Friday, December 4, 2009
Hola people! I just wanted to give a quick update on my travels and first full day in Puerto Rico. After a fantastic first class "bump up" yesterday on Air Tran, we arrived in San Juan a little tired from traveling and a lot hungry from not having anything substantial all day. I ventured my Aunt Rose into the chaotic highways of San Juan, where she repeatedly said, "Oh my God! Jeremy! Did you see that car?" And my response was, "It seems much crazier than it actually is. These people are great drivers!" I will give them credit in the driving department. They squeeze more cars into more spaces with more speed than anywhere I have seen. And, I barely ever see an accident. If you were driving the interstates at home and witnessed this style of maneuvering, you would be sure that 100 people would be dead every minute in a full-on pile up.
Alas we begin to feel the soft rumble of our rental car tires as they breach the cobblestone roads of Old San Juan. We are delighted by long views of the city and the North Atlantic beating its ever present waves into the giant walls of the Spanish fort. Senses come alive as you are greeted at every turn with romantic architecture, old world history, and culinary splendor. Old San Juan takes a week to explore thoroughly, but we are mostly interested in "la comida criollo" which is the style of cooking that Puerto Ricans grow to love in their hearty kitchens.
After a big plate of mofongo con pollo, a mashed plantain dish baked with a tomato based sauce and tender chunks of chicken, we move to the rice and beans and a healthy serving of tostones. A light, savory piece of key lime pie with our cafe con leche (Puerto Rican coffee w milk), got us primed up to hit the old streets in search of... well, exercise and excitement.
My Aunt couldn't stop taking pictures and breaking her neck to look all the way around at all there was to see, hear and smell. We strolled through the beautiful hodge podge of private villas, shops, restaurants and government buildings all intertwined on the hilly slopes of the city. We stopped at the cathedral where Ponce De Leon is buried and were serenaded by a gentleman across the street playing his guitar and singing to anyone who cared to listen. Cruise ship tourists roamed the streets in obvious packs, their obnoxiously loud English speaking, and shopping bags giving them away. It never ceases to amaze me how much these people can carry! Most of them are obese, and yet they still manage to fill every appendage like a pack donkey on an expedition. Bags, clothes, cameras and the like, clanking and weighing down their sweaty bodies as they search for the next trinket to add to the pile. Oh ye shot glass collectors from across the globe!
We were able to walk the exterior fort wall and see some of the fabulous fountains, statues and stonework that line the harbor entrance. We also took a stroll to the gate of the city, which was a treat for my aunt, who was seeing it for the first time. I always imagine the old regimes pulling into harbor and walking through the gates, scrolls and swords in hand, ready to handle the important affairs of imperialism. After a few more streets, we decided it was time to hit the road and head back to the house.
Stopping at the local WalMart (sorry... I hate it too), we were able to supply ourselves with what we needed for the evening and head up to our tranquil home in the mountains of El Yunque! It was so great to hear the frogs singing the familiar sounds "coqui, coqui", and to smell the fresh rains giving the forest its lush lifeblood. After meeting all of the children from the orphanage and having a special greeting from Lucy and Marian, we retired to our casita and enjoyed one too many rum punches. We smoked cigars, laughed, cried, and bonded with great fervor talking about life and all the crazy people in our family. Sleeping under a beautiful full moon, I began my life anew....