Category Archives: Challenges

Delicious Puerto Rican Piñon aka Pastelon


Posted by Cassie

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It has been so nice having a full-sized kitchen to cook in. I have been taking advantage of having an oven as much as possible. One of the things I wanted to try was piñon also known as pastelon for some time now. It is basically a Puerto Rican version of lasagna that uses ripe plantains in place of the lasagna noodles. I have had it before at some traditional comida criolla (Puerto Rican cuisine) places, so I had something of an idea what it would be like. I gave it a whirl and it turned out really good! It is sort of strange to have a slightly sweet flavor along with all the traditional Italian seasonings you would use in lasagna.

Here’s a video on how I made piñon. It is probably not exactly how you would do it if you were Puerto Rican, but it is my gringo-fied version. Haha.

¡Buen Provecho!

Pinon 2

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Making Friends in a Transitory Town


Posted by Cassie

It is often hard to make new friends anywhere you might move, but for people from the states without many ties it can be even harder. However, it is important to establish a social network that you can rely on during life’s ups and downs especially as a stranger in a strange land.

Coming from a working class city in the middle of Colorado (Greeley), both Britton and I never experienced much in transitory populations coming into our town. If people moved it was just to a nearby town maybe 5-10 miles away. No one really came there for vacations. It was not a tourist destination. The only transitory population was that of the university and even there, many of the students came from other places in Colorado. Because of this, when we made friends we would often know them and see them (for better or worse) indefinitely.

Ashley night out
We’ve met some great friends along the way, but many are no longer here (at a going away party a while ago)

Coming to Puerto Rico, and specifically Rincón has caused a shift in perspective on friendships. I suppose looking back now, we were naïve when a long-timer asked us, “So how long do you think you’ll last?” and we answered, “Forever, hopefully!” What we had missed in that short exchange was that this guy who has lived here for over 20-30 years has seen many people with long-term intentions stay for pretty short times. We also started to get what we call the “friend interview.” Things like: So how long have you been here? Did you buy a place? What are you doing for money? All of these were to filter out tourists and very short term people.

Everyone’s path is different and this just happens to be one of those places where people love to get away and think they could live forever but end up oftentimes finding that they want to get back to some of the familiarity of wherever they left. We have seen many people leave and lost many friends due to them moving for better job opportunities, going back to school, having a baby on the way, getting divorced, more or less getting chased out of town, having health problems, having family issues, or they find just don’t like living here and so on. We have been to so many going-away parties in the last 3-4 years (and become the new owners of the stuff that gets left behind) that it gets a little hard to know where to put your time.

Car Club
We are thinking of joining a car club to find friends with similar interests like cruising the coast on Sundays

We have found that we at first subconsciously and then slowly consciously started our own “friend interview” with people we meet here. This is not because we don’t want to meet new people, on the contrary, I learn something from every encounter. But developing a deep friendship or relationship with someone, in my experience, takes a lot of time and commitment. Once you have made the commitment if they were to suddenly leave, there is also a deeper loss. So for a friendship that is anything more than just “acquaintances” people become categorized by their likelihood of sticking around in our lives. In making this list, please don’t take it that any of these are better than anyone else, but just a guide for long-term friendships in a transitory town. In fact, we have at one point in time or another been pretty much all of these. Some “long-timers” have stricter criteria and won’t talk to anyone who hasn’t lived here at least 2 years. We’re not that exclusive and there’s always exceptions.

Here are the categories and benefits to each. Some people fit into multiple categories.

Tourist: A person you don’t already know who is just visiting. There is not much chance of a long-term friendship, but they can often have very interesting stories and it’s always refreshing to see the island from their new perspective.

Tourist with plans: This more than likely will pan out to be another tourist visiting, but they may mention that they want to buy property or they are going to move here soon. There is a slightly higher chance of a long-term friendship, but still pretty unlikely.

On a Wing and a Prayer: These people made it here, but just barely. They saved up maybe $1000, got on the plane and said, “We’ll figure it out when we get there.” These people are often very interesting as they probably have had this tendency throughout their lives to go out and try new things. I love meeting them and they often have really cool talents. They, unfortunately, will probably not make it past one tourist season though. When the money dries out and the rains come in the summer, they are often gone.

Hustlers: The Wing and a Prayer people who made it through the first season. They found their niche. They made the connections and did the hard work to make enough money to stay. Many transplant people are hustlers in Rincón. The drawback to the hustlers is that they are always busting their butt to make money, so they don’t have much time for just chilling out with friends.

Long-term renters: These folks are probably also hustlers, but now they can finally settle down into a place that feels more like home. With a long-term lease, they are more likely to stick around at least until the end of the lease. Most people rent in Rincón because it is so cheap. The drawback to a deep friendship is that if they are renters, they can also just up and move if they want.

Snowbirds: These people generally come from up north and like to spend the winters or part of the winter in Puerto Rico to escape the cold weather. A deep friendship is much more likely if the snowbirds also happen to own property.

Seasonal: Basically the younger, broker version of snowbirds who come down every year for the season for work and partying, but will go back north in the summer. They more than likely do not own anything that would tie them here long-term.

People who own property: People who have bought real estate here are basically saying “We are committed and have the resources to stay!” These are very good candidates for long-term friendships. Some people own property, but rarely visit. They are still good to know and often have great parties, but since they are just not here you can’t just meet up and hang out on the spur of the moment.

Long-timers/Year-rounders: How long a person has been here will give you something of an indication of how they have weathered the storms both literal and figurative of island life. It is not always easy to live here. The long-timers know this and they will be the first ones to try to categorize you in order to know the likelihood of running into you again. These people also often have great stories and histories. There is a high chance of developing a friendship with these people as long as you are also worthy of investing the time.

Boricua/Family ties: The best chance of knowing someone long-term and building a deep friendship is to meet someone born and raised here. They are generally immune to the whims of the tourism economics and have a lot of resources, most notably their family, to help them stay. They are comfortable living here since that is what they have always known. They are great candidates for long term friendships, though they are often even more leery of letting an “outsider” in to their inner circle. Like all friendships, it helps to have a common cause (work/hobby/kids) and, especially in this case, to speak Spanish.

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Some friends at a beach party

I am not sure I will every feel the same amount of security and familiarity as I had in Colorado, but having a good group of friends definitely helps.

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Living in the Cabin and Preparing the Studio


Posted by Cassie

Car and Finca
Looking down at our finca from the road you wouldn’t even know a cabin existed!

I suppose it’s time to do an update on the move to the jungle tree cabin! There is always something more to be done so it’s a little hard to say we are “finished” moving over. But we have been sleeping in the cabin for about 2 months now! Once we moved the bed over, we were officially living here!

Bed
Our bed in the cabin!

This, like everything, was quite the process because we had to haul everything over on foot.

Moving out
We loaded the truck and took the furniture half-way down

Jungle flowers
And then carried it through the tropical gardens

Bridge Britton
And over the bridge…

Cabin
Up the stairs…and into the jungle cabin

We also cleaned out the studio cabana and it needed a full scrub down! Even though it is tiny, things still get really dirty here. Having all our stuff out made the job a little easier.

Britton hoser
At least in the concrete cabin it’s acceptable to bring a hose inside! Haha

Then we bought another bed for the cabana and cleaned it again so that it will be ready for visitors.

Bed to Cabana
Unloading the bed for the studio cabana

Cabana bed (2)
Cabana all cleaned and ready!

So the studio cabana is now officially open for visitors! Contact us at lifetransplanet@gmail.com to stay with us! Here’s the page with information on staying in the cabana!

Cabana Table and view Cabana kitchenette
Roof top dining and view and inside living space of the studio

Back at the jungle cabin, while we had running water, electricity and even internet, we didn’t exactly have a kitchen. Not that that was a deal breaker considering that we lived for 3 years with a mini fridge and a hot plate for our method of cooking, but I was pretty excited to have a full sized kitchen.

Britton Kitchen
Britton in the kitchen/living room of the cabin with the new sink and stove just waiting to be installed

Santa Cassie
And though I have been loving our new bathroom, it just doesn’t make the best place to wash dishes! :-)

So we started building the kitchen including making our own counters/lower cabinets.  

Counters
Building the counters

Britton installed the heavy enameled cast iron sink but had to drill through our very thick floor in order to have a grey water drain out.

Thick Floor
Like a tree core sample. The floor consists of 3/4 inch plywood, thinset, 3/4 cement board, more thinset and the tile

Kitchen Sink
Kitchen currently with counter tiles and functional sink! Yay for washing dishes out of the bathroom!

The next big thing was to hook up gas to our new gas stove so that we would literally be cooking with gas! We went down to Rafucci’s next to Ventana Al Mar to get the parts and the friendly owner said he would just send the gas guys down. We warned them that this was not a standard hook up and that you wouldn’t be able to find us from the road, but he didn’t seem worried.

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After stopping at Rafucci’s we walked 20 steps to Aloha for a beer and that always makes BK happy

When the two workers showed up, they walked down the drive, through the meadow, past the chicken and turkey coops, through the tropical gardens, down the ridge line trail, across the bridge, up the stairs and quickly concluded that they would not be able to hook up a big propane gas tank. They said they would return with a 25 lb tank in about an hour. After waiting about 3 hours, we went back to Rafucci and talked with Alfredo again who said he talked with the muchachos and they said that the site was a little too difficult for them. (Would have been nice for them to have told us that instead of having us wait…)

So we decided to go ahead and do what we were going to do in the first place and just install it ourselves. We have found that often people don’t like to tell others bad news so they will just tell you what they think you want to hear and then just avoid you. Because of that we always have a Plan B especially since we know that we are an odd case in general.

Gas hook up
Britton hooking up the gas

Last night we actually ate our first meal cooked in the oven: lasagna; and it was so good! We have been joking that we are going to get chubby again eating with a real kitchen with a full fridge and everything! haha!

Stove
We can’t wait to cook lots of meals on this stove!

Overall, living in the cabin has been a lot of fun. Because there is no road and we are deep in the trees we are immersed in nature. The hummingbirds buzz around, the doves flap and the hawks are always swirling high above. We often see the mongoose running around and of course lots and lots of iguanas, geckos and coquis everywhere. The trees sway all around us and we feel like we live in and amongst them. It’s a really cool feeling.

Cassie stairs
You don’t want to forget anything or it’s quite a walk back!

It can be a bit of a challenge to walk home in the night so we have to always remember our flashlights especially because there are very few guard rails. One night we forgot them and had to crawl on our hands and knees across the bridge because it was a dark and moonless night and…we had been drinking. But we laughed the whole way across.

Coqui
This cold, wet and clammy coqui landed on my leg and then hopped on this ginger leaf

 

First party
We have even had our first “unofficial” get together with a few friends at the cabin!

Cassie jungle
We have lots of fun in our own jungle park!

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Buying (Another) Car in Puerto Rico!


Posted by Cassie

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Britton has a sports car again!

We have been considering buying another car for some time now. Having just the truck works fine especially because we don’t really need to drive very often and when we do it is pretty much just local to Rincón. However, we have had a couple of occasions when the truck has broken down and we have no other recourse except to walk everywhere or bum rides. Also, Britton has been missing his Corvette and the V8 under the hood ever since we sold it in the move from Colorado.

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On one of our first dates in Colorado with the Corvette

He found a cool old Mustang on one of the Pulguero groups on Facebook and we made arrangements to meet with the owner.

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Checking under the hood and we found everything was (surprisingly) stock!

After inspecting it, taking it for a test drive and agreeing on a price we then made arrangements to meet the next day in Mayaguez at Obras Públicas to buy it and put the title in our name. In Colorado all you had to do was sign the title over to the new buyer and then take the title in to get registered. Here, it is much more friendly and you must go with the owner in person to change it over. In this case, the brother was the official owner so the four of us made the early morning trek.

Unlike when we bought our truck, this time we have established residency with our driver’s licenses and so we didn’t need a utility bill in order to buy it (though we brought it just in case). However, the marbete (registration sticker) was expired so we did need to go take care of that right away. Because though the police will often ignore drunk driving, if that little sticker is expired you are nearly guaranteed to get a ticket!

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Britton with the ex-owners

Now that we know our way around the system a little better it was actually pretty easy to buy this car. Here are the steps we took to buy this used car from a private seller.

1) Meet with the owner to inspect, test drive, negotiate price, etc.
2) Make arrangements to meet at Obras Públicas (CESCO/DTOP) together with the owner
3) Buy $10 worth of government stamps (sellos) to make the transaction
4) Wait in line to sign over the title. Both parties need identification and address information.
5) Pay for the car (usually cash)
6) Get emissions inspection (that is not really an inspection- they don’t even look at the car in most cases) for $11.
7) Sometimes you can get marbete at the time of the emissions inspection. In our case for some reason we had to go to another Colecturia office. We went to Añasco. Basic Marbete (registration/liability insurance) is $169.

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The laughable emissions test even gives out readings though it never took any! But hey, can’t complain too much if you pass!

The car is a bit of a fixer-upper and needs a little bit of work. For instance the seat belts don’t clasp, the doors don’t really lock and it badly needed an oil change. But overall, it seems to be a good solid car with a heck of a motor. It’s fun to take it out and about on the island. And with more seats, it will be a good vehicle for excursions with friends.

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Mustang Cassie

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Fun with the Mustang

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Do you ever feel like you’re part of a movie?

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Driving off into the sunset

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