Tuesday, January 5, 2010
A beautiful time with beautiful people
"Rich, where are my sleeping pills?" Sherri said to her husband half way dreading the fact that he may not have them and half way loving the prospect of downing the little slumber aids as soon as possible. Jay had already captured a bug from the wall for her in the first 15 minutes of arrival. We had calmed her enough to get her to shower, but only if Rich would go with her. Jay and Rich began a wager outside about how many days Sherri and her sister Racheal would last before they checked into the nearest Holiday Inn. Jay and Rich were already falling in love with the place the nature lovers that they are. After a walk a licious afternoon in Old San Juan, this was our retreat to sleep for the night and my first experience with my old neighborhood buds!
We made it through the night with little interruption except that I began to be a snack stand for mosquitoes while I played with my ipod, which is my habit when I can't fall asleep or read. Duh.. it was the brightest light in the house! I finally dimmed it down and returned to slumbering on my little lumpy bed.
The next day was action packed.... I mean, so much so that I felt like a tourist on a caffeine induced one day holiday! We woke up at 8am and headed to the rain forest. The hike down to La Mina falls was a short .7 miles, but the girls said it felt like 5. They were hardly complaining when we swam under the beautiful tropical waterfall. Jay snapped about 30 pictures of us frolicking in the cold, fresh, cascading waters and despite the complaining on the way back up to the car, everyone agreed that it was an awesome experience.
From cold rain forest water we ventured on to warm, salty waves at Luquillo. Everyone enjoyed the hot sun, good vibes, vendor food and scenery. The scenery was great on and off the beach as tourist season has begun heating up here in Puerto Rico. It was a ten fold increase in oily bodies roasting under the sun and the boys especially were happy to see the skimpy bathing suits barely covering the assets of the opposite sex. We body surfed and played Frisbee while enjoying a 3 or 4 hour stint at the beautiful beach.
Just before sunset we headed back to the house for a shower and some rest and then it was back into San Juan for a night on the town! Of course we had the place rocking, especially since our group has quite a few party animals in it! We hit some of the usual spots and a few new ones and laughed our drunken selves into the night. I got to say goodbye to Sam and Alwin, who are continuing their journey in Cuba and we got to hang with Lisa and Sarah who are always good company! On top of that, I made friends with an older couple who invited me to a barbeque next week... awesome stuff! We crawled back to the house around 2:30am and were changing to go to bed when we heard a faint, "Helloooo? Are you thereeee?". It was Lucy coming to see that we were ok and needing to get into the casita to grab some presents she had hidden for the children for the following Three Kings Holiday. Her faint, cute voice prompted Rich to adopt an alter ego named Lucy who talks like a porcelain doll and makes the funniest shit up at the funniest times. He has had us crying in laughter ever since!
We got up yesterday and hustled down to Captain Frank for a day at sea. We now had Rachel Wheeler with us, who was picked up at 5am at the airport. How Jay, Racheal, and Erin woke up to drive after only 2 hours of sleep is beyond me, but they did it and we were on our way to a crazy day with the legendary Captain "Paco" Frank! Not only did we enjoy great snorkeling and diving around the wreck at Cayo Santiago, we also did something I thought I would never see. Frank pulled off a political move that could have won a Nobel Prize. We were able to get 10 feet from the island, which is completely off limits, and feed the Rhesus monkeys some fresh bananas and carrots, which is completely illegal. Captain Frank handed Rich a can of Coke and told him to walk to the truck parked on the beach and give it to the guard. As Rich walked, we walked in the opposite direction through the water to a shoreline where 20 or so of the primates were hanging out. Boy were they happy to see what we had! They clambered around on various trees and posts to get a better look and to be able to leap for the food that we flung their way! All parties involved were much satisfied and the ride back to the dock was spectacular! Frank was in true form, handing us all instruments and blasting the salsa while dancing, and navigating through very choppy seas!
Our next move was to traverse the island to a little town called Sabana Grande, where the Irizarry family would be meeting one another for the first time! We made the drive that night and got to meet Aunt Niecca first. She was the sweetest, most hospitable woman around. We were treated to fresh drinks, food, and excellent Coquito made with moonshine! She then helped us to get to the house we were staying at for the night, which was owned by a relative who wasn't on the island at the time. It was a great house, but there weren't enough beds for everyone so it was decided that the girls would get the beds and we three boys would sleep out in the living room, Rich on the couch, Jay on a mattress on the floor, and myself in a cot that was probably 30 years old! We had a blast in the living room watching infomercials and interpreting our own goofy voices to the characters and ended up falling asleep with the TV on.
A sharp rooster call at 6am woke the house up and get every one's blood rushing! We eventually got ourselves together and headed to Thomasa's house for a beautiful day and some amazing Puerto Rican cooking! Family meeting family for the first time was a beautiful experience! Racheal did most of the talking, as she is the only one out of her group that speaks spanish and I was there to help with what she didn't know. They filed in, sat down and started talking story and trading lifetimes of information in small talk. Before we left this beautiful mountainside home, we were treated to her uncle's CD of Jibaro music. He's a famous singer on the island and actually once sang with Ramito, who is one of my favorite jibaritos! It was awesome talking to him and he even invited me back to his house where I got to see a wall full of plaques, records, and pictures of his success as a musician. He even gave me two Cd's and signed them, one for the Irizarry family and one for me! We made promises to keep in touch and I told him I would send him some of my music when I made it back to Buffalo. It has been a blessing having my friends here and I am so happy that they enjoyed meeting their family! They are wonderful people!