For the most part, I think we have managed to settle in here in Puerto Rico rather well considering that nearly everything in our life has changed. We had visited quite a few times so we had some idea of what to expect but it is always a little different visiting than living somewhere. Having a place to live has made the transition easier because we didn’t have to find a place to rent or go on any more seemingly endless house hunts. Our property is nice also because it almost at the very end of a calle sin salida (cul de sac) that means very little traffic or noise. So if we ever feel overwhelmed we can just stay home.
Our Property from the Road
Socially we have been making new friends and are starting to expand our circles and networks. It is different making friends here than in Colorado. In Colorado we had a mix of long-time school friends, work friends, past work friends and a few through eclectic methods plus our family. Here pretty much everyone we meet is through an eclectic method (through this site, friends of friends, events, interesting run-ins).
It has been a strange feeling to start all over making friends, but everyone has been very welcoming and a lot of them are empathetic to us because they were once in our shoes as well -learning everything anew.
So what are some of the observations and differences of life in Puerto Rico compared with Colorado?
The most obvious difference here compared with Colorado has been the weather. It is always nice out. Sometimes it rains and sometimes it gets really hot, but it is always within 20 degrees. This is dramatically different from Colorado where the weather could swing 60 degrees in one day let alone from summer to winter.
Another difference is that in Puerto Rico, everything is in Spanish. Many people speak English as well, but Spanish predominates. And not only should you know at least a little Spanish to read the road signs and menus, but there are some slang and abbreviations that might take a moment to consider. For instance, CVD. When we first saw this we weren’t sure what that was until we saw it over and over again written on cars.
So what is CVD? It is short for “Se Vende” which means “For Sale”. Perhaps in English an equivalent would be to put “4 Sale” using the number instead of word.
Another thing that is different are street venders at major intersections. They almost always will have bottles of water, but sometimes they will also sell bananas, peppers, and other foods that we don’t know. Everything is a dollar (un peso). They will come up to you and sell it to you through the window! In Colorado we would occassionally see someone begging for money, but these guys are pretty brave to stand in the middle of the street and sell their wares at the stoplights of these crazy intersections.
Selling water at an intersection in Mayaguez
Which brings me to…driving! Driving here is also quite different. Addresses are marked in kilometers which is something most Americans like us are just not familiar with. But once you get the hang of it, you will start to understand it a little better when driving. However, even though everything is marked in kilometers, the speed limit (velocidad maxima) signs are still in miles! At least that’s what we think they are! ha!
Driving in general is completely different here. We’ve heard it compared to walking through a busy a mall and that is much closer to what driving is. People will cross in front of you, or stop and chat on the road and hold up traffic. They will also stop traffic just to help you cross if the traffic is heavy. In some ways it is a much more social style of driving than the formal, rule-heavy ways of Colorado. Drinking and driving laws don’t seem to have sunk in totally either. We were filling up with gas the other day and saw a guy pull up to the pump while drinking a can of Medalla Light (the main Puerto Rican beer).
Oh and gasoline is sold in liters instead of gallons. Currently it is just under $1 per liter or a little less than $4 per gallon.
In Colorado horses are pretty popular, but in Puerto Rico you will see them in some of the strangest places: backs of El Camino cars, next to playground equipment or tied to a tree in order to mow down the grass. And then we have heard about the large horse festivals in which everyone brings a horse and stands in the middle of the road. Sounds kind of fun to me and I look forward to seeing one some time. The horses here are almost all “Paso Fino” which means “Fine Step” and so they walk distinctly. They always seem to be trotting and because they carefully lift each foot they look very dainty and the rider on top stays nearly still.
Food here is another obviously different part of life. Whereas in Colorado we had a large Mexican food influence, Puerto Rican food is very different. The base flavor is garlic and fried food is very common. Another type is called Criollo food and because of that we have now tried Fricaseed Rabbit! I will try and write more about the food here because it is an incredibly diverse topic.
Ceviche, salad and a grilled dorado burrio- Yum!
Music is also distinct. On the radio we hear a lot of salsa, bachata, and also American and Spanish language pop. Locally in Rincón there is quite a live-music scene as well including Bomba groups.
Then there is also all the flora and fauna that is new to us. While we had poisonous rattlesnakes, deadly black widow spiders and itchy poison ivy and goat heads in Colorado, we were familiar with them and knew how to avoid their dangers and discomforts. Here we know next to nothing about the iguanas, birds, geckos, vines, trees and grasses.
Britton with a tree called “Higuera” or Calabash Tree that grows huge watermelon sized fruits which can be hollowed out and used to make bowls and maracas
In Colorado we also had virtually no experience with water sports. Sure there are lakes and rivers, but there are obviously no waves or oceans. Britton and I have both been to the ocean before but it is a little different to live in a seaside village. Surf culture in itself is something new to us and we are excited to try out all sorts of things from spear-fishing to sailing, snorkeling to surfing.
In total, this experience has been almost like completely pushing the reset button to our life in nearly every way. We have each other, a few of our belongings and our cat.
In most everything else we get to be children again and look at life in a fresh new light.