Living in little rural Rincon it is nice to have two fairly large-sized cities to both sides of us: Aguadilla to the north and Mayaguez to the south. Both of them serve different purposes and have different vibes to them. Aguadilla has the military base and a bit more hipster/surfer feel whereas Mayaguez has the major university of the area and has a more family/career feel to it. When we go to Aguadilla we often stop at the mall on top of the ridge that overlooks the ocean and go shopping at the Pueblo grocery store. Get your food with a view!
Grocery shopping with a view in Aguadilla
Another nice stop in Aguadilla is the malecon area near the ice skating rink and we often stop there to have a drink, meal or picadera (finger food). One day we drove near the Parque Colon and I saw that the huge Aguadilla Treehouse was open. (Not that it can really be closed right now since the fence around it was completely destroyed by Hurricane Maria.)
Parque Colon -Aguadilla is one of many cities that claim to be Columbus’ first stop in Puerto Rico
This treehouse is amazing, mainly because of the tree. I was so happy to see that the tree hadn’t suffered too much damage from the hurricane. That couldn’t be said for the rest of the area however.
In the roots/trunk of the tree
Britton climbing around the fort/treehouse
I’ve always thought it would be fun to build a treehouse of some sort on our finca. We have some massive trees on the property, but nothing like this monster one that is actually kind of like a few trees that have merged together as it sends down roots from its branches.
The tree is a 200 year old Laurel!
Under one of the arching branches. Watch your head!
This tree is incredible!
Here is a wider view angle. It’s hard to really capture the magnitude of this tree and structure around it!
We hung out a while in the area and noticed an old playground of sorts. It looked as though there had been some sort of small child’s train system and a very sad, dilapidated and almost haunted and spooky looking section of children’s rides. Nearby around Parque Colon there are also ball courts, gazebos and other areas to make a picnic or hang out. And of course, the beach is right there!
Destroyed playground equipment and look how many coconut palms had to be cut!
And of course there is always some sort of shenanigan going on -skateboarder catching a ride
If you are in the Aguadilla area, I highly recommend checking out Parque Colon and the awesome treehouse!
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.
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.
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 with a deflated cow bladder -Yuck!
With some of the scary clown/vejigantes
More strange fun…note the balloon looking bladders they are carrying
With a werewolf vejigante
It wasn’t until the funeral procession for the sardine that we saw some of the more traditional masks.
Here you can see the sardine in the casket as well as some of the vejigantes
Me and the funeral procession
Lifting and then carrying the casket onto the stage
Death and a marching band
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!
Wow! 2017 is finally gone. It was an exciting and thrilling year with quite the rollercoaster ride. I don’t think I would want to do another 2017, but I certainly have learned a lot through it. We are setting new intentions and looking toward the future. We wish you all a happy new year 2018 as well.
Christmas season may be over, but it doesn’t always look like it
Taking hikes in January in a bathing suit never gets old
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.
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!
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:
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.
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.
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!
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)!