Friday, December 29, 2006

It's showtime!

Ola Lola's re-opens under new management in half an hour. It's showtime!

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Oh my god we opern tomorrow



We made another round of permitting Tuesday and Wednesday. This mostly involves driving around and around between home, Aguadilla and Isabela to find out the oficina we need is closed (because of the holidays) or that we need a certain permit - one that is only available from an oficina that is closed - before we can get or apply for the permit in the oficina we're in.

There is one particular permit that seems to be the hinge for a lot of other permits. It’s called a patenta and we get it from the oficina municipal in Isabela. The problem is, the oficina es cerrado (closed) until after new years. We are opening with temporary permits and so far all the officiales seem to be okay with that. They seem to understand we’re moving as fast as we can.

Among other things, we had to go to get our criminal background checks to transfer the liquor license. You’ll all be glad to know we both have clean records.

The other permit that is a huge hassle is something we can only get in Mayaguez which is about an hour from here. No one seems to know where the office in Mayaguez is or how to get there. Oh, well. We’ll worry about that one next week. We have 120 days (from Wednesday) to finish the process – or we get to start all over!

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On the beach

Hummm...wasn't that the title of an apocalytic movie? Anyway...

We've been to the beach every day we've been here. Because we've been so busy, some days we've had to make time, force time, to get there. Here, like anywhere else, the day-to-day pressures can overwhelm you. One of the things we have to remind ourselves that the beach is WHY we're here. The bar and the business are what make it possible for us to be here.

The ocean has been really rough since we got here, rougher than we've ever seen it, and the locals (the ones who got here before we did) are saying pretty much the same thing. The surfers and kite-surfers are loving it but it makes it tough going for snorkeling. The currents have been strong and the water pretty churned up and cloudy.

Still, we've seen wonderful stuff: beautiful purple and white fan coral waving in the current, schools of jacks, our first barracuda (very pretty and not at all scary), a huge elkhorn coral that everybody else knows about but we just saw for the first time.

We'll see what today brings.

Christmas Day

Christmas Day

We were invited to another family party for Christmas Day. Only it turns out the first part of the day, the first couple of hours of the party, was just for us, dinner with our friends Giovanni and his beautiful wife Ciamara and daughter Xiera. (I hoped I spelled those right.) The more of the family – Ciamara’s mother and father and her sister and niece and nephew – came later. They ate of course, but the dinner was for us. We were so honored.

We’ve quickly learned that one of the “rules” of being a good guest is you are expected to eat your share of the food the hostess has gone to great lengths to prepare. It’s not hard to ear your share and then some, believe me. We have been treated to some fabulous food here.

We did get to the beach for a little while, swimming in the morning, just walking (walking off some of that fabulous dinner) later in the evening. The moon is a waxing crescent right now, just a sliver. But even that sliver is so bright out on the beach.

We hope all of you had a wonderful Chrismas. If you’re away from your family (like we are), we hope you’re lucky enough (like we are) to have wonderful friends to be with.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve, 2006

Christmas, especially Christmas Eve, in Puerto Rico is a time to be with families. Whole extended families gather for big parties with food, drink and presents.

Although – or maybe because – we are the new kids in the neighborhood, we were invited to our neighbor’s family Christmas Eve party. This family owns much of the land around us so we were quite honored to be invited.

Four generations, more than 50 people related by blood or marriage, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, gathered to celebrate. In many ways this was a pleasantly very casual affair, especially compared to Christmas parties in the states. A few people dressed up but most were casual. Except for Beba, the matriarch of the family. Beba looked fine. But then this amazing woman always does.

In the short ride to Waldo and Eddie’s house we passed a dozen similar parties. Tables for 20 or 50 or more are set up in small yards, under tents or in driveways. Music pours from stereos and boomboxes (yet we saw only a few people dancing; for some reason we expected to see more). People were eating and drinking, adults probably on the way to getting drunk, but less obviously so than at many state-side parties. Houses are lit up like, well, Christmas. Along some streets you can see where neighbors compete for the highest electric bill.

Food is of course the central gathering point around which many parties revolve. At the party we went to, there were three whole roast turkeys, fresh, homemade bacalaitos (salt cod fritters – yum!), fresh warm pan (bread), rice and beans, and for dessert, the absolute best flan de vanilla and flan de queso we have ever tasted.

The family exchanged gifts and then, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but Santa (but without his reindeer) with gifts for everyone.

When we first arrived, we were treated like honored guests. By the end of our evening (theirs was still going strong) we were just part of the family. It was a beautiful evening.

Christmas Day we’re invited to another family party, this time with one of our SCUBA dive leaders.

Feliz navidad!

Thursday, November 30, 2006


Less than three weeks until we move to Playa Shacks and start our new lives. The first step will be to complete the purchase of the house and Ola Lola's Garden Bar. Then we start the process of transferring all the licenses and permits to our name. We'll see how that goes. Bewteen us, we worked for county and/or state governement for more than 20 years. We have a heathly scepticism for bureacracy. Stay tuned for that.

In the mean time, we're bracing for the Midwest's first major winter storm of the season - sleet, freezing rain, 8-12 inches of snow, wind, falling teperatures. Any wonder we want to move south? We'll post pictures of whatever we get.

Keep warm and be safe out there.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Open lines

This is the opening post from Ola Lola's Garden Bar on Playa Shacks on the northwest corner of Puerto Rico.

In December, 2006, we'll move from our home in Michigan to our NEW home in Puerto Rico. You'll be able to follow our journey on these pages. So come along and share the adventure.

Happy reading! And feel free to comment.