I want to preface this post by stating that Ted and I are extremely lucky. Not only do we have a roof over our heads, but all of our belongings were protected, we have steady, well-paying jobs, and access to resources that most don’t have. Most people have far less and I cannot imagine what they’re going through (although I will try to and I will help). Despite all of these blessings, we are still devastated.
I finally slowed down a bit to let it all sink in, and I cried — the ugly kind. Everything has changed. We moved here to live in paradise and experience the famously stress-free island life. It is no longer paradise and life is painfully stressful and challenging. Gone are the days when our toughest weekend decisions were which beach to go to and which flavor of rum to bring. Our daily life has been replaced with nonstop scheduling and logistics for the simplest tasks.
We must schedule when to run the generator with our neighbors (we’re lucky enough to have one), which in turn means scheduling when we shower, wash dishes, charge our phones and rechargeable batteries, etc. We must schedule when we go to the grocery store, gas station or ATM because they all have incredibly long lines and will take the better part of a day to get through. We’ve had no way of receiving or sending mail until recently, and even that involves scheduling because only a couple post offices are open on island –cue the long lines. Driving was already pretty atrocious here, but it is now downright comical. I feel like I’m playing a game of Frogger. Between the downed power lines and poles, trees, and other debris, and massive chunks of road missing, driving is the most terrifying obstacle course I’ve experienced.
The most challenging logistics involve getting people on or off island. I’ve been consumed by this for almost three weeks in trying to get our staff to safety, and let me tell you, it is tiring. People can’t simply drive away. After Irma, the St. Croix and Puerto Rico airports remained open, so we could get people on boats from St. Thomas to another island’s airport and fly them to the mainland. Right after Maria, all three airports — St. Thomas, St. Croix, and Puerto Rico — were closed. We were quite literally stranded on an island.
This new reality is sinking in and it’s difficult to bear. Many of the things that we loved about living here no longer exist. The beauty that surrounded us has been replaced with what looks like a vast swampland. Many of the bars and restaurants we loved are gone. Our favorite boating destinations are destroyed.
I am on an endless roller coaster ride of emotions. At times, I just want to give up and leave island as so many have already. I want to throw in the towel and move somewhere easy on the mainland, with luxuries like access to power and running water. We could easily pick up and move tomorrow. Our jobs are transferable and we have no property here.
Yet, during other times, I feel incredibly hopeful and even happy. A couple days ago I finally brushed my hair, shaved my legs, and put on some make-up. I felt like a new woman, ready to take on the world. I sat on our deck with a glass of wine, listening to the waves crash, and realized that we are still so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place with such kindhearted, resilient people. I took the above photo on the same day and realized that even without the lush foliage, this place is still a slice of heaven on earth.