Tuesday, October 30, 2007

We put a spell on you

A tropical storm spent the last four days making its slow way past south of the island. It has been grey and gloomy and rainy every day (kinda like fall in Michigan except it's 75 degrees and we're in shorts and T-shirts, not jeans and sweatshirts).

But last night, with a lot of help from our friends, we put a spell on all that gloom and had a great time at the first-ever Ola Lola's Halloween Party.

Pretty much everybody - including us - came in costume. One of our great friends, George, said he "didn't dress up." But we worked it out: George came as his wife Mary coming to the party as George, and Mary came as George coming to the party as Mary. Got that? They got the prize for "most convoluted costume."

We had prizes for best Kid's Costume, Best Couple, Best Overall and a bunch more. Some of the costumes were just amazing. Body and Kendra's "Anthony and Cleopatra," which Kendra made, were fabulous. When Fran got here, I really did not know who it was. Trevor, from Villa Tropical, was a great Ludwig van (Beethoven) on a Caribbean vacation.

Elaine spent many hours creating a haunted graveyard along the path through the garden. Most of the tombstones had epitaphs that were puns in Spanish. They were wonderful and got lots of laughs from the Spanish-speakers.

We had great food thanks to Elaine and Marisol and great music thanks to our friend and DJ, Juan. Most importantly, after days of rain - including all afternoon before the party, everybody had a great time! Thanks to everybody who came and made the party a huge success!

You can see more pictures of the party on our Flickr site and Suzann put a bunch on Shutterfly. Check 'em out.

And if you missed this year's party, try to make it next year!!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The dogs are fine

A few people have asked how the dogs are doing since there haven't been any pictures of them lately. I'm happy to say Amber and Jazz are doing just fine. They are healthy and seem to be happy living here. There are some new photos of the dogs on Flickr. Enjoy. They are.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Yesterday's catch

Reef Squid...

And beautiful clouds at sunset (taken from a kite)

Yesterday was a nearly perfect day. Elaine went out to ride Chocolate early in the morning - well, 8-ish. I caught up on a backlog of photo editing and posting. Oh, yeah, and updating the blog for the first time in a week! (Sorry!)

Then we went snorkeling at a new (to us anyway) area called Wishing Well. When the waves are up it's a popular site with surfers but it was pretty calm yesterday.

After a dinner and a couple of beers, we headed down to Middles Beach to let the dogs run and to do a little KAP photography.

It could have been a perfect evening except Elaine spent the evening shopping for stuff for the weekend at Ola Lola's.

There were a lot of pictures from the snorkeling and KAPping. I edited them down to just a few and the best ones are now up on Flickr.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Blog Action Day follow-up

Some quick numbers from the Blog Action Day for the Environment:

20,603 registered blogs and bloggers
23,327 blog posts
14,631,038 RSS readers

We're proud to be part of the Blog Action Day. The source for the numbers is the Blog Action Day web site. Check out the site if you want to read more about it.

Closer to home, last Saturday Elaine and I helped with a beach clean up. It was an interesting learning experience. First of all, when you get out of the car and start actively looking for trash, you find out there is a whole lot more trash than you expected. Turning over a pile of leaves reveals layers of trash underneath. To be honest, that's pretty much what we expected.

The thing we didn't expect was the condition of the trash. Styrofoam food boxes start to break apart into ever smaller and smaller (and therefore harder to pick up) pieces. Plastic grocery bags shred. They get stuck on and under limbs, branches, leaves, rocks. They work their way into the dirt. The little pieces are almost impossible to pick up. If you try to pull a bag out of the ground, it tears like wet paper. We (mistakenly) assumed this stuff was indestructible.

The biggest thing we don't know is what this crap is leaving behind in the soil as it deteriorates. Anybody out there know? Anybody know if anybody's ever studied this? My chemistry is a little rusty (as I in I haven't had any chemistry since high school and I didn't do too well then) or I test the soil.

We'll be part of future beach clean-ups as well. We're in the very early stages of creating a kite festival on the beach. We plan to partner with the Department of Natural Resources, Restcate Playas Isabela and others to raise the awareness of the value of the beaches, reefs and the ocean as resources to be protected, not abused. Stay tuned.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Blogger action day - the environment

Today is a “blogger action day.” More than 7,000 bloggers all over the world are writing something about the environment.

I’ve written more than once about the paradise we live in. The beaches, the ocean, the reef are incredibly beautiful. Everybody I’ve met here agrees. But that doesn’t mean we’re blind.

Many people here don’t seem to realize what they have here, what an incredible resource this place is. Trash and beer bottles and pop bottles are regularly tossed on the beach or thrown from car windows. This is certainly not unique to Puerto Rico. Roadsides and beaches in the States suffer the same way.

To combat this problem here on our corner of the island, a group of locals, Puerto Ricans and ex-pat Americanos together, formed a volunteer, non-profit organization called “Rescate Playas de Isabela” (Rescue the beaches of Isabela). Every other month they – perhaps I should say “we” since Elaine and I are members – work with the Isabela government and with the state Department of Natural Resources to have a massive clean up of a stretch of beach. Once a month organization volunteers clean up the stretch of road we’ve adopted. This picture is of the trash we picked up in three hours last Saturday morning along one mile of road.

Volunteers from Rescate put trash barrels (like the ones in the photo) at all the beaches in Isabela. Corporate sponsors – particularly Corona and Heineken – paid for the barrels and the municipal government makes sure they get emptied. It sounds like such a simple thing but it took many many hours of volunteer time. Most importantly, this simple idea has made a HUGE difference in the amount of trash left on the beaches.

If you want more information about Rescate Playas Isabela, check out their site at www.myspace.come/rescateplayasisabela.

Better yet, JOIN Rescate Playas Isabela. It’s $15 a year or $25 for a family. You get a T-shirt and you will help a great cause close to our hearts. I don’t think there is an application on the myspace site but e-mail us at info@ola-lolas.com and we will send you the form.

One other local environmental issue before I get off this: the reef. The reef! I think it is mostly ignorance and perhaps carelessness but people – both Puerto Ricans and turistas – abuse the reef. They stand on it. They sit on it. They kick it. They look at it and think it’s “just a rock.” Or worse, they look at it and assume it’s dead. IT’S NOT! It is an 8,000 year old community of living creatures. And it is still very much alive.

Look around you. What in your environment do you take for granted? What do you not notice because it’s always there? What do you walk on without realizing you’re hurting another living being? Just for today, think about it.

Think globally, act locally.

Thanks. We now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Christmas in the Caribbean

Before we get to Christmas, Happy Columbus Day! I've written before that Puerto Ricans lover their holidays. Monday (Oct. 8) was the "official" U.S. Federal Columbus Day holiday. Today, October 12 is the official Puerto Rican holiday. Wow. Two holidays in one week for the same event. Imagine that.

I think I also wrote before about Christmas here. Puerto Ricans love Christmas above all other holidays - except Three Kings Day, which is actually bigger than Christmas. I first thought the Christmas celebration started the week of Thanksgiving and lasted at least until Three Kings Day (January 6). Or sometime just before Easter. It appears I was wrong.

At least the little town of San Antonio, just "up the mountain" from us, has their Christmas decorations up in the plaza already. I'm not sure when they put them up; I first saw them day before yesterday. I haven't been out and about enough to know if other towns have theirs up yet.

I do know that KMart and WalMart took all their summer beach/garden stuff out about the middle of September and immediately replaced it with huge displays of - you guessed it - Christmas stuff. Little tiny displays for Thanksgiving. Maybe one aisle for Halloween. Whole walls for Christmas already! I'll try to get pictures.

We love the Christmas celebrations here. But even many of the Puerto Ricans we talk to think this WAY too early to have all the Christmas stuff out. Thank you KMart and Walmart. By the time Christmas gets here, we'll all be so tired of it, it won't be fun any more.

No, that's not true. It will still be great and fun. Not even the insensitive big box stores can take the joy out of a Puerto Rican holiday!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

American Kitefliers Association convention

The American Kitefliers Association's national convention and Grand National competition was last week in Ocean Shores, Washington. (We didn't make it this year.)

The "octopile" (above) was a world record for the most octopi in the sky at one time. Understand, each one of those octopi is 88 FEET long! That's a lot o' ripstop!

Brooks Leffler, one of the world's great KAPpers (kite aerial photographers), has an amazing bird's eye view of the ocotpile taken with a camera suspended from a kite line. That picture is posted in the Kite Aerial Photography pool on Flickr.

Special thanks to Ann Vondriska Brinnehl who took all the photos on this page. More of her photos of the convention in day-by-day sets, can be found on Flickr. (www.flickr.com/photos/danbrinnehl. No, I didn't post that wrong: Ann took the pictures and posted them on husband Dan's photo stream.)

A number of our friends from the Midwest competed in the stunt kite competitions and did very well. Congratulations to all. Sorry we weren't there to cheer you on - or to compete against you!

Brothers Zach (lounging) and Josh Gordon are the pairs stunt kite team Eos. They brought home trophies for First Place in Masters Pairs Ballet and a second place finish in Masters Pairs Precision.

Zach also took first in Masters Individual Ballet and second in both Masters Multi-line (quad-line) Ballet and Masters Multi-line Precision.

Meanwhile, Josh was fourth in Masters Individual Precision and sixth in Masters Individual Ballet.

Elizabeth Gordon, standing with brothers Zach and Josh, took second in Novice Individual Ballet and third in Novice Individual Precision.

Mike Delfar (left) and Dan Newan are the pairs team O2. The were first in the Team Train event and fourth place in both Masters Pairs Ballet and Masters Pairs Precision.

Dan also competed individually, taking seventh in both Masters Individual Ballet and Masters Individual Precision.

Alison Newman (center, with Elizabeth and Josh Gordon) brought home the first place trophy for Experienced Multi-line Precision and the third place award for Experienced Multi-line Ballet.

Again, thanks to Ann and Dan for the photos and congratulations to ALL the Midwest flyers at the convention. Maybe we'll get to go next year!

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Surf season

We've had some big waves the last couple of days so we've been out shooting surfers. A couple of the Billabong girls were in Isabela, having some fun at Middles Beach. This is Keala Kennelly. In addition to being a champion surfer and a member of Billabong's Adventure Division (chasing some of the biggest waves in the world), she also stars on HBO's "John in Cincinnati." Oh, yeah - she a really great person. She and teammate Sanoe Lake stopped by Lola's for a Pina Lo-lada.

Thanks, ladies. It was a pleasure to meet you and fun photographing you..

There are more pictures of Keala and Sanoe on our puertoricosurfphoto.com site.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Heal quickly, Sarah

Our friend Sarah fell and broke her foot last week and is now in a cast.

Sarah is an art teacher here. She's been working on dia de muertos art with her students. She found this great image in her research. She (painting upside down!) and a friend painted her cast.

The cast is a hassle: Sarah loves to go to the beach but sand in a cast is a PAIN! She likes to dance and the cast slows her down a bit.

What a great way to deal with and celebrate conquering an adversity! Two other friends, when they saw the cast, said, "Wow! That's beautiful! I want one! Oh. No. Wait. No I don't."

It is beautiful but we hope it is VERY temporary. Heal quickly, Sarah!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Snorkeling and diving

The opening of the surf competition season on the island means bigger waves are on the way and the days of diving and snorkeling outside the reef at Shacks are numbered for this year.

Right at the end of dive with Darryl outside the reef a week ago, down to my last 500 lbs of air and with dead batteries in my camera, I spotted a dolphin. Darryl had his own problems (a free-flowing emergency regulator dumping his air into the ocean) but he managed to get a few shots.

And there is still a lot to see inside the reef.

Elaine and I were snorkeling late one afternoon when we found this crab under a coral ridge, chowing on a sea urchin. He (she? we didn't think to look) pulled the spines off, nibbled what he wanted and then tossed the spine aside. There was a pile of spines behind him like rib bones at a bar-b-que. A bunch of other fish swam around the crab looking for scraps.

Another day we were swimming with about a hundred small bar jacks. A long slender silver shaft appeared right in the middle of the school of young jacks and we found ourselves swimming with a huge barracuda. I only got one shot of him (her? We didn't look.). You can see it on the Flickr site in the new set of snorkeling and diving pics.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Did I say "we live here"?

I don't say this (out loud) or write this nearly often enough, but we are so incredibly lucky to live here. Every time I walk over the dune and out to the beach (some days we do it three or four times) I just stop and say, "Wow! We live here!" Every time we come out of the ocean, whether snorkeling or diving or swimming with Amber and Jazz, I stop and say, "Wow! We live here!" Every time I see Elaine riding down the beach on Chocolate stop and say, "Wow! We live here!" It is amazingly wonderful and humbling. I hope I never ever lose my sense of wonder, awe and gratitude to the universe for allowing us to share this magical place.

New tables debut to rave reviews

Our new tables made their debut at the "everybody with a birthday in September" party. The new tables are AWESOME! They are beautiful (thank you Marty and Elaine), they are incredibly well-crafted (thank you, Marty) and they are STABLE (thank you, Marty). We haven't had a single spilled drink or broken glass since we started using the new tables. Our guests love 'em! And so do we. We're really pleased and proud of them.

Each one of the tables features pictographs chosen by our regular guests. The pictographs are from originals created by the Tainos, the last native people to inhabit the island before the Spanish arrived. You can see a close up of each individual table on the Flickr site.

And if we haven't said it before, THANK YOU, MARTY!!!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Early surf season

The local beaches hosted two surf tournaments over the last two weekends. I shot some pics on Friday before the Corona Pro tournament, mostly amateurs but some of them pros warming up for the weekend. I went back for a while on Saturday to shoot some of the tournament. I couldn't stay too long 'cause I had to get Lola's ready to open. I'd planned to go back on Sunday to KAP (kite aerial photography) the tournament but a dead battery in the car sidelined those plans. But I got some interesting stuff anyway. You can see them on the PuertoRicoSurfPhoto site. Click on the "surfing" tab and scroll down to September.