Saturday, August 21, 2010

Writing Confession #1

It ain't pretty, but...

I turn into a whiny brat when my work in progress isn't going the way I want it to.

(This is the first of what will probably be a series. I'll try to keep them down to once a week)

What is YOUR writing confession?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rainforest adventures and Weddings (but which is more daring?)

Alright, this post isn't nearly as epic as it may seem, but it IS the last post I'm writing about Puerto Rico. It's also the only post I didn't write IN Puerto Rico. See, a lot of things started to happen in a small amount of time, and writing blog posts, well, they kind of faded to the background of my mind.


I was trying to think of the perfect way to end my epic trip to the land of my ancestors (or at least, 25% of my ancestors), and I think I've got it. A List! Besides, I only need to cover the last two days of my trip. Mind you, they were two very epic, very action packed days.

Day 1:

1) Tai and I explored the rain forest called El Torro Negro.

2) It's near the center of the island, in winding mountain roads, and my stomach was NOT a fan.

3) We found this cool water fall we could have swam in, but I didn't have my bathing suit. Sad moment.

4) We left for another water fall, deeper in the forest.

5) We found it.

6) Tai informed me that no, we could not admire it from the car. There was hiking involved. I was dressed for a carnival. In other words, flip flops.

7) I got really terrified of the sharp slippery rocks.

8) I sucked it up after ten minutes of whining, and went up barefoot. It was epic.

Day 2:

1) We got ready. I realized how terrible my tan lines were.

2) We went to the hotel. My dad was waiting with Janet's family. He had a drink, haha.

3) People arrived. I took too many pictures.

4) Ceremony starts. I get up with the three other children and recite benediction. In Spanish. I found out about that the night before the wedding. Great, right?

5) They Are Married. Husband and wife. For better or worse. Till death do they part. For realz.

6) Dancing. Cake. Food. Alcohol. Embarrasing pictures are inevitable. But I won't post them here.

The night ended and my grandmother and I went to the airport early the next morning, leaving Dad and Janet to hang out in Puerto Rico for another week. You know. Newly weds, and stuff.

Then I arrived in Orlando! Which will probably also be in list form. Yes. Get pumped, because the post is on the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, which I was lucky enough to go to. Oh yeah.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Puerto Rico 7: Food (among other things)

One absolutely terrible thing about Puerto Rico is that there’s so much good food and so little room in my stomach. Well. Comparatively, at least.

Day after my eventful return to San Juan, dad, grandma, and I went to Maggie’s for lunch. She had blood sausage (surprisingly good considering its name), and cheese stuffed pana (unsurprisingly good). Pana is basically breadfruit. It tastes a bit like potato, which means it tastes awesome, and it’s not very healthy.

Lunch tends to be a bigger deal than dinner here, which makes more sense to me. You know, seeing as eating a heavy meal right before sleep is a metabolism disaster. It took us like three hours to finish everything from the stuffed pana to the amaretto cheesecake. When someone suggested dinner later that day, I could only shake my head and hold my stomach.


However. There is always more room for good food, I’ve found. Later that night we went to Janet’s mother’s house again, so that I could meet her sister, Glorimar, who is also getting married. Yep. Double wedding fun! Glorimar was nice, and soon the whole family was squished into a very tiny space. Think fifteen people in a single dorm room. Yeah. That’s how we roll in Puerto Rico.

Glorimar’s husband, David, is from the Dominican Republic, and he cooked some kind of plantain dish while we watched Puerto Rico VS Venezuela volleyball. Even though I’m not very into sports, their enthusiasm was contagious, especially once I started referring to Puerto Rico as “Us” and Venezuela as “them.” I’m sure the beer helped my enthusiasm.


I kid.

Anyways, we won, just in time for David to finish cooking, and despite my full stomach, I wanted to try a little. When he made my plate, I asked for half of what he gave me.

“You’re sure?” he said, doubtfully.

I nodded. “I’m not really hungry.”

He raised his eyebrows and shrugged. “When you want more, let me know.”

One bite of this glorious dish and I was SOLD on second helpings. SOLD. It’s called “Mangu,” and it’s basically mashed potatoes (except plantains, not potatoes). It’s got garlic, onions, and lots of amazing flavor, and the best part is I can cook it now! Here’s a picture:

Yeah, it’s not the most glorious presentation, but trust me. It’s good. David made chicken with it, and used the spicy broth as gravy for the mangu. He won me over.

Back at Aunt Elba’s, she’s been cooking a LOT. So much good food that I no longer know what to do with it.

And one fateful day (Tuesday, maybe?) I adamantly insisted that I want to learn how to cook. Especially Puerto Rican cuisine. It’s just too good.

At this point I should make it known that despite years of sitting in the front room while my grandmother cooked countless amazing Puerto Rican dishes, I’ve never once tried to learn.

But Elba quickly fixed that by insisting that I would learn how to make mangu and dulce de leche. On top of that, I helped make fish.

Then this morning, she taught me how to make flan de queso!

Add that to my impromptu tostones lesson earlier this summer, and I feel quite confident of my cooking skills. Roomies, if you’re reading this, be prepared for a LOT of awesome food next year.

I wish my writing was going as well as my cooking though. By the time I post this, things may have changed, but right now I feel pretty bummed about writing. It’s stupid, but I feel like I don’t know enough about the story to write it.

Wow. That sounds like a lame excuse. But it’s true. I’m afraid that if I don’t know enough about the story before I trudge through the first draft, it’ll be beyond editing. Too crappy.

Sigh. I know. Suck it up and write. Hopefully I’ll have a bit of time in Florida to work on it.

Days left in Puerto Rico: 2
Days until Key Largo: 12
Listening to: Andres Segovia

Note: One more Puerto Rico Post, then Florida. As of this posting, I'm back in Texas and eagerly waiting to return to Milwaukee. I miss my friends, and my mommy. Just thought you all should know.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Viejo San Juan Part 2; The Young Folks

I think it’s getting to the point where I sound like I’m trudging through my adventures, and I’m sorry. I fell behind by a lot in the craziness of the past few weeks, and now, during my downtime in the last few days of my trip, I’m trying to catch up. Selfishly so. I want to remember Puerto Rico, and this blog is the closest thing to a diary I’ll ever keep up with.

“Tienes que levantente temprano.” Those were Tai’s last words after the movie on Tuesday night. They were a warning, if you will: You’ll have to be up early. Or, more literally, you have to wake yourself up early. Really early. Way more early than the 12 or so in the afternoon I’ve gotten so used to.

But on vacation it’s not worth it to sloth around, so I set my alarm and (after some moaning into the pillow) got my sorry ass out of bed.

Aunt Elba made some amazing Puerto Rican coffee (read: really strong), and I was awake. Yessss. Then Tai and I were off to San Juan. When I asked him where we’d all go, he shrugged one shoulder, puffed out his lower lip, and flipped his hand. “Por Alli.”

Translated, it means “around.”

It should mean “everywhere,” because that’s basically where we went.

First we got an authentic Puerto Rican lunch at Subway (hehe, get it?), and I stood in awe of the skyscraper-sized cruise ship.

Then we headed away from the tourist district (and by default, Hard Rock Café and Senor Frog) towards El Morro.

We walked through the Gate of San Juan, the last of four entrances through the original fort.

It was so breathtaking! I loved going back to Capilla de Cristo, and I spent more than a little time trying to find thrifty souvenirs.

On the way, we met a few really nice vendors, one of which asked about the flood in Wisconsin once he found out where I was from. The other vendor confessed that she was hung over, haha. Honesty, peeps. It’s the best policy.

At the end of Calle de Cristo, there’s a pigeon park (Parque de Palomas), and you can buy a bag of seed and feed the birds! I did just that, which became the funnest thing of the day:

Tai and I left once the pigeons stopped attacking me, and he showed me a quieter side of Viejo San Juan. It’s just as beautiful, but with fewer shops.

Tai wanted to stop at the bookstore, and I found a treasure: a small book of poetry. In ENGLISH! Score! It was written by an English Professor in University of Puerto Rico, San Juan. And it’s just my type of poetry! I love it!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Holy Quenepas! The beginning of an epic end

On Sunday morning I went to Church for the first time in a while, and it was quite unsettling. I’m sure the fact that the service was in Spanish didn’t help. My Spanish skillz have grown quite considerably since I’ve been here (or maybe my mind is finally remembering the seven years total I took in school), but it wasn’t enough to follow the Priest’s rapid-fire sermon. By the end of the hour, I was in a pretty bad mood.

It’s not that I’m anti-Christianity. Not at all. But 1) I don’t like being forced to go to religious events, so I resented dad for making me go, and 2) I feel like an intruder, an outsider. And I get awkward during the “peace be with you” part, because sometimes people shake my hand and say “may the peace of Christ be with you” and I have NO idea what to say back. It’s so much more awkward in Spanish. Trust me.

After Church, we went shopping and I FINALLY have all the stuff I need for the weddings I’ll be attending in the next few weeks. Then we met up with my grandma’s sister Maggie and her husband Pedro.

We went to a Cuban restaurant, and I finally got to have mojito! It was so good!

Then I got shredded beef in sauce, with sweet plantain and Cuban style rice and beans:

Everything was amazing, and even though my stomach hurt, I was definitely a happy camper. We drove along the coast for a while, and saw countless people enjoying a dip in the Ocean. Then, Miracle of miracles, we found QUENEPAS!

After two weeks of searching, we found them, and they were every bit as tasty as I remember them to be.

On Monday, Grandma arrived, and I moved to my Great Aunt Elba’s house to stay for my final week.

My first night there, Tai (my dad’s cousin, so… my second cousin, right?) let me join him on his evening walk along the beach. It’s nothing special:

Yeah. I meant that sarcastically. It was BEAUTIFUL. As we walked, the sun set, so we decided to take some epic pictures of epicness:

Then we went home and watched Remember Me. I wasn’t too enthused when Tai suggested it, but ZOMG that movie is amazing. It was an amazing example of a quiet film that tugs at your heartstrings. If you haven’t seen it, please go watch it now.

Next post? Viejo San Juan Part 2; The young folks

Note: I promise, there are only like, three or four more vacation posts before I get back to the whole writing thing. Promise.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Tourists in Tortuga, or something like it

Alright, so I’m sure a ton of stuff happened between Lares and Ponce, but I’m trying to give you the highlights of my trip. Not the play by play. Today, I give you Tourists in Tortuga (or something like it)

We woke up early on Saturday to get ready for Ponce, and we packed the cooler for a long day: Captain Morgan, Coke, Medalla (beer), and water. Not to mention pork rinds and chips. We were ready for just about anything, heart attack or no.

We met Mari (Janet’s cousin) and her family on the road, after stopping for a local drink called guarapo. It’s made out of sugar cane, and it’s overwhelmingly sweet. Also, it’s damn tasty.

It was a long drive to Ponce, despite the short distance between Ponce and Arecibo (the town I’ve been staying in). The winding roads man, they’re killers. It got terrible in the mountains. Twenty full minutes of ten miles an hour, winding around in the car and hoping to god you don’t puke.

Sorry. TMI. I know.

Once we got there we paused on the highway (which people do A LOT around here) to take pictures, eat some chips, and have a drink.

Then we made it to the coast (a place called La Guancha), where there was a beautiful beach walk.

It’s the side of Puerto Rico that faces the Caribbean Sea. I wanted so badly to go to Tortuga, but alas, it wasn’t an option. Maybe next time. To console myself, I bought pirate bling, which I firmly believe is my best purchase so far. See?

Then we saw PELICANS!!! I kid you not, friends. LOOK:

I was firmly enamored by these adorable yet terrifying birds, and we all took too many pictures. They almost started to attack us. Shiver. Have you SEEN their beaks? They can do crazy things with those.

Dad eventually dragged me away from the pelicans and we went up this cool viewing tower thing.

It was cool to see everything from so up high, but the whole time I just wanted to jump into the ocean.

Once we had our fill of the sea (I could have stayed all day, but that wasn’t on the table), we headed back to the car to have… you guessed it: another drink! Cuba libres (rum and coke) have become my numero uno. So good. So tasty. Yum.

Then we were off! Off to a cross type place called La Cruz Del Vigia. Yes. It was basically a building… in the shape of a cross.

The View:

About a block behind it was a castle,

and in front of it was this intricate Japanese garden.

The view from the top of the cross was awesome, and the Japanese garden was beautiful, but I wasn’t too impressed with the castle. It was more like… a large expensive house. A mansion. Definitely mansion material. Not a castle though.

The whole day was a blast, even the long drive back. In an effort to avoid the tiny winding mountain roads (probably pretty dangerous at night), we went through Mayaguez. Coincidentally, that’s the same city where an Olympic-like set of games for all of Central America is being hosted. So we hit a ton of traffic. The drive went from one hour to two, and dad (being his typical self) insisted on a coffee break in the middle.

Go figure.

Last random point: We got Church's chicken for dinner, across the street from a CHURCH! HA! GET IT? Get it?