Last week the project directors met in Utuado for a meeting.
MDS has three worksites on the island. (Actually, there are more than three, but only Aibonito, Utuado, and Ponce are currently taking volunteers from the States.) Our whole family visited Aibonito a couple weeks back, and my husband went to Utuado with some co-workers one day, but last week was my first trip to Utuado.)
Remember what I said about Puerto Rico being an inverted valley, flat around the edges and then getting all bunchy and steep in the middle? Well, going inland is like traveling to a different world. The topography is utterly fascinating: hairpin turns and blind corners and impossibly narrow roads that plunge nearly straight down (or at least that’s what it feels like it)
Everywhere we went, there were houses situated in the most precarious of places: directly along the edge of the road or built into the side of a cliff with 30-foot posts propping up the side that hovers over the abyss.
The land reminds me of a Dr. Seuss book, jutting out at weird angles with houses sitting at the ends of a long narrow strip of land, drop-offs on both sides. Imagine the land is a dock and the water is air and there is a house at the end of the dock, and there you go. Basically, go out to water the flowers, take one wrong step, and drop fifty feet.
After our meeting in the town proper, we drove the twenty minutes up to the worksite: two new buildings (a house and a church), and a house repair, all three atop one of those long docks of land.
We checked out the work, observed the local make-shift plumbing system (we see this type of set-up all over the island), and ate a lunch of pork chops, rice, and fried plantains.
The kids ran around, playing with the cats and foraging for mangos and oranges.
And then back down the mountain we zipped (we passed a handwritten sign at the end of a lane: at the end of this road are people without power, help us), swerving around low hanging electrical wires and washed out bits of road, and honking our horn — an attempt to warn oncoming traffic — around the sharpest of turns.
This same time, years previous: taking flight, the business of belonging, this, too, shall pass, microwave flower press, freezing strawberries, strawberry shortcake.
My mom's family lived in Aibonito for 7 years when she was young!