Sunday, August 31, 2008

Double move... over two weekends

I am moving -yes, again, to my new place in Punta Arenas, Joyuda. I am moving partially from Aguada, where I spent the last one and a half months and partially from the mountains of Patillas, wher most of my belongings still are.

I picked up my Puertorican teenage cats last Thursday, on my way back from the conference in San Juan. I was lucky - they both were near the casita, so I could pick them up and go, without having to spend another night there (I am still a bit horrified of a prospect of staying there after having been trapped inside the last time around).

Got the keys to my new place yesterday evening and today moved the cats and some stuff from Aguada. Tomorrow I'll move the rest of the stuff from here. Unfortunately I could not persuade anybody to work on Labor Day weekend, so I am doing the move from Aguada totally on my own - carrying stuff up to the second floor. Worse, I'll aslo have to do a move out cleaning tomorrow myself, since no local wants to work on weekend. Tuesday, yes, but not on a Labor Day. Great! And I'll have to live superminimalistic for another week. And without internet!
Sometimes, I swear I HATE Puerto Rico!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tropical freeze

Holiday Inn in San Juan/Isla Verde boasts of its tropical atmosphere, while, in reality it is overly air conditioned everywhere and its grand ballroom/biggest conference room is a huge refrigerator.

And I am here, since yesterday noon, freezing my extremities off, together with circa 50 fellow sufferers, wrapped in all clothes they brought, sweaters, jackets, woolen caps (some people, obviously knew what to expect, while others did not) even comforters!

I wonder what the tourists say: "I have been to Puerto Rico! Brrrrrr" ????

For me, personally it is not the end of suffering. I have unexpectedly been thrown into four twelve hour (!!!) days of advanced conversational Spanish, expected to discuss - intelligently, if possible - issues like "modelos y tipos de pobreza" and "descubrimiento social???"... or whatever... I can't really think in any language after 12 hours of that!

I knew I would have to discuss stuff like that... I just naively thought that I could do it in English, since it is a US government organized event. Silly me....

Good night, ladies and gentlemen, I am bushed... and frozen, and ... worst of all ... they serve an abundance of very tempting sweets FIVE times a day, so I better take some more insulin, again...

Two more days of frozen Spanish immersion from 7 am in the morning till 7:30 at night.
If I survive this ordeal I'll be back ... on Friday perhaps ???
Wish me luck, please.

Friday, August 22, 2008


It's raining here again. How about paying a weekend visit to Simrishamn, a - largely medieval, well "conserved" small town in Southern Sweden?

Simrishamn is a fishing town, since early middle ages. (It was first mentioned as a municipality in XII century and as a town in XIV century).
These pictures were taken during an annual Herring Festival. Lot's of boats in the harbor - all on display, all preparing for the evening parade of boats.

Most of them very modern. And the buildings facing the harbor are also rather modern, though made to look like the traditional architecture of the region.

But already on the main street leading to the harbor most of the buildings are old, though very well maintained. The street is full of small restaurants and cafes, and - during the Herring Festival - overrun with tourists.

A bit higher up on the same street, close to the town square there is more small shops, boutiques, than eating establishments. Here the banner advertises an Ibsen play Miss Julie by a local theatre ensemble.

Still higher, a small side street leading from the town square is almost deserted.

These are the typical townhouses in a residential zone. Many of them are medieval - at least on the outside. They usually have charming small gardens with flowers and herbs at the back. Just like the one I had, only more established.

Scania (Skaane), where Simrishamn lies, is the breadbasket of Sweden. It is also well known for its gardens: herb gardens surrounding medieval churches, flower gardens surrounding noble mansions

Here, a quiet picnic square under an old oak (supposedly 700 hundred years old) and a nearby house in traditional style of wood crosses filled with plastered straw bales, more or less the same age as the oak.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

My new place

A partial view from the balcony

... a one bedroom condo overlooking the beach in Punta Arenas, Joyuda, Cabo Rojo is now under renovation, befor I move in during the Labor Day weekend. That's how it looks now:

This is the entry, with a window facing towards the resort, away from the beach.

This is a partial view of the kitchen. the empty space on the far wall is waiting for a washer/dryer combo. I was fascinated by the fan, its color and shape - red capsicum fan in the kitchen! Also by its placement: you can't open the kitchen cabinet over the fridge with the fan running. This window also faces the resort.

My bedroom window

And the view from the bedroom window. Notice glass in all windows. :-)

And this is the view down from the balcony. There I would have to jump, if I were ever trapped again and there were no people around to assist me ;-)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Driving "home" from Patillas on rte 52 I stopped at a shopping center... and spotted this picturesque village of Yauco

and those peceful blue-green mountains (my favorite color combination) near it.

Friday, August 15, 2008

You've got to see this

Justyna Mielnikiewicz

The conflict in Eastern Europe just added some new layers: Poland, my country of origin, got concerned about Russia bullying its neighbors and - speedily signed a missile defense agreement with the United States. That enraged Russia and Moscow threatened Poland with 100% punishment.... whatever they mean by that.

But back to Georgia: in today's NYT is a great photo reportage about the human cost of the Russian attack on Georgia by a very talented Polish photographer, Justyna Mielnikiewicz , whose other pictures from the Caucasus can be seen at her web page.

The world, unfortunately, is NOT becoming a safer place. Will Poland again fall a victim to being a buffer between East and West. Just like Georgia is paying for being between Central Asia's oil and the West?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Let's take a weekend trip to San Antonio!

The weather in Puerto Rico is supposed to be bad (rain, gusty winds) to misearble (tropical depression) during this weekend, so, instead of staying on the island, let's take a short trip to.... San Antonio, Texas !

I know.... 'in August???' you say - 'when its hotter there than a capsicum pepper???'
OK, OK, I promise we shall just take a strol and a water taxi on the Riverwalk (Paseo del Rio). How does that sound?

(All pictures are clickable)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I have been shaken

a little, first with my a bit terrifying private ordeal, and soon after, with the battles between Russia and Georgia, I haven't felt like blogging about Puerto Rico.
But the war is now supposedly over - thanks to Sarkozy? - so I'll return to PR topic tomorrow, I think.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


On Thursday I went to the mountains to visit my two kitties left in the casita.

I was worried and not able to sleep untill the small hours of the morning when I could not find one of the kitties, Fortuno, and was then told that he actually has not been seen by the pet sitter for the last two weeks. The other one, Sweetie was there, but whining, complaining about something. So I was worried that something might have happened to Fortuno.... but he came home before dawn.... and all became well.

I woke up happy, made myself a cup of tea, which I was planning to drink on the terrace... but no matter how hard I tried, I could not open the door. It was an old container door, locked with a padlock on the outside, usually after leaving. But this time Goyo, the pet sitter who came to the casita with me, carrying food and water for me and the kitties (I left the casita when it became uninhabitable due to lack of water), must have left the latch from the padlock in an upright position, when he opened the door, and when I closed it in the evening, before going to sleep, the latch must have fallen down, locking me inside.

Oops, I thought. What do i do now?

The casita is a cheapo Puertorican construction, pittoresque, yes, but potentially a death trap.
With only one - metal - door, lockable from the outside and all eight windows with those typical Puertorican aluminum contraptions instead of normal glass windows which could easily be broken if one needed to leave the house in a hurry, say, in a fire, it had a potential of a death trap. My kittens could enter and leave through those windows at will, without effort, but, alas, not me.

I was in trouble. My cell phone did not work there (actually, no ones cell phone does), not even in an emergency mode, so I could not summon any help. My three nearest neighbors in a barrio about half a mile down the mountain were ansent since June, their houses empty. If Cruz, in front of which house I park my car, were home, she would have noticed that the car was not moved and would have come to check on me (as she did before - at that time I was fine, just writing a long report and enjoying the mountains) in a day, two at most. I leave alone so nobody would raise any alarm that I did not get back home. Nobody knew that I left, nobody knew for how long. If my daughter called she would just assume (correctly) that I was in the mountains, where my cell did not work, so not even she would be alarmed.

Without Cruz all I could count on was Goyo, but he would not be coming to feed the cats and play with them until Monday evening. Three and a half days!

And I had no meds - I left them in Aguada forgetting that none were left at the casita. So I was already missing an insulin shot and two Metformin pills. Could I live 3,5 more days without them, without getting into a diabetic coma and dying?

Well, I had to assume I could. But I inspected my food supplies. Not bad: 6 tea biscuits with some leftover peanut butter and sugarfree jelly could serve as three breakfasts. A bag of 3 frozen tilapia filets and a bag of frozen peas could serve as three lunches. For dinners I found one portion of frozen pumpkin soup, 2 pastellitos, one can of ravioli and one of garbanzo beans. That was all, but it was enough.

Water situation was worse. I found 4 small (half a liter) bottles and about one quarter of a gallon in a larger container. About a litre a day - not enough for the heat of the tropics, but, perhaps, if I had not exerted myself too much, that would do. I found another half gallon of an uncertain quality water, which has been used for washing the dishes. I decided to forget about washing any dishes and use the water - after boiling it long and hard - for tea and coffee, or even drinking as such, if I were forced to do it.

I made another cup of tea, administered myself my daily ratio of buiscuits with peanut butter and jelly and started thinking what I could possibly do to get myself out from that (death?) trap.

The light on cassita's terrace is visible from the lower part of the barrio, near the popular picknick place, from the bridge over the stream, that all bikers had to take to reach the neighborhood bar, very popular among them. It could also be seen from some parts of rt 184.
So at dusk, I decided, I would start sending morse s o s light signals: three short, three long, three short ... surely someone would have spotted them and recognized as a distress signal?
That was a plan!

But I also inspected the screws on the windows. Uff, plenty of them, all covered by layers and layers of paint... and not a tool in sight. Not even the smallest hammer, the tiniest screwdriver - they were all locked in a shed, outside. I had two kitchen knifes I could try to use instead of a screwdriver, though, and cans of cat food I could use as a hammer. I'd try that!

After I worked on a single screw for two hours straight without any progress, I took a break, drank a glass of my precious water.... and got an attack of blinding fury after being calm and composed so far. I went to the door and started banging on it - in the place where the padlock and the latch were - first with the cat food cans, later with just my hip and my butt... I don't know for how long... but finally the door opened with a bang and I tumbled out on the terrace. Free !!! Oh, what a feeling!

(I inspected the door after that: the latch was still in locked position but I managed somehow to make two screws in a padlock to losen enough to yield. A miracle of sorts).

Boy, was I grateful to mother nature that it did not make me a waiflike, weak and helpless "mamsell" in distress. I was grateful for my strong and well padded butt.... which most likely saved my life!

But now I hate even more brainlessness of Puertorican housing construction and feel very uneasy now in my Aguada apartment. It has two normal doors instead of one, true, but the windows have three layers to entrap you in a case of fire: those aluminum blinds, nets and iron bars on top of everything! Houdini would be defenceless!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Sunset in Aguada

I have two rather stressful days behind me, as I have inadvertently gotten myself in a potentially quite dangerous - and anyway - somewhat stressful situation. I'll blog about it later, as it might be useful to warn others... but today I am just resting, admiring this magnificent sunset from my terrace. Sunset after the rain.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Soon, very soon

Sweetie and Tuno saying "hope to see you soon" (click on the picture to see the well camouflaged kittens)

When I was leaving the mountain casita (it became uninhabitable due to lack of water, which, this time could not be fixed without a more serious outlay of money and effort) to go back to my old apartment in an Aguada Villa, I faced a "Sophie's choice" light, of a kind.
The owner of the Aguada villa, who lives on its upper floor, is allergic to many things, and he believes he is allergic to cats, because when I was living here he needed to double his allergy medication. So I was very welcomed back (it was meant so, honestly, I am being spoiled rotten with freshly picked fruit since I came back), but.... with only two cats. While I have four now - at least for most of the year. Ursula wants Fortuno (who was hers) and Sweetie (if she may, Sweetie is a better mouse hunter) to live in the casita with her, when she stays here - about 4-5 months a year.

So, what could I do? Look for a place where I could have them all and in the meantime take two and leave two behind with the same pet sitter who took (good) care of them, when I was in Atlanta 6 weeks.

But, which two to take, and which two leave behind? Logically, this choice wasn't difficult, either.

Rascal and Missy are both old, declawed, both not well suited to cope with possible dangers lurking in the jungle (or rather with the dogs in the barrio down the mountain). Both of them LOST substantial amount of weight when I was gone.

Perhaps not because they missed me as much as they missed canned food twice a day. Briony, who agreed gracefully to pet sit them, was visiting them, feeding canned food, playing, petting, only every other day, while rest of the time they had to subsist on dry cat food and fresh water.

Sweetie and Fortuno, both cat teenagers now, agile, quick as a lightning, with sharp claws and teeth, and hunters, both GAINED weight while I was away. They roam the hill, make excursions to the barrio, entertain each other and seem happy there. So I decided to take Missy and Rascal with me and leave Sweetie and Fortuno in Briony's care for a little longer.

But emotionally it was NOT an easy choice. Especially when Sweetie and Fortuno followed me down to the barrio and my car (they always do, every time I go anywhere, it's their "see you soon" routine) when I was carrying the other two in their carriers. And then, as I finished stowing Missy and Rascal in and was about to leave, Sweetie gave me THAT LOOK, that look on the photo above: " are you leaving me behind"??? Just look at that little cat face! You'll see!

So I am happy I found a place where I can - come September - have all the menagerie together, napping on a large balcony, looking at the life going on down (three floors down!) on the beach. And tomorrow I am going back to casita, to finish packing and spend some time with Sweetie and Tuno, telling them that soon, very soon, we shall all be together again!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Moon rising

I came home at sundown, and went to sit on the terrace, to look at the sea and sunset. I missed the sunset photo opportunity, but got this moon rising, instead.

Monday, August 4, 2008

It's noon already and where are my oysters???

Today I discovered a new beach. A hidden one, a few miles off road 303. I saw a sign: "playa" and followed it: first through vegetable fields (perhaps the ones, that, like anonymous suggested, have so much trouble with monkeys eating their veggies, then through pastures with horses on,

enclosed with beautifully blooming fences

then through a dry landscape that reminded me more of Texas or some very arid parts of Mexico, than of Puerto Rico.

And then, finally, I saw water. It did not look like either playa or the sea.

I looked too the left: no, that's not the sea.

Finally I looked to the right... and there it was. Something that looked like a playa.

So I drove the pothole filled road and found this beach.

A family was there, frolicking in the water.

And a colorful building.

I parked a bit further away

and as i was leaving my car a guy with a boy came bicycling and sat down in the shade. And from behind the tree I heard someone screaming: 'It's noon already and where are my oysters???'

I looked around, startled and not quite believing my ears (or rather, my ability to comprehend Spanish) and the guy with the boy laughed and - after proper greetings - explained: " we are all waiting for oysters here".
"Pardon?" I asked, still not quite believing I heard what I thought I heard, so he continued explaining that here street oyster vendors from Boqueron waited for the boats with a fresh catch, and today the boats were very, very late.

I thanked him for the info and followed a bit further, toward an abandoned house on a point and then I saw cars parked behind the trees, and in them guys with cell phones, sounding annoyed.

There was not the slightest hint of the oyster boats on the horizon, though.

I wonder why? The see was perfectly calm.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mystery fruit

When I was cruising the south coast of Puerto Rico with my daughter, she amused herself with taking pictures of many different kinds of fruit trees that grow there. I could identify most of them ( they were fruiting, after all) but this one is a mystery fruit to me. Anybody cares to identify it ?

I'll be eternally grateful! :-)