Category Archives: Rants and Raves

Heaven, Hell or Purgatory


Posted by Cassie

C B Sage
I didn’t realize when this photo was taken it would be one of the last ones with our friend Sage

Sometimes I think when people watch our lives from afar they think we live in paradise, a heaven on Earth. And sometimes I truly believe it too. I have seen and experienced some of the most fantastically beautiful things in my life. I am truly grateful for the ability to sleep in as late as I want, spend time with my love, explore new places, meet and get to know interesting people, have new cultural experiences, eat fresh juicy fruit from our own trees, swim in luscious warm crystalline waters, swing from the trees, breathe a sigh of contentment as we watch the sun dip into the sea, hear the birds chirping in the morning and our cat snuggle up to us in bed and so much more. It is truly an isle of enchantment.

Cassie flowers for Sage
Gathering flowers from our farm in honor of our friend

But life is life no matter where you live. It can get messy, it can get hard, it can be frustrating. You get thrown curveballs. Things that seem stable can suddenly crumble under your feet. And in those moments, it can seem like a living hell. And for people like us who have transplanted from another place thousands of miles away you may feel lonely, isolated and not accepted. There can sometimes be felt an undercurrent of prejudice or racism. It’s hard to make a living here. And whatever demons were underneath and hidden by a sense of comfort in your homeland eventually seem to rear their heads and become more pronounced under constant stress. We have known more people die, become addicts, break up or otherwise have a major life upset here (and then usually move away) than I have ever seen back in Colorado. It is just a whole lot harder to hold everything together. There is a reason this place is called Derelict Junction and the 413 is known as the Road to Happiness…or the Road to Rehab.

And for many, it’s a sort of purgatory. It is a waiting out, a finding out, a crossroads. Which way will my life go from here? Let’s go have some fun while we can, they may think. Let’s throw caution to the wind. And while they are here they live in this in-between, the waiting room between heaven and hell.

Sage memorial
Beach memorial for Sage (photo credit Kari DiPalma)

The death of our friend Sage really affected me. I think I always saw Naomi and Sage as kindred spirits. Adventurous souls with a dream. They were some of the first people we ever met when we moved to Puerto Rico. They welcomed us and encouraged us in our pursuits and we were so excited for them, especially the start of Rincon Beer Company. To see their relationship collapse and the end of their era together come so tragically shook me to the core. We are all so very fragile even when we appear so strong. We try to put on a show that nothing can shake us, that we are “better than,” that we are infallible, that nothing can ever break us. But it’s not usually one thing, it’s the accumulation of a lifetime of weight and burdens that eventually become too hard to carry. We need to remember that we are all carrying something and sometimes we need people to help us and we need to help people take a load off.

Sage Flowers

Beach gathering Sage pie
Rincón style beach potluck memorial

Life seems to be a series of moments that shift between heaven, hell and purgatory. We are always up on the high moments, the moments in heaven. We want more. We want more pleasure, more good times, more angelic periods to celebrate and brag about on Instagram and Facebook. But underneath the surface and often tied to these highs there are the lows. There is often heartache, sadness, anger and other lows that we hide away in the shadows and don’t talk openly about. And interwoven between them are all the other neutral moments of chores and waiting, passing time. The purgatory between them that keeps the highs and lows a little calmer. It is like the weather floating between perfectly sunny skies and hurricanes that we live most of our lives, if we can make it.

It saddens me deeply that we couldn’t reach Sage from his depths that we couldn’t even see hidden under his happy smile. And I still just shake my head in disbelief and in shock that he is gone. I feel so much for Naomi and what she is going through. It just hits too close to home.

Paddle out

The final chapter for Sage was a wonderful Rincón-style community event for this unforgettable pillar of our town. It was a beautiful paddleout ceremony, the first I had ever participated in. People told stories and anecdotes of Sage as the sun gently set and flowers swirled all around in the circle of many of his loved ones. We splashed water as a sort of “cheers to Sage!” And depending on your perspective it was a bittersweet moment, heaven in hell or hell in heaven.

 

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Do You Need Air Conditioning in the Tropics?


Posted by Cassie

Do you need air conditioning in the tropics (particularly in Puerto Rico)?

This is a question that is perhaps best answered by you, but in my opinion, the answer is no. Even though it can get pretty hot and humid in the summers of the tropics, here’s why I say no.

heart in lights
We all love electricity, but it’s pretty expensive!

1) It’s really expensive. In most areas that are tropical including here in Puerto Rico, electricity is very expensive. Electricity here costs about double what it does where we were from in Colorado, but because we don’t use much here our electricity bills are actually less. The two big items that pull the most electricity and therefore increase your bill are air conditioners and electric dryers (and swimming pool pumps, but that’s a whole other demographic). Even the most efficient air conditioners such as an inverter that can cover maybe 1000 sq ft will increase your bill from a base of $20 (what we currently pay) to about $100/month. And if you jump into another rate tier it can be even more.

electricity bill
Our last month’s bill without air conditioning

2) It is hard on the environment.
When a lot of people are pulling electricity to run something like the luxury of air conditioning it uses a lot more resources. In the case of electricity in Puerto Rico and most places really, it is still mainly powered by non-renewable resources such as old dirty coal and oil products. The less people use in general the better it is for the environment because less has to be mined, processed, shipped, etc.

3) It’s hard on the infrastructure. Here in Puerto Rico the electrical infrastructure is a bit outdated and with calls for cuts in the budget it is unlikely to get upgraded any time soon. Locally, in Rincón there is one barrio called Puntas which is very popular and probably the richest neighborhood. It is the only barrio in Rincón within walking distance to the best surf breaks and so it became a gringo haven and more gentrified than some other areas of Rincón. The houses cost the most and there are probably more houses with 3000 + square feet, swimming pools, multiple units and multiple air conditioners than elsewhere. This also means it pulls WAY more power from everyone else to run those pools, A/C units, dryers, etc. We can almost guarantee a local or widespread power outage on popular tourist weekends when everyone is using these resources because the infrastructure can’t handle this type of load.

4) You never acclimate. Before deciding if you ”need” air conditioning you should live here for a full year. When we would visit the tropics in the winter coming from Colorado where it was negative 20 degrees we would step off the plane and just be amazed at how hot it was! It could be a 100 degree change! Now in the winter we are both under the covers at night because it can dip down to a chilly 72 degrees (it’s funny but true!). If we had rushed out to install air conditioning right away we would have never allowed our bodies to acclimate to this tropical environment. Now when I go into the Econo grocery store or the movie theatres where they blast the AC to the max I am freezing and have to either bring a jacket or go outside to warm up. I think our bodies acclimated in a different way as well because I have lost over 30 pounds living here without trying (here’s how)! It doesn’t make sense to carry that much extra weight and heat if it’s hot.

5) It’s another thing you have to maintain. Things break. Everywhere. But in the tropics the rate of entropy seems to be much more rapid. Things just break and break down faster here and then have to be either fixed or replaced. If you don’t have it, you don’t have to worry about it!

Tres Palmas Day
There’s nice warm weather year round! So enjoy it!

How to avoid roasting in the tropics without air conditioning

In Colorado we did have a fuel-efficient air conditioner that we ran for about 2 months out of the year and kept at about 80 degrees to take the edge off. This was because it would get up to 100 degrees in the summer and our house had a wall of west-facing windows that heated it up like crazy. Some people here in Puerto Rico have houses or live in apartments or condos that are devoid of all trees and get hit with that full afternoon sun and because they are concrete boxes they just heat right up like a cooking stone. To avoid the negative consequences discussed above it’s important to look for a place to live that will be conducive to living without air conditioning. These include:

Cool tree cassie

Shade and Trees/vegetation. Do not underestimate the power of shade. Shade from any source will do, but shade from a large tree will give you the added benefit of the cooling water respiration effect. Shade can drop the temperature by 10-30 degrees. When you are surrounded by vegetation such as a small yard this will help as well because the heat from asphalt and other concrete building radiates. I think I read somewhere that San Juan is about 10 degrees hotter than the rest of the island due to the roads, buildings and the density of people.

Wall Ceiling and Fan in Cabin
We built our cabin with high ceilings and lots of airflow because we knew we wouldn’t install A/C

High ceiling with ventilation. Heat rises, so a high ceiling that is ventilated with windows or vents will help keep the air flowing and the hot air away from you.

Breeze. Look for a place with a natural sea breeze or trade winds. If it’s too high up it may get a little too windy, but often places on hill tops tend to be a bit breezier than lower. This also keeps the mosquitos away a bit more.

Britton and beer
To stay cool, drink lots of cold fluids!

Fans. In the middle of the summer we have our ceiling fans running as well as a box fan. Moving air makes a huge difference.

Cold showers. We also take more cold (70-75 degree) showers in the summer. Then we stand in front of or lay under a fan for the double effect.

More time at the beach/pools. You don’t have to be a genius to know that spending time immersed in water will cool you down even if the water here never gets too cold.

A/C luxury time. When all else fails and you are just hot and cranky, go see a movie or do your grocery shopping in the middle of the hot afternoon. You are sure to cool down using someone else’s air conditioning.

cassie-hammock
Hang out and relax in the shade

I am not completely opposed to air conditioning, but it does seem to be a luxury that people over-use and think of as a necessity when it clearly is not especially when considering the above factors. Once you’ve been acclimated to the tropics I would say it only gets “too hot” for about 2 hours in the afternoons of the summer. During those hours, take a siesta, drink an icy cold beverage, take a dip in the sea or rest under a shady tree in a breezy spot. That’s how humans have handled heat for most of human-time and also how the majority of people in Puerto Rico (including us) still live.

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8 Best Places in Rincón to Eat for Cheap


Posted by Cassie

Food at Cambija

Going out to eat is one of those luxuries that is just so nice every now and then. Living in Rincón we have some of the best food around, but it is not always cheap. Food in general is expensive in Puerto Rico due to shipping costs and so eating out is often even more expensive. In Rincón it can be really pricey because it is a tourist town and you can easily find yourself in a “tourist trap” paying outrageous prices like around $20 for just a hamburger if you aren’t careful. Even in more moderately priced locales, if you have a couple of drinks, add in the tax and tip, two people could easily spend $50 on a night out! So in order to still be able to enjoy going out in our own town, eat something fairly healthy and not a chain (AKA not Churches or Burger King) and spend under or around $20 for two people, here’s what we do.

Firstly, we don’t go out anywhere feeling famished. We eat a couple of boiled eggs, bananas or some chia seeds to fill up on our way out. That way we can often just order one entrée and share it!

Here are our top 8 + stops when eating out on the cheap. Also note that businesses are always coming and going in Rincón so keep your eye out for new places and realize that many of these may not exist in a year or two. (Editor note: This is current for March of 2017.)

Nopales

1) Nopales. This place just opened up in the new Econo strip mall and we love it. It is basically a Chipotle or Qdoba concept of burritos or tacos. We order one burrito and split it. $6 plus tax. The women who work there are also super friendly and nice. Definitely our current #1 favorite place to eat out on the cheap in Rincon.

2) Panaderias. Pretty much any panadería in town (or on the island for that matter) you will find lunch or dinner specials. Try EC, Calvache, Rincoeño or Econo’s cafeteria. A huge stryrofoam container full of chicken or lechón, and rice and beans will set you back about $6 plus tax. Or sometimes we order a sandwich for about the same price. I like the pollo asa’o.

cassie-tommy-poke

3) Food trucks. These can actually sometimes be a little more expensive because they are run by the owners themselves and often with fresh, local ingredients. Sometimes they later become brick and mortar locations like Mi Familias and Jack’s Shack.  Pizza Truck on the 413 is a quick, easy and cheap stop, but maybe not the healthiest fare. We love all the trucks on the corner by Mama Mel’s. Generally, most of these have shareable courses for around $8-12.

Calypso PDub
Calypso during an event

4) Calypso. You just can’t beat the happy hour rum punches, sunset view, music and decent bar food here. We usually share some nachos and a couple of rum drinks and can get out of there for around $20. One note: bring your own water. They will not provide tap water but will sell bottles.

Sunset 2 (2)
Sunset on beach by Tamboo

5) Tamboo. Another favorite mainly for the location, but the food is really good too. It is located right on Sandy Beach where we have witnessed sea turtles hatching as well as whales waving their fins at us. We like Mexican Tuesdays where they have really good Mexican food that changes every week. We’ve had awesome chimichangas and stuffed bell peppers. Entrees are usually about $13-14. With a margarita and a beer or two we can walk away about $25 lighter and a belly full.

qc-view-from-roof-of-rincon
Downtown Rincon (la plaza)

6) Downtown. There are now so many options in Rincon’s plaza area. Some are much more expensive than others, but if you are willing to share you can still get out of most of them for $20. Try all of them if you have time: Rincón Beer Company, Rincón Gyro, Café 413, Roots, Cappriccio, Mangia Mi, De Bocas, Brother’s Pizza. Note for those really on a budget: A pizza slice and a Medalla beer will be less than $5 at Brother’s!

La Cambija

7) La Cambija. Kind of a weird location right on the road down from the balneario, but they have some of the freshest fish at decent prices. The parking situation is also a little awkward because they have a little golf cart that will ship you back and forth. I like their fish ceviche, pinchos, tacos and burritos. About $8-10 per course or $4 for a pincho. Another place to bring your own water to avoid paying for it!

cofresi-pirata

8) Villa Cofresí.
Right on the water, it’s a great place to watch the sunset and drink Piratas which aren’t cheap, but pack a punch and are served in a coconut! We call this place the cruise ship of Rincón because it has that sort of feel. There is a fancier, air conditioned restaurant but to eat on the cheap, order from the bar and sit outside. A burger and fries is less than $10 I believe. Note: drink the piratas at happy hour and it’s about $2 less than regular price.

Honorable Mentions: These places are not very cheap, but they are really good, beautiful and/or different. You can still get out for around $30 if you are careful of your selections and share food.

Secret Thai
Having fun at “Secret Thai” or “Thai Lady’s”

Secret Thai: Ask around and you will find it through a series of strange directions that include two snakes. The very best authentic Thai place that everyone knows about but…hush, doesn’t! Bonus: You can bring your own beer!

Dancing
Bar area of Copa Llena

Copa Llena: Right on the water by the marina. Romantic and beautifully lit. After a fantastic meal you can sit out on the Adirondack chairs and put your feet in the sand.

surfer spot
Surfer’s Spot during the day

Surfer Spot: This is the place for the best cheeseburger I have ever eaten and we are from beeflandia Colorado! They have great pies and other food too, but the cheeseburger is just divine especially at $9 including fries that we can share. I don’t even really eat beef, but I make an exception for this cheeseburger in paradise! The only drawbacks are that it is only open really late at night to serve the night scene and right on a busy road (the 413).

English Rose: Up in the hills overlooking the ocean you can have a wonderful breakfast. There are not many breakfast places, and this is the best both in food and ambience. It’s really not too expensive either.
english rose view
View from the English Rose

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¡Caravana, Caravana! Politics and Caravans in Puerto Rico


Posted by Cassie

Just as in the states, it is currently political season here in Puerto Rico. The politics of Puerto Rico is a bit different than in the states, but in one way it is very similar: it is nuts!

caravana-political
Caravanas clogging the roads

Just as a quick primer on Puerto Rico politics, here’s a few things to know.

There are two main parties: 1) Populares (also known as PPD- Partido Popular Democrático) and 2) PNP (Partido Nuevo Progresista) which they pronounce in passing in Spanish as Pay-Nay-Pay. The distant 3rd party is PIP (Partido Independentista Puertorriqueño).

Popular is Red. Popular is symbolized by ”la pava” which is the old jíbaro hat.

ppd-logo1
PPD: Pan, Tierra, Libertad = Bread (food), Land and Liberty

PNP is Blue. Symbolized by “la palma” the palm tree.

ppd
PNP: Estadidad, Seguridad, Progreso =Statehood, Security and Progress

PIP Independents are green. The main platform is to become independent from the United States.

prpip

But basically it is a 2 party system. The main platform for all the parties is identity in relation to the US. They are trying to answer the question of whether or not to stay a commonwealth of the US or become a state (or in the case of PIP to become an independent country). The red populares favor commonwealth status quo and the blue PNPs want statehood. PNPs are aligned somewhat with the Republican party at the national level though overall Puerto Ricans in general are politically liberal. The PNP governor candidate (of the party aligned with the Republicans) in fact is a liberal Democrat at the national level.

So while Puerto Ricans who are all US citizens (including us transplants) have all been disenfranchised and cannot vote for president of the United States, politics is still serious business here and everyone has an opinion on the state of things. Puerto Ricans also love to party. So what better way to connect the pastimes of complaining about politics and hanging out than having huge rallies and caravans!? We’ve passed by a few rallies and they are interesting. There’s often free food like lechón, live music and the candidate making long-winded speeches promising the world.

rally-jpg
At a political rally in Rincon. Live music, fun…and politics?

But it really is the caravanas that you will not forget if you happen to visit Puerto Rico during a major election year such as this one. They are basically long loud parades with huge speakertrucks, buses full of people waving flags, people walking and yelling, fireworks, long lines of cars honking and lights flashing. If you are part of the caravan it might be kind of fun, but if you get stuck in one unsuspectingly, it can be downright nuts and you WILL be late to wherever you were planning on going! I got stuck behind a caravan one night and it was sooo loud and wild I had to pull over just to calm down and let it pass.

Here’s a compilation (above) of a few of the caravanas we have been exposed to this year. This is not all of them, but just ones with videos…I am not sure where the tradition of caravans came from. Perhaps from a time before television or radio where the only way to get your news was from people actually going around and telling others about it. It seems a little absurd this day and age, but it’s also kind of interesting as a cultural remnant.

Thankfully political season will be over after Tuesday and we can all take a deep breath and appreciate the coquis and driving to your destination without becoming a car in a carnival parade once again.

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