Saturday, January 31, 2009


Looking for an unique - an environmentally friendly - Valentine's Day present?

Then perhaps one of those one-of-a-kind vases made from fallen fern tree branches by 3T Vakil could fit the bill?
Or any other of the Puerto Rico rainforest crafts?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

I (almost) caught my dinner tonight!

It was cloudy this afternoon, but I had a headache when I got home and decided to walk on the beach for a while to cure it.

And I was doubly rewarded. The sun got through the clouds promising yet another glorious sunset. The beach was almost deserted, but there was a solitaty fisherman. He just caught a fish when I approached him and was reeling it in, so I stopped to watch. A red snapper!

'Nice catch' I said.

The fisherman smiled. 'Do you like fish?' he asked.

'Very much so' I smiled back.

'Wait a moment, then' he said 'and I shall clean this fish for you'!

And so he did. Just like that.

Ah, the kindness of Puertoricans!

And that's how I caught my dinner tonight.

We chatted while he cleaned the fish and he told me where to find the mussles, whose colorfull shells I found on the beach. They are apparently every bit as tasty as the black ones. I am looking forward to swimming with a mussles bag next time I go for a swim.

And then may be I really catch my next dinner myself.

Monday, January 26, 2009

More bingo

AMPI has bingo fundraisers three times a year: in January, May and September. Here are some pictures from the first bingo I ever attended.

It's early, about four hours before the official bingo starts, but already there is a group of volunteers busy : ...assembling and placing tables and chairs...
...filling ice chests with water and soft drinks...
... brewing the first pot of coffee...
... arranging snacks...
... while kitchen volunteers start cooking...

... bacalaitos... ... and sorulitos... which, of course, require tasting...

...a chore undertaken with enthusiasm by Eunice, needing refreshments after assembling tables...
a crew selling food vouchers is getting ready...
... as is the crew selling and validating bingo cards...
and the first players are greeted enthusiastically by Zenaida.
The most eager players start gathering around 10 am, ... preparaing their cards and their tokens...
introducing themselves...
... snacking... having a good time...
... or concentrating on an informal pre-game.
... while the kitchen crew keeps busy...
as does the food serving crew, serving lunch...
and this fabulous Tres Leches cake for dessert....

while THE game finally BEGINS...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Affordable Puerto Rico

Today New York Times in an article on affordable Caribbean lists Puerto Rico's northwest coast, between Aguadilla and Isabela as the most affordable for surf oriented vacationers. Check it out ... together with 10 other affordable spots on Caribbean islands.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Medicare advantage in Puerto Rico

Yes, at my last birthday a month ago I reached official retirement age and became entitled to Medicare.
Thus, I had to do my due diligence and research both Medicare advantage and Medigap policies in Puerto Rico ( since I am still here) and in the USA and compare them.

I am happy I finally can say something really positive about Puerto Rico: the benefits of the best medicare advantage here are far greater than benefits offered by the best in the USA.

So for retirees on a limited income, especially ones that either require hospitalization or serious dental work, it would be financially beneficial to live in Puerto Rico and enroll in one of the best medicare advantage plans here. They could save thousands of dollars per year... at the cost of dealing with local bureaucracy and with Spanish as a prevalent language, but yes, some things are so far better here ... though these benefits are likely to end once PR becomes a regular state ... if it becomes a regular state.

Monday, January 19, 2009

I am dirty... :-(((

.... I was looking forward to making a trip to my favorite beach today... but I can't go anywhere, for the simple reason that there is NO WATER in my apartment complex today and thus I could neither take a shower or wash my hair... and I am not going to go anywhere dirty!

Nobody knows why there is no water, nobody knows if and when it will be back... not even the maintenance people. Oh, Puerto Rico is hell more often than not!

OK, I brushed my teeth and washed my face and hands - using water sparingly. I have only one galon of it and carrying enough water to the third flor to wash up is not a doable task for a woman my age.

So I am sitting on my balcony - sweating (it's hot!) and fuming that I HATE Puerto Rico! With a vengeance! I want to leave, NOW, no matter if I had to give away all the stuff I acquired here. I am - personally - sooooo sick and tired of this hellish "paradise"!

But one of my coworkers quit her position during the holidays, I got a couple of grants for a project I designed. It needs to start in February, or the organization risks loosing its credibility as a grantee, not to mention the disadvantaged Puerto Ricans we work for, who'd lose a chance at employment, income, improving their living standard and their quality of for THEIR sake I should stay - another six, seven months??? Until a suitable replacement for me could be found?? If there would ever be another skilled one willing to work for peanuts....

And I am doing best I can to try to stay, despite the fact, that I am uncomfortable and thus unhappy here, that I can't stand all those inconveniences: heat, lack of water, general shabbiness and shoddiness of dwellings plus a bysantine bureaucracy everywhere!

The repairs in my current apartment finally were done last saturday.

But... not only had I to cut short a brunch with club friends, witch I greatly enjoyed, to hurry back home to meet the plumber.... one of the newly installed faucets - the one in the bathroom, stopped working already the next day - lasting barely long enough for me to pay my January rent!

So I am thinking HOW, on earth, could I be able to stay here any longer???

There is NO supply of decent, even halfway decent rentals in this part of the island. And there is no service. None. Zero!

Cabo Rojo has a plethora of houses and appartments for rent on clasificicados. So does Mayaguez. But that's a theory.
Many of them are the same places listed in duplicate, triplicate etc.
Many of the reasonably priced ones have already been rented and are no longer available, but are on the list.

I keep calling real estate agents, yet few of them even have a decency to return a call, once they know you want to rent, not to buy.

So how am I going to be able to do any job without even a halfway decent place to live??? With water, internet, working appliances?
You tell me!

Monday, January 12, 2009

I want my bailout money!

Let me share with you a morning laugh, which I enjoyed courtesy of Broad in Costa Rica:
I want my bail out money is hillarious... perhaps because it is, sadly, so true?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Landlords from hell

I am sorry to say, but ALL my patience with the discomforts of living in Puerto Rico is now gone!

I know that - in a larger perspective - my complaints are petty ones, but I detest discomfort caused by someone's inneficiency, uncaring and general lack of service.

I can take a certain amount of discomfort, if it is adventurous and only for a short time: living in the rain forest, without a phone (since not even cell phones work there) and internet due to lack of coverage (providing those services are available nearby and can be accessed daily), parking my car half a mile down and walking up a steep hill to the cabin.... carrying my laptop, and all the groceries on my back.

But I can't take a lack of water, because the cabin's owner did not install it properly... or an invasion of bugs, because the owner put a roof floating over the walls, instead of attaching it to them... and failed to inform me of any of the cabin's "quirks". And abandoned her kitty in the cabin, so I had to adopt the poor creature!
At least there the rent was peanuts.

But here in Joyuda I rented a beachfront condo, a so called luxury one for a luxury price. It proved to be a hellish place - overheating so badly, due to lack of insulation that even now, in January, when the temperature outdoors is 84 degrees it becomes even hotter inside. Didn't the landlady know about it? Didn't the real estate agent? Should not any of them inform me?
Anyway, I was not aware that I needed a temperature clause in my rental contract, so there was not much I could legally do about it... I could only swear and complain.
But repairs, which according to contract were the obligation of a landlord, were another matter: so after two months of reasoning with my landlady - through a real estate agent, since any efforts to reach the landlady directly failed totally (she never replied), I finally decided to delay the rent payment until the things that - according to the contract needed fixing - were fixed.

And, halleluja, after only two and a half months (!) I finally got a missing window screen, an internet connection (landlady insisted all utilities etc. remained in her name, so I could not get it in my name, without violating a contract... I suspect she does not declare the condo as rented in order not to pay taxes on the income... but I am not a tax police).
I got hot water after only a month, because I got tired of cold water and fixed it on my own. I know, I am sooo impatient!

So I paid my November rent in a sheer euphoria that my landlady finally got something fixed, despite the fact, that faucets in both my bathroom and kitchen needed urgent replacement, as they tended to fall off at will, creating unexpected - and undesirable - fountains in the kitchen and bathroom. And she promised to fix them.

But come December and they were not fixed - surprise, surprise! - so I delayed rent payment again. My landlady called me promising to fix the faucets, but asked for a rent check in advance of repairs. I declined.
And still nothig happened. Faucets fall off almost daily now, and ... two days after I got back from the mainland, my stove top and oven quit working.

A message to my landlady remains unanswered - ok she might be travelling, or even be in a hospital, but she has family: a daughter living close to me and dropping in during my work hours to put utility bills under my front doors. So there is no excuse. And I guess she does not need the rent money???

So by now I have " recovered" my deposit - by not paying rent since November - and could - and should - move out without having to sue her in an unfamiliar legal territory ... since I seriously doubt I would ever get my deposit back, or manage to get a discount on my rent for all the dicomfort living at her place caused - and causes - me, without having to sue her for a breach of contract. Sigh...
OK, OK, I feel slightly sorry for her, if her negligence as a landlady is a result of a - monumental! - ineptitude and not ill will, because I am almost equally inept in practical everyday matters... but knowing my strengths and weaknesses I would never even entertain a thought of being a landlady... without hiring a management company to deal with bothersome for me details!

But a simple thought of moving to another place in Puerto Rico and dealing with - most likely - irresponsible landlords, in addition to extremely shoddy construction, gives me shivers... so I sent a couple of emails instead, to check a possibility of a relocation to Florida and ... got a green light the same day... despite my age and recession. (But I do get results - funding - for my non-profits, despite recession, so - naturally - they all want those results.)

Still, I decided, that if I can fix the stove top and oven for a reasonable amount of money, I'll endure another seven weeks on the island and transfer at the end of February - in order to be able to finish at least the most critical aspects of my work project and - hopefully - find a replacement for myself.

But if the stove can't be fixed inexpensively - I am out of here now!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Fondue party to end the holiday season

Fondue party, a quintessential winter food, is a fun way to end a holiday season. It can feed a crowd or a couple and you don't have to slave in the kitchen all day to whip it up.

For a small crowd - and for the Three Kings Day I like to have three basic types of fondues going:

a beef fondue, called Fondue Bourguignonne, a cheese fondue and a chocolate fondue for dessert. (For a bigger crowd I might add a seafood fondue cooked in an aromatic broth and wine.)
For a beef fondue I heat olive oil with red wine and the guests cook small cubes of beef fillet in it at the table. Then dip the meat in a variety of sauces, mostly cold, like a garlic dip (sour cream with minced garlic nad herbs), curry dip ( Greek yogurt, mango chutney, curry powder and cayenne) tomato-chipotle dip (sour cream or Greek yogurt, a touch of mayo, tomato paste, chipotle sauce and a touch of ketchup). I add to it some mango pickles, avocado and melon balls.

For a small party, where there is no side cheese fondue (Swiss version: ementhaler and gruyere cheese, white wine a little kirsch liqueur) going on at the side to dip vegetables (bell peppers in all color varieties, celery, cherry tomatoes, cauliflower of all colors, broccoli, champignones, etc.) and pieces of bread in, I serve also one hot sauce, bernaise, for dipping veggies.

Finally, a dessert: cut up fruits (pineapple, mango, papaya, pears) and strawberries dipped in chocolate fondue (melted chocolate with orange, coffee and chocolate liqueurs).
Happy ( and Tasty) Three Kings' Day!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Flying over Puerto Rico

Leaving Mayaguez airport on a Cape Air flight
There were only two passengers on this flight... but Cape Air never cancels flights
When I was planning to leave PR for two weeks of Christmas/New Year vacation I decided to take a Cape Air flight from Mayaguez to San Juan instead of driving to San Juan and flighing from there.
The extra expense of flying was more than offset by not having to pay for 2 weeks of parking at SJU, not having to drive there and ... as an added bonus ... seeing Puerto Rico from the air. Here are a few pictures:

Lago de Guajataca
Over the mountains
In the clouds
Approaching San Juan
Cape Air planes at the San Juan airport
Starting the return flight from San Juan Flying over Isla Verde
Somewhere over NW coast... does anybody know where this is?
And over the mountains again.
Now I am thinking of taking a weekend trip to St Croix ( I have previously visited both St Thomas and St John, but haven't been to the largest of the USVIs) with Cape Air: the connection is good: leaving Mayaguez at 9:25 I can get to St Croix in about two hours... and the fair from MAZ is only $240 round trip - less than from San Juan.

Friday, January 2, 2009

The perils of obedience revisited

Please, make an important New Year's resolution to encourage thoughtful disobedience!

I recently learned - with an utmost horror - that a repeat of a famous Milgram experiment of 1961, in 2008 gave even more horrifying results that the original one.

Here is what Discovery magazine writes about both these experiments and their horrifying results:

'In the 1961 experiment, Yale University professor Milgram asked volunteers to deliver increasingly strong electric “shocks” to other people, who appeared to be test subjects but were really actors, if they answered certain questions incorrectly. Milgram found that, after hearing an actor cry out in pain at 150 volts, 82.5 percent of participants continued administering shocks, most to the maximum 450 volts.

The results, now a fixture in psychology textbooks, suggested that people’s moral attitudes can be suppressed when they’re put in a situation of obedience. Although no actual shocks were delivered and the sounds of agony came from a tape-recording, many of the volunteers suffered stress from the task and replication of the experiments was deemed unethical.
In the new study, to be published in American Psychologist, Burger replicated the gist of the original experiment but included measures to minimize the psychological stress on the test subjects, such as limiting the shocks to 150 volts and not letting them administer any further shocks even if they indicated their willingness.

The new participants were reminded repeatedly that they could stop at any time, while in Milgram’s version, participants were told, “The experiment requires that you go on,” if they expressed hesitation. Again, however, the vast majority of the 29 men and 41 women taking part were willing to push the button knowing it would cause pain to another human. Even when another actor entered the room and questioned what was happening, most were still prepared to continue. About 70 percent continued the shocks up to 150 volts and were willing to go even higher. “That was surprising and disappointing,” Burger said'.

... and absolutely horrifying!

So let's discourage blind obedience and encourage conscientious disobedience! All of us! Now! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!