Back to Work: Cabana Bridge

Posted by Cassie

Britton slowly has been recovering from his recent illness and so we wanted to take it easy on our next project around the property. We decided it was time to work on the cabana bridge. This was a relatively small project and almost completely done under shade, a definite plus in the heat of this time of year.

Bridge 2
The bridge before (with a little help from our feathered turkey friends)

The cabana bridge connects to the roof of the cabana that we live in and is accessed near the gate of the property under the big mango tree. The wood boards that were on the bridge were starting to decay at the nail head area and some of the wood in other areas as well.

Because we have been doing some deconstruction on the wood house, we have quite a bit of extra nice treated wood lying around. So we counted and cut some of the pieces and then set about waterproofing them with sealant.

Cassie and Boards

Then Britton peeled up most of the boards leaving just a few to stand on while he painted the lower beams.

BK spray

Finally he nailed in the “new” non-rotted boards and waterproofed the long hand railing board as well.

Bridge 1 after

I think it turned out really nice and will be much sturdier to cross. The turkeys had fun crossing the bridge and playing on the cabana while we were up there working. They like to follow us wherever we go. They climbed to the top railing of the cabana (another future project) and took turns jumping and flapping down. It was pretty funny.

Turkey on the cabana roof
The turkeys are always our companions on outdoor projects

Chikungunya, Dengue? And More…Healthcare in Puerto Rico

Posted by Britton

Last Thursday evening we met up with some friends. We enjoyed a few drinks, snacks and watched the sun setting over the ocean. As we were getting up to leave, I suddenly felt like I had been hit by a truck. But there was no truck in sight. Every muscle and joint in my body hurt. It was like someone turned on a pain switch. I had gone from 35 to 90 years old in a matter of minutes. I could hardly walk, my head was pounding and I was heating up.

By the time we got home, I achingly crawled into bed and Cassie took my temperature. It was 103F. I tried to sleep, but my brain pain wouldn’t let me.

The next day we had a full day planned. Drop off a friend at the airport and then head off with some other friends to Gilligan’s Island. I barely managed to get to the airport. When I tried to lift our friend’s luggage out of the truck, my arms felt like they were going to fall off. We went straight home and didn’t leave the house again until Monday when I couldn’t take it any more. I had been without sleep for nearly 72 hours by that point and my fever hadn’t gone away. I would be chilled to the point of vigorous shaking and then so hot I was laying in front of a box fan and sweating profusely. I had lost all appetite.

Cassie stayed with me most of the time and we watched movies and she read while I attempted to sleep. Pretty much everything stopped while my body continued to burn up.

Emergencia small

The lack of sleep was really what drove me to finally go to the emergency room. Which isn’t really an emergency room. It’s more like a non-emergency room because we sat in the waiting room for nearly 4 hours before any medical staff saw us. Cassie had to go to the plaza panaderia to get some food while we camped out there. I tried to rest my head against the wall in the room full of sick and suffering others.

Finally someone called my name and we were so excited! I talked with someone who did a brief evaluation -asked my symptoms and then sent us back out to the waiting room for another 30 minutes. When I was finally admitted to the back room, we talked to a doctor who after hearing the symptoms threw up her arms and matter-of-factly said “Let’s do this!”" while walking out the door. And we were like, “Do what?”

BK doctor visit small
Don’t let the expression on my face fool you, I actually WAS very grumpy

We soon found out that “this” was to run all the tests, hook me up to an IV and shoot me in the butt with a muscle relaxer. After about 3 bags of saline, pain killers and antibiotics I started to feel somewhat better.

The blood tests came back negative for influenza but showed indicators of a viral infection, most likely chikungunya or dengue (damn mosquitoes!) but to find out that, the tests were sent off to the CDC office in Mayaguez and I haven’t yet heard the results. The blood tests also showed indicators of a bacterial infection and very low blood platelets. ~70 when it should have been between 140-469.

We had arrived at the emergency room around 10am that morning and at about 7pm we were finally on our way home. I thought I was feeling much better, but when I arrived home, I had a violent attack of the shivers and my fever spiked back up though I felt like I was freezing. A strange feeling in the tropics.

Before the doctor discharged me, she gave me orders to fill a Rx and to come back the next day to check the platelet count. So we did. The platelets came back even lower at ~59, but they wouldn’t let me talk to a doctor about the results without being re-admitted, so we left. I felt somewhat better and didn’t want to wait another 4 hours.

We started reading online about low blood platelet numbers and found that it is very common in people suffering from dengue. And is something to be concerned about.

Papaya juice small

We randomly found a number of articles mentioning papaya leaf juice extract as a “cure” or at least as a therapy for the low blood platelets. So we went to our backyard and picked a few leaves, mashed them with the mortar and pestle and I took a couple of very bitter shots of papaya leaf juice. I would be curious to see my blood platelet levels now, but I doubt I will go in again. I do feel so much better, though not quite 100% yet.

Rincon Medical Center smallIV small

We have been here nearly a year and had yet to visit a doctor. Then in just the last two weeks, both Cassie and I did. She had a mysterious rash spreading all over her body (the doctor said was probably from Kitty) and then I got this. So we both had the opportunity to try out the medical system in Puerto Rico. In Cassie’s case, she was seen right away and in mine, not so much. In both cases, the cost without insurance was very reasonable. Right around $100 for an emergency room visit including all the tests, fluids, drugs, pokes and prods. I would say that the care was good, once you got in, but I would not recommend this if you had a trauma injury. We are still not sure where we would go in a case like that…probably Mayaguez?

We are both recovering and I think we will just add this to our list of crazy adventures in Puerto Rico.

Lessons After a Year of “Living the Dream”

Posted by Cassie

It’s hard to believe but in just 10 days we will have lived straight through a whole year in Puerto Rico. We haven’t left the island at all (besides going to Desecheo Island which is part of Puerto Rico). We wanted to spend a whole year here in order to really know what it feels like to live through all the holidays, seasons and flows of people. I am very glad we did this as we have definitely learned a lot of lessons throughout this year. Here are a few highlights of the lessons we’ve learned on our first year of living out our dream life in Puerto Rico.

Cassie Britton BQN beach

1) Balance is a constant balancing act. Some days you will feel more motivated than other days. Sometimes what you thought was too much will be too little and vice versa. Re-centering is an important part of life and of knowing when you’ve gone too far or not far enough. Sometimes if we’ve spent too many days working/playing out in the yard we like to go out and socialize or go to the beach. Sometimes we may feel burned out on a project and that means we should do something else for a while. We have to be much more in tune with our bodies, and each other, in this way as well.

2) What works for one person, doesn’t always work for others. Many people ask for our advice on various topics, but what we have learned is that we can only give our opinions based on our experiences. Everyone will do it a little differently. And this works the other way around as well; we try to learn from the advice people give us while understanding the worldview or frame from which the advice is coming.

3) People may come and go, but it is still important to make those connections. Unlike in our life in Colorado, it seems many people don’t settle down and stick around for long here. It makes it a little more difficult to build long-term relationships, but it has still been worth it to meet so many interesting and incredible people. Even if we never see them again. I suppose that is the truth of life itself. None of us will stick around forever, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t love those who come into our lives. Nothing lasts forever and you never really know how long we get with anyone, or anything, anyway.

Trampa beach rocks

4) There will always be seasons. Just because the weather is always beautiful and a similar temperature in the tropics, doesn’t mean that there are not seasons. There are seasons of fruit (mangos, avocados, starfruit, passionfruit). There are seasons of rain and less rain (and hurricanes). There are seasons of holidays and elections. There are seasons of waves. There are seasons of people. There are seasons in our lives. All of these different seasons bring rewards and challenges.

5) Busy is relative. For us, we’ve learned that if we can accomplish one major goal per day (and that may just mean going to a government office for instance), we feel like we’ve achieved something. We try not to make life any harder than we truly want it to be (a little challenge can be good). But we have shed the cult of busy with which most modern Americans have been indoctrinated. Life has become much more laid back even if we still feel that some days are a little full.

6) We must be careful of expectations. In a new environment, lifestyle, and culture where everything is different, expectations can cause you to feel disappointment if they are not met. If on the other hand you leave expectations at the door, then it will feel more like an adventure. And we’ve had lots of adventures.

Car hanging on a wire
A part of a car got caught in an electric line!

7) You can adapt to almost anything, but there will always be something surprising. When we first arrived, everything was so crazy and wild and different. But now, we are becoming pretty used to most things. Though, we are still surprised every now and then and we try to remember that so we can see things through newcomers’ eyes. Trying new things and pushing our comfort levels keep things fresh as well. And through series of strange twists and turns life can bring us the most unexpected and awesome circumstances (like our best friends moving here from Colorado!). Somehow our brains can manage to make nearly anything seem normal, and so we try not forget how magical it truly is to be alive.

8) It’s different than the dream. In our dream life everything is perfect. There are no hiccups and the beautiful life is just there waiting for us to frolic in it. When you achieve a dream, like we did moving to Puerto Rico, you find that the dream becomes real. And through all five of our senses, plus our feelings and moods, the dream takes on a much more realistic clarity. In life there will always be challenges that you didn’t expect. When you think about buying a new “dream” car, you don’t fully picture the registration or car payments or the scratch in the paint or even filling up with gas. You imagine driving along on an otherwise carless, beautiful road (or something like that). In the same way, our “dream” life of living in Puerto Rico has its own ups and down. It has both the splendidly beautiful moments and the minor (or major) inconveniences. But that’s what makes it real and not just a fantasy anymore.

iguana turkey time small

9) Some goals are much harder than others to achieve. Especially if you are going against the grain. For instance, self sufficiency and food security. I would love to say that we are able to eat meals from the yard 90% of the time, but that just isn’t happening yet. We have all the eggs we can handle, but we are still struggling on the annual garden side of things. Fruit trees take a long time to fruit, and killing and eating animals that you raised and got to know personally, is much, much harder than we thought it would be.

10) It can be challenging to be the minority. Even though Rincón has its own sort of enclave of “gringos” or people who come from the states, it is not even close to a majority. Living in Puerto Rico has taught us a lot about what it is like to be a minority and the importance of building bridges (language is HUGE) and finding common ground with people. This comes back to adaptation. Rather than assuming the ways we always had done things were “right”, it may mean stepping back and trying to understand something new and initially “strange” or different. Living here full time with the intention of truly staying “for good” I think has helped us to better integrate. It also gives me a renewed sense of empathy for anyone living abroad in a new land.

There are probably many more lessons, but I think these are some major themes. We are proud to have (nearly) made it a whole year in our new life here and are looking forward to all the new adventures that are to come down the road.

Not Your Average Dinner Party

Posted by Cassie

We have had so much fun with our friends Jon and Rachel that we were super bummed when they told us they were soon moving back to Portland. We are going to miss them tremendously and have learned so much about the film-making industry. However, before they left, we were able to be a part of one more project with them: a commercial for a contest submission!

Hike small

We went to various sites in Rincón and in the final scene I was to be “blown away” by the flavor of the product. And I most definitely was blown away! Shortly after this picture below was taken a bunch of debris from the leaf blower hit my eyes and face and I reacted by yelling and covering my eyes! All in the name of show business…at least they were able to pull enough of the blown away part and cut out the misadventure that you wouldn’t even know! And hopefully after all that the commercial wins big!

Blown away small

It is fun to hang out with friends anyway, but when you have a common project where you get to be goofy and do crazy things like wear legs on your head, pretend you are at a gyno appt and get blown in the face with a leaf blower, come on, of course I am game!

We do still have our one last joint project *yes, the big mystery project* that we are still working on and that has been really interesting as we meet and talk with various people around Rincón. So I am happy that we will still be all working together, but just from a distance. At least for now.