Category Archives: Friends and Family

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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After Irma


Posted by Cassie

All is good in the hood as they say.

Banana trees
Many banana and plantain plants folded over in the wind

We have weathered the storm and come out just about as good as you could hope. Not only was there not any damage to our immediate area, but even the water and electric came back on within 5 days for most people. There are a few people who are still without some utilities, but everything is slowly booting back up.

Group foto
Hanging with friends Priscilla and Ivette in La Parguera

On Monday, Labor Day, we went down to La Parguera to meet up and compartir with some friends. It was eerily vacated as people prepared for what was to come. For us, it was good to get away from the news and the worrying.

All day Tuesday we spent hauling our stuff from the wooden cabin to the concrete cabana. We definitely over-prepared, but when the news says that the largest storm ever is coming straight for you, even I, the don’t-worry-be-happy girl, started to be slightly concerned.

Avocados
A branch on one of our avocado trees fell so we had to gather the aguacates. Did someone say guacamole?!

Come Wednesday, the power goes off around 12noon. It seemed to be a precautionary measure as there was still hardly any wind or impact of Irma. That was the last time we had contact with the outside world until Saturday when we went to Home Depot and were able to use their free wi-fi (as an aside it’s actually kind of nice to sit and use internet in there on their patio displays -hah).

The worst of the storm passed in the middle of the night Wednesday into Thursday. We could hear major wind gusts but not much else. There was very little rain and we commented that we’ve been through a lot worse in Greeley where our house would receive the full force of wind from the west. And in the town I grew up in near Wyoming, the joke is that a metal chain is a wind sock. So I was underwhelmed to say the least. Not trying to taunt you, though, Irma!

ft_windsock
When you come from a windy area, you expect a bit more

The next morning we went to check out the damage. The worst of it was right at the bridge where a medium-sized tree uprooted, got tangled in another tree and landed on the bridge. It caused no structural damage. We just had to chainsaw it out of the way. I think we caused more damage breaking dishes and glass jars hauling our stuff over to the cabana and back than Irma did to our property, not to mention that Britton was pretty hung over. Yes, we definitely can cause more damage to ourselves than any storm.

It was hot and boring without internet or electricity to run the fans for 3 days. We did end up hooking up and using the 400 gallons of water, so we were thankful for that. We took the opportunity to spend a lot of time reorganizing our stuff that we moved over and cleaning the cabin. After a few days I tired of eating canned foods and junk food. We were happy on Saturday to go into Mayaguez for a few parts and a nice meal at Pollo Tropical. A lot of other people had the same idea too it seemed.

Tree down on bridge
Trees on the bridge to the cabin

Someone mentioned they would like to see pictures of the places we visited before the storm. I assume this means the gas stations, banks and grocery stores. There really isn’t much difference now from then. You wouldn’t even think a major hurricane nicked us because there is hardly even any plant debris on the sides of the road. Occasionally you can hear a generator still running, but overall almost everything is returning to normal. We even went out to Sunday Funday in Aguada and had a fresh coconut water/whiskey drink.

Coconut drink
Sunday in Aguada…everything looks pretty good!

I am not sure if this hurricane prepared us for something larger or made us less because we didn’t see much destruction. Either way, I am glad nothing much came of it for us. I was very sad to hear that St Maarten/Martin received a lot of damage because we were just there on our cruise! And I hope the other islands and Florida are able to recover swiftly.

Chickens
Even the chickens, turkeys and Kitty are all fine!

Here’s a short video during and after Irma at our property.

 

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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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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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