Category Archives: Philosophy

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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Dominican Yolas


Posted by Cassie

An interesting part of living in Puerto Rico is that we are front and center of Caribbean geopolitics. A recent case in point was when we came upon a yola near Sandy Beach in Rincón. A yola is a small boat usually from the Dominican Republic that is used primarily to transport fleeing people who immigrate (illegally) to Puerto Rico and then potentially to the mainland US. Sometimes they are Haitians who have fled to DR and then from DR they come to PR. It is sort of a follow-the-money game where people leave the poorer country for the richer; much as many Puerto Ricans are leaving the island to the US proper for better job opportunities.

IMG_1032
With a yola on the beach

These are fairly common sights, but this was the first time I saw one recently vacated. There was still clothing strewn about and the remnants of a small fire, probably the people who were waiting for them to arrive. They paint the boat blue and throw a blue tarp over top in order to blend in with the ocean and not be spotted. Sometimes people come over without any plan at all and just run through the jungle looking for water to drink and clothing to wear.

puerto-rico, Dominican Republic
Eastern DR to West PR is less than 100 miles, but through pretty rough seas

I can only imagine the feeling of desperation there must be for someone to make the decision to leave everything they know and take a treacherous 2-3 day journey on a boat like this with nothing certain awaiting them! It reminded me of when we saw the stranded people out on Desecheo that didn’t quite make it to Rincón.

Yola cut
The motor was removed shortly after arriving and the side of the boat was cut (by police presumably) so that it would be harder to re-use

This was a successful journey for these Dominicans. It’s not always the case that all of them end up alive at the end of the trip.

Puerto Ricans call the whole country of the Dominican Republic Santo Domingo, not just the capital. And in terms of relations of Puerto Ricans with people from Santo Domingo, there is a tolerance, but also a sort of feeling of superiority due to the citizenship status and also wealth. While Puerto Rico is not rich by US standards, in comparison to a poor undocumented yola newcomer, any Boricua has it far better by most measures.

Here is a short video about the yola that washed up on shore.

 

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Ron y Cloro: 8 Ways to Solve Your Problems in PR


Posted by Cassie

There is a joke people sometimes say here. What’s the solution to Puerto Rico’s problems? Ron y cloro. Rum and bleach. Rum, because well everything is just better with a little buzz and bleach because it will wipe everything clean again! So I thought I would write a little about how we use each of these to solve our daily problems in Puerto Rico.

Cassie drink (2)
¡Salud!

1) Things just break down and get so much dirtier here than it ever did in Colorado. We have to keep a cover over our washing machine because the dust settles so heavily over the course of a week and then makes the clothes or sheets dirtier than they started! So you must use more bleach! ¡Más cloro!

Washing machine cover
Washing machine cover

2) I always wondered why so many people had a broom in their hand whenever we would drive around Puerto Rico. Now I know! I must sweep the house at least 2-3 times a day. And it still gets grimy. So…then I need to mop! Más cloro!

3) Not only are we near the sea, but it is constantly humid and so anything metal starts rusting and corroding very quickly. We have learned to buy most metal things out of aluminum or galvanized steel because it is much more rust resistant. But, even still, never trust anything that is held together with metal. Here’s a case in point when the deck to the cabana completely broke!

Broken deck
¡Ay, bendito! The screws rusted out on the ledger!

So you learn that you need multiple back-ups. Especially because on this island you NEVER know if you’ll be able to find the part you’re looking for. Even if you buy online don’t expect it to arrive anytime soon. Britton ordered a part for the Mustang from Ebay and it took nearly a month to arrive because they put it on a ship rather than airplane! ¡Caramba! No wonder things take so long to get fixed, if ever! Island time…means you often have to wait and be patient, so why not go have a drink. Más ron!

Deck repair
To repair it we added two more legs to the wall and cross-braced. Must be prepared for the inevitable future breakdown

4) Even clothes break down faster here! The elastic in our underwear breaks down and the clasps on swimsuits rust out! When I was in Colorado I had clothes for 10+ years! Not here! Plus you have to clean clothes with bleach which breaks down the fibers even faster! But at least we don’t need to wear as much since it’s always warm out! Más ron =menos ropa! :-)

Dirty windows
Even aluminum windows start breaking down after a while! And windows constantly need cleaned (Más cloro!)

5) Bugs! Of course there are bugs everywhere, but here there are a couple that most people who are not from the tropics are not as familiar with: termites and cockroaches. ANY wood you use here including for cabinets, furniture and of course structurally should be made with pressure treated wood! (Madera tratada). We bought some beautiful eucalyptus doors for the cabin, and it said they were insect resistant. What it should have said was that this wood was the most delicious food ever for a termite! Bleach will kill them, but you have to get to their main hive and so we had to take the whole door apart and put it back together again. Más ron!

termites
Termites in the doorframe

As for the cockroaches, unless you live completely sealed in an air conditioned house surrounded only by concrete (and even then), you will have some. They especially love any kind of fresh produce or old food. They poop and are just plain gross with those long antennae and I do not want them around! So this means you must keep your kitchen super clean and no dishes in the sink and everything must be organized and reorganized on the regular. Easier said than done!

Roach
Look, a paradise beetle! haha

6) But they do not like bleach! So bleach floors and counters often to keep cockroaches somewhat away. Another trick we learned with cockroaches is to grab the spray bleach bottle and spray the heck out of then. It slows them down enough that you can then smack them with your chancla (flipflop). (Haha, yes, this is part of our life!) Más cloro!

Spray cloro
Not just for toilets anymore!

7) Bleach also takes away most of the mold that will grow on all sorts of things. Even our pillows, behind framed pictures, anything leather and plastic trashcans! It is just amazing how much life there is here!

8) Rum or rather its boring cousin rubbing alcohol (as well as H2O2 and Neosporin) is the preferred method for all the infections and scrapes we get here. A simple splinter can cause a pus-infested swollen finger in a matter of days because there is just so much stuff always growing here. My skin always breaks out from the various forms of life -whether plant, bacteria, fungi, whatever! Alcohol neutralizes the poison in carrasco, it also helps clear up the stinging red ant bites. We also eat copious amounts of garlic since it is a natural anti-bacterial/anti-viral/anti-fungal agent. It’s no wonder garlic is the main seasoning in Puerto Rican cuisine!!

Haole Rot
In Hawaii they call it Haole Rot because it affects white people more I assume -tinea versicolor

Todo tiene solución. Everything has a solution. And for these problems, and more: Ron y cloro! But don’t forget a nice course of Vitamin Sea with a rum piña colada and a good sense of humor to help these problems and others just melt away!

Beach Sat
Ahhh…Rincón balneario

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Happy 4th of July -Puerto Rico Style


Posted by Cassie

In Puerto Rico on the 4th of July you won’t see people strutting around in American flag clothing or even lighting fireworks except at the military bases. Occasionally stateside people will buy a bunch of fireworks and throw a party, but in general, fireworks are not a thing here on the 4th of July. I don’t think Puerto Rico ever really got indoctrinated into the whole Independence Day history of the nation, though it is part of it. The history of this island is so much longer than the 200 some years of the USA that it hasn’t quite fully worked its way into the pride of most islanders as it does with most mainlanders.

Almendros 4th
4th of July at Almendros Beach, Rincón

Still, because it is a federal holiday, Puerto Rico gets the day off. And no one is going to argue with that. This year, for many, that meant an extra long weekend of partying. And partying in the summertime means going to the beach! In Rincón both the balneario and Almendros beaches were packed with people, while other beaches were quite calm. This is a social, loud island, so the parties get more and more packed and more and more crazy! Some people set up camp right at the water’s edge to be right in the milieu melee. It’s fun for extroverts, but people who dislike crowds or noise should avoid these festival type events.

Gasolina stage
It’s a huge party on the beach complete with a hula hoop dance competition and air horns!

Rincon Bienvenidos
We ran into local Rincón celebrity “Bienvenidos” who often helps direct traffic and is always welcoming

Such is life
Such is life….is such a good mantra. Row, row, row your boat

We went on a beer run for some people at a pinchos stand. Everyone piled up in the truck. And then we drove, not to a store, but to someone’s personal house and bought some beer. I talked to an old man there who had lived in the area since it was all sugarcane fields. The layers and webs of life here make everything here just little wilder.

Sheryl pickup
No back seats, no problem!

There were supposed to be two other (calmer) parties in Aguada and Aguadilla, so Britton and I packed up and left. When we got to Aguada, no one was to be found. Perhaps it was too windy to set up. So we headed to Borinquen Beach, one of my favorites in Aguadilla, for another party. When we got there, we didn’t find a soul we knew either! It was spitting rain and windy too, but we swam a bit and enjoyed the peaceful contrast from earlier in the day.

Borinquen
Enjoying Borinquen Beach in Aguadilla -while some guy attempts to ostrich himself? ;-)

Britton Beach
We watched a beautiful sunset

Cassie beach

Rainbow
And rainbows

Unfortunately all we had brought to eat was a huge watermelon and lots of beer because we were anticipating BBQ at one or the other of the parties. So, we were getting pretty hungry. Then it started pouring rain so we headed out. We were wet from swimming so we didn’t want to go to any sit-down restaurants. Wendy’s it is, I guess! When it rains hard, often the power goes out and that happened even at this corporate fast food joint. The worker came out to our truck at the ordering window with an umbrella and told us that if we had cash they could serve us. So we had our American-style meal on the 4th of July after all. You just never know what you’ll run into or where you’ll end up here in Puerto Rico. Such is life, indeed.

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