV remote control back in my room had no instructions about how to enter the code on the ticket I had just bought. Back out to the passage and I bumped into the frustrated employee again, I could see him thinking “Why me?” who said he would sort out my internet connection, which is free, about 3 hours ago. “The instructions are here on the wall outside your room” he said. How stupid of me not to have realised that – but my Spanish is improving leaps and bounds. I will return later after dinner, I ordered a fish dish with a name that don’t know, Guar. Travelling broadens the mind.
My 5 Euro ticket gave me access to the Madrid Open final. So I saw Andy Murray lose. After that most of the channels selected resulted in a blank screen with a little box that said “Sin Signal” so I switched it off. I tried to connect to the internet again only to be informed that I could not. My brother in Canada texted me the scores of the English football matches on my mobile phone.
To be continued - if you want more that is.
A trip to Spain part 5
The time here in Denia is now about 7AM. I woke up about an hour ago. Just before midnight I went through my “get to sleep” routine, which includes reading for a while and switching off the lights when feeling a touch sleepy and putting a small mint in my mouth but here it meant getting out of bed to switch off the lights using the switch on the wall – that had been used by the last medic to attend me - and feeling my way back to my bed through the pitch black room bumping into a few things and reconnecting a few tubes that connect me to what looks like a life support system. I managed all that including the mint.
Now all I had to do was not sleep until the mint was finished in case it choked me. That prevents me from thinking about sleeping; counting sheep does not work for me. It is trick I have used for years and it works.
Just after midnight with me half way through the mint a nurse comes into my room and switches on the floodlights and tells me I must have another injection in my arm and one in my stomach and a mask over my nose and mouth to breathe in something good for my lungs for about 20 minutes; “and take these pills before you go to sleep.”
The mask has to be done every 8 hours I was told when I objected; what annoys me is that one of them MUST be done after midnight. In my befuddled state my Spanish was sadly lacking in complexity when I tried explain the reason why I was a tad miffed about my interrupted “getting to sleep routine”.
It is now about 7 hours later as I am typing this and another nurse arrived a few minutes ago to repeat the same process but this time with 2 injections into the thing on my arm. It would seem that the midnight process could be timed a little earlier.
Let’s go back to Barcelona and see how this Prat and the other one are getting on there.
With our new tickets we re-joined the queue boarding the 10AM train to Valencia. My delinquent “run-away” 4-wheeled suitcase was carefully jammed in with some others to prevent it escaping and knocking over a passenger or two and we parked ourselves in the seats as shown on our new tickets.
The journey is a pleasant one frequently running alongside the blue Mediterranean Sea with miles of often deserted beaches. A drinks trolley travelled by at regular intervals. 3 guys sitting the other side of the train disappeared, we thought that they had gotten off at one of the stops so we took their seats because that was the side that the sea was on. They came back just before we reached Valencia. They were going to Alicante on the same train which is on the other side Denia. For reasons that are probably geographical the train does not go into Denia. The Prats and others have to take a bus from Valencia to arrive in Denia.
About 3 and a half hours after leaving Barcelona we reached Valencia. All we saw of it was the station. My recalcitrant suitcase had to be “walked” along one side of the train and back down the other side of it to reach the exit and back into the real world. Prat One went to buy the bus tickets while Prat Two went to find a loo. I don’t know why but so far I have seen very few blatantly obvious sign posts indicating where public conveniences are located in Spain.
The location of one was explained to me so off I went, only to find that I had to pay to enter it. The barrier simply will simply not open no matter how inconvenienced you are. Prat One was acting as the Sherpa looking after our bags and luckily had the coins needed. A ticket was dispensed and I rushed through the barrier forgetting all about the ticket. Bad move – the ticket is needed to exit the loo as well. Except that is if you are a bloody minded jubilado then you just climb over the rotating three barred trap thingy and escape and exit the train station via a McDonald’s buying some bottled water on the way.
We stopped there too and had a coffee and doughnut each. Then wheeled my suitcase across another obstacle course covered in mini golf balls for much of the way. Later we were told that in exchange for the loo ticket McDonald’s will give you a small bottle of water. That would have been welcome on the 90 minute bus journey. Local knowledge can be very useful when visiting a new country.
The bus ride was quite uneventful apart from a few odd looks when we sat in the two front seats and the looks and protestations from an elderly lady as Prat One stuffed his over full rucksack into the overhead shelf above her head. He did his best to assure her it was safe, but later I noticed that she had moved to another seat. My wheelie bin of a suit case had been placed, with others, in the hold of the bus; it couldn’t go for a walk in there.
It wasn’t until I noticed a sign on the window next to our seat that I read words that said to the affect that “These seats are reserved for invalids or pregnant ladies.” Well I was carrying a walking stick.
The bus journey took about 90 minutes and finally we arrived in Denia and all we had to do was sit on the pavement chairs outside a nice café, have a beer and call our landlady to tell her we had arrived. She had been expecting us in November the previous year, it was now the 4th of May.
I tried on my simple pay-as-you-go mobile and got something like “This number is not available on your account” or something in Spanish like that. Prat One got something similar on his more complicated mobile – it does take pictures and send emails etc. but apparently can’t call a local number in Spain. So two Prats were sipping beers – one after a journey of about 48 hours - but we couldn’t find out where our flat was because we couldn’t contact the landlady and she had the keys of course.
Am I the only person to wonder why mobile phone charges are called “Pay-as-you-go” when they obviously are “Pay-BEFORE-you-go”?
Waiting for our landlady. This is prat One - the legs are Prat Two's
Part 6 next.
Pueeees, hace mucho tiempo que no escribo en español, hmmm, algo como casi 4 años o más XD (no me puedes enviar a ningún corner aquí ).
Pero, me alegra mucho verles a todos aquí otra vez, me da muchas memorias, del lugar donde aprendí todo (inglés e español).
Espero volver a hablar otra vez con ustedes, porque sueño como idiota hablando español ahora XD
Besitos, Same Ol' Lovely ^^
Here is the latest news from our Gekko
I had not heard from Gekkosan in a week, so of course I was still concerned, so last night I texted him:
"Are things returning to any semblance of normalcy? haven't stopped thinking about you and praying for you and your family. Is there anything we can do to help?"
Here is his answer:
"Hi Cathy! Things are slowly improving. We've had a couple of days with intermittent electrical power, and even have had the incredible luxury of sleeping two nights with AC. That has been a most wonderful surprise, as we didn't expect to have any electricity for at least a couple of months.
I was able to fill up my car with gas yesterday, and we have managed to get some fresh food after going through long lines in the supermarket. So, altogether, we count ourselves incredibly blessed.
I encourage you, and anyone else you know, to donate generously to any of the relief funds that have been set up. Most Puerto Ricans have not been anywhere near as lucky as us, and the relief and rebuilding tasks still ahead are gigantic.
Hi everybody, I seem to be the first to see this thread.
I am happy we have a new place to talk and share all kind of opinions and thoughts.
Thanks to the SD team for showing flexibility on this issue.
Así que : ¿con qué empezamos?
Podemos decir hola a todos y darnos un mutuo abrazote ...será lo más fácil
Maybe we should revive the Dunce Corner while we're at it.
Tal vez deberíamos revivir la Esquina del Burro, ya que andamos en estas.
It's a bit posh for me this place.... I prefer a back street dive bar. No problem though, please save me a seat on the floor in the corner
Por favor resérvame un asiento en el suelo del rincón.
It's Amber's (rac1) Birthday!!
Happy Birthday, amiga Todo el mundo te quiere, eso es difícil de lograr