Category Archives: Food

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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Our First Cruise: Last Stop St Maarten


Posted by Cassie

Pretty Port of St Maarten
Checking out the port of St Maarten from atop the ship

After another full day at sea in which we found a variety of activities on the ship including dancing in the night club until about 3am on the top deck of the ship, we arrived on the Dutch side of St Maarten. The first thing I noted about St Maarten was that it had the prettiest, most picturesque port (at least on one side) of all the other islands we visited. Unlike the dry ABC islands, we were back to a lusher part of the Caribbean, nearly home to green and beautiful Puerto Rico.

Group of friends
Our group at the dock

We decided that for our last day we should make it a group outing with our whole dining table friends.

Pretty landscapes
Pretty St Maarten from our water taxi

This was our shortest day in port. They wanted us back on the ship by 3:30pm, leaving around 4pm! That didn’t leave us with much time to explore, so we all decided that a nice dip in the ocean, a few beers and a little stroll around the downtown would be plenty for us.

Flags
Flags of St Maarten

My main impression of St Maarten was that it was the most influenced by the cruise industry and tourism of all the islands. This meant that we were harassed and bothered to buy things by the vendors all down the line of shops. The taxi drivers over and over were asking us if we needed a ride, and even when we bought their umbrella/beer special on the beach, women constantly came up to us and asked if wanted to buy some of their knickknacks, get our hair braided or a massage. It was probably the most annoying stop for me, and what I had worried the rest of the trip might be like.

Lady on the beach
One of about 10 women who came up to us every 5 minutes to try to sell us stuff

Perhaps if we had gone a little further to the French side of the island or really any distance at all from the ship, this wouldn’t have been such an issue. We heard that there is a cool beach that overlooks the airport and also that the French side of the island has nude beaches and that the Dutch side has gambling. Choose your delight…

St Maarten church
Street scene in St Maarten

Main strip of St Maarten
A hot and sunny day in St. Maarten

The best thing about all the competition for tourist money was that everything was very cheap compared with the other islands. We got a bucket of 6 bottled beers on ice for $10 and they were advertising T-shirts 5 for $20.

White sands watching jet ski
Watching our friend Jason on the jet ski

C Lounging Cassie
St Maarten had the whitest sand beaches I had seen yet

Britton and Cassie sea
And the water was so clear you didn’t need a snorkel to look through it

After our short and mainly pleasant stay in St Maarten, it was time to load up on the boat and pack our things. Of all the islands, I felt that I would like to visit St Maarten/Martin again. Lucky for us, it is pretty close to Puerto Rico.

C St Maarten Cassie
Goodbye for now, St Maarten!

That night on the ship we packed up our bags and watched a farewell show from the bay window of our room and then watched St Maarten and the rest of our first cruise fade away on the horizon.

Promenade goodbye show
A tiki spectacle right from our room

Cassie smooth sailing
St Maarten fades away into memory

Britton on a boat
A beautiful end to our first cruise

Puerto Rico
6am in the port yard Puerto Rico

The next morning bright and early we arrived in the port of Puerto Rico and by noon we were back on the farm reflecting of our fabulous days and dreaming of the lobster, shrimp cocktails, escargot and crème brulee of nights before. It was a wonderful trip and helped us to also remember how fortunate we are to live on one of the more beautiful islands of the Caribbean.

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Our First Cruise: Curacao’s Blue Bay Beach


Posted by Cassie

C B Curacao
B and Me in Curacao

Our day in Curacao also started with no set plans. We checked out the view of the city from atop the ship and wore our swimsuits and brought our snorkels in hope of walking or taking a taxi down to a nearby beach. We are so spoiled because we have beaches all around us here in Puerto Rico, but every beach is different and we wanted to see how Curacao compared. If you go on a Caribbean vacation, it is sort of a mandate that you spend at least one day at the beach, right?!

Bridge over city
Britton with Williamstad, Curacao in the background with its futuristic looking skybridge

As we were collecting ourselves off the ship, we ran into our tablemates Tiffany and Keno and asked what their plans were for the day. They said they just wanted to go to a nice, not-too-crowded beach, just like us! So we decided to share a taxi. There was a closer man-made beach called Mambo, but the taxi driver persuaded us to go a little further to Blue Bay. As we drove along, I again remarked about how very dry everything was in Curacao and we did spot a flamingo quickly out the window.

Blue Bay golf course
Blue Bay Beach  and golf course was very well maintained and obviously watered by some outside/municipal? source

Unfortunately, we didn’t bring much money because we were anticipating staying near the ship. We quickly found out that unlike in Puerto Rico, there are private beaches in Curacao and they can charge you to use them!! It was $8 per person to access the Blue Bay Beach which was located inside a golf course resort. Thankfully, Tiffany and Keno helped us to cover the shortage we had so that we could stay and not turn around and take the taxi right back! It was a stunningly beautiful beach, but I am so thankful that in Puerto Rico there are no private beaches.

Curacao colors
The beautiful waters of Blue Bay Beach. It’s easy to see how it got its name and why curacao liquor is this shade of blue

Date palm
Date palm and playground area

Golf course
The golf course attempted to keep things lush, but it is obviously still a desert

Lizard
The lizards were a little different from what I’m used to as well. Keeping with the blue theme, this one had blue feet!

Keno and Tiff 2
With friends Keno and Tiffany at Blue Bay

We swam around and snorkeled for a bit. Where the dark blue waters touched the turquoise there were some incredible things to see that I haven’t seen while snorkeling in Puerto Rico such as the amazing purple tube coral (organ pipe coral) that looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss story. The way the dark waters blended with the light also had a faint quality of oil mixing with water. As I dove deep to touch the white sands and stir up the schools of blue tang, rainbow parrot, needlenosed eels and other fish I felt as if I were swimming in an aquarium. It was so fantastically wonderful.

C snorkeling
Peeking my head up for a moment while snorkeling

Britton swimming
Britton relaxing in the warm Caribbean waters

When we went back to meet up with Keno and Tiffany we asked how their snorkeling was going. They said it was fun, but they hadn’t seen anything really. I said they needed to go over by the piers and the little huts where the waters turned dark. Tiffany had a fear of deep water, but I told her there was nothing to worry about. You won’t sink! She worked through her fear and after a good long time, she slid from the pier into the water and was so excited to see some of what I had seen, though she didn’t go out as far or as deep.

Cassie and Tiffany
Talking her into it!


Showing her how simply it’s done

I scrambled up and down the rocks near the pier for a while until a Dutchman warned me of stonefish! I snorkeled with him for some time and he showed me three of them in a small vicinity. They are very good at camouflaging to their environment and I could have easy grabbed one or stepped on one had they been hiding out on the rocks.  These are fish you don’t want to encounter physically, or our stay in Curacao could have included a trip to the hospital!

Keno and blue waters
Snorkeling with Tiffany on the dark and light side of the water while Keno watched and snapped photos

C Happy Cassie
Hanging out under the palm frond palapa huts

Cassie on pier
While the water was gorgeous, the raw landscape was harsh and dry!

Cassie under
Checking out the little restaurant area

Something else we learned was that topless swimming was completely allowed. To our American eyes this started out as a little shocking, but slowly became normal as mothers and daughters walked and lazed around just as the men without anything on top!

Through the window
Through the looking glass of a gorgeous view

It was a wonderful day, but we came back sunburnt, salty and hungry! There also wasn’t time to explore much else in Curacao before heading back onboard. I am sure that the rest of Curacao is very different from this resort, but it was just the perfectly picturesque vision many people have of a Caribbean vacation and I was ok with that too.

Beach
A postcard perfect day

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Our First Cruise: Bonaire


Posted by Cassie

After traveling throughout the night we arrived in Kralendijk, Bonaire making it our first stop of the cruise. Our cruise, as it turned out, was to all Dutch or formally Dutch islands. I know very little about Dutch or Holland, and barely skimmed the surface of Dutch colonialism in our stops. Three of the four stops were also to the southern Caribbean closer to South America than north, the exception being St Maarten.

Overlooking Bonaire
Overlooking Bonaire from upon high -notice all the lounge chairs are empty as nearly everyone had left.

We got in the habit of checking out the port cities from high above on the cruise ship each day before exiting. This gave us the ability to see from a bird’s eye view what was walkable and anything else of interest. The boat was eerily vacated by the time we descended and left, but I much preferred it to the crowd of masses on sea days. It was only on port days that we enjoyed the pool and other areas that were otherwise way too packed.

At the pool
Enjoying one of the empty pools on a port day

Since it was our first stop, we thought we would play it by ear and just wander around near the port of Kralendijk. The process to leave the ship was very simple. There were no customs agents of any sort. No passport stamping at all coming or going. When we exited the boat, they simply scanned our Sea Pass card and we descended. To reboard, we rescanned and went through a metal detector by the security company hired by the cruiseline.

IMG_0983
Mind Your Head -I thought this sign was interesting for a few reasons

Britton and flowers
It started as a bit of a cloudy day and then turned hot and sunny

Being the anti-authoritarian rebel I am (haha), when they said to go left for “great shopping” we went right to see what Kralendijk was really like. We ended up in sort of a ghetto neighborhood and in an Asian grocery store.

sodas Liquor
Some things on the shelf of the store

I enjoyed looking at all the products I have never seen elsewhere. One thing about being on a cruise with all the gourmet foods you can stuff in your system is that you don’t have a desire to try any of the local cuisine of the stops you take which is a shame because you can learn a lot about a culture through its food.

Britton beers
Britton hot and sweaty with two different beers we have never seen before

We did, however, get a chance to try local light beers at each of our stops. These included Zulia, Claro, Bright, and a different variety of Amstel.

Let Op
I loved seeing all the road signs in Dutch. Let OP! Drempels

I stopped in to a photocopy shop to get copies of our passports because they said onboard that we should have some sort of identification with us, but that a copy would suffice. I talked with the woman behind the counter and she spoke more Spanish with me than English though it was interspersed with what I think was Dutch. I ran into some Dominicans, Colombians and Venezuelans in the stores too, a reminder of how much impact Latin America has on these Dutch islands.  This was also our first introduction to Papiamento, the pidgin and commonly spoken language in the A, B, C islands of Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao.

Cactus fence
The first signs we weren’t in the lush tropics anymore, but rather a desert were these cactus fences. Also, note the milkweed to the right where we also saw a lot of butterflies feeding

As I was inside the photocopy shop, Britton waited outside and set down the bag of goodies that we bought in the grocery store in order to throw away a beer bottle. When he came back to it 30 seconds later, he found someone rifling through it. He yelled that it was his bag and the guy started to give him aggressive attitude and posturing. Britton said he started to feel the heat rise and tried to diffuse the situation speaking in Spanish and English “it’s ok, amigo, friend” and finally the guy left the bag alone. After that we grabbed it, got the heck out of there and went left after all.

Street Scene Bonaire
Street scene in Bonaire

Flamingo Express po
Bonaire is known for its flamingos and nearly everything uses this spirit animal including the post office

Building in Bonaire
Apparently this was some sort of government building whose sign I didn’t understand because I again got ushered out

Downtown Bonaire
Cool old Dutch architecture – and cannons!

Our day in Bonaire was pretty short with a departure time of just 5pm, so we just barely got a feel for it and went back aboard the ship to take more pictures from above. If we had gotten up earlier or had more time in general I would have liked to have seen the flamingos, some of the beaches or gone on the ATV tour, but for our first stop we felt pretty content with just walking around a bit.

Britton Bonaire
Britton and Bonaire

Bonaire sea cow
I thought the Sea Cow was a pretty funny little boat

That evening as the ship left Bonaire on the way to Curacao, we watched a lovely sunset off the deck and prepared for another exciting port day.

Watching the sunset BC boat sunset

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