5 Years in.. Time to Reflect

    This yearend post finds me reflecting on more than what it’s like to live in Puerto Rico.  I can say I’m just as jazzed to be here as when I landed for the first time in August of 2009.  I cannot imagine living any other place.

    The food, the music, the countryside, the people will grow on you.

    Deserted Beach in PRAs I’ve said before, Puerto Rico is not without it’s frustrations.  Especially if you are a gringo from the mainland, though Alaska hardly qualifies as the ‘mainland’.  I grew up in Alaska so that tends to ‘color’ my perspective.

    Puerto Rico and Alaska share some of the same issues

    Both rely heavily on food and almost all consumer goods used day-to-day from stateside.  In Alaska, we referred to it as ‘the lower 48’.  In PR, it’s the ‘mainland’ or something less friendly.  Both places share a sense of independence.. an attitude that you could make a go of it.  NBC Snowden GraphicNot so much these days, but you can see it in the attitude of the ‘old timers’.  Those that were used to depending on each other to get stuff done.  I see it in the rural folks of PR and I admire them for it.

    Then there are the cultural differences.  To be honest, what passes as American Culture these days bothers me to my core.  I think about it a lot.  Way too much emphasis on consumerism and ‘things’ and less concern with ‘community’.

    Goodbye to TV as We Knew it-

    I was a child of the TV Era.  I remember the day my dad brought home our first black & white TV.  I must have been 4 or 5. TV ads were part of the norm.  Even after I got cable… nothing had changed.  Just more of it.  There Continue reading

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      El Capitolio de Puerto Rico, Palace of Laws

        I’ve wanted to visit the Capitol building since my first trip to PR in 2009. We have driven L. Muñoz Rivera Avenue, past the Capitol many times… if you take the trolley from the docks to El Morro, you can’t miss it. It is a very grand and beautiful structure.

        External View of Puerto Rican Capitol Building in Old SJ

        Last week, I was contacted by the Tourism Promoter for the Office of Legislative Services, Ms. Keisha Sosa. She asked if I would be interested in a tour of the Capitol Building so we jumped at the chance.Police on the Steps of the Puerto Rico Capitol Building in Old SJ

        The one hour tour was free!

        We made plans for an afternoon tour so we could do lunch in Old San Juan, first. I hate going into San Juan for business or shopping without hitting ‘Old Town’. More about that and running into the Governor at the end of the post.

        Puerto Rican Capitol Building Tour Guides in Old SJThe Tour-

        We are still in the ‘Low Season’ so we had the Capitol building almost entirely to ourselves. They often host bus loads of schoolchildren and cruise ship tourists so this was much more relaxed. Tours are available in both Spanish and English. Our tour guide, Mr. Jerry Pablos spoke perfect English. Not only that, but he was extremely knowledgeable. He fielded our questions without hesitation. He could recite dates, names and places like he had been there. Continue reading

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          A Leisurely Ramble Through Old San Juan

            Hindsight is always ’50/50′

            A while back, I went into Old San Juan to do a little black and white photography on film. I spent the morning with a friend, Fanny, from the SJ Photo MeetUp group.Side Street Looking up, in Old San Juan, PR

            I got exactly one roll out of my 35mm Olympus OM 4 before it died. It employs an electronic shutter so no batteries, no go.

            I should have brought an OM-1 as backup since it works, with or with out batteries.
            Next time.

            With no spare batteries for the OM-4, I switched back to shooting digital.

            Fanny was shooting with a plastic Holga 120 rollfilm camera that does not use a built-in light-meter. You simply aim and shoot. The photo-lab does the rest.Restored Private Residences in Old San Juan, PR
            I love these things and was slightly envious of hers.

            They put the ‘fun’ back into photography. Lomography actually makes a large variety of interesting, but cheap film cameras. They also come in a bunch of fun colors.

            There’s a huge photo community devoted to these somewhat off color, retro looking analogue images.  I like it.

            I still have the roll of black and white Plus-X from the day.

            At some point I’ll send it in for processing. That said, here are four ‘toned’ digital images from our shoot.  Click any image to see them larger. Continue reading

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              The Iguana Hunters of Puerto Rico

                First, I have to thank Alex and Oti for inviting me to tag along on one of their shoots.  These guys are awesome!!  I only wish my Spanish was as good as their English.  This post is not for the squeamish.  If this type of activity bothers you, stop now.

                Some will ask-The Iguana Hunters of PR- Alex and Oti with 2 Fresh Kills, in Santa Isabel, PR

                Why do they need to hunt iguana in Puerto Rico?

                It’s a fair question.

                Basically, the island is over-run by the Green or Common Iguana.  They are NOT indigenous and there are NO natural predators to keep them in check (other than humans).  On top of that, they ruin millions of dollars in crops every year.  Besides, they are supposed to be quite tasty (still working on that one).

                Here are a couple of
                quotes from Wikipedia about them-

                “They are very common throughout Puerto Rico, where they are colloquially known as “Gallina de palo” (as in “Chicken of the Tree”) and considered as an invasive species introduced from South America…”  And… “In February 2012, the government of Puerto Rico proposed that the islands’ iguanas, which were said to have a population of 4 million and considered to be a non-native nuisance, be eradicated and sold for meat.”  See more on Wikipedia.

                So the Government of PR has opened the door to the locals taking them out.  Which leads us to today’s activities.

                The Iguana Hunters of PR- Banana, Papaya and Palms on the Grounds of Finca de Palmas, in Santa Isabel, PR

                On the grounds of Finca de Palmas in Santa Isabel-

                As luck would have it, this 300 acre farm is less than 15 minutes from our house.  The guys are all from Aguada so it was most of 2 hours for them to make the run.  Aguada is near Rincon on the west coast, but there are Continue reading

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                  The Beautiful Plaza of Mayagüez, PR, Interrupted

                    Click For Map WindowI have been to Mayagüez several times, but never to the Plaza.

                    Mayagüez Attractions- The Mayagüez Zoo is the only zoo of its type on the entire island. Worth a stop if you have the time. Then there is the USDA Tropical Agriculture Research Station next to the University of PR.

                    Alcaldia on the Plaza of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

                    A facility with a marvelous garden, free to the public. I’ve covered both of these before.  They are not the only things of interest in Mayagüez, but they are probably the most popular.

                    The busy Port of Mayagüez supports a commercial ferry run to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic.  Something I really want to try.  It’s a very popular trip for Puerto Ricans on vacation.  You could fly there, but I like riding the ferry.  Something I did in Alaska.  The Dom. Rep. is a lot closer to PR than most folks realize.  Someday…

                    Water Fountain and Statue of Christopher Columbus on the Plaza Colón of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico

                    Mayagüez is on the far west end of the island, about as far from San Juan as you can get.  After Ponce, it is a very popular destination for visitors looking to get away from the crowded conditions of San Juan.  Much more laid back with a real Puerto Rican vibe.  During the Dry Season, it’s also a lot more lush than the south side of the island.

                    As of the 2010 Census, greater Mayagüez, ” City of the Mangos”,  has Continue reading

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                      Cacao to Chocolate and a Little Coffee too

                        Like Coffee, growing Cacao is very popular here in Puerto Rico.  Basically, if one can grow coffee, then one can grow Cacao.  It needs the shade of overgrowth and protection from strong wind that large trees can provide.  Ripe Cacao Fruit, ready for Harvest at Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, PR
                        This makes Cacao perfect for planting among taller things.

                        So when a Cacao seminar in English was scheduled for Hacienda Buena Vista, we had to go!

                        Hacienda Buena Vista Revisited

                        I did a pretty detailed story about Hacienda Buena Vista awhile back. I also did a short YouTube video shot ‘from the road’ showing how to get there. Simply, once you get on Highway123, you cannot miss the place.  It will be on the left. Parking is still an issue.  Get there early to get in line or you might find yourself parking in the road.  Entrance to Hacienda Buena Vista in Ponce, PRI would normally penalize a place for this issue, but parking is almost always an issue, no matter where you go in PR.

                        Hacienda Buena Vista is up above Ponce and dates back to the days of slavery. When slavery ended a few decades later, it became uneconomical to maintain. They grew coffee for export and made corn meal for the local market which they ground themselves. The corn was imported and hauled from the port in Ponce in sacks of whole kernel corn. The restoration of the facility by the Puerto Rico Conservation Trust (Fideicomiso de Conservación) is quite remarkable as it is fully functional. They fire up the water wheel driven mill for every tour. It’s quite impressive.  For those Continue reading

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                          Big Yearend Garden Update, 2013

                            The further adventures of living in USDA Zone 11 where you can grow stuff literally  year round.  As of this week, I’ve added 13 new sprouts of 5 species to the ‘collection’

                            Assortment of new seeds being soaked overnight before being placed in starter trays.The new additions are:

                            3 African Medlar, Vangueria infausta (had none)

                            1 Rainforest Plum, Eugenia candolleana (had 2)

                            2 South Am. Nance, Byrsonima crassifolia (had 6)

                            3 rare Atemoya ‘X’, Annona Squamosa X Cherimoia (had 5)

                            4 Jackal Berry or African Ebony, Diospyros mespiliformis (had 1)

                            When it comes to potting sprouts, I use a mix of 1/3 commercial loam, 1/3 commercial potting soil and 1/3 of our soil, all sifted to remove rocks and debris. I do adjust it for certain plant types, but that’s the basic formula. Seeds are started in a much lighter mix of shredded Coconut husk (coir) and Sphagnum moss. That’s what I use in the donut trays.

                            There are other new things in pots as well.. Continue reading

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                              The Scurvy Dog’s Skull Rating System

                              The scurvy dogs skull rating, one is bad five is good

                              San Juan, Puerto Rico Weather

                              Click for San Juan, Puerto Rico Forecast

                              PR Hats, Ts, Tops and More

                              The Isle of Bamboo Website in PR

                              Isle of Bamboo Screen Grab

                              Wippy Woppy Webdesign is proud to announce our new site- the Isle of Bamboo.

                              It's dedicated to the myriad of ways bamboo enriches our lives and our planet.  If there ever was a 'Super Plant', bamboo is it!

                              The Site is optimized to run on desktops and laptops as well as tablets like the iPad or Android 4.0 models.

                              The Isle of Bamboo

                              Amazon.com PR Hot Picks

                              Rich Puerto Rican Coffee

                              Order the Good Stuff Here

                              Stovetop Espresso Makers

                              A Great Way to Make Coffee

                              Puerto Rican Flags and Banners

                              Fly Your Flag With Pride

                              Puerto Rico Travel Guides

                              Info to Help With Planning Your Trip

                              Cool Travel Accessories

                              The Little Things You Need