Saturday, May 31, 2008


Me, being a tourist and taking a picture of a tourist sign in a tourist town.

Going back to the States, and particularly to Michigan, this time was kinda strange. We've never lived in Milwaukee (although we love it there) so we're always "visitors" there. But we spent a little time in South Haven, Mich., a beach town I know very well. In fact, South Haven is one of the two Lake Michigan beach towns (Grand Haven is the other) that convinced me I wanted to live near water, on or near a beach, in the first place. So I found it odd that sitting at breakfast in a little restaurant, looking out the window at the row of shops across the street, that I felt like a...tourist! I found myself looking at things through different eyes, through the filter of our home in Puerto Rico.

Because of where Ola Lola's is - near the vacation resort Villa Montana and the beach-side vacation apartments at Villa Tropical - and what Ola Lola's is, we see and talk to a lot of tourists. We hear a lot of what their expectations are and whether or not Puerto Rico meets those expectations. It was that lens through which I viewed South Haven.

There are lots of cutesy shops in South Haven, selling lots of cutesy things, from local produce to local artisan wares to made-in-China trinkets. My sense is the tourists coming to PR especially miss the local artisan stuff. There are artists and artisans, but you just don't find the shops with that kind of stuff here. In all honesty there really aren't many places where such shops would work. The pueblos (towns) are primarily for the local residents to do business. There aren't rows of quaint cutesy buildings along a main street or plaza, especially one within walking range of the beach or good parking, that's designed for tourists. In fact many of the tourists who visit this area at least never see the pueblos of Isabela or Aquadilla or Moca or San Sabastian.

There is a little more of this kind of stuff in Rincon, but then Rincon has been more tourist-driven (because of the surfers) for decades.

Living here, I'm not at all sorry we don't have all the tourist-y stuff. Even in tourist towns like South Haven, it's always seemed vaguely silly to me. When we travel, we'd much rather see local (what's the point of traveling if your destination is just like where you live?). On the other hand it's important to meet some of those tourist expectations to keep them happy and coming back.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Home again, home again

Kennedy Anne with her abuela

We're back home - and back on line - after a little time off the island. Elaine went back to Michigan to spend a little time with Kennedy and for a baby shower for one of her best friends from grad school. I followed last week so we could perform at at kite festival in Milwaukee.

We had a great time. It was wonderful seeing so many of the friends we miss. And performing was a lot of fun. Unless you've done it, it's difficult to explain the feeling of team kite flying. There is a thrill and a joy it that I've never felt the same way anywhere else. Even though we only get to fly with our teammate Paul twice a year (he lives in Milwaukee so practice time is nil), We nailed several of our performance routines. I guess the euphoric feeling is lot like feeling from doing a great job at anything. But it is so awesome to share that with teammates. And it's just plain fun.

We revived an old performance piece this weekend. We have some - I guess you could call them vintage - kites that look like tropical fish and sharks. I used the Beatles "Octopus's Garden" and edited in music from the movie Jaws, that threatening low-bass theme and some other stuff. It starts out with the tropical fish swimming happily around and then the sharks chase them for a while but in the end everybody gets along happily ever after. It's a fun routine and a real crowd- pleaser.

So now we're back home in paradise and back to the "everyday" of getting ready to re-open Ola Lola's Friday. And of course there's lots of e-mail and blog catching up to do. More to come.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Away from a computer for a few days

I'm not going to have access to a computer for a few days so don't panic if you don't see a post 'til next week.

We WILL be back!

BTW - just a reminder - Ola Lola's is closed this weekend. See you next week.

an OMG we live here week

Last week was an "Oh my god we live here" kinda week. The kind where everything is just so perfect you can't believe how lucky you are just to be here, let alone live here. Blue skies, warm (actually, hot!) sun, crystal clear blue water. Diving and snorkeling were incredible. (Unfortunately, I didn't get to do as much of either as I would have liked.)

Late in the week a new swell came that provided some fun surfing for a few days. Yeah, I missed that too. With Elaine gone, even the everyday stuff seems to take forever. Add to that a bunch of paperwork for the government, and it just feels like I haven't had time. In reality, I probably did have the time, just not the motivation.

I did go diving last week with Darryl. Everything was beautiful, wonderful while we were going out and while we were down. But that swell started coming in while we were down. By the time We surfaced just outside the reef, there was the strongest rip I've ever felt. It took fully half an hour just to get back over the reef into Blue Hole. We had to time it just right to let the waves help us in and then not lose ground on the out-surge. It was the scariest moment I've had diving here. And it was on the surface! not under water. Oh, well. We're both back in on dry land and safe. And I learned a little more about the ocean and about diving so it's all good.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Busy week

KAP photo today at Middles Beach.

It's been a busy week!

Elaine is off the island for a couple of weeks. She left in the wee hours Thursday morning (after a series of adventures/mis-adventures) to go spend some time with our daughter and granddaughter and to co-host a baby shower for one of her best friends from grad school.

Her adventure started when she tried to do an on-line baggage check (Spirit Air charges extra for checked luggage but it's cheaper if you do the check-in on-line). She got this really weird itinerary with a couple of impossible connections and ended in Washington, D.C. What the heck? After nearly an hour on hold and then getting cut off, she drove up to the airport to talk to a Spirit agent. No one at the counter. She left a big note with her cell number. about halfway home from the airport (fortunately it's only ten minutes away) the Spirit agent calls her. Back to the airport (fortunately it's only ten minutes away and since she was only halfway home, it was only five minutes back). Seems Spirit CANCELED - as in it is no longer on their schedule - the Thursday afternoon flight she had a confirmed reservation on. They canceled it without even telling the local station staff - let alone any passengers. The first the local station agents heard about the cancellation was when passengers came up and said, "What the hell?"

They managed to get her on the 2:30 am flight Thursday morning but that pushed all our preparations up 12 hours.

So it's 12:30 in the morning. The alarm goes off and Elaine says, "what's that for?" Uh, you're leaving... Oh, yeah.

So we get everything, including a still sleepy Elaine, in the car and start for the airport. Something isn't right. You bet. We have a flat tire. So at 1:00 am we're changing a tire. We got her to the airport four minutes before boarding started. How much time do you need anyway? We got her on the plane without further adventures.

When I got up in the morning, the spare was about half flat. I spent half an hour pumping up the car tire with my bicycle tire pump. It's really quick on my bike but not so much so on the car. Then off to la tienda de gomas (tire store) to get a new tire and get the spare fixed.

This weekend I'm back to being alone in the bar. How quickly I've forgotten all my little tricks to getting everything - dishes, dogs run, dogs fed on time, bar stocked, Government hassles, etc., plus any fun stuff like snorkeling - done! And I didn't fully realize how much I depend on Elaine's help until last night when 20+ people slammed me all at once at quarter til eight. Personally, I miss her every minute. Last night I REALLY missed her.

And for those of you who have been reading this blog all along, since last year when Elaine was still in Michigan alone and I was here alone, I promise not to whine (too much) about how much I miss her. Suffice it to say, this is like deja vu all over again.

Sunday, May 11, 2008


"We have tickets!" (Billy Joel concert with friends)

Happy Mother’s Day from Elaine!

This Mother’s Day I want to thank ALL of my female friends for all they mean to me. I know I won’t be able to mention each one, but trust me, even if we haven’t connected in a long time, I am still grateful for all of you. We mother each other – help each other, let each other cry on our shoulders, encourage each other, love each other, and tell each other all those wonderful things about the other one that she might be missing in that persistent nagging drive to self-criticize! You have all given me these gifts – let me look in the mirror through your eyes and shake my head in amazement, wonder, and gratitude.

Life in Puerto Rico has brought me many new friends. Some of them have quickly become very close and dear to me. Recently, I was given a great gift by just such friends. I was given a ticket to go with three other women to the Billy Joel concert in San Juan last month. It was a fabulous night out – me, Patty, Rosie, and Kelly all acted like crazy teenagers and had a wonderful time, laughing and smiling and dancing and singing and taking pictures until we were practically bursting from sheer exuberance and the fun of hanging out together! We ate at DragonFly (a great LatinAsian tapas kinda place in Old San Juan), drank mojitos, road in a San Juan cab (much more sedate than anything I was ever in in NYC), and loved the concert (where we got up to within 10 feet of the stage for the better part of the set)! It was delightful and what being with friends is all about, at its most silly and joyful.

Then there are those of you in the states who I miss like crazy. The good news is that cell phones, VOIP phones, email, and yes, even snail mail keep me in touch for the most part and for that I am so very grateful. The best thing about my bestest friends is that they all understand that even during long gaps in our communication and chances to be with each other, there is no sense of loss of friendship, no sense that one of us no longer cares or needs and wants the other. And, I always carry great memories of the silly, joyful – and also the “just there for each other” – moments we’ve shared. Two weeks ago, two of my great friends from the states, Katie and Jill, called and left a message just sharing one of those great memories (Katie and me drinking champagne and almost showing up late for a play that Jill got us tickets to go see). It made me smile just to hear their voices and the memory of the fun of that night made me laugh out loud.

I have had wonderful girl friends visit us here in Puerto Rico – Colette, Holly, Kathe, Tracy, Allison, Anne, Sara and Amy. And I hope and expect many many more to come. When I started this blog entry, I started counting my women friends, those who have made a difference in my life in such a positive way. I am still counting and have reached over 90 without even drawing a breath. This post only mentions a few names, but there are so many others who I hope will recognize themselves and know you have made my life a better journey because of your friendship.

In the world of work, Trudy has been one of my dearest friends for over 25 years. I adore her and she is without question, one of my guardian angels. I also have wonderful friends through WMU – CTAC, the SPPA Dept., and the College of Health and Human Services, at KRESA (and the P.E.T. program), at Gobles Schools, and Van Buren Intermediate School District – all people who have become much more than co-workers, they have been and are my friends. Sandy and Connie, I’m still hoping you’ll both make it here to visit in the not-too-distant future. Holly and Donna – spread the word, it’s a great place to vacation and I would love to see so many more friends here.

In the world of neighbors and family friends, I have been blessed with so many generous and life-loving people - Patty, Shelly, Pat, Linda, Bonnie all have been there for me and John, both. We love you and miss you. Here in Puerto Rico, I don’t know what I would do without Marisol who has become like a sister to me. And, Suzanne, Michelle, Mary, Patty, Rosie, Kelly, Kendra, Poppi, Lisa, Tina, Pat, Jen Y., Sharon, Elaine, Lourdes, Andrea, Sarah, and Jen S. make me smile on a regular basis because they are more than people who come to Ola Lola’s, they are all our friends!

In the world of school, I have friends that I never knew could be so close – Cindy K. (all the way from preschool), Jen P., Colette, Shannon, and Erin (from WMU) have been my allies and best buds through tears and partying and everything in between.

Then there are people you just know came into your life for a reason, and you’ll never ever figure out what you did to deserve them. This includes so many of my sweet wonderful women friends from the kite community (Ann, Kathy B., Karen R., Kathe, Allison, Susan, Tracy, Donna, Paula, Mary, Bette), dear friends Stacie and Piper, Nancy, Katie and Jill, Katy M., daughters (Sara and Amy), sisters (Mary and Amy), wondrous sis-in-laws, Julie and Cathy (who always makes me laugh and wins in the "losing weight and looking gorgeous" category), special nieces (Shawna, congrats on the engagement!), my adopted mom and sisters, Mum E., Hazel, Rose, and Margaret in England, my Grammy (Ann) and Grandma Lucille. And, most of all, it includes my own mother (who died more than 20 years ago), and Marti, John’s mom who became my new mom and a best friend of the heart and soul from the moment I met her (she died 3 years ago and I still miss her almost every day).

During the past year, there are several of these amazing women who literally have saved my life and helped me start a new one here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart and for a lifetime to Trudy, Ann, Elizabeth, Katie, Jill, Abby, Jen, Pat, and Sandy. Erin and Nancy, you each gave me “breathing lessons” and gave me a sense of peace when I couldn’t find it myself (and I am sending you special hugs to help you through tough times). Special thank you and love to Sara, who was there when I was down to the wire to finish packing and had no way to lift one more thing. And, thank you and special Happy 1st Mother’s Day with love to Amy, who has given me the sweetest (and sometimes funniest) mothering when I need it most and is now sharing her joy of being a mom to Kennedy Anne with me.

And, to all of the many other friends John and I share both in the states and here in Puerto Rico, we wish you a very HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY from Ola Lola's!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

May is Better Hearing and Speech month

"Hi! I'm talking to you. Can you hear me now? Do you understand me?" It may not be just a bad cell phone connection. I may have a speech problem. Or you may have a hearing problem.

Speech and language disorders can affect anyone at any age. Millions of infants, children, and adults in America suffer from a communication or swallowing disorder. It may be difficulty in swallowing or a disorder such as stuttering, or delayed speech and language development, or a voice problem, or a person’s ability to learn and interact with others. If you suspect you or a loved one may be experiencing a communication or swallowing disorder, consult a speech-language pathologist.

Millions more Americans of all ages and from all walks of life suffer from some degree of hearing loss. Early detection can save valuable treatment time and enhance language development for babies and young children. Early testing can also help prevent a child’s hearing impairment from being mislabeled later as a learning disorder. For teenagers and young adults, identification of a hearing problem can improve academic performance and social interaction. For adults and the elderly, a proper hearing evaluation can increase confidence in communication with friends, family, and colleagues. If you notice signs of hearing loss, consult an audiologist.

May is "Better Hearing and Speech Month." It's a time to celebrate the awesome miracle of communication. You can learn more about speech or hearing disorders, including how to find a speech-language pathologist or audiologist near you, by contacting the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) at

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

festival de chiringas

Last Sunday we went to our first Puerto Rican kite festival. We'd heard there were festivals all over the island but we haven't been able to get to one until now. (The festivals are all on weekends [duh!] and Ola Lola's is open so we can't stray too far away - we need to be able to get back in time to open.)

One of our big questions about kite festivals here as been "where?" This is a mountainous island. Granted, we haven't seen the whole island (yet) but we haven't seen a lot of flat open spaces. On the whole, the beaches are too narrow for a festival, at least as we think them in the States. Except for one pretty small area, this is certainly true in Aguadilla where Sunday's festival was held.

The festivals here are very different from kite festivals we ran and attend in the States. There were familiar quiet moments of a child learning the joy of flying a kite but this festival at least seemed to be more about the competitions (biggest, smallest, etc.). It was in a very small (by our standards at least), very enclosed (by almost any standard) space. Kites from previous competitive groups were still in the air when the next group launched. It was kinda like "Mass Ascension meets Rokaku Battle."

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

World Wide KAP Weekend

This weekend is the first World Wide KAP weekend. If you've been reading this blog for a while or checking out our pictures on Flickr, you probably know KAP is kite aerial photography. That is, we KAPpers suspend a camera from a kite line and use the kite to lift the camera skyward giving us a unique perspective on the world. The camera shutter is triggered by some means. There are many many different types of cradles to hold the camera. Some are very simple; some are quite elaborate and allow the KAPper all kinds of control. Many use some kind of radio control - usually adapted from RC airplane gear - to control shutter, vertical tilt and horizontal rotation.

While a view KAPpers use a video downlink so they can see what the camera is pointed at, most of us rely on guess-and-by-golly-I-think-I'm-aiming-at-that-building (or whatever). The downloaded pictures at the end of a KAP session always contain surprises, some good, some...well, not so good. To paraphrase Forest Gump's mother, KAP is like a box of chocolates - you never know what you're going to get til you get home.

My personal goal for WWKAP2008 was to KAP some place, some thing, I haven't KAPped before. When our friend/hero/master KAPper Craig was here last month, we talked about KAPping the ruins of the old Spanish lighthouse. The lighthouse was built in 1886 between what we know as Borinquen and Wilderness beaches. It was destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami in 1918.

KAPping there presents some challenges. First the winds are very gusty and swirly. I've tried KAPping at Borinquen beach before but I've never been able to get a kite up and anywhere near stable enough to launch the camera rig. I hoped that getting farther away from the cliff at Borinquen and up a little off the beach would help. It did but not as much as I'd hoped. The kite flew side-to-side, setting the camera rig swinging like a pendulum. Sometimes the wind seemed to stop taking all the lift at out of the kite. Twice the camera rig crashed to the ground (fortunately no harm done). At one point the kite over-flew me, something it normally doesn't do. I watched, more or less helplessly, as my camera rig sailed over my head and behind me. All I could think of was, "Oh, this isn't good!"

And then there's the little matter of the airplanes. This site is directly off the end of the runway at the Aguadilla airport. Everything coming into Aguadilla flies right over this spot on short final approach. Under other circumstances, I would let the kite fly higher to find more stable air. Can't do that here.

But, hey - if it was easy, everybody would do it. (I seem to be on a roll quoting Tom Hanks' movies today.)

Anyway, all's well that ends well. Kite and camera flew and were recovered successfully. I did get a few pictures of the ruins and there were surprises. The photo above is my favorite. so it was a successful WWKAP weekend for me: successful launch, successful flight and recovery, and I KAPped something I haven't KAPped before. This is a site I will go back to in different light, armed with a little more experience.

You can see more the rest of the lighthouse shots on our Flickr site, and check out the rest of the World Wide KAP weekend photos on the WWKAP Flickr site ( There are some truly amazing photos.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Feliz cinco de mayo

Cinco de mayo - a minor Mexican holiday at best . In the US it's a holiday invented by Corona to sell beer to gringos. Ah, well - any excuse will do. If you're anywhere near Ola Lola's tonight, we've got Corona and we'll be glad to see you one (or three). Elaine also has some wonderful south-of-the-border (or in our case, west-of-the-island) specials on the menu for tonight. So stop by and sing along with the mariachi music.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Happy anniversary, Zan!

Today is Zan's one year anniversary on the island. Yep, one year, nine car-bumps, one dinged surf board, and a few glasses of wine later, Zan is still here and one of our very favorite people. We're glad you're with us, Zan!

Today we also get ready to say a TEMPORARY good-bye to Andrea, another of our favorite people. Life is taking her off the island and back to the States for a while. We'll miss ya while you're gone, girl. Come back and see us often!

Thursday, May 01, 2008

May Day, May Day...

Happy May Day! Wow - where did April go? We've cruised through spring and now it's starting to feel like summer.

We thought this might be a good time for an update on the bemega-project. You'll recall there was a public hearing about this project - a proposal to build 110 apartments practically right on Shacks Beach - two weeks ago. Well the news is - no news. Not as is in "no news is good news," just NO NEWS.

One of the irregularities at the public hearing was the people running the hearing gave no indication of a timeline, no suggestion of when a decision would or might be made, or how and when that decision would be communicated to the parties involved. So far, there has been no word either way.

There are indications at least one government agency is opposing the project because of the flooding problem, unless the developers find (and fund!) a way to resolve the whole flooding issue for the entire area.

So for now, we're pretty much waiting but carefully watching the proceedings in San Juan as best we can, and hope the project as proposed is dead, or at least dying. Huge "thank you's" to everyone who wrote, signed petitions, and worked in so many ways to help protect the beaches, the dunes and the ocean. Stay tuned.