Guaynabo

I spent the first six months of 2008 living just south of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Going to a new area where you don’t know anyone and can’t speak the language is terrifying, but the view I saw every morning from the balcony was breathtaking. All the photos I snapped cannot convey the beautiful weather for which the Caribbean is renown...


What happen to February and March?

Wow. I can’t believe it’s nearly April. It’s getting hot down here (mid-80s today) and I can only take Julie out for a little bit at a time. My old laptop broke down in early February (right before my camera cord arrived, go figure). It had served me well for about 6 years, so it was time for it to go. I just wish it could have waited until I had turned grad school essays. Due to my inability to plan ahead, I had to end up rewriting what I had done… I’m hoping when I get home, I can find someone who can figure out how to extract any information from my old hard drive. If you are in the know, please shoot me a message.

Otherwise, I finally got used to the routine of being here alone with Julie all day during the week and then–BAM!! Diana’s maturnity leave kicked in. She and her husband have decided to name their little girl Megan. Humourously–sorry, I spell like I’m British–Kate was the other name they were thinking of. Mom and Dad, you did well!

The highlight of February was driving to Fajardo with the Winers one weekend and going sailing with them and their friends. In early March, I rented a car for a weekend and drove through most of the western portion of the island. I stopped in Rincon to whale-watch, spent the night in a converted monastery-hotel in Mayagüez, saw the cliffs near the lighthouse down in Cabo Rojo and finished my weekend by touring the Castillo Serralles in Ponce before heading up through the mountains to San Juan. It was a glorious weekend, marked with great conversation and sleeping in until nearly 9am for the first time in months.

The last bit of news is…I’ve finally uploaded some pictures! They are available to view here: Puerto Rico in January!

That’s all I have for now! Happy late Easter, everyone!

What’s on TV in Spain?

San Juan, like many large cities around the world, is made up of many sections. There’s the touristy Old San Juan, the government area of Puerta de Tierra, the beachfront and beautiful areas of Condado and Isla Verde, the rich Miramar, Hato Rey–a veritable Wall Street district, the educational Rio Piedras…and then there’s Guaynabo.

I live in a very nice apartment in the center of Guaynabo, but everyone who lives around the apartment is poor. Very poor. The conditions here don’t equate to Haiti’s poor population, but rather to a much warmer and sunnier and latino version of the Bronx. There are bars over every window and door and I find it wholly depressing to wander the streets of this area. Years ago, I might have been excited by the sun and the brightly painted buildings. But having been to Massa Marittima in Tuscany, I know what potential a place like this has.

On Saturdays, I tend to flee Guaynabo, heading north to the nicer areas of Condado and Old San Juan. Aside from just looking nicer, I can actually talk to people up here. Many of the poorer people in San Juan (read: Guaynabo) know about as much English as I do Spanish. So I end up having great conversations with people who do know English. So far, these people have all been significantly older than me or have been tourists who are here for a week, here for a day, here for an hour until their cruise ship boards. I’ve met lovely people from Michigan, Ottawa, Chicago, Philly, New Jersey, etc. This helps me not in the least as I’m here, trying to make friends with anyone between the ages of 20 and 30 and they’re here for the next 17 minutes. So if your dentist has a bridge-partner who has a son whose long estranged friend is down in San Juan, have him or her shoot me an email.

Anyway, a little bit now about what I have done. On the 19th, I visited the HUGE mall Plaza las Americas. I saw, oooh…about a 1/4 of it and bought quite a few books at Borders which, of course, is right across from the movie theatre on the second floor. I had lunch at a place called Passions. I was told they had great treats, so I had to buy a slice of chocolate cake. It was so rich, I could barely finish it.

After Passions, I headed out to wait for the bus. I hate the bus system in PR. It’s as ridiculous as that in Italy. The busses are supposed to come every 15-30 minutes, depending on the route. But it’s so lax that you could end up waiting hours. When the bus finally showed up, I took it up to Old San Juan to the San Sebastian Street Festival. So many people. I hung out around Calle San Sebastian until mass at 7 in the Cathedral (so much better than the sad–albeit more convenient–church in Condado). I was a little early, so I sat towards the front (the first 3 pews were reserved).

It was the Vigil celebration of St. Sebastian’s Day. I should have guessed. A quartet played high-class (from what I’ve been told) Puerto Rican chamber music. A woman in a traditional dress read the readings. Women sang who could take your breath away. And two photographers and a camera man ran about the front of the church like crazy, filming the bishop, the other attendants, the musicians, and of course, yours truly, sitting very close to the front and having no clue how to respond to anything in Spanish. The great couple sitting beside me said that it was being filmed so it could be shown tomorrow in Spain on a national broadcast. Yay for my ignorance!

The following week started out boring although we went out for ice cream on Thursday and to a party on Friday (our neighbors were throwing one for a relative visiting from the states). I left before the relative’s plane landed to take Julie home, but it was just nice to see people. And yesterday, I went on a walking tour of Old San Juan…meet great people who were all on their way out of town…and enjoyed a Pina Colada all before heading to mass in Condado. After mass (which ended at 5:30), I took a bus to the train (which operates more like German transportation than Italian) to another bus and ended up back in Guaynabo around 7:45pm. Over two hours to get back. If I was in a car, the same trip would have taken 15 to 20 minutes, tops. But alas, I’m carless and thus I have to rely on shoddy transportation. I think I’ll have to take a cab once my Spanish lessons start.

But for now, I’m off to see what I can do before Julie wakes up for her nap. Take care everyone and write!!

Barack Obama!

Who will you vote for in 2008?
I took this quiz online: http://glassbooth.org/
And here are my results….

1 Barack Obama 81% similarity
2 Hillary Clinton 79% similarity
3 John Edwards 78% similarity

Other than that, Julie is asleep. Not much else to do today. I’m gonna mop a little and do some laundry, I think. Romantic life, huh? This week has been very low-key. Diana’s sister came over on Tuesday night which provided me with some entertainment. I’ve been feeling a bit like the Hunchback of Notre Dame in this apartment all the time…

It’s raining here, which is nice because it’s been so hot lately (like 80 degrees). Diana says to wait. It will get much worse. But it also means that Julie and I play inside (there’s a playroom downstairs in the apartment lobby area). We did get to go swimming in the children’s piscina (pool) on Wednesday, which was fun. Julie was grinning like a fool.

I also had a talk with Leon and Diana about my responsibilities…we’ll see what happens.

But for today, I’m just happy that I get out tomorrow! I’m gonna head to Old San Juan and see the San Sebastian Street Festival that has been going on since Thursday. 🙂 Yeah for people! Wanna meet me there?

Address

I got a few requests for this, so here it is. I will update again soon; a lot has happened. There was a shooting in Condado on Friday about 50 feet from Julie and me, I got to hang out all day Saturday on the beach and in Old San Juan (bus rides are 75cents), and I’ve learned a few more Spanish words. But I am sunburned and 5:30 comes so early (how is that child always awake!!!?), so I’m posting this address then dragging my weary self to bed. Thank you everyone for your emails and phone calls. They have definitely made this island seem a lot less lonely!

My Address…send me mail!
Cond. Regency Park
155 Calle Carazo, Apt 1902
Guaynabo, PR 00971-7808

Katie y Walgreens

Over the past few days, I’ve been trying to get into the exhausting routine of taking care of a very cute and very sweet one year old, Julie. Her disposition makes this job fun and I love playing “peek-a-boo” with her blanket (the family calls it a bonito) or taking her on walks and learning the words soporte (stand) and arriba (up…which everyone remembers from cartoons of Speedy Gonzales) which are constantly being uttered by Saleed, the Peruvian woman who has been here for the last 6 months. Saleed leaves tomorrow and although she speaks very little English, just a few phrases here and there, and I know no Spanish yet, it’s been nice having someone over the age of….2….to spend the day with. I will miss her very much when she leaves at 5pm tomorrow. Even now, though, I find myself looking very much forward to 3:30pm when Diana gets home and I can say things in English once more…and have someone understand me.

The weather here is gorgeous and although I don’t spend that much time outdoors, I do go out in the afternoons for a while with Julie to swing or play in the pool (we haven’t gone swimming yet though) or look at the stray gatos that wander around the outside of the apartment sometimes. Aside from my face getting very red from the sun, I’ve taken some really cute pictures…but don’t have my camera cord. Unfortunately, the apartment is in the middle of Guaynabo, one of the cities in the Metropolitan area of San Juan. The main streets that run through the center of this town are a tad sketchy, so I can’t take Julie as far on our walks as I would like. We’re pretty much limited, for now, to the safety of the apartment complex.

It’s not too bad though. I’m in one of 4 Penthouse Apartments (19th floor) with 2 balconies, capable of making me very dizzy, 4 full sized baths, 4 bedrooms, an office, 2 living rooms, 2 dining rooms, etc. I’ve also eaten very well (and healthy!) since I’ve been here. Go me. 🙂

Well, I am heading off to bed. It has been a loooong day. I will shoot out my mailing address as soon as I get it, but for now, bed calls.

I realize now that I titled this entry so I could relate my trip to a local pharmacy. But I’ll cover the highlight of the trip in a footnote…

Ahora, buenas noches!

Spanish word of the day: globo (balloon…which Katie is crazy afraid Julie will pop)

Puerto Rico trivia: Here in Guaynabo, they lock up coffee. It’s crazy. Walgreens had IPod items sitting out for the taking. But the coffee (and we’re talking the crappy stuff sold all over the USA…)? Under lock and key.

T-minus 6 hours ’til takeoff!

It’s 2am E.S.T. and the moon slinks across the sky, I’m feverishly searching for a USB cord I know I had not long ago. How am I to link my camera to a computer without this cord? I know I’ll probably be able to buy a cord offline if I can’t find mine within the hours before I take off…but my upcoming flight is, colloquially speaking, tripping me out. I’ve had so many friends journey to the most remote crevices of the world. I’ve heard their stories, seen their pictures, empathized with their loneliness at times, envied their adventure at others. But Puerto Rico, my destination, is still part of the United States. English is still a dominant language, the American dollar is still used, etc. Does this island count? Did I wander far enough?

I’m excited about tomorrow and I prepare now to spend a final night in Virginia. Tomorrow, at 1:30pm local time (Atlantic Standard), I’ll arrive in San Juan where I will set up shop for the next six months. One thing I will most decidedly NOT miss about Virginia is the weather. Today it was a lovely 61 degrees. This Sunday, however, there is a chance of snow. I prefer the tempeture to stay hot or cold. At least in San Juan, it’s 70-80 degrees year round. Granted, this might get old very quickly, but for now I’m looking forward to it.

Thank you, everyone for your goodbyes! I hope to keep in contact via the internet and my ever handy cell phone. So even though you won’t be able to drive by and see me anymore, I shouldn’t be too out of reach.

Next post will come when I figure out life in San Juan…
Maybe I’ll even explain what I’m doing on a Caribbean island…