Thursday, August 5, 2010

Puerto Rico 1 (Days 1-3): The Monsoon Begins

Note: There are at least 7 Puerto Rico logs total. I'll try to put writing related posts in between these, but I make no guarantees.

The first night I got here, it was raining. Dad and I grabbed our bags and we searched for Janet (his fiancé) in the parking lot. Once we got past the white lights, there were palm trees everywhere. We found Janet after a short walk, and began the hour drive home.

Puerto Rico is tricky, in that if you’re not paying attention, it can fool you into thinking it’s just another part of the USA. Walgreens is rampant, along with Walmart, Kmart, and CVS. All the major fast food chains are here, too. But then there’s the hills and mountains. And if you open the window at night (which is impossible not to do at home… more on that later), you can hear the coquis (small frogs that make big noises) chirping merrily away. Especially when it rains.

We stopped for food on our way home, and I got a Cubano sandwich (a whole lot of pork, mustard, and pickles on thick white bread) and a Malta India (like beer and coke, without the alcohol). So good.

I crashed once we got to Janet’s, right after a long awaited shower and the promise of a VERY early morning (six am… five am CST).

Ok, that’s a lie. I finished SHIVER before falling asleep, and it was SO GOOD. I loved it. The ending was beautiful. This merits its own blog post, so I’ll stop ranting. But if you haven’t read it, read it. I especially recommend it to people who don’t like YA, because it’ll prove any negative presumptions you have about it to be false.

Back to Puerto Rico:

In order to use the good car, dad and I would go with Janet to work, then pick her up later. Six am came, and I woke up after a night of loud storms, cackling dogs, and yard work (the neighbor is crazy, I promise).

We drove an hour and a half to San Juan, which I found out isn’t the same vicinity as Old San Juan. It’s like Chicago, in that you can really be in Evanston but tell people you go to school in Chicago. Oh. Is that just me?

After we dropped off Janet, dad and I got breakfast at a diner. Eggs (juevos), ham (jamon), and toast (pan… frita?) made for an amazing breakfast. Let me just point out the toast in Puerto Rico is NOT the same as toast in the states. If the toast here were the standard for toast in the states, the Atkins diet wouldn’t exist. No one would be able to refuse the buttery flaky bread.

Also, I found out that despite the vast differences between the states and Puerto Rico, there will always be old men in diners arguing pointlessly about politics. Good to know some things never change.

Soon we were off to Bayamon, where my great aunt Marta and dad’s friend Abel live. We stopped at Kmart to grab me a bathing suit (which I love, AND only paid 11 dollars for! Score!), and then we went to visit Marta. It was nice to see her again, but the language barrier freaked both of us out enough that we didn’t talk much. Dad couldn’t get a hold of Abel until we were about to leave, only to find that Abel will be in Ponce until August 1.

Bummer. Abel is a lot of fun, and from what I remember from my last visit, he and his family were super nice to dad and I. Apparently they’re like brothers. I heard a lot of great embarrassing stories about dad from Abel. I hope we can meet up at some point.

As we drove back to San Juan, dad decided that we should go check out El Morro, the fortress surrounding San Juan. So we got a parking space and strolled down Old San Juan. We had a quick lunch of what I like to call “Plantain Lasagna,” (god it’s so much better than it sounds, or looks:

Then we made our way to El Morro, but it was so beautiful, so we took our time:

Finally we made it to El Morro:

We went inside the fortress, which was really cool:

The major problem was dad’s foot. Janet got sick of crocs (just like the rest of the world) and got dad some tasteful shoes. He wore them without socks, and soon they started cutting into his heel. Ouch. We had to stop and get him some different ones. Check out the fat cat hangin' in the store:

The other problem was the sun. It was beautiful outside, but I think if I stayed much longer I would have baked through and through. Once I had my fill of El Morro, we walked down this really cool street that has a lot of cute tourist shops. At the end of it there’s a church with a very cool story.

Apparently, in the old days they used to have horse races down that street, and a man lost control and went over the cliff. Miraculously, he lived. In honor of what they believed was a miracle, the town built a church on that spot.

But enough about churches. Let’s talk about booze:

Dad took me to the bar where the piña colada originated (supposedly) and bought me my first alcoholic drink! Ok. My first alcoholic drink in public. See?

The bartender was making fun of a few Americans. “Where are you from?” he asked them, “and don’t say Texas. It’s too predictable.”

Sure enough, he asked us. “TEXAS,” my dad said, sure to use an accent. Sigh.

We also met this nice couple celebrating their 18th anniversary. They were on a cruise through the islands, and they could throw back rum like nobody’s business. As dad and I left, they started on their third drink. And the bartender was NOT stingy with the rum.

Note: It is super tasty to dip a maraschino cherry in rum and then eat it.

I’m proud to say that despite that long outing in the sun, I am not burned. We picked up Janet and grabbed some mofongo before going home:

I also had another Malta India:

It’s getting really addictive at this point.

Today wasn’t nearly as interesting, though we did get to visit my great aunt Elba. We also stopped at this cool bakery place for lunch. I got another Cubano, and then dad picked out some amazingly tasty pastries that are like the cheese Danish’s superior cousin.

My only regrets so far? Quenepas seem to be out of season, and I haven’t been in the Ocean yet.

1) Pride and Prejudice
2) Good Omens
3) Women Who Run with the Wolves

Listening to:
1) Werewolf by Cat Power
2) Coquis
3) Crickets
4) Rain

Spanish Lesson of the day:

Casa means “house.” Casar means “to get married.” To get married, according to Spanish language, is literally the verb of “home.” To get married is to make a home. Do not miss spell Casar. If you miss one letter (replace the S with a Z), you may say “to hunt.” Which may or may not be the word you were looking for originally.


I’m going to go partake in what I’m sure will be a wonderful dinner, and hope that I still fit into my bridesmaid dress.

Feels like heaven, peeps.

Hasta Luego!

1 comment:

  1. I love your Spanish lesson! Lingual quirks are my very favorite, like how the German word for bra literally translates to "breast holder." Except yours is much more fun. Puerto Rico looks like it was gore-gee-us. Looking forward to hearing more. :)