Thursday, August 6, 2015


If a country could steal your heart, it would be this one. I know it won’t appeal to everyone, but my personality is such that we fit well together. 

The lack of caution and care in everyday life; the haphazard way the town is thrown together. It’s as if it hasn’t occurred, even to city planners, that erecting a building only a few feet away from a street that is already too narrow, is a bad idea.

The highways are littered with strays of every kind—cats, dogs, chickens and even cows and horses. I’ve seen horses walking down city streets or eating grass out of a neighbor’s yard. Perhaps that’s the number one thing that draws me most—I am a stray, of a different sort, to be sure. But still a stray.

No home, no family, no place where I belong. There’s no reason for me to ever go home.

When I get home from work tonight, I will undress, step into the shower, stand under the warm water (hopefully it will be warm, but you never know in Puerto Rico), and I will weep for half an hour. Then I will get out, dry off and be fine again for awhile.


The tears flow when I remember that I’ve been out on the road for many long months and that this is the last big disaster of the season. I’ll go home soon. Life on the road suits me. Places where you never know what will happen when you get up each morning or where a day will take you.

These mountains, they take your breath away. The ocean at Old San Juan is the bluest you’ve ever seen; no description captures it. The Caribbean, just an hour south of here is vast and remarkable. Many of the people are so poor that they live in little huts they built out of scrap lumber and cardboard. 

These houses often have no doors or windows. Though they’re the shabbiest little huts you ever saw, they’re often built on the side of the most spectacular mountain away from all the noise of the big city. The only sounds are the wind, the birds, the rustling of tree branches.

How could one not come here and lose their heart to this rare and extraordinary place? It’s an exotic country where strays like me fit in just fine.

I will eventually go home. There won’t be another hurricane in the 2004 season. I’ll go back to my normal life and friends will throw a big party to welcome me home to the states. We’ll drink all night and I’ll tell them a few of the dicey stories of what really happens out on the streets of a big city that’s just been destroyed by a natural disaster. Then I’ll go home and toss and turn all night, longing to be back on the streets of Ai Bonito for one more terrifying ride around the big mountain the city is built on.


I’ll remember every hairpin curve and all those 200 foot drop-offs and wonder how I could possibly have survived. I’ll remember the many lunches with various interpreters and how they were so intrigued to hear all the stories about America, as if it were some kind of magical place.


I’ll get so restless that I finally crawl into my car around midnight, put in my favorite jazz CD and then hit the highway. I’ll drive and drive. Finally, I’ll see a Best Western, pull in and check in for the night. For a long time after coming home from a long disaster season, you just feel more at home in a hotel than your own bed. 

The next morning, I’ll sleep in and then put on some shorts and go down to the dining room. They’ll have fresh squeezed OJ, muffins and coffee. I’ll sit down, fix my coffee and stare around the room trying to recall where I am.

Wouldn’t it be funny if I simply dreamed that the 2004 season finally ended and I returned home? Wouldn’t it be funny if someone across the room dropped a cup and it woke me up and I found myself in my hotel room in Ai Bonito? 

I stayed there for a month at the end of the 2004 season after hurricane Jeanne hit the Island nation. I’ve longed to go back there so many times in the 10 years that have followed. I often daydream that I’ll wake up one morning and find that I’m still deployed and still living there in Paradise.


Somewhere there’s home and a God who loves me. Somehow, all this works together for some greater plan. Trouble is, I’m just not smart enough to figure out what it is. Some mysteries can be solved and some are meant to remain mysteries.

Carolyn L. Sorrell – Copyright November 2004 – All Rights Reserved