Category Archives: Challenges

Ave María and Huracán


Posted by Cassie

Ave María is a religious expression that is commonly used in Puerto Rico. It’s sort of like Ay, Caramba or Mother Mary please help us and in this case it’s: Really, there’s another hurricane headed right for us?!

Religion, science, camaraderie and legends all try to help us make sense out of the craziness that life throws at us it seems.

Hurricane Maria
The projected path of Hurricane María could be anywhere in the red

After the last hurricane, we’ve decided not to move out of the wooden cabin to the concrete cabana for María. It’s actually far less windy in our little protected valley of the cabin. The worst part of Hurricane Irma wasn’t the hurricane, it was waiting for the power and water to come back. So we again got more gas for the generator and are again filling up the water cistern.

The stores are out of drinking water again. I asked a woman at the grocery store why they don’t just fill up their bottles from the last storm with tap or rain water like we are going to do. And she seemed a little confused. “Pues, las usamos y luego las botamos…Well, we use them and then throw them away!” Hmm. I guess I have a harder time just throwing stuff away, especially knowing how useful they are. It’s pretty simple to sanitize them!

Guacamole
Is it a coincidence that avocados are so abundant this time of year and guacamole is so easy to prepare even in a hurricane?

We also learned from the last storm that it is open game on junk food! Calories don’t count if you have to live without water, internet or electricity, right?! In Econo, not only was all the water gone, but also all of the Chef Boyardee, an apparent hurricane favorite!

In addition we heard a cool legend story that the Tainos (natives of the island before Columbus) apparently believed. Hopefully I don’t screw it up too much:

El Yunque better

There were two twin brothers. One was named Yukiyu (which was later translated as Yunque the same a the national park near San Juan) and the other was Huracán. Yukiyu was the good god who cared for Borinken (the island of Puerto Rico) and all of its inhabitants and was especially present in the mountain areas. Huracán was the evil brother who was always jealous that the islands loved Yukiyu more and so he would try to come around nearly every year to destroy Yukiyu and his beloved ones. He and Yukiyu fight and most times Yukiyu wins. Therefore you must give thanks to him by being kind to the land. But this battle rages on to this day.

Wood
Some of our old wood is being repurposed as hurricane boards

Some people get really worked up about these storms and many others are pretty calm about it. You can tell who are the (calm and collected) veterans and who (ahem, lots of gringos) are the newbie scaredy-cats. We are trying not to be as freaked out about this one as the last even if the storm is super hyped. There is a real psychological screwiness to watching the models as they descend RIGHT OVER YOU! It makes even the calmest person get a little agitated.

Generator
In our neighborhood…hooking up a new generator and propane delivery

We are learning from our neighbors who have lived here their whole lives and have survived many tropical storms and hurricanes. We figure, they know much more than we do about living through a major storm. Some people are boarding up windows, but mainly just those with full glass fronts. We stopped and talked with Julio, our 86 year-old neighbor who must weigh about 100 lbs, and Berto who’s in his 50′s to see how they were doing for the storm. Berto said he was tying some things down with rope and that they better tie up Julio so he wouldn’t blow away! haha!

Window Prep
One neighbor is weaving plastic trash bags through the window to cut down on the water spray

I am trying my best to be calm because I know the odds and I know what we can do during and after. The storm seems to be moving north and losing some steam and the only real danger is directly in the eye. Anyway, there’s only so much you can do and the worst case scenario (afterward everything is ravaged and there’s no water or electricity for weeks and weeks), we just take a month-long (or longer) vacation to visit family in CO before dealing with the mess. Don’t sweat the small stuff as they say, and it’s all small stuff.

We’ve learned a lot throughout this very active hurricane season and feel even more connected with this land, people and culture by going through this. We are all in this together!

Also, just FYI, we were contacted by Channel 31 (which is also Channel 2 News) out of Denver last night and did a Facetime interview with them explaining our connection to Colorado and Puerto Rico and what we are going through with Irma and María. The segment should air sometime tonight around 9pm local Colorado time. Let us know if you see it!

Ave María, please be good to us! And Yukiyu, please convince Huracán to leave us unharmed (and preferably with power and water quickly too)!

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Preparing for Irma


Posted by Cassie

Cool clouds
Your normally scheduled daily beauty is about to be interrupted

We have an uninvited guest named Irma who is scheduled to arrive sometime tomorrow (Wednesday September 6, 2017). She is a Category 5 hurricane, the largest that Puerto Rico and the Atlantic has ever faced. We may see wind speeds of 175 mph along with torrential rains. It is such a weird thing to know that this horrendous monster is slowly progressing right toward us and yet it is so calm and beautiful all around us.

Calm
There’s an eerie calm before the storm

But because we all know something big is coming (just what is the question) there is an obvious nervousness, excitement and feeling of impending doom in the air. People are more polite. They are not running as many red lights as usual and they are also not as talkative.

Impacto de Irma
Get ready, get set, here she comes!

It is time to get ready. Get ready not only for the storm, but also for its aftermath which could potentially be very devastating to the infrastructure leaving us and millions others without water, electricity, phone or internet among other things. So what do you do? Here in Puerto Rico most people (including us) have water cisterns and a generator for reasons just like this.

Gas rush
Two days ago people filling up vehicles and cans of gas

Filling gas cans
It’s hard to do most anything nowadays without electricity so gasoline is a must

No water
Water means life! At Selectos in Aguada it is nearly all gone

We filled up at the gas station and then went to the grocery store for more bottled water, coffee, toilet paper, flashlights, candles and a few other things. However, the grocery store was clean out of most water.

No hay gasolina
No hay gasolina means there is no gas!

So we went back to the gas station where less than hour before I had seen a display of gallons of water. When we got there not only were the water gallons gone, but they also had run out of gas! We bought a few expensive bottles of designer water and then went to work on some of the more important things around our house like setting up the water cistern. We’ve had this tank now for some time, but haven’t needed to use it. Well, now is the time I suppose. This water won’t be for drinking (unless things get really dire), but rather to wash with and water the animals if they don’t get taken along with their coops like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. We are going to enclose them for the duration of the storm, but who knows if the coops or our shed will be able to withstand it.

Tank
Britton filled up the tank  and made an access spout for it

We also stopped at the bank to get some cash out because who knows how long that system could be down as well! While we were there, they were preparing the building by putting on the metal storm guards over the glass windows. Most people have Miami shutter windows, but any true glass windows should be covered.

Cash and cover
Banco Popular in Rincón

Huracan Kit
This meme is meant to be funny, but also accurate

Cabin today
Let’s hope that on Thursday our pretty cabin is still here!

Besides the terror of the storm itself, the inconvenience of the days, weeks or months we may be without basic services, Britton and I are also nervous for our recently built cabin! We have put a lot of our heart and soul into it and we are so scared that it could just be ripped right out of the earth like a tree. It is well-built and in a valley that has good air flow but gets no direct wind, not even a gust.  We’ve closed everything up and taken what we needed with us to the concrete cabana where it’s breezier, but huff and puff and you probably won’t blow it down. So, now it’s just a matter of waiting and trying not to freak out.

Wish us luck. It may be a while before we can post again, but I will do my best as soon as possible.

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Ron y Cloro: 8 Ways to Solve Your Problems in PR


Posted by Cassie

There is a joke people sometimes say here. What’s the solution to Puerto Rico’s problems? Ron y cloro. Rum and bleach. Rum, because well everything is just better with a little buzz and bleach because it will wipe everything clean again! So I thought I would write a little about how we use each of these to solve our daily problems in Puerto Rico.

Cassie drink (2)
¡Salud!

1) Things just break down and get so much dirtier here than it ever did in Colorado. We have to keep a cover over our washing machine because the dust settles so heavily over the course of a week and then makes the clothes or sheets dirtier than they started! So you must use more bleach! ¡Más cloro!

Washing machine cover
Washing machine cover

2) I always wondered why so many people had a broom in their hand whenever we would drive around Puerto Rico. Now I know! I must sweep the house at least 2-3 times a day. And it still gets grimy. So…then I need to mop! Más cloro!

3) Not only are we near the sea, but it is constantly humid and so anything metal starts rusting and corroding very quickly. We have learned to buy most metal things out of aluminum or galvanized steel because it is much more rust resistant. But, even still, never trust anything that is held together with metal. Here’s a case in point when the deck to the cabana completely broke!

Broken deck
¡Ay, bendito! The screws rusted out on the ledger!

So you learn that you need multiple back-ups. Especially because on this island you NEVER know if you’ll be able to find the part you’re looking for. Even if you buy online don’t expect it to arrive anytime soon. Britton ordered a part for the Mustang from Ebay and it took nearly a month to arrive because they put it on a ship rather than airplane! ¡Caramba! No wonder things take so long to get fixed, if ever! Island time…means you often have to wait and be patient, so why not go have a drink. Más ron!

Deck repair
To repair it we added two more legs to the wall and cross-braced. Must be prepared for the inevitable future breakdown

4) Even clothes break down faster here! The elastic in our underwear breaks down and the clasps on swimsuits rust out! When I was in Colorado I had clothes for 10+ years! Not here! Plus you have to clean clothes with bleach which breaks down the fibers even faster! But at least we don’t need to wear as much since it’s always warm out! Más ron =menos ropa! :-)

Dirty windows
Even aluminum windows start breaking down after a while! And windows constantly need cleaned (Más cloro!)

5) Bugs! Of course there are bugs everywhere, but here there are a couple that most people who are not from the tropics are not as familiar with: termites and cockroaches. ANY wood you use here including for cabinets, furniture and of course structurally should be made with pressure treated wood! (Madera tratada). We bought some beautiful eucalyptus doors for the cabin, and it said they were insect resistant. What it should have said was that this wood was the most delicious food ever for a termite! Bleach will kill them, but you have to get to their main hive and so we had to take the whole door apart and put it back together again. Más ron!

termites
Termites in the doorframe

As for the cockroaches, unless you live completely sealed in an air conditioned house surrounded only by concrete (and even then), you will have some. They especially love any kind of fresh produce or old food. They poop and are just plain gross with those long antennae and I do not want them around! So this means you must keep your kitchen super clean and no dishes in the sink and everything must be organized and reorganized on the regular. Easier said than done!

Roach
Look, a paradise beetle! haha

6) But they do not like bleach! So bleach floors and counters often to keep cockroaches somewhat away. Another trick we learned with cockroaches is to grab the spray bleach bottle and spray the heck out of then. It slows them down enough that you can then smack them with your chancla (flipflop). (Haha, yes, this is part of our life!) Más cloro!

Spray cloro
Not just for toilets anymore!

7) Bleach also takes away most of the mold that will grow on all sorts of things. Even our pillows, behind framed pictures, anything leather and plastic trashcans! It is just amazing how much life there is here!

8) Rum or rather its boring cousin rubbing alcohol (as well as H2O2 and Neosporin) is the preferred method for all the infections and scrapes we get here. A simple splinter can cause a pus-infested swollen finger in a matter of days because there is just so much stuff always growing here. My skin always breaks out from the various forms of life -whether plant, bacteria, fungi, whatever! Alcohol neutralizes the poison in carrasco, it also helps clear up the stinging red ant bites. We also eat copious amounts of garlic since it is a natural anti-bacterial/anti-viral/anti-fungal agent. It’s no wonder garlic is the main seasoning in Puerto Rican cuisine!!

Haole Rot
In Hawaii they call it Haole Rot because it affects white people more I assume -tinea versicolor

Todo tiene solución. Everything has a solution. And for these problems, and more: Ron y cloro! But don’t forget a nice course of Vitamin Sea with a rum piña colada and a good sense of humor to help these problems and others just melt away!

Beach Sat
Ahhh…Rincón balneario

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Random Update: July 2017


Posted by Cassie

Once again it is time for the slices of life that don’t necessarily deserve a post of their own but have been fun and/or interesting.

We recently went to a beautiful celebration of life at a boutique resort in Añasco called Yukayeke. It was very touching.

Sunset
Amazing sunset

Beach Memorial
Gathering of friends

Yukayeke pool Playing music at Yukayeke
And a pool party

Crab cage
It’s still crab (Juey) season here and a few people are out on the street offering them for sale

Abandoned
I love to stop and see the abandoned buildings and the fantastic graffiti art

Cassie mural

Doorway

Flamingo
Even a flamingo!

Closet
We finally hung the closet pole and shelf!!

The cars on this island are almost as fun to watch as the people! So many questions…

One car
From this… a custom car that could never clear most of the potholes here

Two car
To this…a makeshift moving van?

Car balneario
To this…an abandoned and stripped out car. Why are there so many jugs of water?

Harvest
Back at the farm, we’ve had quite the abundance of food and beauty!

Breadfruit
Breadfruit – Pana in Spanish is also an expression here that means pal or friend

Peace Lily
Peace Lily is blooming

Limes
Our first limes from a tree we planted!

Bridge
The cabin side of the property is filling in nicely with plants and the afternoon rains cause the quebrada to flow beneath the bridge

Ms Puerto Rico
The clothing selection in some stores is pretty fun -I had to try this one on: Ms Puerto Rico!

Broken Piraguas
Even the piragua cart breaks down sometimes!

Cassie and Britton
And the beach is always awaiting us

 

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