Sunday, December 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary to US

Wow! Yesterday - December 29 - was the first anniversary of our opening Ola Lola's. It's hard to believe it's been a year already. It has been an amazing, wild, wonderful, crazy year. We love our new home. We love being here and living here and becoming part of the community, especially the community around Shacks and Jobos. This is truly a special place to live. We have made so many friends, some local, some just visiting. Now that surf and "tourist" season is starting back up, we're seeing "old friends" again, visitors who come to Shacks every year that we met last year. It's great recognizing faces and getting reacquainted.

Yesterday was also our wedding anniversary. Three years ago Elaine and I got married on a beach in Barbados. Who could have imagined the beach in Barbados would lead us to Shacks Beach in Puerto Rico?

We celebrated both anniversaries last night at Ola Lola's with cake and champagne. There are no pictures because we were just too busy beings hosts at our own anniversary party. But it was a GREAT party. Thanks to all our friends - regulars and first-timers - who shared the special evening with us.

As we begin a new year, we want to say "thank you" to all of you who have supported us this year, either by coming to visit, stopping by for a drink or two, or even just following our adventures on this blog. To all our friends who haven't made it down yet, thanks for just being there when we needed you.

It's been a wonderful first year!

John, Elaine, Amber, Jazz, and Chocolate

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Catching up - Christmas at Ola Lola's

Ola Lola's decorated for Christmas. This is our Christmas tree this year. Elaine and I lashed it together out of bamboo and the centers of coconut palm fronds. The tree is outlined with green rope lights and has little white bulbs criss-crossing it and in the star. It really is pretty and has gotten rave reviews. Somebody even offered to buy it!

You can get real trees down here. Cut fir trees from OREGON (did you hear that Michigan?) were about $60 each at Sam's Club. We saw cars driving up the highway with two bound Christmas trees on top, sometimes sharing the roof rack with surfboards.

Ola Lola's Christmas party. We had the party on December 22 this year.
Most of our "regulars" were here, at least the ones who weren't "off the rock" for the holidays. It was a more laid back party than the September birthday or Halloween parties, but that was good, appropriate to the season.

A few transplanted northerners admitted to missing snow on Christmas. I may someday but this wasn't the day.

We closed on Monday, Christmas Eve so we could be with friends and our extended Puerto Rican family. We spent a great evening with Marisol and her family and a bunch of friends, eating WAY too much great food and probably drinking too much. I don't remember - I wasn't driving.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007


For now at least. We have been completely without internet service for over a week. That's why no Christmas message, no photos of the Ola Lola Christmas party, no new Flickr photos or photos on Since we now use internet-based Vonage for our primary telephone, there were no Christmas phone calls to (or from) friends and family.

That said, we've had a WONDERFUL Christmas here, full of fun, joy, incredible friendship (including friends from the States), beauty and wonder.

We sincerely hope your Christmas was awesome and that your New Year's celebration is safe and fun.

We'll try to catch up on all that's been happening here at Lola's Corner for the past 10 days. It's been a blast. Hope yours has been too.

More very soon! (If our access to the 'net holds on...)

Sunday, December 16, 2007


The Christmas party season is in full swing here on the island. We went to a house-warming/holiday party at our friends Andrea and Wade's on Tuesday. Thursday night was the big get-together at Ron and Tina's (photo). Last night Boyd and Kendra had their party since they're leaving Friday to go island hopping. Elaine went to boyd and Kendra's but I stayed a Lola's. Damn! Missed a party!

The party at Ron and Tina's turned into a impromptu paranda.

The traditional paranda involves a bunch - say 20 or 30 - of your closest friends getting together, bringing musical instruments (or just pots and pans to bang on), and coming to your house at 2:00 am, waking you up with music - sometimes great, sometimes dreadful depending on your friends' talent. For the honor of this serenade, you are expected to provide large quantities of food and drink (the stronger the better) for the assembled masses. Your reward? YOU get to join the traveling party as it moves on to the next site.

Sorta like caroling on steroids.

It's a great tradition. There were a couple of parandas down the road last year. One in particular had an awesome trumpet player. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. I should have gotten up and joined the party. Instead I just laid in bed and listened to the trumpet.

At Ron an Tina's party, we didn't go out but we had a great time singing horribly offkey renditions of traditional paranda songs (which none of us gringos knew) and traditional carols (which many of the Puerto Ricans only knew in Spanish) accompanied by bongos, harmonicas, and other noisemakers.

The Ola Lola's Christmas party is next Saturday. If you're in the neighborhood, please join us. Everyone's welcome.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Sub-Tropical Storm Olga

An awning ripped off the ocean side of one of the villas down by the beach and thrown over the building to the street side.

Jazz looks out at a stormy grey ocean during a brief lull in the rain this morning.

Hurricane season officially ended six weeks ago but it didn't seem like it last night. Sub-tropical Storm Olga went by and was much worse than Hurricane Dean this summer. As I write this at 6:20 pm local (AST) time, we've had power back on less than an hour for the first time since about 2:00 am. It has (almost) stopped raining for the first time all day. (Note: power for us also means a phone; without it, we had no lights OR phone OR internet...just FYI for those who tried to call or email.) And after nearly two weeks of steady, constant 20-30 mph winds 24 hours a day, the wind is calm.

It's not surprising that Olga was worse. She ripped past the north side of the island (which happens to be where we live), due east to due west with the storm center less than 70 miles off the coast. Dean was 250 miles south of here and we had the whole island between us and the storm.

The good news is we are all alright. It was a grey, gloomy, wet day in paradise but - no snow or ice. Elaine ran some errands to places where they had power and I mostly laid about with the dogs and read. The all-day rain has been pretty gentle (unlike the storm rain last night) so there really hasn't been much risk of a flood. But - we've been watching.

Now the storm is over the Dominican Republic and mostly away from us. Here's hoping for a quiet, peaceful night.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Tres Favoritos

This photo was taken by our friend, Charlie, who gave me my first kiteboarding lesson and who is a fabulous kiteboarder (John loves shooting photos of him in action).

from Elaine: These are three of the most wonderful males in the universe...and I love 'em and am so grateful they are in my life. This is them sitting on our beach, loving being together and loving our life here. I think the picture's worth a million words.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007


Two new certified divers in the water. Kinda feels like passing your driving test. Woo-hoo!

Yesterday we passed our written scuba open water certification test. This means John is now a certified scuba diver, a goal he has had for many years! I am still not completely certified as I still have some more diving to do to with my instructor to complete my certification. However, it feels good to have passed the written test.

And, what's more, it was done Puerto Rican style with lots of fun, laughter, good food and drink, easy-going timeline and atmosphere, and good company (our friend and dive instructor, Darryl, came for dinner and brought the tests with him). John and I each scored 89%; good thing we had separate tests so it was clear we didn't cheat. We learned some things during the test as well (as will happen with any good assessment and great instructor). Seawater weighs 62.4 lbs. /cubic ft. Water cools your body 25 times faster than air. And, my favorite thing of all I have learned from scuba diving instruction is that every plastic bag picked up off the beach or out of the ocean - or, better yet, prevented from being thrown carelessly as trash - will possibly save the life of a sea turtle. Turtles are practically the only animals that eat jellyfish and they frequently mistake plastic bags for jellyfish (I understand; done it twice myself), eat them, and die as a result. I am very happy that scuba diving will and is making me more environmentally aware and a better friend to the ocean and its inhabitants.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


but more slowly than I would hope.

More than 10 days out from my fall and I'm still a bit stiff and sore. My internal thermostat is finally back to normal after a week of hot/cold flashes with that fever early in the week.

I hate being sick or laid up. I went in the ocean for the first time in over a week on Friday - not even in the ocean, just the tidal pool at Middles Beach. Even the little waves in there were too much. I don't have the flexibility back yet to just float and bend with the waves. But it felt good to be in the sun and in the water.

There haven't been any new pictures for a while. No pictures of surfers, even though there have been waves. No pictures of kite surfers, even thought there has been wind. No KAP, even though there has been plenty of wind. I just haven't been able to go out to shoot.

I did "find" a few new kite surfing pictures from just before the accident and few surfing photos of the big waves Thanksgiving Day (one of those is above). The new pictures are now up on Flickr - check 'em out.

In a way I haven't missed much. The weather has been crazy! With apologies to all our friends in the Midwest and Northeast who are dealing with a major winter storm and sub-freezing temperatures, we've had our own version of a winter storm. We've had constant winds in the 25-30 mph range, constant 24 hours a day. We had huge driving rain squalls. And, relatively speaking, it's been cool. People at Ola Lola's have been wearing jackets and sweatshirts in the evening. This morning the low was SIXTY-EIGHT DEGREES! Okay, it's a far far cry from the 18 degree windchill in Michigan, but that equals the record low for this date here.

The waves have been what the surfers call "washing machine" - churned up, mixed up, big without really being surfable. Because the ocean is churned up, kite surfers have had a hard time even with the big winds.

The winds are calm this morning and surf predictions are 3-5 feet. I'm heading out in a few minutes to see who's on the waves. I feels really good to feel good enough to go shoot surfers.