Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My First Hurricane!

When I think of “hurricanes” I think of the devastation that I witnessed and helped to clear the week after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. I probably got a bit white in the face as Angel Rivera, the director of International Programs at UPR-Cayey, warned me to not travel outside of Puerto Rico during hurricane season. Puerto Rico is expecting about twelve hurricanes over the next few months, all of which will have some impact on the mountainous city where I live. Last week we received notice of Hurricane Danielle headed toward Puerto Rico. I panicked, envisioning being without electricity for weeks and with a dilapidated house for the remainder of the semester. My mother’s primary concern seemed to be whether the stray dogs around my house would have a safe place to stay.

On Monday morning around 11:00 we began to get heavy rains that immediately flooded the roads around campus. Within an hour the school had lost power and we were rushed home through five inches of water on the streets. Mr. Rivera gave us the option of going to a shelter or remaining in our house. As the other residents of our neighbourhood were evacuated my first reaction was to go to the shelter. Dr. Rivera assured us that hurricanes aren’t really a big deal and sent us home. We had already lost power in our house and our lawn resembled a lagoon. Gabriel, the Canadian that lives in the other half of our duplex, was panicking and was driven to Wal-Mart to purchase a grill on which we could make food during the storm. Gabriel came home with a small Bar-B-Q grille that he set up in his house. After calling a variety of friends to ask, “How do we use a Bar-B-Que grill” we finally were able to create a flame. I think Gabriel used too much gasoline because our food smelled of gasoline fumes.

After dinner we went to bed early. I was awaked around 3:00am by the 85 mph winds that had picked up a chicken and carried her into my bedroom window. There were feathers everywhere and she looked distressed. Eventually the power came back and we went back to class. My recounts of sitting in my house scared to death were met by the laughter of my Puerto Rican classmates. Hurricanes happen here all of the time. Much like Missourians think little of tornadoes and Ghanaians think little of Malaria, hurricanes are just a great excuse to get out of class in Puerto Rico.

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