Category Archives: Adventures

Enchanting Moments from an Island on the Mend


Posted by Cassie

Front gate flowers
Hibiscus Flowers and ocean beyond at our house

For us, things are starting to normalize a little. The crisis has passed. I know that a lot of people are still awaiting electricity and a few still don’t even have water, but overall there’s more righted than upturned. We have been enjoying the cool winter weather of December in Puerto Rico. It’s one of the best times of year.

Beautiful Rincon
Sunset over Desecheo Island

The air is fresh, the sky and seas are clear, and this year, as a special treat, the roads are clear as well because there are virtually no tourists around. We have had some amazing experiences recently, another sign of tide turning for the better. Here are a few I will share with you.

Lighthouse Rincon
New kiosk bar at the Rincon Lighthouse

We have been hanging out with our friends Bill, Jenn, Linda and Keith a lot more recently. We enjoyed a wonderful afternoon at the Rincon Lighthouse. A new little kiosk has opened and plays music and serves drinks. It has added a lot to the best park on the west coast. We watched the sunset and the surfers at Dome’s as we laughed and talked about the tribulations and tremendous moments in this tropical life.

Hanging with Friends
Overlooking Domes

Bill JennSunset Selfie

Cassie and Domes
Rosy sun glow at Domes

We spent time at Keith and Linda’s guesthouse, Casa D’Palma. You should check it out, it’s awesome!

Pool Party
Pool parties in December are the best!

We also had the opportunity to go out on Bill and Jenn’s sailboat for the first time. I’ve been on a few sea vessels, but never a sailboat, so it was a great first for me! We left early afternoon for the Cabo Rojo harbor and motor-sailed until sunset. It was beautiful watching the flying fish and we were mesmerized by all the overturned and crashed boats. I am sure Bill was worrying a lot for his boat during the hurricane! It felt so good to relax and enjoy life again after such a long time struggling just to eat, drink and survive.

Bill
Cap’n Bill at the helm

Britton and Boat Marina
Loading up

Britton and Keith
Britton and Keith kicking back

Capn Bill and Jenn
Bill and Jenn in a sweet moment

Cassie Sailboat
Sea life for me!

Sun and Sail
Sun and sails!

Sunset on boat
Sunset at Sea

Sunset B C
Yet another sunset selfie

Feet resting
Ahh, time to kick up the feet and relax

We have continued to make progress on the property clearing more paths and hang-out and campfire spots (we certainly have more than enough wood now!).

Kitty fire
Kitty, Cassie and a campfire

We have also been enjoying the nightlife a little. We’ve gone out to the Art Walk and while it is not very busy due to the abysmal tourist season, hey, at least there is parking now!

Congueros
Congueros at the Art Walk

IMG_2241
Fun making friends and playing pool at a local chinchorro (hole in the wall bar)

Hurricane Maria’s fury has passed, but the scars are still seen and may last forever. Interspersed with intense moments of beauty we still see the remnants of the trauma. 

Car load
Always something to see here (note the house without a roof as well)

Overturned Boat
Overturned boat washed ashore

Villa Cofresi no beach
A popular hotel in town, Villa Cofresi lost all of its beachfront

But probably the single most magical moment I have experienced recently was a harbinger of hope and love that flew into our life. I was sitting up on top of the cabana reading a book as Britton worked on the Mustang (there is always something to do on that car-haha). Suddenly I heard a little flutter and looked up from my book. A pretty little bird landed on the chair next to me. I said, “Hi, pretty bird” and he jumped onto my shoulder and then snuggled up right under my chin. I couldn’t believe it! He was trembling and hungry and must have had quite a journey to find me. I asked about and found out that he is a love-bird. A rosy-faced lovebird that would need a friend like me to help him survive. Just call me Snow White, making friends with the lovely fauna of the forest! I just can’t wait to meet the 7 dwarves. :-)

Cassie Lovebird
Me and Birdie Bird

Lovebird
Resting after his journey. Look how beautiful the plumage is!

Sometimes it is difficult to describe just how dichotomous life can be here. On one hand, it has been the hardest thing we have ever done in our entire life, and on the other it is the most fantastical fairy tale you could conjure. I suppose that is the way an enchanted isle would have to be.

3 KingsA little holiday/hurricane humor: the gifts the 3 kings will bring this year (gas, water and ice)

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Giving Thanks


Posted by Cassie

IMG_2063Chickens ranging the property

Gratitude. For so many things. We all go through trials and tribulations in life. It just seems to be the way of the world. And if we compare them to others we may see ours as better or worse. But there will always be someone or something better and always worse. Rather than compare, however, giving thanks seems to open our hearts rather than close them. 

IMG_2048
Working around the property

Two days before Thanksgiving we were mowing the field. This takes about five hours of work with both of us on a mower -dueling lawnmowers if you will. It was sweaty, hot work, but one of my more enjoyable chores on the homestead because it magically transforms  a field into a golf-course looking resort. Just as we were resting on the bench admiring our work and giving thanks for water in our pipes to clean up and drink, our neighbor yells down “llego la luz!” The power was back!

IMG_1979Light at the cabin!

Britton had seen the trucks and crews of men descend upon our neighborhood a couple of days before but we didn’t have our hopes too high. But sure enough, when we returned to the cabin the lights, the fans, the fridge! (ahhh ice!) all worked once again. It was amazing the sense of calm and relief that washed over us. A feeling that after almost exactly 2 months without electricity and nearly the same without water, we were nearly through this whole ordeal. The final key will be when the internet is restored, but for now we are bathing in a sense of gratitude as well as water and illumination -literally.

IMG_1988At our friends’ house in Cruces checking out the blimp in the telescope

IMG_1998A wonderful Thanskgiving high atop the world!

We spent Thanksgiving with friends perched high in Cruces overlooking the Rincon peninsula and the patchwork of light throughout that the valley that indicated more or less where the electricity had or hadn’t been restored. And what a feast we had in spite of their lack of electricity and water. We are reminded why we love it here so, despite the constant daily challenges of life here as a stranger in a strange land.

IMG_1999
With friends on Thanksgiving 

IMG_2004
Having fun playing music

We have friends like the Kersches who have taken us in and loved us as family. We are on a beautiful tropical island that even in times of crisis tiene una buena cara. We have friends and family near and far who care about us. The island is regaining its glory and magnificence just as the trees are sending out more leaves and the flowers bloom. Some areas have lost beach land and palms, but overall our gorgeous lush paradise is Eden once again.

IMG_2067
The trees are growing back in strange ways including shooting out branches directly from the trunks

IMG_2069Marina Beach is empty but gorgeous!

Cassie
Taking a break for a well-deserved swim!

IMG_2045Britton working on the concrete pad

Britton and I have been busy mainly working around the property. We have been clearing, cleaning and planting. We are also doing some small projects. We recently finished the concrete pad on the ridgeline side of the bridge that connects to the cabin. One of our many titles around here includes forest ranger and trail building is a key component in that function. Like the trees and the plants reinvigorating, so are we. And for this and much more we give thanks.

IMG_2066Turkey boy (as we call him) approves of the new pad

IMG_2017
A sigh of thanks as the sun sank

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A Slight Shift for the Better


Posted by Cassie

Dominos in Plaza
Men playing dominos in the Rincon plaza after Maria

It only takes ridding yourself of all you have had to appreciate once again. In other words, you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone. But when (and if) it comes back you will feel tremendous gratitude. Our water came back on last Saturday.

IMG_1954
Woman guarding the generator that is powering the pump for water

We had seen the women sitting in camp chairs guarding the generators near the water pumps and anticipated it might come on any day. One day passed, two, three and we began to lose hope. Then we came back one evening after being out and about to an overflowing cistern. Our cup literally overfloweth.

Filling up at the terminal
We no longer have to fill up our trash can with water and bring it to our cistern!

Conversations often revolved around which utility would be better to have back on if we could only choose one and nearly all would agree: water. Humans (and most forms of life for that matter) have lived without electricity for most of time, but we have always needed water. Also, we can run about 10 hours of electricity to our whole house with our little generator using only about 2 gallons of gasoline. One the other hand 2 gallons of water, while cheaper only flushes a toilet or two.

La planta
Our hard-working little generator has made our life a lot easier!

With the arrival of water to our place there has been a slight (ok, major) shift for the better. We are more energized for everything especially now that the weather is a little cooler and less humid. In the collective consciousness there is a little more joy too. Most people now have water and some even have electricity.

IMG_1950
Navidad Boricua is upon us!

But more than that it is the festive Christmas season! Musica navidena is already being played on the radios, karaoke bars and even roadside makeshift Spanish guitar drunken sing-a-longs in the dark.

We can do it
Si, se puede! We can do this!

Additionally, more and more food can be found in the stores though we have still become accustomed to the can aisle and even boxed milk instead of fresh anything, not only because of the accessibility of these items in the stores, but because we can’t run our fridge very long.

Box milk
Boxed milk for the win!

Water in econo
Bottled water is now available in the stores as well

The packages we received from friends and family (AKA some of you!) really helped to lift our spirits as well. What we haven’t been using, we have passed on to others in need like our friend Glen who is homeless and lives at the gazebos in the balneario. He recently ran out of bug spray and had a bout of sickness.

When we heard of others losing so much more than us, it also helped to put our situation in perspective. We know at least three people who have lost nearly everything -their house and all their belongings in the storm- and yet they still get up every day and even have a smile on their face, at least when we’ve talked to them. Our other friend Hector lost his entire house and had to live on the streets for a few days after Maria. I can only imagine how scary and devastating to his life that must be.

Hector in house
Our friend Hector with the remains of his house

There is still a little sadness that permeates every conversation. ‘How are you?’ is answered pretty much always with ‘bien mas o menos’ or ‘good, all things considered.’ Everything is couched in the fact that we all know we have been through something traumatic, but are pulling ourselves through it.

Hector and house
Hector with his destroyed house

Britton and I have been trying to enjoy the down time and re-energize ourselves. We have spent some fun moments with friends and are planning some projects around the property.

Bill and Jenn FriendsAt the Castillo Serralles haunted house in Ponce

Now that we have water we can do some of those concrete projects that we have put off and clear more areas of the property. We are looking forward to planting more fruit trees and ornamentals.

Clearing more space
Britton has been throwing logs while I clear through the vine mess

I have noticed that living in Puerto Rico really is somewhat enchanted. Strange, unexplainable and life shaking moments are interspersed with a peace, beauty and happiness that is hard to compare. Being in the Bermuda Triangle they say can do that. Radio frequencies shift ever so slightly and a Katy Perry song turns into a salsa song and back again.  And so it is now on la isla del encanto: a slight shift for the better. This is not to say that it is easy; it is still super hard to do anything. It is like reading a book in a dream or trying to run a marathon in 3 foot deep mud. For instance, it has taken me three trips to different places for internet on two broken laptops just to write this simple post. But seguimos pa’lante, we keep going forward! It’s the only way.

Gypsy future
When will the electricity come back on? The future is uncertain, but one thing’s for sure: playing dress up is fun! ;-)

IMG_1951
With one of the hardworking people putting back together the power grid

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Signs of Life and Halloween


Posted by Cassie

“Oh, no! I just peed in a fresh bowl of water and then flushed it! I am so sorry, Cassie! I haven’t done that in over a month, I can’t believe I did that!” Britton exclaimed.

Day 40 still out

This is just one of the surreal comments that make absolute sense in our current situation. We are now in this hurricane survival situation over 40 days. Over 40 days without water, electricity, internet, very little cell service, limited credit card acceptability or cash availability, or even food security. We are slowly adapting, but it has not been easy.

Ice Hot CommodityIce: a great Maria-themed Halloween costume

Everything is about resources and the web of effects that spirals out from the lack of them. You cant buy gasoline without cash and cash is mainly available at banks and ATMs which are not often online. Ice is scarce unless you know someone or are willing to wait in line for an hour for one bag.

Coca Cola
I am not sure why Coca-Cola is so popular right now, but it definitely is to the point of rationing it!

Working outside clearing trees or mowing means sweating. Sweating means needing water to rinse off and to drink. Getting water entails going down to the plaza or a local fresh water spring and filling a trash can and 5-gallon jugs with water that we then move into the cistern. It also means catching as much rain as possible.

Water manMoving water by hand from one bucket to the cistern

Spring
Britton filling the jug at the literal watering hole -a natural spring by Pool Bar in Puntas

 

I have to wash everything by hand and a full hamper and sheets takes at least 20 gallons of our very precious water. But at least we have found these resources.

Laundry outdoors
Washing clothes outside

Red Cross
The Red Cross was out of food boxes and water within about 30 minutes of showing up

Sometimes we get food that just shows up such as from the military or Red Cross. These are basically just boxes of junk food. I don’t have any idea how they can call a convenience store meat stick an “entree” but like the quote above, things are sort of surreal and crazy right now. I’ve eaten more junk food during this hurricane period than in the whole year I think.

Red Cross FoodThe “entree” is a beef stick and the “starch” was saltine cracker snacks

There are signs of life, however. Many places are getting water The grocery stores are starting to get a little more fresh and perishable foods again, though I am still hesitant to trust the meat or dairy.

Empty Stores
Late October in Econo

Cassie bucket gardenSince there is limited greens, we decided to grow our own

The one time we bought fresh milk, it was spoiled and came out in stinking clumps. We have therefore resorted to the boxed ultra pasteurized milk for our coffee and cereal in the morning.

Electricity is still probably a while away, but a great night was when the plaza in Rincon was relit. It was almost like lighting the Christmas tree in New York City. It felt strange to see lights in a sea of black darkness all around.

Lights in the plaza
The night electricity arrived to Rincon

Closed Emergency
Like a scene in a zombie movie…emergency room out of service

Internet is still very hard to find since we don’t have smartphones. And even if we did, cell service is not exactly stable. We have found a few spots we like for internet like the Aguada Plaza, the Rincon Plaza especially Roots, and El Galeon in Aguada. Mail is still hard to get and even basic things like health care cannot be counted on.

El Galeon AguadaSunset at El Galeon where we found internet (and I am currently writing)

Without much screen time or other usual activities, we have resorted to old-school entertainment. Britton mentioned that a lot of this time feels like his youth. We play cards in the morning when we run the generator which powers the fridge, charges the laptop and other devices, runs the fans and plays some music. We dance around and with Halloween I had fun playing dress up and doing a spur-of-the-moment silly photoshoot using costumes from the box like a kid in the toy box. We have started planting seeds for fresh greens and day dreaming of projects when normal life is fully restored. We are getting a little crazy and sillier, but maybe more creative too with all this time on our hands.

Hippie Cassie
Dressing as a hippie

Hippie B
Britton in a wig jamming out

Creative image hat Cassie
Creativity comes alive when you’re bored and have nothing else to do but play

Sal Dali anon
Salvador Dali?

Creative urge toiletArt evoking emotion (or are we just going stir crazy?!) haha

Vampire Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton meets Dracula?

Strange shot
2 faced

Wallflower B
Britton, the wallflower

Smile with pink hair
Pretty in pink

Llego la luz halloween
Llego la luz? No, just to some lamp posts

Halloween from a car
Halloween trick-or-treating in PR is only amongst people in the know…including from a car

Street scene RinconFun at Roots on Halloween

Halloween day was pretty fun. We visited some friends in Mayaguez and the light posts came on while the kids were trick-or-treating. I learned the Spanish Puerto Rico song for Halloween:

Trick-or-treat, Halloween
Dame dulce, no mani.

Trick-or-treat, Halloween, give me candy, not peanuts. But I think everyone would be far happier si llego la luz instead!

Fun with Juliana
Halloween fun

It was our the first time since we moved here that we went to the Halloween party at Tamboo since Shipwreak is undergoing repairs. It was the main/only party in town this year. I loved the hurricane-based costumes. It was a great chance to take a breather from the normal survival routine.

Gas Can GirlAt Tamboo with the Gas Can girl!

Friends at Tamboo
Fun costumes!
Spooky
Spooky

New Friends
New friends

Nerding Out
Nerding out

Peace and Voodoo
Vikings, Voodoo and Grooviness

We have discussed leaving for a while, perhaps back to Colorado. We would be able to visit family and friends and spend the holidays there. But we are on the fence. It’s cold in Colorado this time of year and we don’t have our own place to decompress. I am not sure if the stress of travel and imposition on our families would make up for discomfort of living here without water and electricity, but in our own bed in a nice climate… This has been a test of wills, strength, mental health, and stamina to stick through it this far. Some say it may be a Christmas miracle if the electricity arrives by then….but…Puerto Rico se levanta. Puerto Rico is (slowly) rising up.

PR Se Levanta
Flags are everywhere and the phrase Puerto Rico se levanta is on everyone’s lips

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