Friday, February 22, 2019

MARIA log February 22 Day 154 Thursday

Thursday, February 22 day 154

High wind and hard rain overnight.

More dealing with SBA bureaucratic  B.S. Now SBA wants "stamped" copies of our last five years tax returns from the IRS. Apparently, "the system" isn't giving Ernest Jackson, the guy we're dealing with at SBA, the kind of access to our tax records he thinks he should have.

So I called the IRS and they have no idea what he's talking about, no idea what a "stamped" copy is. The woman at the at the IRS said she could send me certified copies of our tax returns. Certified copies are $50 each (!) and can take up to 6 months to get.

 I spent more than four hours on line, on the phone and waiting for a fax that never came. But the woman from the IRS was really nice. Once we figured out what Ernest Jackson really wanted, she said, "I can just fax that to you! Do you have a fax?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, we'll just stay on the line while you drive to Kinko's."

"Uh, no Kinko's. The nearest Kinko's is 900 miles in Miami. I can get to a fax machine but I will lose the call."

"Waddya mean?"

"Well, I have to drive up the mountain through a narrow rock-walled canyon to get there. There is no cell signal in the canyon."

"Waddaya mean 'no cell signal?' How do you get by with no cell signal?"

"It's just for a few minutes in the canyon. It's just the way it is." I didn't bother to explain about the months we'd been without cell signal at all. She was really cute about it.

MARIA log February 21 Day 153 Wednesday

Wednesday, February 21, day 153

Still incredibly windy, 20-30 mph, day and night.

Hard - but short - sideways rain overnight.

More hassles with the Small Business Administration trying to prove I/we own this property. The problem is the difference here between postal/mailing address and what are called physical addresses. They are not the same.

Most places outside of towns don't have actual street addresses. For example, our postal/mailing address is "332 Bo. Bajuras." (Bo. is the abbreviation for barrio.) Bo. Bajuras is just a descriptor, not a street. The road we live on does not have a name or a number. "332" is just a box on a post. It has actually moved several times. It is not connected to the property. If you put that address into GPS, Siri would say, "Hunh?" because it is not a street address.

To actually locate the property you need the physical address, which is long and complicated. And, you have to know what it means to know what it means, to find the place. If I just gave you the physical address, you still couldn't find us. GPS and Google Maps don't recognize our physical address as an address at all so don't bother trying to find us that way.

Anyway, SBA needs some document that connects us as owners of the property and owners of the business to the actual physical address. Some documents use the postal address, some the physical address but none of them have both;

I found three different documents that, if taken together, I think connect all the dots. I hope SBA thinks so too.

We tried to see an attorney about all this but he's closed on Wednesdays. We tried to see SBA at their Isabela center but high winds and a hard afternoon downpour drove them out.

Frustrating day.

This whole issue of proper documentation is frustrating many people trying to get help. In some cases, because of how property sometimes changes hands in PR. "Hey, I'll trade you an acre of my land for four of your cows." "Okay." Handshake. That was four or five generations ago. the guy who traded the cows built a house on his new land. His kids upgraded the house and raised their kids there. Now the house is destroyed by the hurricane. But because generations ago no deed or title was ever filed, the great-great grand kids can't "prove" to SBA or FEMA's satisfaction that they own the land, even though their family has lived there for more than 100 years. That's the first question SBA and FEMA ask: do you have title to the land? No title - no help. Oh you rent? Sorry, can't help you.

A lot of people will be living under tarps for a long time.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

MARIA log, February 20 Day 152 Tuesday

Tuesday, February 20 day 153

Five months today since the hurricane.

Only 99 days until the 2018 hurricane season starts.

Windy, no rain

MARIA log February 19 Day 151 Monday

Monday, February 19 day 151

Today Elaine  took off to the mountains to deliver food and other supplies with volunteers from Ciudad de Salvacion.

After loading trucks, cars, and vans with food, water, and other supplies, they headed off on the nearly three-hour drive to Morovis in the mountains in the center of the island. This area was devastated by flooding caused by Hurricane Maria. On the only roads into one small community, flood waters swept away the bridge.

Full disclosure: this is not my photo.

Even now, 151 days after the hurricane, the bridge is still under construction.

The caravan of supply vehicles had to cross the river on the ford, the same way the residents get in and out. If the river is high, the ford is impassable and the communities beyond are isolated.

Fortunately, the river wasn't high on this day. 

The people at the church expect this to be their last food and water run in to this area. Grocery stores are starting to be stocked so food and water is becoming more readily available. There is still a great need however. 

From here the caravan moved on to another stop passing more signs of destruction, recovery and continued need for help.

I didn't go on this trip, something I truly regret. I had to be at home waiting for delivery of some construction materials. I also regret that I/we didn't go on any of the earlier trips, either with Ciudad with other groups. Unfortunately, we always seemed to find out about them after the fact. 

"You ask me why I'm not leaving. The process has changed but the goal hasn't." -- a sign in a store in the mountains. 

That kind of says it for all of us.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

NOW February 20, 2019

There was mush ado about last night's full moon, the moon called "the Snow Moon" by some Native American cultures. It was also a "super" moon because the moon is closer than normal to the earth.

Every month I say I'm going to go photograph the full moon. Usually I don't. But last night I did. We went out and climbed our favorite viewing rock to watch the moon rise. We were afraid the clouds were going to cover it but the moon climbed out of the ocean and above the clouds at the horizon.

There is no color manipulation in this photo. Exposure and contrast, yes, but not color. this is just the way it looked. A friend of ours from Michigan saw this photo and said,"Just like Michigan only sun tanned."

It was windy - really windy - up on the rock. It was difficult to keep the camera steady even on a tripod. Over all, I'm pretty pleased with the result.

Monday, February 18, 2019

MARIA log February 18 Day 150 Sunday

Sunday, February 18 day 160

Very windy - again, or rather, still. Light pre-dawn rain - again.

I finally got bar clean enough to paint the floor - again. This is the third time I've painted the floor in a year. The first time was September, 2016, when we decided to put the place on the market. then we had a flood, which ruined the paint. Now the clean up after Maria. Yes, 150 days later we're still cleaning up.

NOW Monday, February 18: Very windy today but sunny and warm. No rain today and none on the horizon. Water rationing starts Friday.

NOW February 18, 2019 Two days, two dives

On Saturday and Sunday I did two different dives, different not just in location but the whole experience was different.

Saturday conditions looked good for a dive at Natural. No one was available to dive with so I went solo. The entry was a little tricky. Maria stripped all the sand from the little beach leaving only rock. Very little sand came back and even the little sand that was there the last time I dove there was gone. Even with no waves it's slippery and difficult. One I got in and starting kicking out across the reef things looked decent. Visibility was not great but was okay. On the surface there was a little tiny bit of north current, which is what I expected for the time in the tide cycle.

Once I dropped that all went to hell. At depth I first felt a slight south current pushing me north. Not bad, manageable. Then it was a roaring south current! At eight minutes into the dive, I turned around and started back, using every swim-into-the-current trick I know. sixteen minutes later, I decided to surface, head into shallower water and hope for that tiny north to help me. Fortunately, the north current was there at the surface in the shallows. When I got back to the "beach" such as it is, there was the problem of getting out. As I said, the rocks are slippery and dangerous. But I got out okay. That I got out safely was the only thing about this dive that didn't suck.

I've written before about how devastated Natural was by the hurricane. It is slowly, painfully slowly coming back.  There are bits of beauty, like this grey angelfish.

There are bits of color, like these sponges.

Mostly it's a drab and drear "landscape."

For twelve years Natural has been one of my favorite - if sometimes challenging - dives. Now, I don't know. I guess we just wait for it to come back.

I'm glad this was a solo dive.

On Sunday I went back to Crashboat, this with our friends Hernan and Heidi.

This was a completely different dive. In spite of the fact that there was a big class from San Juan plus other divers (at one point there were at least 30 divers in the water) visibility was good. There was no current. And there were fish. Lots of fish...

and other stuff;

and this guy (we'll just assume it's a guy; I'm not looking to see). He's about 16 inches long, just working his way across the sand.

And that doesn't even begin to show the huge schools of sargent-major fish that have come back. Someday I'll figure out an effective way to photograph the blizzards of fish swimming by.

Those of you who have read about pre-hurricane dives at Crashboat know about the bicycle. It's still there, but just another part of the wreckage.

A couple of years Pre-Maria
All in all it was a fun easy relaxed dive with two good friends. Just the kind of dive I like.