This happened during my trip to Puerto Rico in August 2011
“Happy Birthday.” I hear in a voice message received just as it turned midnight. I opened my eyes in a pitch black room.
I had been enjoying my vacation in Puerto Rico when she came to visit. In the master bedroom suite of a beachfront condo, I lit candles and pulled down the shutters of the window to the private balcony. I laid in bed and waited patiently. No, this is not the start of a romantic lesbian moment. This was all to prepare for a visit from my new friend…
Hurricane Irene to be exact. Ordinarily I don’t travel to the Caribbean during hurricane season, but it just so happens my birthday falls right in the middle of the most severe time of the season (remember Hurricane Katrina?). I threw caution to the wind and decided to go anyway, because I couldn’t change my birthday.
So I tempted fate and fate obliged me. This wouldn’t be the last time.
Almost like a welcoming committee, Irene waited until the actual date of my birthday to come visit. She whirled through during the overnight hours, and by the next day we were left without power.
By morning, we learned the roads weren’t passable, and we hopelessly tried to listen to radio broadcasts in the car that were all in Spanish. No power. No water. No Internet. No air conditioning. We were trying to pool together the battery life of our cell phones and charge them in the car, hoping we didn’t run out of gas.
After hours of having to stay indoors with the storm shutters drawn, 5 women tend to go a little crazy. This, I thought, is why I don’t hang out with women. WTF was I thinking? It seemed like a good idea at the time…an all girls trip to an island for my destination birthday.
I underestimated the moodiness, attitudes, and insecurities that would abound. Despite it all, we had a few laughs. One of those moments was the delirious run on the beach.
Before spontaneously deciding to pack up all of our crap for an unknown destination, which ended up being a hotel down the street that did have power, we all sort of lost it. Our vacation had been cut short, and we were suffering from a bit of cabin fever.
It was raining, the waves were rough, the sand was soaked, and the sky was still cloud covered.
So, we decided to go for a walk outside. Yes, on the beach. Yes, in the middle of a hurricane.
In our delirium we bursted out of the condo charged with energy. With rain hitting us in the face, we ran out onto the beach like toddlers that had just learned how to walk. It was as if it was a sunny day and we had never seen sand before. We all laughed and realized how ridiculous we were.
But we didn’t care.
As the winds picked up, we sobered up and went back inside. Shortly thereafter, we made our exodus plan to a place with power and water.
Irene had defeated us.
After confirming the airport would reopen in time for our flight back, I salvaged my birthday by treating myself to a massage at the resort’s spa. Luckily I had stayed there before so the place felt familiar to me. I left the island but this wouldn’t be my last time in Puerto Rico. It also wasn’t my first trip to a Spanish-speaking country (well, technically PR is a US territory, but you know what I mean).
All the salsa in my brain had led me to actually want to understand the words in the music. I had already been to a small mountain town in Panama for that very reason.
It was my first time traveling out of the country and I went by myself.
More on learning Spanish in Panama tomorrow…