The Puerto Rico Connection podcast: 2nd episode

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So we have our second episode of the famed podcast titled The Puerto Rico connection, which is amazing thanks to the brilliant work that Alan Levine has been doing. It is for me very intriguing that we are managing to do this from our huge distances. In fact the second episode was recorded while we were very far away from each other. Alan was in Australia’s East Coast with Kate Bowles (, a friend of his who invited him for a while to work with her and we were also talking with Parisa Mehran () who was in Osaka, Japan. So we formed a triangle of people very far away from each other and still quite connected.
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The purpose and the theme of the episode is in fact to talk about connections. I am still learning about connections and I consider myself an apprentice so I’m very happy to have such friends who mentor me in the process. I said that Alan was visiting Kate Bowles—whom unsurprisingly I follow— and by quasi-chance we had a person we both respect very much who was included in the conversation and the worldwide connection.
“Every time we tell a story about ourselves, we make a human network.”
 We talked about connections and about humanity; about Parisa’s efforts to make people knowledgeable on the prejudices and the stereotypes they form about other people. I think we all have suffered from such stereotypes but definitely certain ethnic groups suffer their effects today more than others. And of course it is of some advantage to be a white male and Western. So we were talking about humanity and Kate at some point sort of invited to talk about oneself. Alan is known for doing that: he has talked about his family, about housesitting in Iceland, about his grandmother, his father, his mother while on the other hand I’ve been pretty shy about this and I usually don’t talk about my family. Nor about myself. So, what about talking about my own personal feelings? But what Kate suggested perhaps can be reshuffled: perhaps I can tell more about my own experience of the hurricane and about what happened after hurricane Maria struck.
Well prep work was awesome and very hard. We had two houses to fix, but we did in on time, with a brainstorming courtesy of a local wood workshop which produced a pec-blockage of three windows that proved essential and life-saving. The aftermath was also terrible. Our street flooded, backyard full of fallen branches, leaves. Half a (huge) tree on the roof. But no actual damage (a little on the roof but that is the condo’s worry).
I stopped working for a while in the sense that I didn’t go to my university to teach or do my job. Instead I stayed at home, which is pleasant in a way but at the same time is unnerving because you have to confront yourself with the huge amount of work you will have to do when “normal life” resumes. And the shock to find yourself on vacation but without the amenities. A bare bones vacation, and useful for that, actually. Also, after the initial shock and assessment of my family’s own situation, we worked for a few days with the community of our condo and our street: to clean, get water and fallen leaves out. We worked like crazy for the first days taking out and dispose of the tree branches and trunks which had fallen upon your roof or patio. We were completely cut off from networks: no cell signal, no electricity. Thus, we had no Internet. Also, I couldn’t  avoid thinking about students, about what they will be doing at that very time so you feel—for personal and professional reasons—an enormous uncertainty hanging over your head.
I certainly wasn’t sad, since I had my family with me and we reported no damages. We had no electricity for a long while–exactly 52 days– but we counted on friends who had generators available and they gave us ice bottles so that we could conserve some milk, and a few stuff that we needed, including a little of cold water (remember, we live in the tropics!). We also had a small camping stove that we could use for cooking, and we actually enjoyed doing so. Of course, we had to buy every day the stuff we were going to use. But not the very first days after the storm: shops and supermarkets were closed. When a few reopened, the queues were gigantic. We had to do them!
We learned to live without fans and in a tropical place with mosquitoes, well, you understand how useful fans actually are, so we had to use anti-mosquito sprays and candles etc. Of course without light reading was pretty difficult. We could fortunately charge cell phones and laptops and tablets with the aid of a car or other tricks like Starbucks.
Reading was difficult but at least through my iPad I could easily enjoy it. I read in fact probably five books during those 52 days and at least half of them where on the iPad. Reading was really a huge activity done as soon as the sun light went down. My wife and I went to the roof to have some fresh air and to avoid mosquitoes and we enjoyed reading books or reading the social networks stuff. Of course the social network stuff was available when you got a signal from the cell company but for many many days, especially at the beginning, we had no connection at all. But I had printed, unread books waiting for me.
Queues where the very thing that you had to do every day. Gasoline, food, ATMs: we had queues for everything. Also, we had close friends who invited us to eat with them during many nights because they had generators that helped them, so we enjoyed our friendship very much during that period!! However the difficult thing is that as soon as the night comes and you have no light even if you like reading with a candle or with a headlight or with an iPad, still you sooner or later fall asleep and in fact everybody was going to bed pretty early. But I did not wake up early since I love to sleep long hours so I enjoyed staying at home a little longer and not having to look for my car and get dressed and go and do this and that.
Now I learned a lot about doing our own podcast thanks to Alan and thanks to our friend Parisa and Kate I also learned about the importance of connecting with people and also to let people know that you care about them. I mirrored our podcast with my New Media class INF115, and my students got to produce a nice podcast titled Coffee Date. Fun (consider we did this course under a tent). Regarding this particular podcast episode I have to say that I enjoyed very much that long live hour that we had, being so distant from each other. I enjoyed talking as I usually do with friends and it was a great conversation. And of course I talked too much. I hope we will be doing more of these with such great people and with others who may want to join our own Connection. I hope Alan and I continue this conversation/connection within this podcast and beyond since I think the podcast itself is an excellent way to put in the air and in the open our own thoughts and perhaps to better understand what our own thoughts are.

Also published on Medium.

About Antonio Vantaggiato

Professor, web2.0 enthusiast, and didactic chef.
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