January 2007 Archives

Sat Jan 27 8:22PM (2007)

PR Day 8: San Sebastian

A bright and early start for Mayagüez, where we breakfasted at Franco. Franco is the home of the traditional guava Brazo Gitano (literally "Gypsy Arm"), an exquisitely rich jelly roll filled with guava paste. They keep coming up with more varieties than just guava, and had an entire wall packed with varieties -- including several sugar-free ones.

Mayagüez was a two-hour drive. From Franco we drove another hour to San Sebastián to visit family and eat a splendid home-cooked lunch. Then a siesta for some, and the two-hour drive back home.

Puertoricans live in a different state of consciousness from the rest of us. This was brought painfully to mind on the drive home as we drove past mounds and mounds of garbage on the side of the road. Beautiful lush green foliage everywhere, often growing through or over the piles of discarded waste. This wasn't just beer cans and litter, it was washing machines and piles that would have required a pickup truck to dump. All just sitting there because someone thought himself too important to go to the dump.

Selfishness and lack of consideration abound. "Me first" -- or only. In traffic, in stores, in movie theaters, everywhere in public. Yes, of course it's a minority -- but it's a big one and an unstoppable one. They have no shame, no decency, and there's no way to instill shame into them. Say something or even look at them wrong and you're likely to get shot. So nobody says anything, the behavior continues and grows. With my visits spaced 3-4 years apart, it's glaringly obvious how the situation worsens.

Is it fixable? I don't think so, which is why I opted to move to a civilized town in a civilized country. But some of my friends and family think there are shreds of hope. I would love to see them vindicated.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Fri Jan 26 9:00PM (2007)

PR Day 7: Errands

Today was going to be time with Dad, but a dead body got in the way. So it became an errand day with Mom. Home Depot for fire ant poison, Sam's for household stuff, Ralph's for groceries. Sam's Club could have been anywhere: its layout was ust like the one in Santa Fe. Yet we were very definitely not in New Mexico: the cartons of Lotus pineapple juice, the dozens of Serrano ham hocks prominently displayed and attractively priced, the subtle absence of snowshoes.

And the diabetes. Wow. Loads and loads of sugar free foods. Cans of power shakes "specially formulated for diabetes". What's going on? CDC claims that ten percent of adults in Puerto Rico have diabetes. Holy piña colada.

On a possibly related note: one of the most wonderful aspects of PR is the plethora of bakeries. You're never more than a couple of minutes away from one, sometimes from several. Fresh bread is an important part of life. The downside, which nevery truly hit home until today, is that nobody bakes. Nobody. Supermarkets don't even carry yeast. Heck, they don't carry flour! If they do, it's a handful of small sacks - and it's only the bleached stuff. You really have to see it to believe it.

I was able to find a 1-pound bag of Fermipan at Ralph's, a local superstore. It was in the bulk foods section next to the gallon cans of bakery supplies. To find it I had to ask a manager; the store staff weren't familiar with the word "levadura" (yeast) and had no idea what it was.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Fri Jan 26 7:24AM (2007)

PR Day 6: El Yunque

El Yunque -- Yunque means "Anvil", despite the nonsense about Yuquiyu on Wikipedia -- used to be a long and strenuous drive away. Today it felt like we were there in no time. Better roads? Better cars? Or is it just the Puertorican Time Warp? images/2007-01-25.lamina.jpg

Once there, we made lots of brief stops: photo op at La Coca Falls (at the entrance), another at Yokahu tower, another for lunch. Mustn't forget to eat! Brent laughingly tells us of his Chinese family in BC: everything revolves around meals. Discussion at breakfast consists of figuring out where to have lunch. Lunch starts with discussing the food, then progresses to where to have dinner. I could live like that.

After lunch, a short hike down to La Mina Falls. "Short" is relative: Zora timed it at 30 minutes. The hike back up, on the other hand, took only ten. Different paces.

We bathed, splashed, and hung out in the pool at the bottom of the falls. The water was c-c-c-cold even by my standards, but the Oregon crowd just soaked it up. The girls are water freaks: they can't get enough swimming. Mention "la playa" and their eyes get big.

images/2007-01-25.luquillo.jpg After a couple of hours we raced or plodded back up, then headed to Luquillo for bacalaitos and -- of course -- more swimming for the girls. We used to do it the other way around: beach first, then river to wash away the salt. The girls didn't complain.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Jan 24 9:00PM (2007)

PR Day 5: Playa

images/2007-01-24.decorations.jpg Blueberry pancakes for breakfast (triple batch) then off to the Caribe Hilton beach with friends. The first splash was cold but the next few hours were lovely. The water was calm, and we had lots of time to catch up.

Got back home to find the tribu gone to Dad's... and my room completely redecorated. Zora says the girls spent hours on it. Sniff. That was really sweet.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Tue Jan 23 9:00PM (2007)

PR Day 4: Mima's Birthday

images/2007-01-24.floral.jpg Mostly a cooking day in preparation for Mima's 93rd. Maritere came by with Alejandra, and ended up spending the entire day visiting and going through old photos. I baked a carrot cake, prepared some chicken and pernil for dinner, and played Snap with the girls.

Dinner was a bustle of about 18 people, and there was enough food to go around. The night's most valuable lesson was: don't buy American fruit in Puerto Rico. The centerpiece was a "floral" arrangement made with fruits. The melon was tasteless, the strawberries vile. After just a few days feasting on papaya and bananas and oranges this was an offense.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Fri Jan 26 7:21AM (2007)

PR Day 3: El Morro

images/2007-01-22.morro.jpg As a kid I remember being sick of El Morro. Now I try to visit each time I go to PR. The scale and sense of history are not meaningful to a child. Who were the individuals who laid those massive walls? Can a computer geek from New Mexico have any idea of the working conditions in sixteenth-century Puerto Rico? What pressures or (mis)beliefs led people to waste so much effort on such a silly and pointless military endeavor? What lessons can we learn from that?

As we left we missed a rainstorm by mere minutes. We headed off to El Hamberguer for a memorable late lunch, then wrapped up the day with a slide show.

Mom's car is in the shop but she has a loaner.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sun Jan 21 8:00PM (2007)

PR Day 2: Mami's Finca

images/2007-01-21.finca.jpg Mom's finca is in beautiful shape. Oranges, lemons, papayas, plantains, bananas, breadfruit, gandules, eggplant, there's so much growth.

It has taken decades to happen, but Mom's dream is starting to take shape. The lot is cleared and marked, plans are drawn up, things are happening. It's exciting, and how much more so for Mom! Like everything in Puerto Rico it will take longer than expected, and progress will be stop and go... but nevertheless it's moving along and I think she'll get her house. Not by Mother's Day like she hopes, but possibly by the end of the year?

Andrés gave me a tour of the area, rattling off plant names and stages of growth and when he planted them and how he trimmed them until I was almost dizzy. He knows every inch of the place because he's planted or groomed or in some way worked it. We went down to the creek where there were ñames below and pomarrosas above. He fished out some tilapias. We took our time and got some good talking done.

Tío Jose came over with Lourdes. Jose is thinking of getting a computer. He mentioned the same thing last time we talked, but this time I wonder if he might not really mean it? He recently had an alumni reunion and he's the only one not in touch electronically. That might give him the incentive he needs.

Mom's car overheated on the way home. The radiator fans weren't coming on. Some quick looking under the hood the next day revealed a rat's nest of spliced wires in the fuse box. Pretty bad; definitely something for a professional to look at.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Wed Jan 24 8:45PM (2007)

Puerto Rican Time

Time moves differently in Puerto Rico. It's not a matter of everyone simply being late or disorganized. It's more of the laws of physics not applying in the same way they do elsewhere. Days end up passing by, and things get done, but it's never quite clear how. I know someone who would be right at home here. Maybe that's why we get along.

My watch died today. Gus needed to be somewhere at a certain time, so I brought my Suunto into the ocean with us. Ten years must have taken their toll on the waterproofing: the display is now fogged and misty, with random LCD segments turned on. I had set it to WWV just before leaving NM. It must be a sign from the time gods.

I've rinsed out the watch and set it to dry. Perhaps it will work again when I'm back in the regular universe.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Sat Jan 20 6:31PM (2007)

PR Day 1: Fiestas de San Sebastian

images/2007-01-20.vejigante-parade.jpg Long Day. Up at 5:15 and out to San Juan via the ferry. We met the gang at La Bombonera for breakfast, then headed up to Ballajá for a crafts fair. Ballajá is an old Spanish garrison; there's something amusing about wandering in it today to shop.

Parades in Puerto Rico? I never imagined. The Fiestas de San Sebastián included a parade along San Sebastián street, and it was quite a spectacle. Splendid costumes, great spirit, and an amazing high school gymnastics/band combo from Peñuelas.

Then a long day walking San Juan and trying to coordinate fourteen people. Elise and Fabiola are bestest of friends and stuck together, but everyone else floated around. We all got to talk and catch up, and in too many ways the day was too short. Took the ferry back to Cataño, got back home at 6:00 and after 12+hours boy did I have to pee!


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Fri Jan 19 9:15PM (2007)

PR Day 0: Back on the Island

My suitcase was the last one off the conveyor. Everyone else had gone. Cobwebs were starting to form. Someone's bag has to be first off, doesn't it? Whose? Has it ever been you?

Had a wonderful welcoming committee, hugs all around. Then to Mom's for tostones and carne frita and rice. The plantains were freshly cut this morning. There's just nothing like that.

Now to bed. The coquis are delightfully loud. The traffic and sirens, louder but less delightful.


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Fri Jan 19 12:42PM (2007)

PR Day 0: Planeblogging

Typing with chocolate-smeared fingers at 7,400 feet. I expected to be higher, but my altimeter watch doesn't lie. The highlight of the trip has been today's NYT crossword. It was a doozy; felt more like a Saturday than a Friday. Almost two hours, with minor interruptions for eating and nodding off. Maybe it's the lack of sleep?

Most of the passengers on the PR leg seem to be cruisebound. They have that look and that aura: excited, happy, anticipacious. Pale. I expect that on the trip back the colors will be more crimson.

Mary Jeanne and Ginger, thank you. The caramel corn was perfect when my stomach suddenly rumbled to life in midair. The chocolate-sesame nuts were a perfect end to a two-bite inflight lunch. My keyboard will bear traces of chocolate for years to come.

The morning's highlight was meeting a deaf couple at the Continental counter in ABQ. We were early--the counter didn't open until 4:30--and we got to talking. Or, in many cases, writing: it's pathetic and shameful how I've forgotten my ASL. All those years. I wonder if it would come back if I practiced?


Posted by Ed | Permanent link | File under: Travel

Mon Jan 15 8:55AM (2007)

Ron Paul for President?

Ron Paul may be running for president in '08. If true, that would be terrific news. A principled, honest politician who actually believes in freedom and responsibility. He'll have my vote.

Posted by Ed | Permanent link