Friday, December 28, 2007

Eating healthy in Puerto Rico

... is not inexpensive.

True, tropical fruit is fabulously cheap: papaya - 69 cents per pound, a large pinaple 75 cents....
....but vegetables, wow, $ 8 for 6 organic bellpeppers (that's more than a dollar for a bellpepper!) - and only slightly less for nonorganic - imported from USA; $ 6.45 for a small container (less than a pound) of organic tomatoes - imported from Canada ($4.50 for a similar container of nonorganic).
The prices for lettuce and other available veggies are sky high and .... there is no variety, nothing but a few anemic lettuces ( mostly romaine, sometimes iceberg), celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, cilantro and a lot of brown tubers with different shapes, which I avoid, presuming them all being - like potatoes and yams - starches rather than vegetables.
Every time I try to shop for veggies I dream of a Whole Foods store with its fabulous assortment of hundreds of kinds of fruits and vegetables, many of them organic, or of Atlanta's World Farmers Market, where veggies are almost as plentiful as at Whole Foods, but cheaper - though far fewer are organic.

What's with all those vegetable imports in Puerto Rico??? Don't veggies grow in the tropics?

Perhaps I'd believe it, had I not seen on zoom's blog that she has a vegetable garden - and my institute also has an organic farm and greenhouses where tender greens (sunflower, purslane, etc.) and - mostly green - veggies, like kale, spinach, etc. are grown.
Next Friday I am planning to visit a local farmers' market in San Sebastian, a small town in the mountains, otherwise famous for its hammock weavers and its splendid, though not easily accessible, waterfall in the jungle.
Meat, on the other hand is cheaper here than in the USA and a lot of it (beef) seems to be imported from Urugway. I wonder whether Urugway meat industry is any better than USA or if that meat is as inedible as nonorganic American meat: equally loaded with hormons, antibiotics etc.
And - for the true health gamblers: the fabulous, fluffy, melting in your mouth Puertorican pastries with almonds and guava cost only 79 cents for a large one. Yumm :-(((
Yesterday afternoon and this morning I inspected the plot for my future garden and found it being in a dappled sunlight in the morning, shaded in early afternoon and in more direct sunlight in the late afternoon. Now, a question to tropical vegetable gardeners: what herbs and veggies I should most luck growing there?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

To buy.... or not to buy. That is the question

very suitable for the days of after Christmas shopping madness.

No, I do not participate in the general shopping madness - but am pondering a question whether to buy furniture. If I want to move to the unfurnished apartment I need to either buy new furniture (which seem rather ugly here: the preferred furniture color here seems to be all the "lovely" shades of poo: from beige to brown. Brr... And the shapes are either too countryish crude or too twisted ornamental - definitively not me. I am afraid I would have constant nighmares surrounded by this type of furniture) .. or get my remaining ones shipped.

Yet - less than three months ago - I promised "kids" who help me with my countless moves, that there would be no more moves with furniture and stuff. And I sold and gave away most of my Finnish and Swedish well loved arctic birch pieces, my white Italian leather sofa and armchair. And now I am dreaming of IKEA - something light, simple, unassuming, unpretential, unserious even - something that would function perfectly as furniture but did not feel confining.

Uh, huh, why oh why IKEA aren't you here? Shopping would be so easy - and so enjoyable.

Without you I have to wander among many small local furniture stores with really, really heavy, dark and ugly pieces, almost crying... yet I can't move to the apartment I like and sit, eat and sleep on its pristine white ceramic floors!!!

Monday, December 24, 2007

My secret Christmas wish list

I have been nursing my secret blogger' s Christmas wih list for a few weeks.
I wished that I could paint like Heather, photograph like Carina, write like Jen or Sara, etc. etc.

But when a time came to post it.... the monopoly cable company operating in Aguada, Choice Cable, the most incompetent, uncaring and, perhaps, corrupted cable company in the entire world, gave me - and everybody else here a Christmas present we are likely to remember a long time: 4 days so far- and counting - without internet!

(I finally got connected through a slow like molasses, but working! oh miracle! dial up connection. )

So my top priority wish is a different cable company! What's yours?

Friday, December 21, 2007

Tropical Christmas party dress

Today is a Christmas gift exchange and a Christmas lunch party at the institute, and later a festive gourmet dinner at Natural High Cafe in Rincon for the graduating program participants.

So I spent a moment this morning in front of my closet trying to figure out what to wear: evening wear being too "evening" for the occassion, party cruise wear too "cruise party", resort wear too "resort": the western coast of Puerto Rico has a - difficult - style all of its own: not the San Juan Puerto Rican smart dolled up in the absolutely latest fashion, but either a very sporty casual (wore mostly by surfer guys) or if more festive, than " I pretend I don't care about fashion or elegance... yet I don't want to look dorky" ( wore mostly by gals and local guys).

Finally I noticed a long, Caribbean sea blue silk dress with a deceptively simple cut, which I bought for myself in July, because I loved the color, even though the dress was at that time " a tad" too tight for me - and in a size I wasn't able to wear since 1999.

I tried it again just before Thanksgiving and - despite having lost 16 pounds - the dress was still too tight for me. 'Oh, my', I thought, I would never have guessed that I was that much of an optimist when I bought it.
But this morning the scale showed an 19.6 pounds of a total weight loss during the two months I have been here trying on this Living Food Lifestyle. So I tried the dress again.... and finally it fit me like a glove! Hurra!

I added a strand of discarded corals of the same azure shade of Caribbean sea, which I got for my nameday ot the beginning of this month - and voila, I was ready to "dazzle" and dance salsa, merengue , bomba and whatever else we were going to dance today... and no matter whether I knew how to dance it or not (women my age can get away with a lot, lol)! Who needs food when you feel good!

Merry Christmas partying everybody!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Caribbean birthday

I don't think I ever had my birthday party at a beach bar - after all my birthday is in December.

But this year I have been celebrated on my birthday in balmy Puerto Rico, so a beach bar was appropriate - and this particular one - Shipwreck Bar and Grill was perfect! It is fun and colorful during the day and fun and imaginatively illuminated by night, its menu is creative and the food really good. But I am getting ahead of myself fast forwarding to the evening party, while there is still the whole day to be described.

The day started very early, with a 7 am trip to the first secret birthday destination, which turned out to be a snorkeling/diving excursion (by Taino Divers)

to Desecheo Island:

The coral formations there are great. See for yourself:

We stopped at three different sights, one most suitable for divers, the other two for both divers and snorkelers. I was with a couple of friends, one of them an avid diver. He claims he spotted a large nursing shark, but nobody else in the tour group of 12 - 6 divers and 6 snorkelers - seen it. The whole tour was a such a quintessential Caribbean experience: the azure water, corals in all shapes and sizes, balmy weather, international company. We returned to port at 2 pm - after lunch of sandwiches on board and had to scramble to the next secret birthday destination, which turned out to be one of my most favorite places in Rincon: the Secret Garden Art Gallery!

Secret garden has great art by local artists and a fantastic location: a huge tropical, jungle like garden right on one of the beaches (see their video)!

I have visited the galery before, shopped there for a few of Christmas presents and had my eye on a couple of Roberto Ortizs (who runs the gallery) paintings for myself...and today I was going to get one of them as a birthday present. Wow, was I elated! (If you browse through Roberto's paintings on the Secret Garden's web site, you can see it: the painting of a fan like cliffs of Cabo Rojo) .

But we could not linger at the gallery or in the garden this time, since we had to hurry (hurry, hurry!) to a third secret location this day: a sunset whale watching sail with Katharina Sail Charters on a sailing catamaran.

Well, we haven't seen any whales, but the trip was lovely and the sunset amazing - as usual.

Hungry we disembarked and entered the Shipwreck Bar. Their menu is inventive, but we haven't hesitated much ordering our appetizers: mussels in white wine sauce, shrimps won-ton and calamares in a spicy sauce.

We wolfed all this accompanied by a bottle of wine... and discovered that we were completely satisfied with just appetizers. (Their portions are for very young and very hungry surfers). But for the sake of a birthday tradition we order one piece of cake for the three of us and I was reminded that I am not young any more, when my friends started discussing with the waiters how to squeeze the appropriate amount of candles on that piece of cake. Finally, a compromise solution was reached - just one candle! Suits me perfectly.

I would not mind having more fun and active birthday like this. Viva Puerto Rico!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Parranda or noise pollution

One parranda - especially one I participated in (see post: Yet another car, another cat and another dwelling) - was fun. But today a parranda at a beach bar and camping - three properties away from mine - started at noon with such an incredible noise volume, that not even ear plugs are able to help at this distance. So instead of a deserved weekend rest, at the beach, at a hammock, reading, I was forced to hide from that noise pollution in my office. And I wonder: are ALL Puertoricans deaf? They must be, if nobody protests either the construction noise (see post: I am moving... again) or a perpetual parranda in a quiet residential area. I certainly can't stand it without a permanent damage not only to my ears but my brain, as well.

The day would be glorious... if only the natives could celebrate Christmas a lot less noisily!
To listen to some parranda music (at a decent volume) go there:

Friday, December 14, 2007

A poor raped virgin

I went to the vet yesterday with my new find. Kitty was at first terrified by the pet carrier, but soon calmed down despite of - or may be because of the examination, parasite and ear mites tests and receiving three shots.

When we were at the vet a truck came in with a young, white horse on it. The horse looked very sad and had scratches near her eyes. I asked the people who came with her what kind of a problem the horse is having and was told that she was raped last night... by a guy, whom they managed to put under a citizen arrest and deliver to the local police. But the poor horse felt really sad and really sick. The horse's owner announced that she was looking for a big, guard dog, and since I just joined the newly formed local association for the protection of animals, I was able to point them to the association as a source of guard - and other - dogs, and at the same day they adopted an abandoned German Shepherd/Husky mix.

I hope the horse will feel better soon. But I still wonder what can posses a male human being to rape a horse!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Santa Lucia

It's morning of December 13 and all across Sweden girls get up very early, dress in long white gowns, put a candle crown in their hair (if they are chosen to be a Lucia) or a candle in their hands and form a procession - a Lucia taaget .

In Oesterskaer, the far outburb of Stockholm, deep in the Swedish archipelago, my daughter and her friends used to form such a procession, walking around the neighborhood in the dark early morning hours, singing a Swedish version of an old Neapolitan Santa Lucia song and offering saffron buns (Lussekatter)

and ginger snaps (pepparkakor), while the visited families would offer them an (alcoholfree) gloegg, otherwise usually a strong concoction of red wine, vodka (or cognac), spices, raisins and almonds.
Since it was winter in a northern country, it was usually cold, often bitterly cold, and the girls wore their white gowns over full winter clothes, which made them look a bit more like snow bunnies than willowy maidens. Boys joined in the fun, too, as star boys (stjaerngossar) .
There are many - and conflicting - explanations while the 4th century's Sicilian saint became so widely - and enthusiastically - celebrated in Sweden. One, the most plausible, is the light she bears in the darkest month of winter.
On this 13th od December I wake up in Puerto Rico, to the sound of surf and the sight of cocos palms framing the beach in front of my cabin... and nowhere in sight is there a Lucia, or a single saffron bun or a glass of gloegg. Not even a Lucia doll, since I forgot to pack her with me - and I feel sorry for myself. I'd rather be in Sweden today!
From the Swedish associations and clubs in Atlanta invitations drop into my email box to various Lucia celebrations there and I have to answer to all: "Sorry, can't come, I am in Puerto Rico" - and again I feel sorry having to miss all that fun. :-((
Oh, well, perhaps next year I could treat myself to a Lucia in the arctic, snow, cold, reindeers and ane of the arctic ice hotels. I haven't been to Northern Sweden since the year before my spouse, Erik, a real Norrlaenning, born and raised north of the Arctic circle, died 15 years ago.
But maybe after all this time I could be able to enjoy a visit to Norrland without him? Or if not to Norrland, than to either Stockholm or Skaane - two places I lived in - both with and without him?

Monday, December 10, 2007

Yet another car, another cat and another dwelling

Uff, it was a busy weekend. Too busy to hang around in a hammock....

During the last week the old car I bought developed a problem and was stopping at changing gears, or just out of the blue and after some frustrating - and even scary - experiences I decided to return it to the friend I bought it from, and she agreed to take it back and suggested refunding all my money, but I insisted she keeps some of them as a payment for my using it for almost a month.

Then I went to a car rental agency, rented a car and went searching for another car to purchase.

First, however, I promised to spend part of the weekend in question with a visiting friend and was showing her all the local beaches from Aquadillla to Anasco, when near the Table Rock beach in Aguada I spotted a large white villa overlooking the beach, that bore a discrete sign of two apartments for rent. The owner was inside so we went exploring.

There was a nice, cool, and very white (white ceramic floors, white walls, white trims, white kitchen cabinets, etc.) two bedroom apartment with an ocean view both from the living/dining room - with a white walled patio - and from the second bedroom/study, while master bedroom overlooked a large tropical garden. This apartment has a private entry gate (white, as you probably guessed it), car parking for more than one car and a private part of a garden. And a washer and dryer is in a nook outside the apartment - just the way I like doing laundry in the tropics - al aire fresco.

I liked this apartment from the start, since - contrary to my experiences in Puerto Rico so far - there was nothing shabby about the place, and the price - for a quiet beachfront location - was far from astronomical. However one advantage of the place - it was unfurnished and thus I could do it exactly the way I liked it - turned out to be a short term disadvantage: it was unfurnished and I have no furniture here, and - with the necessity to buy a car asap - I felt like I could not start furniture hunting - even for a minimalist living - before Christmas, while my current place was rented till December 20, and I wanted to move by then.

I informed the new landlord about the dillemma and we found a solution: they had also a fully furnished and air-conditioned studio on the other side of the villa - yet also with a view of the sea and the beach, and I could rent it now and when I had time to go shopping for furniture I could switch to the two bedroom apartment - unless, of course, somebody else claimed it first. So I decided to take the offer and risk at worst renting the studio till the end of the winter season - or to look elsewhere again, if somebody claimed the larger apartment. So we quickly penned a pre-rental agreement, I paid a security deposit and we continued the tour of beaches.

My friend tried surfing in Rincon with a guide (she is my daughter's age), while I had fun snorkeling - there are coral reefs here and great visibility. We played too long and when we were done, all car dealerships were closed. We went home, where we found that our neighbors were hosting a parranda - a Puerto Rican - more temperamentful - equivalent of Christmas caroling with all kinds of Caribbean music, all kind of instruments, song, dance, food, drink - a loud and rowdy, deliciously fun party to which we were instantly invited.

So we went car hunting on Sunday morning. My visiting friend proved invaluable here, since I know next to nothing about cars, while she could even spot if a part of the car was repainted after an accident and such some - boring yet important - practical things. So after visiting about a dozen of car dealerships on highway 2 between Rincon and Aguada, and her turning up her nose at everything she saw, we narrowed it first to two possibilities and finally settled on a nice looking 2002 Mazda Protege.

I offered to pay with American Express, which has no spending limit, but they did not accept Amex - nor any other credit card - so I - a bit in a culture shock, since I am oerhaps too used to pay by credit or debit cards for everything - finally agreed to give them two checks: one for $1000 to be cashed right away and one for the remainder to be cashed 10 days later, to give me time to sell some shares from my brokerage account ( which I would have done to pay an Amex bill within a month anyway - I do not carry any debt) to my checking account.

I could have gotten financing for the car from the dealer, but learned that it would cost me 18% in annual interest (yes, yes, financing in Puerto Rico is definitively not cheap - and neither are cars) and the average return I get on my stock portfolio ( save for the international part of it, due to dollar being practically in free fall since the beginning of Bushe's and Cheney's Iraq misadventure) is less than 18% a year, thus a no brainer was to sell some stock instead of financing the car - and negotiating a lower car price for a cash deal as an additional sweetener.
(My daughter, however, an MPA and CPA that she is, became so horrified by my check postdating routine that she immediately tranferred the amount in question from her savings to my checking. We have our differences: I keep everything in stock while she keeps about $20000 - $25000 in cash as a buffer. Perhaps wise - and sometimes very convenient I have to admit.)

So, after a purchase agreement was finished and I got my temporary vehicle licence ( the permanent one is supposed to arrive within 30 days), I got my new car to take with me.
I wondered a bit about insurance, but was informed that a basic insurance is included in a sticker that every Puerto Rican car must have on their front windshield - if a police spots an expiring sticker, the car is towed away and the owner/driver fined. I only had to purchase a full coverage insurance separately.

Now, armed with two cars, my friend and I went to the car rental agency to return the rental. And there she spotted a tiny, abandoned kitten, no more than three months old: white and grey, with blue eyes, skinny, hungry for both food and affection. My friend said "hey, kitty, kitty" but the kitten took one glance at her and then one glance at me and...without a slightest hesitation jumped into my arms. Thus I became a "foster mother" of yet another kitty and had to stop at a store, purchase kitten food, litter, box, carrier etc. etc.

Before the nightfall the kitty ate an inordinate amount of food, made a lot of use of her new litter box, groomed herself meticulously and fell asleep on a pillow next to mine.

The local vet is closed today, so tomorrow we go to have her checked out, treated if need be and given all the protective shots a kitty requires.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Flaming June in Ponce

Isn't she magnificent? So vibrant and so peaceful, so supple-bodied and so delicate facial features.... my baby!

Well, yes, I know that Frederic Leighton painted Flaming June in 1895, and his model would have to be about 130 years old by now and thus could not have been my baby. But she is so much alike my daughter, a thoroughly modern contemporary woman, a vibrant auburn haired, highly intelligent beauty. Venus in every woman is eternal!

Both Daughter and I love Flaming June not only for that likeness, but most of all for the sheer beauty of the painting, its lines, colors, its very, very subtle shading.

When we found out that the original was in Ponce's Museum of Art, we had to include a visit to the museum in our trip around Puerto Rico. There, Flaming June is prominently displayed framed by other striking pre-Rafaelitan paintings. Yet, she dominates, subtly but certainly.
Just like my baby, wherever she finds herself ;-).

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Food dreams

December is a month of celebration for practically everybody, but I have - in addition to the common ones, like a birthday of San Nick (December 6), Swedish Santa Lucia (December 13) Christmas (December 24-26) and New Year's Eve (December 31) - also a couple of personal celebrations: one of my namesdays (the birthday of one of my patron saints, Santa Barbara, December 4) and my very own birthday on December 17.

Six celebrations in one month - I think you agree with me that it is way too much, and I should be careful not to give in to too many temptations in order not to overindulge. I started all right, celebrating my namesday with a dessert of star fruit in a red fruit ( mostly raspberry) puree. Mmm, good.

But soon after that I made my first food mistake of the month, when I visited my favorite food blog from the Dominican Republic , after living for over 6 weeks almost exclusively (save for a brief Thanksgiving recess) on organic vegetables, fruits and young greens like these:

At luzcace blog I became dangerously exposed to the menus of their lavish Christmas Eve and Christmas Day buffets, which made me salivate and dream of - be it unhealthy - but familiar FOOD!
And - to make things worse, I became exposed also to images like this:

Oh, my! No wonder that tonight, at the Eve of Sant Nick I had pretty weird food dreams.

The night started with a dream of a desk drawer in my office, full of pastries, typical Puertorican French puff pastries with guava, almonds etc. They filled my entire drawer, pedantically arranged on white paper-lace doilies. Nibbling even on a single one would ruin the whole esthetics of the composition, so - in the dream - I kept looking into the drawer every now and then - and kept closing it without touching any of the pastries.

But after this exercise in food lust and food restraint I - still in a dream - went to a party.

There, a lot of elaborate - and yummy - appetizers were served by waiters in tuxedos on huge silver trays, but whenever I felt tempted to taste any of the appetizers, they would all explode like geizers or vulcanoes!

My - once - favorite bef bourgignone erupted into a vulcano of red wine sauce with pieces of beef falling down like rocks. A cheese fondue with herbs - another - once upon a time - cold weather favorite food of mine - kept bubbling like a cheesy Old Faithfull in Yellowstone, then suddenly erupting and overflowing in its creamy goldness, too hot ( and too scary?) to even dip a breadstick in it. And so - da capo al fine .

I admit that this seemingly endless food 'dance' was increadibly fascinating, but I became sad, nevertheless, realizing that I might stay hungry for the rest of my life - being able only to look at ordinary food, but not eating it. :-((

Finally, early in the morning, after I killed the alarm clock, to keep sleeping for a while longer, I had a final dream about a simple, organic, soft boiled egg from a free range hen. It was made viennese style, in a lightly buttered glass, topped with young sunflower greens and dulse flakes. Even this simple egg, however, is not a part of a 100% "living food lifestyle". Yet, on account of celebrating Saint Nick's birthday I gave in: during a lunch break I went to a store, bought 6 organic eggs from free range hens (they would not sell me just one) and enjoyed one for lunch exatly the way I dreamt it! Ha!

....But it is only December 6 - how on earth am I going to withstand all the other temptations of December??? and with FIVE more tempting eggs in my fridge??? I might even be tempted to create a zabaione.... ;-)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

A weekend at El Yunque

View of El Yunque

Wow! Isn't El Yunque magnificent? The breathtaking vistas,

View from El Yungue toward the sea

the lushness of its flora, the richness of its fauna, the magnificent waterfalls

La Coca waterfall

and its natural swimming pools

El bano grande

We were lucky: during our weekend visit it rained only during the night and the weather during the day was glorious, sunny, allowing far far vistas. We drove first to the interpretive center, learned about the endangered Puerto Rican green parrots, view exhibits, picked driving and hiking instructions, then drove all the length of 191, stopping to have a quick glimpse at all the roadside attractions.
El Yunque is very friendly towards mobility impaired people: sights like La Coca waterfall, and El Bano grande can be enjoyed from the car.
Then we took a couple of different length hikes: a pleasant stroll to La Mina waterfall, a more challenging climb to the old tower near the top, a fun trek from El Bano del Oro to El Bano Grande with a dip in each.
If I did not work at the west coast of Puerto Rico, I would move in an instant somewhere close to El Yunque: not only it is a natural wonder, but, as if it was not enough, it is located only about 36 km from San Juan, and about 5-10 km from glorious, sandy beaches. May be when I stop working?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thanksgiving at an eco resort

On Thanksgiving, during a morning walk through nearly deserted Old San Juan, we learned that on Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico everything is closed: shops, restaurants, even fast food places.

We got a bit worried, because around noon we were leaving El Convento and San Juan, heading to an eco resort at El Junque - Puertorican rain forest.

Consequently, even roadstands, which usually serve tasty local fare, like lechon asado, pollo al carbon, etc. and an abundance of fruits and other snacks, were closed, so we arrived at Rio Grande Eco Resort quite hungry, but the resort manager immediately ordered the resort kitchen open and within less than 15 minutes we were served fresh fruits, juices, sallad, rolls and a - way too large, but tasty - cheese omelet with veggies.

I admit that we used most of the rolls to feed the turtles, having chosen a table on a patio, near the turtle pond.

After brunch wedecided to explore the resort. It is sprawling on 40 acres of an 300 years old former sugar plantation.

There is an abundance of hiking trails, a jogging path, a baseball court and a Rio Grande River runs through the resort.

The resort has aseveral family style two story "villas" - that can accomodate up to 8 people

and a few double rooms.

All villas have large balconies overlooking the resort's garden and its large and inviting pool

We barely have time to enjoy the river, nature trails and the pool, when the Thanksgiving buffet dinner was served at 5:30. It was a traditional American style Thanksgiving fare, albeit with a tropical twist.

'We did not have to worry about being hungry on Thanksgiving' mused Daughter when we lingered in the torch lit bamboo walk, casually mingling with the other guests 'I am as stuffed as the turkey'.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Enjoying El Convento

Daughter flew in from Atlanta yesterday afternoon and after driving through Isla Verde and Condado, we reached Old San Juan, where we booked a room in the converted convent, El Convento, now one of "the best small luxury hotels of the world".

El Convento has plenty of charm. The rooms look like they are taken from an old convent - which they are - and equipped with some modern amenities (Flat screen TV, Bose music box). Outside the rooms are long, charming corridors, open to patio El Nispero, where breakfasts and lunches are served

I, a newly minted Puerto Rico resident, loved the patio, shaded by a 200 year old nispero tree, but Daughter, an Atlanta dweller (= lots of trees, lots of shade, not much sun in most of the houses there), who is a sun worshipper extraordinaire, chose to make a - charming - nuisance of herself, and asked that all her meals - whether those from the patio or from the fabulous tapas and paella restaurant El Picoteo
be served on the hotel's garden terrace, a place with a nice view of the cathedral, the city and the sea and which had sun ALL day long. And the staff was mostly happy to oblige.

On the floor above the garden terrace there is another terrace with a cute swimming pool and jacuzzi and an even more magnicent view of the city and the sea. A great place to relax after Viejo San Juan sightseeing and shopping.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

I moved today ... again

Again. To my second place in Puerto Rico. This apartment is a large - and a quite spartan- studio , but directly overlooking the ocean. It is located in a 4 unit apartment building: two one bedroom units on the ground floor and two studios - same size as the downstairs one bedroom units, just differently configured - upstairs. Large terrace with a table and chairs plus a hammock for ech unit, separate entrances, even separate stairs to each of the upstairs apartments. A huge lawn in front of the building with two coconut palms, some plastic chaises and stairs down to the beach. Nice. And far from any construction noise. Richt now all the other apartments are empty, but they are all reserved for the high season of December through April.

This move was pretty uneventful: no furniture to move, just a few personal belongings thrown into a large car and driven half a mile. Then unloaded. I can live with moves like this one :-)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Amazing results

I checked my blood sugar levels this morning and it was perfect - and I did not take a drop of insulin in 48 hours and only a half of my glucophage dose! In fact, after eating 3 dates equal to about 20 grams of sugar my blood sugar raised no higher than to 120!

Of course my semi fast for 2 1/5 days after my emergency room visit contributed to it undoubtedly, but I already ate a full living food lunch (raw lasagna, rollies, greens, sprouts, kale, tomato dressing) and a gourmet living food dinner last night (vegetarian sushi, raw green soup, raw vegan pizza) at 'Natural High' in Rincon and my results are close to miraculous.

And most of the credit for my diabetes reversal needs - undoubtedly - to go to living foods and Ann Wigmore's Natural Health Institute that propagates and teaches it!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Buying a car in Puerto Rico

It is a sad truth than when you live in Puerto Rico, outside of San Juan, which has some public communications in form of buses and a train, you need a car more than anything else (other than lodging, of course) .

It dawned on me already during my second day here, when I dropped off - at Aguadilla airport - my rental car, which took me from San Juan's airport to the west coast. The cost of a one day car rental from Hertz was $44 (with unlimited milage) + gas, the coast of a taxi ride from the nearest car rental to my new place ( less than 15 km) was $35!

It became even more obvious a few days later, when I wanted to visit a farmacy, a grocery store, etc. Puerto Rico - at least the part I live in (a rural area close to the beach between the municipalities of Rincon and Aguada) - is not walkable. The road is narrow, traffic fast and furious, no side walks of any kind + there is a new road or bridge construction going on on my way to anywhere, where driving alone is dangerous - since the part of the road that is open, is so narrow - and walking would be outright suicidal!

So for the last four weeks I was mostly stuck - and had to coordinate (read: beg) rides with colleagues who had cars and took pity on me - for the most pressing shopping trips.

Thus I soon started to look for a car, but first I had to make a decision of what type of car did I actually want, need, and was willing to purchase. Not having a car to take me to dealers I started looking at, a good place to find a lots of things: real estate, rentals, cars, both new and used, appliances, furniture, even jobs, if you wanted – or needed – to be gainfully employed here.

Well, if I were going to do a lot of mountain driving, the safest bet would be a jeep or something similar, I thought… and almost fell for a cute 2-seater, Suzuki Sidekick. But they cost a pretty penny here and - not being sure how long I would stay in Puerto Rico I preferred to avoid spending so much money for something I might need for 6 months or so and the hassle of having to sell it if/ when I decided to leave. When I was in the midst of hesitating, one of the colleagues offer to lend me her old car for a week or so, so that I could be temporarily unstuck and could go see several possible choices.

I accepted – and – after finding out that she was no longer using that car, and no longer needed it, I asked if she would sell it to me. She hesitated a bit, insisted that the car go first to a mechanic, who would thoroughly check it out and fix whatever might need to be fixed, so that I could avoid any unpleasant surprises, agreed to sell it to me after I drove it, inspected and fixed, for another two weeks or so, to be dead sure that I really wanted to buy it.

And in that way I became a – so far tentative – owner of an old, but in decent working condition - Chevy Lumina – for $700!

P.S. I noticed that this blog post is frequently accessed by people searching for buying a car in Puerto Rico and - since this car purchase was a bust, I would like to refer them to the blog of my once neighbor, Chris, who successfully bought a short-term car at first attempt, while for me it took two. And you might also check out the dilemma you might be facing, when you buy a car in PR, what to do with it once you decide to leave the island.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tuesday at an emergency room

Rebellion - there is always a price to pay for it, isn't there?

I was slightly rebelling yesterday against the institute's blended day: there are three of them every first week of the program to help new program participants cleanse their bodies, and one day the second week. They are appreciated by program participants, but for some staff they can get slightly boring with time, as it did for me yesterday, so I was rebelling: first eating almost nothing the entire day and in the evening going to supper at one of the nearby roadstands. Usually, I was told, the road stands in Puerto Rico offer tasty local fare, but I got yesterday far more than I bargained for : an e-coli, most likely in the spring sallad!

I was sick like a dog all night, so sick, I thought I was going to die. I was unable to leave the bed and thought - wise after the damage - that, especially considering that I live alone - I should have been far better prepared for an emergency. As it were, I was in a new place, and haven't yet recorded any of my new colleague's and new local friend's private phone numbers, so I had nobody to call for help, my apartment was locked from the inside so nobody could get to me without breaking out the door if I was unable to open it myself, and - worse of all - I forgot to place my cell phone on my night stand and for many, many scary hours I could not get up and reach it even to call 911.

I was conscious all that time, save for an awful abdominal pain etc. (I'll best spare you the disgusting details), but when I tried to even sit on my bed , I felt so dizzy, that I could not get up, until finally, many hours later, I managed to sit down, then raise myself to a near standing position and... fell on the closet door. From there, one painfully small step after the other, feeling like on an out of control merry-go-round, hugging the closet, then a wall, I was finally able to reach the bathroom.

Then, on my way back, now a tad more experienced in that - walking the walls - skill, I ventured a long trip to the apartment door, unlocked it, and grabbed my cell phone from the dining room table on the way back to my bed. Then I was too exhausted for a few more hours to use the cell, but when I did, I called my employer, left a message and fell asleep.

In the morning I discovered how caring both my employer and my coworkers were: one of the director's Leola Brooks (called by all here "everybody's favorite grandma") visited me, helped me to check my blood sugar (which was awfully high due to infection) and my blood pressure (which was stratospheric) and suggested gently that I should go to an emergency room immediately.

I agreed and she helped me to get dressed and dispatched a bilingual colleague with me to the emergency room in Rincon. And when I came back from the emergency room I discovered that the institute's housekeeping staff has not only cleaned the mess I made that night, but my entire apartment, and washed and dried my bed linens and towels. Boy, was I grateful.

At the emergency room I was immediately examined by a doctor ( who was informed of my high blood pressure and all other symptoms even before I arrived) and then put in a bed for observation, hooked to an oxygen tank, given a drop, an EKG, taken a battery of blood - and other tests - given a medication and .... realeased after about 5 hours, feeling almost human again. I was instructed to be carefull eating sallads at rodside stands.

The emergency room bill was - perhaps - the biggest shocker: $ 95 for all that! Full price, for the uninsured, since my employee's health insurance has not kicked in, yet.

Can any of you, living in the USA believe that?

There are benefits to be "just" a commonwealth territory, and not a state: efficient, effective and extremely affordable health care for all!

Monday, November 12, 2007

A busy Monday

There are two construction projects going on next to my ill-chosen first Puertorican apartment, one a villa and the other a 77 unit condo project with a swimming pool etc, so it is recently no problem for me to get up at 6 am (when the noise of construction machines starts), but today I skipped yoga on the beach and headed almost straight to work, stopping only for about 15 minutes to jump on a trampoline ( since it apparently wakes up our lymphatic system) , then at a wheat grass juicer and was at work before 7 am. And am still here, although I stopped working some 15 minutes ago. Well, yes, I took an hour for lunch and instead of eating my energy soup (it is a blended day at the institute - sort of a semi-fast and today I am sort of rebelling against it) went to take a dip in the sea. I also took an hour for dinner and went for a long walk on the beach (after eating a couple of spoon fulls of energy soup with blended papaya - starvation is not my goal). The sunset was breathtaking and I again regretted having left my camera. (the photo is from flickr by feivel2010)

But now, after working 11 hours - some retirement! - I feel tired, so I'll probably be heading straight to my apartment to enjoy the night silence - a nice, though brief, respite from the noise of the construction work allowing me to read and to sleep - untill - hopefully - 6 am tomorrow (sometimes they start at 5:30).
Lucky for me I found a replacement to my apartment - a little, secluded place directly on the beach, and will be moving again next Sunday.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A glorious Sunday

It's such a glorious day: the surf is up, up, the waves crash with strength on the beach and on the rocks, where parts of the beach totally disappear under the waves, when the tide is so high.
All morning I could hear the crashing sound of the waves while doing my laundry (don't you just love doing laundry in the tropics? the washing machines are outdoors, but under a roof - in case it rains - right next to a traditional pila, and nearby are the clothes lines, so alive with colors, after you hang your laundry in the fresh air), and when I finally got to the beach, attempting to do some swimming in a semi protected from the current cove, I was bombarded by coconuts, dislodged by the waves, rolling back and forth, lots of them rolling back and forth and some hitting me. A bit too intense "massage" if you ask me.

The beach is fringed with coconut palms and every day we pick sprouted coconuts from the beach and bring them to the institutes's coconut shed, where one of our macho chefs will open them with a machete ( I ain't brave enough - yet - to use a machete on a coconut myself, although, when I lived in the cloud forest of Costa Rica four years ago, I had my own machete - ha! - and was becoming quite handy at using it... at least in my own opinion... the real pros smiled politely after they stepped back to a safe distance) to get to the spongy texture of a coconut that has sprouted, being exposed to both sun and sea water. Its flesh taste like a cotton candy, only better... and it's good for you, too :-).

It became quite hot in the early afternoon (94 f) so I came to my office for a couple of hours to cool myself (my office has ac, while my apartment does not), intent on blogging, as promised, but instead I spent time reading European Sunday newspapers on Internet, so the description of Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institutes's program will have to wait till next "too hot to stay on the beach" free time, sorry :-(

P.S. Photo courtesy of Coconut Palms Inn in Rincon

Saturday, November 10, 2007

A happy grouch

After reading my last two post you must think that I am a boring grouch, totally unfit for a life in a Third World "paradise". And perhaps I am - to a point that is.

The last two posts were written almost three weeks ago, but I could not post them, because I could not connect my laptop to the Internet and decided to forgo Internet for two weeks, when I went through the "Living Food Healing and Rejuvenating program" run by my new employer, the Ann Wigmore Natural Health Institute. I admit, I was more than a bit sceptical of all the claims of almost miraculous health improvements made by former participants, but, since I was going to work here, I decided to first try it myself.

And today, I am happy I did.

Not only have I lost a total of 9 pounds in three weeks (two weeks 100% on the program, the third week 75 % on living foods - I have not been a vegan, a raw foodist, not even a vegetarian before I came here and I decided that 100% living food lifestyle is not for me, despite its advantages, but due to them, I'll strive for being between 50% to 75% living food lifestyle), I also lost about 10 years off my appearance ( and I was looking younger than my chronological age even before... lol, aren't I vain?) . I am positively glowing, radiating health and happiness. I wish I could post a "before" and "after" photos, but I still have no camera and no access to my previous picture data base :-( .

What's more important, my diabetes started reversing itself quicker than any former participant claimed. Already during the third night I had the first low blood sugar incident and - according to my doctor's previous advise for such an occurrence - which I at that time thought unlikely - I had to eliminate one of the two anti-diabetes pills I was using. Yet the next night I had another low blood sugar incident and - again according to my doctor's advice - cut down my insulin intake ( I use Lantus, a 24 hour insulin) from 30 to 25 units a day. Next evening, after dinner and a bowl of watermelon as a night snack (which I admit, I squirreled away from breakfast), my blood sugar was 67, slightly below a low fasting level of 70, so I further cut down my insulin intake to 20 units a day. Then my blood sugar levels stabilized, ranging between 70 and 120, but a few days later I noticed that I could see better without my glasses than with them. I was not prepared for it but another program participant, a young and gorgeous Type I diabetic was: 'Typical for diabetes reversal' said she. Hmm, I thought, I had astigmatism long before I became a diabetic, but never mind, lets enjoy it and not look a gifted horse in the mouth too closely, as an old proverb says.

In my next post I'll tell you more about the program and - for the sake of a full disclosure - about some of mine and other participants less pleasant reactions during the program.

Now the rain stopped and - after a whole day at my desk - I am heading to the beach for a swim, a walk and to watch the sunset. Happy, happy, happy. So happy, that not even shabbiness bothers me much any more ;-) !