Category Archives: Music

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 Cruise: The Ship At Sea

Posted by Cassie

C Cruise Ship
The huge cruise ship was filled with 3000 passengers and about 1500 staff

When we moved to Puerto Rico, the idea was for it to be our launching pad to see more of the world: To live a life transplanet. Over the last four years we have been very involved in improving the land, tearing down the existing abandoned house, building the cabin in the jungle, planting trees and making trails that we have hardly had a chance to lift our heads up and look around. Yes! We live on a beautiful tropical island, but what else is out there? This week we finally took our trip off the island.

Cruise Ship from above
By land, sea and air. Our cruise ship is just to the left under the wing

For me, I haven’t left Puerto Rico in 3 years, 11 months so I was pretty excited. We figured checking out some of the rest of the Caribbean would be a good start for us. How about going on a cruise? I have been somewhat reluctant to take a cruise because I really have a disdain for anything mass-produced and I hate feeling like one of a crowd. A sheeple if you will. However, after a long talk we decided this might be just what we needed to recenter, reconnect with civilization and remember why we chose to be jungle hillbillies in the first place.

Small commuter plane

We took the small commuter plane out of Mayaguez because you can just leave your vehicle there without any cost to park. It was a beautiful short little flight of only 30-40 minutes. When we arrived in San Juan we took a taxi to the port. I was a little overwhelmed by the people, the process and the sheer scale of what we were about to embark upon. We had also not eaten anything in anticipation of the gluttony that was about to ensue. However, that made it even harder to concentrate on the stimulation all around.

During the drill

After arriving on the ship, checking in and getting the all-important Sea Pass Card that would act as both identification and the main/only monetary instrument onboard we attempted to explore the ship a little. We found our tiny 100-square foot room and tried to find a snack only to be told that all dining halls were shut down for the required safety drill. They blasted a horn and then filed us out like cattle and showed us where the life boats were. It was hot and uncomfortable to be pressed so closely to strange people especially when feeling inundated with everything around us. After that chaos we settled into our room and prepared for our first meal in the dining hall.

Our table
At our dining table

As luck would have it, we had an awesome table of people who were outgoing, cheerful, helpful and just plain fun. As the week progressed we got to know each of them even more and started to spend time with them outside of the dining hall. Each night I looked forward to not just the amazing gourmet meals that we would have at dinner, but hearing about each of our table-mate’s days and seeing our awesome waitstaff. Especially Willy from Philly (which was actually the Phillipines) who would sing Kenny Rogers and other songs to us and spin and toss his serving tray. I am not sure if everyone was as fortunate as we were in that regard.

Live music by the pool
Live music poolside

Man with the cans
This guy was so funny dancing with 4 huge cans of Fosters on his head

The next day was “at sea” which meant we would spend the whole day with everyone else on the ship. It was a great chance for us to wander around and explore the boat. The pool was definitely the place to be. There was not a single lounge chair available and it felt very crowded, so we didn’t spend much time there even though it had a great atmosphere. Probably my biggest complaint about being on the cruise in general was just that there were almost always people EVERYWHERE.

Breakfast with a view
Buffet breakfast/lunch at the Windjammer had a beautiful view

At the Windjammer buffet breakfast/lunch/snack (and dinner if you chose) area, it lived up to its name by jamming everyone in there to jam lots of food in their system. We couldn’t find a seat to eat and ended up taking our plates out to other decks. They don’t provide you with trays either (probably in an attempt to limit the all-you-can-eat scene) so it was kind of a balancing act especially because all the elevators were so full that we had to use the stairs with 2 plates of food and drinks in our hands.

B in an elevator
A rare moment when we got to use the glass elevator

Life saver
Checking out the safety equipment

They do a pretty good job of attempting to keep you busy and entertained, especially on the At Sea days. We watched a super high quality ice skating show (and then went ice skating, yes, ice skating on a cruise ship!!), enjoyed a dancing and singing spectacle, watched the FlowRiders, climbed the rock wall, saw a couple of comedy show and other activities. It truly is like a little (and by little I mean huge in terms of density in population) floating city. I tried to check out some of the behind-the-scenes staff work areas, but was always ushered out and scolded. The staff members were always helpful and fairly friendly but it was obvious that the line between staff and guest was a sharp one, and something else that I didn’t exactly care for in my egalitarian mindset.

Dance show
Dance show

Flowrider wave machine

Rock climbingClimbing the rock wall on a port day

Ice Skating show
Ice skating show

Cassie ice skating
Having fun ice skating

As for what was included and what had an additional charge, here’s how it worked. Almost all the food and entertainment was part of the cruise price. All the buffet which was open almost always as well as all the food in the dining hall. What wasn’t were any drinks besides iced water, coffee, tea, lemonade and OJ served in the Windjammer. This meant that any sodas or alcohol had an additional charge. They also had specialty restaurants on board that weren’t included. We avoided anything that had an extra fee especially because they were extra expensive and had a very easy time smuggling on alcohol both from home and from the ports. One thing we were a little shocked by was the automatic charge of $13.50/per person/per day on our Sea Pass for tips to the waitstaff, maître d, and room attendants. We also quickly and thankfully learned that we could take that off and pay an amount of our choosing if we wanted.

Cost of beer
With prices like this you can see why smuggling booze is a popular pastime for many passengers

Cassie on boat
Watching the deep blue ocean was also very intriguing to me

We were slightly concerned about sea sickness as both Britton and I have experienced that in small boats. On a ship like this there is hardly any rocking at all. There is a slight unevenness almost like feeling drunk and unsteady. Sometimes the hangers would rock in the closet and we could feel a rumble beneath our feet of the massive engines that powered the ship.

Britton and Jason
Britton and one of our tablemate friends, Jason enjoying the adult-only hot tub.

I enjoyed the adult only areas a lot more because it meant fewer people in general though the teenagers as they have done throughout time immemorial always tried to pass as adults. We also felt a lot more “grown up” because we dressed up more. It was required every night to wear at least pants (no shorts) to the dining rooms and the two nights at sea were formal. We don’t have any truly formal wear (like a tuxedo or evening gown), but we definitely cleaned up well. I really like dressing up, so this was something pretty fun for me.

Cleaned up
Feeling fancy and elegant!

Sometimes in Puerto Rico I have felt that our differences as “gringos” are more noticeable than our similarities to Puerto Ricans, but on the cruise ship there was an instant camaraderie to anyone from Puerto Rico. Suddenly on a ship with people from all over the world we had more in common than different and the conversations were always around which city we were from and how we “Puerto Ricans” were well-represented on the ship. It was pretty cool to feel included as an adopted Boricua. We also met people from Italy, Colombia, Chile, Mexico, India, Phillipines and from all over the US. At the Latino bars when they played merengue, bachata, salsa and reggaeton I felt at home and Britton had to remind me that we would get plenty more of that when we got back so we should check out the other bands all over the ship.

An evening full of people in the Promenade, a successful attempt at imitating a busy downtown of a city where our room was unfortunately located directly above a loud bar that played music until 1am every night

Overall, the culture on the ship was unique due to so many factors. Like a floating island, we learned about the language spoken (English officially, Spanish and then other languages unofficially), the television (of 20 channels about 10 of them were about the ship, excursions, the spa, shops, and other ways to take more of your money), the money system (Sea Pass was gold), favorite locations and secret spots, food, customs (for instance hand washing stations everywhere!), taboos (like going into staff areas), pastimes and more.

Wall E
Watching Wall-E in our tiny room was somewhat ironic because we felt like the floating, wastefully consumptive blobs of the movie

We also learned of the social strata and structure with the Captain basically acting as the leader of the community, but the Cruise Director as the main face of the ship. As guests I felt more like a product than a person because we had to be managed and squeezed of as much money as possible. There was an air of luxury, of course on a luxury liner, but also of trying to pull it off while having us sleep on what was essentially a bunk bed with no box springs. It was a magician’s trick and if you let the illusion lull you, it could work quite well. But underneath, you could see all the work it took to maintain a place without any plant or animal life whatsoever. It was a fabrication of fantasy and not close to real at all.

To give you a sense of the falseness of this, the ship traveling through the heat of a Caribbean summer was actually too cold for me and we attempted to turn off the air conditioning in our room, but it was still cold from the base temperature of the ship. Perhaps we have just acclimated to no air conditioning, but it seems strange to be too cold in the tropics.

Just a fraction of the staff (in this case dining staff) that it took to pull off the illusion

Like in the awesome hypnosis show in which our tablemate friend Tiffany fell entranced, we were enchanted by the ship

Cool dress and shirt
More fun dressing up in Caribbean attire at the Promenade

Two monkeys in a window
A towel monkey made by our room attendant and a Cassie monkey in our bay window over the Promenade with artificial lights that never went out and made it difficult to sleep

If I had to say only one thing about the cruise though, it was food. Perhaps it is because we live where food is pretty much always the same and pretty hard to come by certain things (like asparagus, King Crab, green beans, lamb, duck, etc) and definitely hard to find gourmet preparations. This made it gluttony at sea! We were so stuffed every night it was actually quite uncomfortable and I am happy to be back to eating very little again (well almost) -haha!

Table of food
You can order as many starters/entrees and desserts as you wish

Fancy deserts Lobster dinner
Fancy desserts and lobster tail night where I ate TWO lobster tails!

Fun with friends Girls dance
We found ways to work off some of that food though, dancing in the night club

The impact of 2000-3000 people and a huge ship that is larger than the Titanic showing up in your little island every day is hard to comprehend. I suppose as humans we can adjust to anything and perhaps it’s because of our life surrounded by hundreds or acres of jungle and very few people or luxuries, but the cruise ship industry still seems almost like science fiction of the 1800s if you think about it at any depth. I tried not to think too much about the inauthenticity of the illusion and instead tried to learn,  have a lot of fun and gorge myself on delectable foods I won’t see for a long time.

Adventure of the seas
Imagine an 11 story skyscraper filled with thousands pulling up into your town daily!

Stay tuned for more about our stops and other adventures on our first cruise ever.

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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.

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

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

Cassie mural


Even a flamingo!

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?

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

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

Peace Lily
Peace Lily is blooming

Our first limes from a tree we planted!

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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Random Photo Update: June 2017

Posted by Cassie

It’s that time again to sort through all the photos that have no other real place but in a random photo drop. All the little moments in life add up…

Cassie Abandoned Cassie in the window
I love checking out old abandoned buildings!

Cassie abandoned 2

Britton and the tree
Yard work is always humbling in its scale

Baby Hawk 2
And its rewards like seeing this young hawk up close

Bird on a banana leaf
Or this little guy

Cabin in the jungle
Back side of the cabin as it is currently

Abandoned House
At another cool abandoned house

Randomness of life here…Viking helmets and old nuclear reactors

Buena Vista 2 Edit
So breathtaking -Spanish wall overlooking Pools Beach in Rincóñ

Pare sign
You know it’s a surf town when…

At the international folkloric music/dance night in Rincon -people from all over the world came like Turkey!

Jenn Cassie Culture
Slovenia! (With my funny friend Jenn! haha)

I thought the fiddles, overalls and square dancing was a funny representation of the USA, but somewhat accurate I suppose for folk dancing

Junk in your Trunk
Now that’s what you call a lot of junk in your trunk!! ;-)

Check out these cool mushrooms growing on rotting wood

White gingers
White torch gingers at our finca

Plumeria caterpillar munching away

Sphinx moth

Beautiful Boquerón -standing

Boqueron chillin
And laid out (thanks to Amanda for this photo)

Horny Cassie
You never know what you might see…ram horn helmet and a skeleton at a restaurant!

Crazy VanThat’s quite the paint job!

wreck 2
And that’s one heck of a wreck!

Jeff and Britton Cassie fedora
Laura and Trevor Salsa night

We went out salsa dancing with fedoras at a place called Hydra and had a lot of fun! It’s a cool, hip place and while I love salsa dancing and music it does seem to be dying off as a popular music style here on the island. Bachata, merengue and reggaeton are far more favored at most bars. Salsa is like 50′s sock-hop music would be to most people stateside.

We got some moves- haha!

Piramide Pyramid
Yah, you know there’s just a random pyramid in Aguada

Such beauty! Hermit crabs abound

Motorcycle ride
A nice guy at a bar gave me a ride on his motocicleta!

And these guys found a land crab at this place! Apparently it is juey mating season!

Britton and Roberto
Good times with friends like Roberto

Cassie up
Fun at Spanish Wall

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