Category Archives: Fun

Ponce Carnaval -The Sardine’s Funeral


Posted by Cassie

From the from Alcaldia

Imagine a mix of Mardi Gras, Halloween, Puerto Rican traditional music and dancing, high school marching bands all with a dose of Burning Man and surrealism. What do you have? The Sardine’s Funeral on the last night of Carnaval in Ponce, Puerto Rico.

B C Ponce
At the historic Parque de Bombas in Ponce

We headed down to Ponce on Tuesday afternoon (the day before Lent) with very little expectations. We heard something about the burial of the sardine. What does that even mean? Well, as we came to learn it is a raucous and very strange celebration mocking death and mourning the end of Carnaval. It is held in the historic town plaza of Ponce and there are lots of other fun things including a bomba dancing and singing show. This year it was a pretty quiet night, but the outlandish festivities made up for the low numbers.

Dancing with the bombas
With the young bomba dancers

There are also lots of vejigantes (folkloric scary figures to scare away the demons) walking around and occasionally startling people. In modern times a lot of them wore Halloween masks along with the traditional robes and cow bladders that they would beat. We found a few deflated bladders left around. It was rather weird!

Britton bladder
Britton with a deflated cow bladder -Yuck!

More scary clownsWith some of the scary clown/vejigantes

Scary clowns
More strange fun…note the balloon looking bladders they are carrying

Scary costumes
With a werewolf vejigante

It wasn’t until the funeral procession for the sardine that we saw some of the more traditional masks.

Sardines Funeral
Here you can see the sardine in the casket as well as some of the vejigantes

Cassie and the procession
Me and the funeral procession

Carrying the casket
Lifting and then carrying the casket onto the stage

Death welcoming
Death and a marching band

Strange parade cats
Crazy cat man? Plus creepy dolls…

The whole parade itself was a peculiar event, but the sardine and the wailing mourners took the cake. When they brought the sardine up on stage, they said a eulogy for all sorts of silly things including broken cell phones and flat tires. Then they lit a hang-man on fire in effigy. The whole thing was bizarre but they definitely put the “fun” in funeral.  

We ended the night overlooking the entire scene from high atop a luxury hotel building. We then danced our way out listening to the final band playing “Hot, Hot, Hot” and limboed lower laughing all the way. I would highly recommend the Ponce Carnaval that lasts 5-7 days before Lent every year. And for the strangest event ever, come the night of the Sardine’s funeral!

RIP SardinaRIP La Sardina!

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Our First Puerto Rico Farmer’s Market and Other Cool Moments


Posted by Cassie

This last week we had so many flowers in our yard that we thought we would give the farmer’s market a try. Well…it was a success! People loved our the flowers and the arrangements that we made. We hope to sell there often as more and more plants bear flowers and produce. We are planning on selling miracle fruit there this coming Sunday in fact!

Farmers Market

We have also been busy out and about. We recently went to the San Sebastian town festival. We actually ran out of gas on the way in Moca but a very nice policeman picked us up in the rain and took us to the nearest gas station. Always an adventure! Later that day we also checked out our friend Habish’s awesome new endeavor, a little hidden gastro-pub called Del Barril  next to his music studio in Aguadilla. When we’re not working on the property we have been having fun wherever we go!

Fiestas Patronales
Having fun at the San Sebastian pueblo festival

Cassie Habish
Habish and me at Del Barril

Cassie Donkey Ride
Out for helado (ice cream) like a little kid!

Helado
Britton too!

Cassie in the windowHaving more fun with new friends!

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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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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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