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Cruz Roya and Habitat for Humanity

May 9, 2013

Puerto Rico – Wednesday, May 1

(Blog posts have been slow to come – I’m on an island with limited wi-fi availability!)

Today I set out to make a couple more donations and to walk around the part of San Juan where I’m staying. I need a break from driving around here! I had read that the address for the local Habitat for Humanity office was just down a road that was right by where I’m staying. So I headed out to visit them. I passed the address that had been listed, and saw a copy and print shop there instead. I walked a little farther to see if the street perhaps and both east and west addresses, but after a while that didn’t seem likely, so I went to the print shop, and asked if Habitat for Humanity had moved. They told me it was indeed an active organization, and they received their mail there, but didn’t have an actual office. So I ended up just having to mail it in.

And then I got another idea. Over the past few days I have noticed quite a few homeless people “begging” for money from passers-by. They are often sitting on the sidewalk with their meager belongings and use either a tin can or an empty McDonald’s cup to collect their coins. In the evening, I also see very thin young women begging for money in the streets between lanes of traffic while cars are stopped for red lights (more people to watch out for on the roads!). I thought maybe I would get 56 $1 bills and give 2 of them to 28 different homeless people for one of my donations. So I went to the bank and got a bunch of singles, but then I only saw 2 homeless people the whole rest of the day. But I gave them each a couple bucks and will see what I see in the next couple of days.

I’m staying near one of the tourist areas on the west side if San Juan, and it seemed like a nice safe place to walk. Plus, there seem to be a lot of police officers and security guards all over the place. The Ocean was just a couple blocks away, and there were several big hotels on the beach. All the beaches on Puerto Rico are public, so anyone can swim anywhere, but the waves are rough on the north side of the island, and I looked at a couple of the beaches and not very many people were swimming. There were signs about dangerous undertows and currents. I walked for several miles along the sidewalks toward Old San Juan and crossed a long bridge and saw another old abandoned fort. It was a really hot day and it felt good to stop in an air-conditioned place for a quick lunch, then I returned to the B-ans-B for a break from the heat.

While I was there, I looked into more donation opportunities since time in Puerto Rico was slipping away, and the Red Cross – Cruz Roya – kept popping up. I figure I can never go wrong with a donation to the Red Cross! But it looked like their office was located in a congested suburb of San Juan quite a ways away, and I simply didn’t have it in me to make a long drive through confusing, often-unmarked streets battling heavy afternoon traffic and questionable parking. So I wrote a letter – hoping someone can read English – and mailed my donation to the Cruz Roya at its Spanish address.

I had to call the car rental agency because there was a yellow warning light on the dash and I couldn’t tell what it was for. They thought one of the tires might be low, and told me to either check it at a gas station, or bring it in for them to look at. They were actually pretty close, so I drove over there, and the mechanics checked it out, and said everything was fine, and that the tire sensors go off all the time because of all the bouncing in potholes, which is true enough. But at least I won’t worry about the light now!

When I returned, I went outside and walked some more in “my” neighborhood, hoping to be able to give a few more dollars to some homeless people. And when I want to see them, I don’t! It began to occur to me that perhaps part of what the police and security guards are doing is trying to keep the homeless people from bothering tourists, because there were a lot of tourists out and about. So maybe my idea wasn’t a good one, but I thought it was at least a way to make a human connection when I’m having some difficulty making other donations. I’ll see what happens with that in the next couple of days.

Taryn and Jared had been en route to Puerto Rico from Michigan all day, and were due in at the airport a little after 10, so I made my way over there and waited in the cell phone lot. They were happy to arrive after a long day of travel, and I was delighted to see them, and happy to have some family around for a while! I showed them around the B-and-B and its courtyards when I got back – the place is bigger than it appears from the front gate – and then we called it a day.
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