Friday, October 24, 2008

My year in Puerto Rico

Last Sunday was my anniversary of living in Puerto Rico.

I decided to leave the island as soon as my professional obligations permit, most likely during spring, as I absolutely can't imagine spending another rainy/hurricane season here.

I could live here during a few winter months... but there are probably more comfortable places in the Caribbean to spend winters, which I haven't yet discovered, so I am not likely to return to PR.

Right now my overall impression of Puerto Rico as a place for me is : a hell with some elements of paradise....., but given sufficient time outside the island my memory might change to a paradise with elements of hell... I usually remember adventures warmly, even if they have been hellish at the time ;-)

What was paradisic in Puerto Rico for me:

  • Climate ... but in winter only... I love being able to wear light summer clothes all winter long, swim in the warm, calm, beautiful Caribbean sea,
  • Nature ... its beauty and its unexpected diversity, considering that it is such a small island. Granted, Puerto Rico does not - by far - have the natural diversity of fauna or flora of , say, Costa Rica, but it is both beautiful and diversified nevertheless. And Puerto Rico has some really breathtaking beaches.
  • People... though as friends, coworkers and neighbors only: they are warm, helpful, cheerful... Puerto Ricans as citizens are not my kind of people: I dislike traditionalism, conservatism, unwillingness to stand up to authorities and demand fair treatment by them... and, most definitively, I dislike what happens to many Puerto Ricans when they get behind the wheel .... it is like dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde... ;-)
  • San Juan Viejo... it is utterly charming despite its commercialism. I moved to Puerto Rico after visiting the Old San Juan only and imagined the whole island to be as charming... A big mistake... the rest of the island is an architectural disaster, completely devoid of any elements of charm.
What was hellish for me in PR:

  • Housing. Definitively THE main contributor to my perception of Puerto Rico as hell. I have NEVER had to move so many times in such a short period of time. Only twice during my year in PR I moved because of the job change, while four times I moved because of the hidden flaws in the dwellings I rented: noise in the first dwelling, dangerous electric shower in the second, lack of water in the casita when the stream dried out, and having been trapped there once due to idiotic construction of inoperable windows, overheating due to nonexistent insulation in walls and ceiling in my current condo. I would have moved again in a heartbeat again from my new condo, despite its breathtaking view of the sea and of magnificent sunsets, were it not for the high deposit I paid... the hope that the problem won't be so pronounced in winter... and lack of more suitable alternatives near my work. I thank heavens, though, that I have resisted signing the rental contract for one year: my expensive, so called luxury condo ... is overheating so badly that - except for the (huge, I admit) balcony and its sea breeze - the rest of the condo is practically uninhabitable in the afternoons and evenings - where I want to spend some time there. And the bathroom without a window and without ac makes even morning grooming an exercise in futility: one gets sweaty within a minute of leaving the shower!
    So I have decided to NEVER AGAIN rent a place without central a/c in a hot climate. And there are NO dwellings with central a/c for rent in PR - as far as I know!
  • Climate between May and November: it is awfully hot and humid! Yet, I am used to hot and humid. I have lived on a barrier island in Texas, where it gets a lot hotter, and I was very comfortable there. I have also lived in Florida in summer, and was comfortable also. But in all tropical and semi tropical places where I lived I had a central a/c at home, or - like in Costa Rica - lived so high up in the mountains, that a/c was not needed, and I was not forced to suffer heat and humidity both outside and inside! And the heat and humidity (without a/c) in PR creates a mold problem I have never had to deal with before PR (except for a short period in Costa Rica, but I left CR in mid June)... and never want to deal with after PR! And I haven't even mention the hurricanes, yet, the occasional lack of water and electricity during the hurricane season. No, PR in summer IS HELL! Both for people and electronics.
  • Roads are almost as bad as in most of Latin America, which is far poorer than PR and not a part of USA. So there is not a lot of excuse for PR authorities to have neglected them so badly. They are hell on cars.
  • Inequality, overblown and inefficient bureaucracy etc, - did you know that PR, despite it being a free associated state of the USA ranks as FOURTH MOST UNEQUAL country in the Americas???


zooms said...

Aaaah yes, you see, the thing is Minerva, you just need more time, it will grow on you.

Minerva said...

lol, zooms, perhaps, I have another half a year to reevaluate ;-))

St Martin island said...

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