Last night, et cetera

Last night all of the kids (my four, plus my daughter’s friend, plus the two teenagers who are volunteering this week) went bowling, and for two hours, my husband and I ate chips (first cheesy chips and salsa and then regular potato chips) and watched Goliath, completely blissed out on the empty-house quiet.

proof-they-got-there-okay photo

As for Goliath, we’re both hooked. Have you seen it?


Another good show that’s all over the internets (so I’m sure you’ve seen it already and if you haven’t, you better) is Hannah Gadsby’s comedy special Nanette. The first thirty minutes or so I wasn’t too taken, but then — BAM — she started letting loose and I was entranced. Her words are powerful and profound. I want both of my older children to see it now.


We’ve gotten some incredible mileage out of these two books.

Educated is such an engrossing, well-written story — even-handed and gracious — about fanaticism and mental health. Weeks later, I’m still thinking about it.

The War Against All Puerto Ricans is so good that I bought a second copy to keep in the trailer for the volunteers to read (and they are). Our own copy is getting a solid workout — currently, both of my sons and my older daughter are reading it. Understanding the political history helps us to make sense of our surroundings, and it makes for some interesting conversations, too.


Ever since we’ve arrived, we’ve been trying to cut back on our plastic usage. Even though it’s safe to drink the tap water, it doesn’t taste very good, and everyone here buys bottled water. But I couldn’t stand doing that. Working in the sun all day, each person could easily breeze through 8-12 plastic drinking bottles — the waste would be (and was) insane!

So we did a bunch of research and then invested in under-the-sink water filters — one for the volunteer trailer and one for our house.

The volunteers make ice every night and chill pitchers of tap water in the fridge, and then, in the morning, they’re responsible for filling the drinking cooler with the chilled water and ice chunks.

We stocked the trailer with durable plastic cups (and real coffee mugs because coffee tastes best from a mug), plus masking tape and permanent markers to label the cups.

We’ve asked Nilda and Carmen to bring the volunteers’ meals in the cooking pots and serve out of them directly onto the plastic dishes we’ve provided (instead of pre-packaging the food in styrofoam take-out containers), and they agreeably complied. As a result, we’ve now successfully eliminated nearly all plastic waste at the jobsite, whoop!

At our house, we keep two big pitchers in the fridge, filling them from the tap as we go.

the purified water on the right

The system works like a dream — so much better than constantly refilling the brita pitcher — and the water tastes great to boot.


Ever since we’ve arrived, I’ve been begging my husband to fix the over-the-sink light in the kitchen. He never did, and so we limped along, washing dishes in the near dark. And then a few nights ago I had him wash up a bunch of dishes in the darkening evening light, and wouldn’t you know, within thirty minutes I had a lovely light over the sink.

I guess I should’ve had him do the evening dishes weeks ago.


Remember how when we first came here I complained about a scratchy throat? Well, I mentioned this to a couple Puerto Ricans, and they were like, Yeah, it’s the dust from the Sahara.

Um, excuse me? Dust from the what?

I was sure they were pulling my leg, but they didn’t bat an eye as they explained that millions of pounds of Saharan dust blow over to Puerto Rico each year. The hazy air, the fine grit of dust that’s constantly soiling tables and floors, is all desert sand, they said.

the hazy, dusty mountains

After they left, I looked it up and found out they were telling the truth. Weird, right?


The heat is getting to me. It’s not so bad during the day, but nighttimes are pretty awful. Since the house isn’t insulated, it bakes in the sun all day and then holds the heat at night. The bedrooms in the back of the house — and the master bedroom, especially — turn into ovens. Even with the door open and fans blowing, we can’t drop the temperature. Walking from the breezy front porch into our bedroom, the temperature goes up about ten degrees. We lay in bed, the fan trained on us, and it’s manageable, but dare to get up to pee and the sweating immediately starts.

As a result, the bedroom is untenantable except for sleeping. And even then, not really. The other night, my husband, unable to bear the thought of walking into our room, stayed up till the early morning hours watching movies, and a couple mornings back I woke up so hot that I was nearly in tears. It takes a toll on one’s body and mind, never truly getting a respite from the heat.

And yet, the heat and humidity is not nearly as bad as in Managua, and there I was pregnant and nursing, too. So everything’s relative. We’re fine.


When we first arrived, we noticed that the house and patio were edged with gravel-covered dirt. There was even a garden box full of soil, ready for planting. However, we didn’t have the time or energy to do any gardening. We didn’t even consider it, really.

But now, two-and-a-half months later, the weeds are waist high and I’m kind of kicking myself.

If I’d just plopped a couple plants in the ground — herbs, flowers, maybe a tomato plant or two — they’d be going berserk-o right now. Darn.

This same time, years previous: such a hoot, the quotidian (7.18.16), zucchini fritters, a tale of two children, all partied up, in the pits.


  • kelyyann224

    Goliath, Season 1 is great – enjoy it! Goliath, Season 2 is beyond bad, nonsensical, disturbing, a complete disappointment.

    • Jennifer Jo

      I know! Except my father is putting in some tomato plants for us, so we should have fresh tomatoes when we get home in September, YAY.

  • Joanna

    The Sahara dust is also (partly) responsible for fertilizing the Amazon basin.

    Re: dealing with the heat, there was an article recently about how the heat slows thinking skills. Take care of yourself!

  • Lana

    Fan in the window pulling air in at night?

    We had those same plastic tumblers when the kids were growing up and inviting hoards to the lake house in the summer. I took a Sharpie and labeled them with names like Buddy, Pal, Friend, Goober, etc. Everyone always remembered who they were and the writing never washed off. The kids grew up and I donated them to a thrift store and shoppers probably wondered about them.

  • Mountaineer

    I recommend "Puerto Rico–What Everyone Needs to Know" (c 2017) by Jorge Duany as a substantial, albeit less flashy, counterpoint to "War against…."
    For instance, in the 1932 election (the only one in which the Nationalist participated) only 1.4% of the voters chose the Nationalist candidate. The book also provides insight into Puerto Rican culture, both past and present.

    • dr perfection

      But, since you stubbornly refuse to be comfortable at night, I recommend that you place a wet towel on your skin. With a fan blowing, it really does wonders to keep you cooler.

  • Rebecca

    Holy cow, yes! I watched the Hannah Gadsby show and made Clara watch it too. Funny and profound and moving and infuriating…

  • Anonymous

    Can you get an AC window unit for your bedroom? Seems like you both would be much more effective during the day if you are well-rested and comfortable at night.


    • Jennifer Jo

      We've talked about it, and people have offered it, but thing is, some of the children aren't sleeping well either and it just doesn't seem fair for us to be in the cool while they still struggle. Plus, we're leaving in a few weeks…

      If MDS continues to use this space — and puts weekly volunteers in with the leadership — then I'd HIGHLY recommend that the long-term leadership have our master bedroom but WITH an air conditioning unit. Since they'll need some privacy and a place to escape to, the bedroom would need to be fully useable.

  • Becky

    YAY on reducing waste!

    The desert thing is weird, but nature is weird.

    I love this look into life there. Thank you.

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