Credit: ABC News

By PRISCILLA MALAVET ALVARADO

Six months after Hurricane Maria, life for many of the rural town of Aibonito still feels like the immediate aftermath of the storm. College student Johanna Hernández Pérez and her parents are still without electricity. Powered by a small generator, energy is reserved for keeping the refrigerator working. Water is used sparingly for showers and washing clothes. The lack of basic necessities is making life chores and responsibilities more difficult for Hernández Pérez and many other Puerto Rican students. As a result, she’s had to take different alternatives out of her routines to strive in college, while still helping her dad, 67, and mom, 56.

Q&A: During the week, you live near campus and then go home on weekends.  What’s the routine like?

When I go to my house I try to disconnect from everything related to college to help my dad and mom with house chores. On Saturdays, we turn on the generator for an hour so that my mom can make breakfast for all of us. Then if we have water we clean up the house; if not then there’s not much to do because the water we have on the tank is exclusively reserved to shower and wash the dishes. At night, my dad turns the generator on again for three hours and then we go to sleep.

Q&A: What’s life like for your parents?

My dad is a 67-year-old retired man, who is 24/7 in the house and his “job” is working on the family farm. A farm that was destroyed by the hurricane and now he is trying to get back on its feet. However, when he is not there what does he do? Nothing since we don’t have water to clean, or power to watch television, or internet to entrain entertain himself. Furthermore, my mom who isn’t that much in the house because she works, is also doing her master’s degree, but this is online. As a consequence, she has fallen behind a trimester, due to the fact that we don’t have any power yet. Also, she’s had to stay in work till 10 p.m. to finish all her assignments and having to arrive later at night to a house where there’s no power to take cold showers. It’s really frustrating. We haven’t, as an island, made any progress after the hurricane.

Q&A: How does this impact you?

I feel resigned, drained, frustrated. The first months I would feel very hopeful that my electricity and water would come back soon, but as days have passed that hope has disappeared from me. I would see the Electric Power Authority’s trucks peeping through my street, teasing me into thinking now it was going to be my turn, but no. Every time, they would put the power back another sector from Aibonito but never mine’s. This week, they came and put up the power for the principal street of where I live, but because the stopped two kilometers before ending the street, I was once again left without power.

Q&A: Are professors being considerate of the situation you and many students who don’t have water and electricity yet?

At the beginning of the past semester professors where told to be considerate of the student’s situation after the hurricane since many were lacking basic necessities. However, since the metropolitan cities have been supplied with water and power, they’ve forgotten about those who live in the more rural areas. I haven’t had one professor asked me about my home situation. Everyone has supposed that we have the means to continue our routines, whereas I still have friends that commute to campus and don’t have water or electricity.

Q&A: So, has your academic performance diminished, as a result of your situation?

I would say that my academic performance hasn’t diminished, because I still hold all my good grades. However, I have to admit it hasn’t been easy at all. I remember when I could just sit to read and study in peace, but those days are gone.

Q&A: Do you feel tired?

I don’t feel tired, I feel frustrated. Seeing that my parents still don’t have a stable supply of water and electricity, it’s draining.