toughest day of our move to puerto rico

We had no idea where we were going to sleep.  Our three day stay in another unit in our complex was coming to an end.  Both it and the other VRBO unit in our complex were booked.  There was a Holiday Inn nearly 30 minutes away, but it was expensive and a lot further away than we wanted to be.

We wanted to stay close to continue work on our condo.  However, the thought of actually roughing it in our condo felt maybe a bit too close.  Especially with the termite invasion of three nights ago still fresh on our minds.

Our condo had water, but no electricity.  We had no beds or mattresses.  We had ordered them, but it would be a week before they were to be delivered.  Screens were ordered but not due to be installed for another week and a half.

Then, at the last minute, things started happening.

As we were making sure we weren’t leaving anything behind in the condo we were checking out of, I noticed some air mattresses in the closet.  I sent the owner, Juan, an email to see if we could borrow them.

Shortly thereafter, Waylon casually mentions that we have electricity.  I was like, “What!?”  He noticed that our electric meter had been installed.  It wasn’t there just an hour earlier and since it was Friday July 3rd, I assumed it wasn’t going to happen until Monday.

I ran up to the condo and flipped on some lights… nothing.  Confused, I walked back to the unit we were checking out of and told Holly and Javier, the housekeeper who showed up to get Juan’s condo ready for the next guests.  It turned out that Javier was an electrician and knew just what to do.  “There is a main breaker that needs to be flipped on” he said, “just call your building maintenance man, he’ll know how to do it”.  So I texted our maintenance man.  Unfortunately, he was not in the area and said he wouldn’t be back at our building until Monday.

“So close”, I thought.  “We have electricity, but we don’t actually have electricity.”  Holly and I were discussing our options when Javier came by and asked how things were going.  I told him the bad news and he said, “I have my tools, let’s go have a look!”.

picture of our electrical meters and switches which were switched on and off on our fourth day in puerto rico

meters and main switches (below cover)

The breaker box we needed to get into was locked.  No problem – Javier just unscrewed and removed the whole cover.  There was a missing wire.   No problem – he happened to know just where to get one.  I ran upstairs to check the now working lights.  About this time, I received an email from Juan – “Sure, go ahead and borrow the air mattresses as long as you need to.”  Holly and I couldn’t believe how beautifully everything was working out.  We thanked Juan and Javier profusely and finished loading the rest of our luggage into our condo.  We were moving in!

I plugged in the pump for the air mattresses to charge it and then we left to go to Mayaguez to shop for essentials.  After a grueling 10 hours of traffic and long lines, we returned to our condo absolutely exhausted and ready for bed.  We grabbed all of our shopping bags and walked up to the door of our complex.

picture the door we were locked out of on day 4 in Puerto Rico

the door

I transferred all the bags to one hand and grabbed my keys with the other.  My key only went about halfway into the keyhole and I wasn’t able turn it.  I stuck my hand through the bars and tried the lock from the inside.  The key fit, but again, I wasn’t able to turn it.  We put our bags down and Holly and I fiddled with it for over half an hour with absolutely no success.  By now it was almost midnight.  I texted the maintenance man in desperation but he didn’t respond.  The boys kept asking us what we were going to do.  Finally, we resigned ourselves to the reality of the situation.  “Boys, we’re sleeping in the car tonight!”

We loaded our shopping bags back into the rental car.  Fortunately, Holly had a bug-out bag prepared with toothbrushes and other toiletries.  We used the bathroom in the pool area to brush our teeth and go to the bathroom and then headed back to the car to try to get some sleep.

picture of our garage where we going to sleep on day 4 in puerto rico

our “garage” where we tried to sleep – we had a Kia Rio rental at the time

Even with the all car windows open, it was hot with no breeze in our parking space.  The boys were tired enough to fall asleep pretty quickly.  I, on the other hand, tossed and turned for over half an hour trying to get comfortable.  Finally, I told Holly I was going to try to sleep out by the pool.  As I started to make my way over to the pool area, I spotted a flashlight on in the unit just below ours.  I had only briefly met the owners once a few days earlier, but I decided to go ahead and call out to them.  “Hello”, I said as I waved my arms.  “Is that you David?”  I was relieved that my new neighbors remembered me.  “Yes!  Sorry to bother you but it seems like something is jammed in the keyhole of the lock and we can’t get in”.

Our new neighbors, Luis and Angie, had just closed and were moving in at the same time we were.  Luis came down the stairs and said, “the key they gave me doesn’t work from the inside and it’s really hard to get it to work from the outside”.  He stuck his hand through the bars, jammed the key in, giggled it around and somehow managed to get the door unlocked.  Yes!  Whatever he did also fixed the lock so that my key worked again.  I told him they must’ve given him the wrong key because mine worked easily from both the outside and the inside.  I had an extra copy and gave it to him so as to hopefully prevent that nightmare from ever happening again.  I can’t believe he was even able to make that key work at all!

The boys were still out cold, so Holly and I started quietly carrying the shopping bags upstairs to our condo.  I flipped on a light… nothing.  “What is going on?  Everything was working when we left!”  “Well”, I thought to myself, “maybe the pump is charged enough so that we can at least inflate the air mattresses”.  No such luck.  It didn’t turn on, and then I realized it didn’t even have a rechargeable battery in it.  It had to be plugged in to work!

The best we could do was put our newly purchased sheets over the uninflated air mattresses.  Frankly, it wasn’t much better than laying directly on the tile floor.  Of course, the boys being light, fell right to sleep when we brought them upstairs.  Thankfully, we did still have water so that Holly and I could take showers before we laid down.  It was probably around 2 am at this point.  We were happy to be inside, but to say it was uncomfortable would be a gross understatement.  By 6 am, when the sun started to rise, I figured we might’ve gotten about 2 hours of broken sleep at best.

picture of our inflated air mattresses that were deflated on our fourth day in puerto rico

our air mattress AFTER we were able to inflate it

When the maintenance man showed up we found out what had happened.  Our neighbors received their electric meter on the prior day, just like we did.  However, they didn’t know to how to flip on the main switch like Javier did for us.  They called our maintenance man who tried to walk them through the process over the phone.  Unfortunately, when Luis put the cover back on the breaker box he accidentally flipped our breaker switch off!

I guess you could say that our new neighbors had locked us out of our condo and turned off our power while we were out shopping.  However, I prefer to say that our dear neighbors, who are a wonderful couple, helped give us a day we will never forget. 🙂


  • Oh, my goodness, it couldn’t have gotten any worse but you guys got through it like troopers. You almost just have to laugh during the ordeal and just go with the flow. How wonderful that you found some very helpful people to kindly offer assistance. I hope you didn’t have perishables in your grocery bags. Thank you, for coming back to post!

    • Absolutely! I often tell my kids that sometimes you have to laugh to keep from crying… 🙂 We hadn’t bought any perishables at that point because we didn’t even have a fridge yet! 🙂

  • Wow, I hear our story in yours! I also can recall some of struggles of our first purchase in PR back in 2009. We go back every year to vacation but also to correct some of the shoddy work done during the process of constructing our home (plumbing /electrical). It had not only happened to us but to all of our neighbors who bought homes in the new development. It was very difficult to oversee construction while still residing in the states. We’ve finally smoothed out all the kinks to the inside of the house and as of this month begun working on the outside of the home, preparing it not only for us humans but also for our two dogs and three parrots. Relocating the parrots was another obstacle we had to overcome but this too has been resolved. I’ll really be able to exhale once we arrive on the island with birds in hand. Although the first home buying process was a nightmare, we bought a second time, a solar, without any problems. If we had to do it all over again we would because nothing compares to living on the island. I’ve been lucky enough to be employed with the Department of State Hospitals allowing me to take a six week vacation in PR but unfortunately my husband has not been able to do so working for the private sector. Our retirement date is getting close so just one more vacation and then the following flight to PR will be the final one. We can’t wait!

    • I agree that PR is well worth any hassles we may encounter. How exciting that your retirement date is fast approaching!

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