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!
Our bed in the cabin!
This, like everything, was quite the process because we had to haul everything over on foot.
We loaded the truck and took the furniture half-way down
And then carried it through the tropical gardens
And over the bridge…
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.
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.
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 in the kitchen/living room of the cabin with the new sink and stove just waiting to be installed
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.
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.
Like a tree core sample. The floor consists of 3/4 inch plywood, thinset, 3/4 cement board, more thinset and the tile
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
This cold, wet and clammy coqui landed on my leg and then hopped on this ginger leaf
We have even had our first “unofficial” get together with a few friends at the cabin!
Internet is one of those modern conveniences that is just….. so nice to have. Checking in on Facebook, paying bills or looking how to do things on youtube. We haven’t “hooked” up internet service here yet, but we’ve always had some signal of some sort to utilize. It is probably more of a personal challenge to find alternate ways of connecting than any actual reason. In the process you can learn all kinds of new things about networking and radios.
When we first arrived the only way to get an open signal was to be on top of the cabana on the corner of the house. Usually this was in the sun or rain! This is what I will consider internet v1.0. It was much easier than packing up and going to a cafe, plus we didn’t have to buy coffee or sit outside some place and look like moochers. We could mooch from our own home!
I then figured out how to setup a repeater bridge by installing a Linux variant DD-WRT on a Linksys router. The bridge would take the internet signal from yonder and repeat it so that we had wireless access from within the cabana! It needed to be waterproof so I bought a plastic trashcan from the dollar store, drilled holes for the antennas and hung it upside down. I had to hang it upside down to keep the rain from draining into the antenna holes.
Version 2.0 worked really well, it was nice to sit inside the cabana and have access. Of course with both 1.0 and 2.0 the speeds were pretty much dialup. The Access Point we were using was pretty far away. Eventually the trees grew tall enough to block our access. We had to find another source!
We had been talking to our neighbor about the idea of paying for a share of his internet and in return he would put his wireless router in his window nearest our property to get a good line of sight link to our wireless bridge. Well this worked out really well! This was version 3.0 and I even made a little wood box for it out of scrap T-111 because the plastic trashcan disintegrated in the sun!! The speeds were MUCH faster and it worked really well.
Forward to the cabin being built and wanting to have internet over there. It is easily 500 feet and there is a forest between the router box, so no signal is going to make it over there. We had already put in an electricity line and I did some research.
Apparently companies have figured out how to make a device that will transmit from an electric outlet to an electric outlet. This is perfect! It is called Ethernet over power in case you may want to use it. One end plugs into the wireless router (Ethernet up-link) and plugs into the power outlet the router is plugged into. The other end plugs into an outlet at the cabin. Since they are on the same circuit they can talk. The device at the cabin also has a wireless router built into it! So now we have wireless internet at and around the cabin!
The only problem I had now was that apparently wires and cables are fun to chew on. So rats and iguanas have been chewing up the power and Ethernet cables inside the box and it quits working.
So here comes version 4.0 pictured below. It is waterproof, chew proof relays a wireless signal from our neighbor to our concrete cabana AND sends a signal thru the electric line to the new cabin. It isn’t pretty, but hey, maybe nobody will want to steal it?
4.0 is Ratproof!
It is fun to invent, design, build and test. That is what we have been doing the entire time we have lived here in Rincón! What can I say? I’m a geek.
We just accomplished a major milestone in building the cabin! We have just finished installing the tile floors! This was quite a process not the least of which was just simply bringing over the supplies. Before they could even start on the tiles they had to bring over almost 30 sheets of plycem (concrete backer board). Each one of them weighed over 130 pounds! Then they had to move over all the boxes of tiles as well!
Installing each of the concrete backer sheets!
Preparing the tile with Waldemar starting with the center piece
Beginning the tile from the center out
One special touch we added was a tile mosaic in the center of the room under the large ceiling fan. It complicated things a little but I think it is pretty cool. We bought the last one in the tile store and so we had to cut some parts special for it, but it turned out very nice.
Installing the grout
Shortly after installation
After the first mopping
For a more in-depth how-to on this tile installation you can watch this video; there’s some pretty funny bloopers at the end too:
Once we finished with the tiles we were able to accomplish something else that we are super excited about: bringing over the full-sized fridge and stove! These were very tough to move over because they, like everything in the cabin, had to be brought over by hand. No dolly was used.
First they loaded it from the shed into the truck and drove it half-way down
Then they carried it through the jungle
Across the bridge
Up the stairs, and to the house!
And yes, their backs were pretty sore after this! But we are super excited about the floors and what it means. With the floors and the walls basically finished, that means we are nearly ready to move everything else in too! Next up, the toilet and finishing work on the bathroom!
We recently had quite an experience and learned a lot from it. I couldn’t write about it until it aired, but it truly was amazing and a lot of fun.
Our first scene in our tiny house
We were cast for a reality house hunting show! It is basically the same premise and format as House Hunters International except on a different channel. I’ve always thought being on TV would be a fun thing to do and it really was! This show is called Waterfront House Hunting and airs on FYI network which is part of A&E.
Before we were cast we had to make a submission video that sort of spelled out some of the things that are unique about us and our search for a house. We knew we had to pretend that we were still looking for a house, but they would try to show us things that were sort of in the same line of thought as we had when we were looking in Puerto Rico. Boy were we ever wrong about that! For instance:
Some of the factors we mentioned that we were interested in a property in Puerto Rico were: Most important feature: LAND! This was the biggest factor for us. The house really didn’t matter as long as we could grow food and raise animals, had some privacy and seclusion and had room to expand or build if we wanted later. In Fantasy-land none of the properties had much usable land at all. And the ones by the ocean would be little use to grow fruit trees. Style of house: Not important, but Spanish Villa architecture would be kind of cool. In Fantasy-land we did look at a few cool styles, though in reality this doesn’t matter to us. Size of house: Not important but 3-4 bedrooms or extra buildings would be nice for rental income potential down the road. In Fantasy-land this varied. Price: Around $150,000. This was our budget when we came here and we found plenty of properties in this range. I said I would be willing to pay a little more to have what we really want like land. In Fantasy-land we would be looking at houses in the $650,000 to 800,000 range! That would be craziness for us! View: A nice ocean view would be great, but not necessary as long as there was usable, flattish land. In Fantasy-land all of them had nice views, but very little usable/arable/flat land. Location: Rincón, if possible (balancing out that things are more expensive in Rincón, but also with more rental potential due to tourists the closer to the ocean you are). In Fantasy-land all the properties were in Rincón.
We also mentioned that we know real estate, both here in Puerto Rico as well as in Colorado. And we see property as shelter, potential income as well as a food source and not simply a status symbol. Though it can be that as well.
Lots of people and equipment in only 300 sq feet!
The first day we just did our backstory. Basically introducing ourselves to the audience. Most of this was true with just one major lie: that we were currently renting (where we actually live) and looking for our first house in Puerto Rico! It was a tight fit getting everyone in our tiny cabana for this one! We met the whole crew. Two camera-people, a sound guy, the field producer, and two assistants. I am not sure what their official titles were. We all had to go turkey herding because they were going to mess with the sound, so that was pretty funny.
At House #1
The next day was the first house we were to see. They wanted each house to be a surprise to us to see our true reaction. There was a learning curve to this because we weren’t sure what was allowed and what wasn’t. They said they wanted us to move around a lot and interact with the house/environment not just stand around and talk. Make it interesting to watch! Well, I am always up for having fun…
Like Goldilocks I tried out each of the beds
I think we have lost all ability to be really WOWED by a house because we have seen sooo many houses in our real life. We have seen pepto pink walls, brothels, meth houses, wine cellars as big as houses, houses literally hanging off a cliff, fun houses with crooked floors and tiny hidden rooms and houses frozen in time like a museum. So anything that is not wildly amazing just doesn’t get much of a reaction from us anymore like it might if we were first time home buyers. So a lot of our reactions to these properties were fabrications. Don’t get me wrong! These were awesome places -right by the water or with amazing views! It’s just that I know I have a much different take on properties than most people, or probably at least most TV-watching Americans.
One thing that was super cool about House #1 was that we were able to get our band in it! Go Rincón Continentals! Since we “buy” this house in TVland, and our “characters” are also in a band we pretended that we got the whole band together for a party to celebrate our new home. We even played a few of our original songs! What awesome exposure!
Getting the band set up for the scene
What a cool backdrop to play music! Rob on drums
A fun experience for all of us in the band!
We learned that they do try to actually show properties that are for sale, but sometimes, they are not. Such as this one that our characters ended up buying.
I say our characters because it became immediately apparent that we were not actually supposed to be ourselves. We were playing a role. We were basically actors playing a part that has some similarities with our normal day-to-day life but not many. We even asked them to spell our names incorrectly for the show (Kassey and Briton instead of Cassie and Britton) because we wanted it to be clear to anyone who knew us that we were acting. Obviously in order to be these characters we had jobs again, we were very wealthy to be able to afford an $800,000 ocean front place, we were not concerned with income potential of these properties, and were sort of aloof to pretty much anyone else around. We were fed lines and points of contention in order to build a conflict in the story line to make the viewers wonder which one we would ultimately choose! We joked that they would all be wrong because we chose none of the above (in real life we have our little farm and cabins)!! Haha. So much for “reality” TV.
I think most people know that shows like this are something of an escape, a sort of fantasy, but I don’t know if people really quite grasp how much so! Especially when it is presented as real. Sometimes the houses had more bedrooms but we said they had less or the kitchen is downstairs but we acted as if it were upstairs, and the choice out of the three places was not even made by us!
Playing the part
And all of this is just fun entertainment, I get that, but I think sometimes these shows may be sending the wrong message. People may not wake up to the fact that you CAN indeed just up and move to the Caribbean and you don’t have to be a millionaire to do it! That you can have a great life without all the materialist garbage of whether or not a granite counter is the make or break point in a house-buying decision. That you already ARE good enough! That you can leave the rat race. You don’t have to work all the time just to get the next great toy or bigger house. You don’t need to compete or struggle or battle against something or someone (your weight, your career, your house, your car). All of that struggle is just to sell you more of the same lie (and more stuff). But it’s all fake.
It also was a fantasy because it barely skimmed the surface of what it is truly like to live in Puerto Rico. Most people do not live in or buy these types of properties. It also sort of paints a strange picture of the North Americans who move to Puerto Rico as an escape from their “realities” of life in the states just to have a playground here. This dichotomy is especially apparent in the current economic crisis of the island and the heavy hand of the US government and corporations.
Face the cameras but don’t look directly at them! Jeff, Hillary with the cameras and the great host of the show: Seth
But it was not our job to portray “real life” in Puerto Rico. It was to act in this Fantasy land. And it was a lot of fun being an actor. We had to learn not to look directly at the camera because this breaks the “fourth wall” as they explained to us. The fourth wall in theatre is where the audience watches. Or in TV it is where the screen is. So if you break the fourth wall, it feels to the viewer that you are looking right at them through the set. It breaks the spell of the fantasy. The illusion is that there are not cameras, that all of this is not a show. And I suppose this is a type of parallel to life. When you realize all of this is an illusion that you are simply experiencing through your senses for a short time, it may become slightly uncomfortable. But you may also feel more awake and in tune with it all! Here’s a great video about purposeful 4th Wall breaks. Very interesting!
Throughout the scenes we focused on surface stuff. Tiles, sinks, ceilings. We didn’t get into construction, foundations and settling, what it would actually mean to take down a concrete wall (sort of like a 4th wall?) or build something. It was basically “house porn” -just the titillating sexy side of house buying. Whenever we would touch something in a scene we would have to go back and film a close up of our hands opening the oven door, turning on the water in the sink etc. And whenever we would have a discussion about a house we would have a “reaction” period where they filmed us just looking and smiling and nodding at each other without talking. It took some getting used to but this crew knew what they were doing.
Also tried out all the couches in the various houses with the host Seth
This was another part of this process that I don’t think many people talk about or appreciate: All the people you work with to make this happen. You learn about their lives and interests outside of this job. You learn the toll this takes on them to travel so much and the long hours they put in. They are seasoned pros for sure! In some ways in their world we were just another couple to be filmed because they have done so many of these shows. But they made it so easy. Pretty cool to see such dedicated people in motion.
Like Dave the sound guy. So knowledgeable and all around fun person
Or Fran the local Puerto Rican film student and production assistant
Some of the crew at a house in Palatine Hills
Jackie the field producer has the hardest and most demanding job of them all! She had to coordinate EVERYTHING from the ground like coffee and wardrobe to story line to continuity to back in Los Angeles to the next episode or show down the line. This woman worked non-stop from 5am to midnight! Just thinking about what she had to deal with wore me out!
The whole crew after the “Decision Scene” at the Horned Dorset
Britton, Seth- the host of the show, and I definitely had the most glamorous of the jobs. And it is no doubt why so many people want to be rich and famous and be on that side of the camera. In fact touring all these places and hanging out at the ritzy spots you start to get a feel for what it could be like to live that lifestyle. When we were filming at the beach people looked at us like we were stars and asked us what movie we were making! A pretty cool and ego-boosting feeling. It is truly the hook of any of these shows and probably show business in general.
Do I look the part yet? At the ritzy Horned Dorset
Most people have watched television or movies but not nearly as many have seen what goes on behind the scenes, beyond the walls! The production of the whole enterprise. To me, more so even than all the fabrications we had to put together for the story this was the most impressive part of fantasy-building. The whole illusion is a sum of its parts. We saw a little of it with our friends Jon and Rachel when we filmed the short movie and the commercial, but this took it to a whole new level.
Yah we’re just a couple of Hollywood stars haha
In this scene you will only see what the camera sees, but look at all that you don’t see behind the curtain!
A cool feature of this particular show is that the couples also have a water activity. In our case, we went out on a small sail craft with our friends Jeanne and Jeff from Rincón Sailing.
While the camera crew circled around us -just be sure not to look at them when filming!
Britton, me, Jeff and Jeanne
Overall, this experience is one I will cherish and never forget! Because I like to look at the bigger picture in things this helped me to sort of understand more in depth how the media in general forms a sort of reality that is anything but. With just a touch of truth it magically turns everything else into fantasy. And my reality for these five days was a sort of fantasy away from the norm.
Setting up the beach and B-roll scenes at the Marina
It also took me some time pondering exactly what my role was in this fantasy-creation. Once I understood that it wasn’t Cassie as I know myself, but the character “Kassey”-as-seen-on-TV, I was able to sort of detach from my personal outlook on conspicuous consumption and see that I was just playing a role that was really not like me though we may look the same on the outside. It’s also sort of funny, I think, to note that we don’t even have a television or cable/dish to watch this show on. We filmed in February and it aired in August! We were very excited to see it and how they edited down 5 days of filming!
Sort of surreal. We watched ourselves on TV at Jackie’s Gyro shop in downtown Rincon
Seeing yourself on TV is a trip!
Our life has truly come around to being kids again. This was just a bit of make-believe on the other side of the wall.
I haven’t been able to get a good easily playable link to the full episode (if you have cable or dish you can login and watch it here), but here’s a little I caught off the TV of the ending “band scene.”
I found this link to the full length video but I was unable to play it here in Puerto Rico. Let me know if it works for anyone else.