Thursday, July 31, 2008

Projects over the last week, er, month, Chapter 3

As July slides into August, there are a bunch of birthdays in July I missed -

Our nieta, Kennedy Anne (I kinda think I mighta mentioned this one)
Elaine's dad, Ted
Elaine's sister, Mary
Our good friends, Tina (above, with husband Ron) and Sarah
My sister, Cathy (hope you're settled in your new home - send me your phone number will ya?)
Phil B. - kite flyer extraordinaire, famous magazine publisher, world renowned naturalist (naturalist, not naturist) who thinks turning 40 makes him special - hey, Phil, been there, done that, got several "over-the-hill" T-shirts.

Happy birthday to all - and to all those I inevitably missed, my apologies and happy birthday to you as well!

So what else is happening?

There is the preparation for the kite festival next spring. Through Stanley (of golf course fame) we met his cousin, Aidita, whose family just happens to produce big outdoor concerts (among other things). She knows a LOT about sponsorship and promotion here on the island. And she willing to help us go after some big sponsors. There is nothing else here on the island like what we want to do, either in terms of the festival or in terms of promoting environmental protection, and Aidita believes sponsors will love it. The only hickup is we need to have all our site permits locked up in NOW so we can get into sponsors' budgets for next year. We found out two weeks ago we need about 40 pages of documentation to get the one truly necessary permit from the DRNA (Department of Natural Resources) to use the beach. And as we've written before, permits and documents don't move quickly in Puerto Rico. We've tried for two weeks to meet with the DRNA but so far that hasn't happened. We have a meeting tomorrow with representatives from the Mayor's office. We're hoping they can help.

Speaking of permits, we're still trying to nail down the last two permit renewals for Ola Lola's. We thought we had them done but we got a letter from one of the agencies that added a new requirement. So now we have to get another endorso (endorsement) from our neighbor and take it to ARPE (one of the many regulatory agencies). That's proving more illusive as well.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Ola Lola Open gives check to Save the Horses

Elaine presents Greg Jackson, founder and president of Save the Horses, Inc.,
a donation check from the Ola Lola Open Golf Outing. Light Will Be On, one of the rescued thoroughbred horses, looks on.

We spent two wonderful days at Hacienda Siesta Alegre, the ranch that is home to Save the Horses, Inc. One of the highlights in a weekend (well, our "weekend" anyway) of highlights was presenting a donation check to Save the Horses, Inc.

It was a modest donation but our donation is the first. It opens the bank account and gets Save the Horses, Inc. started on the track to saving 200 thoroughbred race horses this year.

And what magnificent horses they are! We don't know why some of them are rescues - not fast enough, temperament not suited for racing, whatever. But the ones we met are beautiful and excellent mounts. Elaine got to ride three of them. She even rode in the horse-and-rider test staged by the trainers. The test was to see how the horses were responding to training. They ranged from a horse who has been "off the track" and training at the ranch for several weeks to the one Elaine rode, a big, dark stallion being ridden for only the fifth time since coming from the track (he's the horse in the picture above).

With only a few days of training, these spirited two- and three-year-old athletes performed the following tasks with a rider aboard: 1) stand perfectly still while being mounted from the wrong (right) side; 2) go under a large hanging torn blue tarp blowing in the breeze; 3) back in an "L" shape between obstacles on the ground; 4) go over 3 small jumps; 5) weave between 4 barrels (3 times); 6) allow the rider to lean over, pick up an object off the barrel, carry it the length of the course, and then throw it into a plastic box (3 times). This is pretty amazing stuff for any young horse. It's incredible when you consider the fact that these horses' training prior to coming to Hacienda Siesta Alegre was directed solely towards producing the most speed possible, all while turning left 'round a track.

All of the horses completed the course and the winning rider, Alejandro, did it in less than 2.5 minutes. Even Elaine, who admitted to being very nervous, finished the course. Credit for this remarkable horse re-training goes to Carol, the trainer for Hacienda Siesta Alegre, and Linda. And, they would both tell you that credit also goes to these wonderful horses and the versatility that is inherent in this breed. That's one of the main reasons that saving these horses is so important: with patience and some training, they will make excellent mounts and bring great joy to a new owner far removed from racing instead of having to be killed.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Save the Horses, Inc.

Thoroughbred racing at Camarero Race Track on the east side of the island. Click on the photo above to see a video from National Geographic.

Have we mentioned Save the Horses? Yes, I guess I did, in yesterday's post.

We are now up to our withers in this. Every year some 400-700 thoroughbred race horses are destroyed here on the island. Some are injured or ill but many just aren't fast enough to win races. They are expensive to keep. Unlike on the mainland, there are stables here that can take them and retrain them to be jumpers or dressage horses. In general, except for racing, there is no culture of thoroughbreds here. Our good friend Lisa, another avid horsewoman, talked to Elaine about a couple who are rescuing these thoroughbreds. Lisa shared her vision of a stable for rescued horses on this side of the island. Elaine of course was hooked! (Okay, so was I.)

There was an Associated Press article about it (here from the York [Penn.] Daily and here in pdf format from the AP) and you can watch the National Geographic news video about these horses.

Through Lisa, Elaine met and visited Greg and his wife Linda at their home on the other side of the island. In addition to owning thoroughbreds themselves, they have made it their mission to save/rescue as many of these beautiful animals as they can. Now, in less than a week we are working on building an informational and fundraising website. Once again, this is all in high we-need-the-site-up-last-week gear. We are going to the east side of the island to meet with Greg and Linda tomorrow. More news on this when we get back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The One and Only Ola Lola Open

"Wow!" "Holy Cow!" "Stunning! Just stunning!" Incredible!"

Those are pretty typical of the comments from golfers at the One and Only Ola Lola Open Golf Outing. And honestly, even the most over-the-top comments don't really do the course justice. It is truly spectacular.

"Oh! My! God! It was the best time ever!" (or some variant) was another frequently heard comment at the after-outing party which included lechon asada (roast pig), Marisol's wonderful arroz y gandules (rice & beans), Sarah's fabulous green banana salad and black bean and mango salsa, Caesar salad, bread and butter, cheese/meat snacks and chocolate cake for dessert.

Stanley (one of the course owners) and David (the course architect) welcomed everyone - golfer and duffer alike. Stanley (who is an amazing golfer himself) gave tips and lessons all through the outing.

When it's completed, this golf course will be a private course. This is likely the only time most of us will get to play on it. Huge thanks to Stanley, his brother Charlie, and David for sharing a beautiful day with us.

We started calling this a golf outing rather than a tournament or something else. When we started we figured we'd have six, maybe 10 people. By Saturday morning we were up to 26! We divided into two teams and all played together. Usually it's considered very bad form to have two people teeing-off or putting at the same time. Not at the Ola Lola Open! We did it pretty regularly. We gave the word "scramble" a whole new meaning!.

The after-party was amazing. After dinner Elaine had awards for everybody. She hand-customized golf-themed trinket boxes (I don't know what else to call them) for everyone. She had custom printed award certificates. Some of them were - Danny King: "Most forgetful golfer" (who shows up at a golf outing without his clubs and has to run home to get them?) Ron Smith: "Shortest Drive." Lucy Torres: "Best Rookie" (she had never played golf before Saturday). And so on. Elaine did her usual (I've come to expect it but never take it for granted) wonderful, blow-everybody-away job having the awards ready. Elaine also designed the beautiful, limited edition, now-it's-a-collector's-item T-shirt. (I hear there are already bids for one on E-Bay.)

The party was also a "farewell" to our wonderful friend, Jose, who is moving to Orlando, FL to get his certification as an airplane mechanic. We had some small gifts and a special cake decorated for him as well. He will be greatly missed by all of us here at Ola Lola's!

All told, the party ranked up there with the Everybody-with-a-birthday-in-September party and last year's Halloween party as one of the best, most memorable times at Ola Lola's.

We want to thank all the golfers who played and contributed. What started out as a little get-together to see the golf course turned into a mini-fundraiser for Save the Horses, Inc. and Rescate Playa Isabela. Contributions from golfers and the "profit" from the entrance fees add up to a modest donation to Save the Horses, Inc. (More about this in tomorrow's post.) We have a CD of pictures from the outing we're selling for $15, $10 of which is donated to Rescate Playa Isabela to help clean up and protect the beaches. So if you want to see more and help a great cause at the same time, buy a CD. On sale now in the lobby. Or e-mail us.

All in all it was a great day. Beautiful weather, beautiful course, great friends and a wonderful time. Thank you each and every one.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Projects over the last week, Chapter 2

The "office" under construction

The Ola Lola Open is only one of the major projects going on right now. The rebuilding of part of the outdoor kitchen is complete. We (I use the term loosely - our wonderful friend and handyman Bartolo did all the work)

La cocina under construction.............................................................The same area now

replaced some rotting wooden cabinets with (gasp!) cement. Okay, we've fallen partial victim to the Puerto Rican obsession with concrete but there are times when it is the best choice.

Now Bartolo is replacing part of a wall in the the "office" part of the house. We found evidence of termites in part of the wall (remember, we live in a wooden house in the tropics; termites are an ever-present threat) so a section of interior wall has to be replaced. We all thought this was going to be easy - take down a couple of shelves, take out a plywood panel, put up new panel and shelves in treated wood, paint, love the new look. What, a day? Two days maybe? But NO-O-O-O-O-O-O-O-O! Shelves, a whole interior wall and we're now on day four. For now our "office/living" room is in turmoil.

Plus, two nights a week we are taking conversational Spanish with our friend Marisol. She's trying desperately to get us mainlanders to at least be able to order in a restaurant for ourselves. She's doing a really good job. We have all improved tremendously. And Justin (a pilot for an airline that doesn't fly to Aguadilla) has learned a number of good pick-up lines and their proper use in the Latin culture. The rest of us are just happy to know what we're ordering and to get what we think we asked for. But I guess that's true of Justin too.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Projects over the last week, Chapter 1

My favorite hole on the Royal Isabela course. This is a KAP photo taken over the tee box. The green is over there at the edge of the cliff.

I've written a couple of times before about this amazing golf course being built on the bluff above the ocean on the other side of Isabela. This Saturday, at the invitation of the owners, Stanley and Charlie, and David, the course architect, about 20 Ola Lola friends are going to play the One and Only Ola Lola Open Golf Outing. (It's the "one and only" because when the course is complete, it will be a private club.) We've been talking about this for a while but the date just got settled last Friday so we've spent a lot of time in the past week preparing for that. All 18 holes aren't finished yet so I think we're only going to play nine holes. But knowing how proud (and rightly so!) Stanley and David are, I suspect there will be tours of the rest of the course.

After golf, we're coming back to Ola Lola's for lechon asada, better known on the mainland as a pig roast. We have the best lechon any of us have ever tasted coming on Saturday.

Saturday is also our farewell to another good friend, Jose. He leaves next week to go to Virginia to get his certification in aircraft mechanics. He is a wonderful mechanic. He can fix anything from an F-15 to our little beer-getter. We wish Jose all the best and sincerely hope he will find a way to bring his new certification back here to work.

You'll hear (well, read) more about the golf and the party after Saturday.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Personal news-y stuff

Today is my baby sister's birthday. HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Sis!

Our local friends Widy and Obeth had a baby girl three weeks ago but we just saw her for the first time Sunday. Mother and baby are doing fine. Papa looks like he's holding up well, too.

Our wonderful Stateside friends Jen and Jason had a baby girl this weekend. Savannah Lynn is doing fine, thank you, as are her parents.

Zan got back to the island yesterday after a week "home" near Detroit. Home cooking, stateside shopping and the 4th of July at the Grosse Ile Yacht Club seem to have refreshed her.

Our good friend Brian came back to the island for a work-related visit this week. It's great to see him and to catch up on news of Lesa, their son Mitch, daughter Kayla and life back in smokey California. Hopefully next time Brian comes down Lesa can come with him. We all miss them both.

Brian and Lesa's son Mitch is a musician and song writer - you might remember he played here at Ola Lola's a couple of times last year. Well, he and his bandmates in CA have recorded some of his music and put it up on MySpace - Check 'em out.

This week we said goodby to one Bajuras's long-time characters. After almost nine years here, teaching the rest of us how to live here, Jen is moving to Miami to be with her new husband. Jen was a trailguide at Tropical Trailrides (just up the road from Lola's). In fact she was the guide on our first trailride here and has been a friend ever since. Jen, we will miss you. Best of luck in your new life from all of us at Ola Lola's.

The first hurricane of the season is swirling around out there in the Atlantic. It made a quick jump from Tropical Storm to Cat. 1 and right to Cat. 3 with sustained wind around 120 mph and gusts up to 150 mph. Bertha is well north and east of us and is predicted to continue curving north away from us so this one shouldn't be any problem. The surfers are hoping it generates some northeast swell for us through the middle of the week. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Festival de la hamaca

Yesterday we went to the Nacional Festival de la Hamaca in San Sebastiań. Our word "hammock" comes down through the Spanish from the Taino word, "hamaca." These Taino women, one pregnant and one nursing, lying in their hamacas, were made by one of the artisans exhibiting at the festival. (There are a few more photos from the festival on Flickr.)

While there weren't many hammock makers displaying their works, it was a great time. We saw some wonderful art and craft works and met a number of amazing artisans. This in itself was a good thing. We've been asked a number of times "where are the local artist hangouts and craft shops?" Until now we really didn't have an answer. Now we know. Artisans do exist but what craft shops there are, for the most part are closer to the more touristy places in and near Viejo San Juan.

We keep resisting the urge to expand Ola Lola's to include more artisan wares (and kites). To do so would mean we'd have to expand into more of a retail (ugh!) environment. We don't really have the space for it here so that would mean finding and renting (double ugh!) a space. And wherever we did it, it would mean expanding to retail hours (double triple ugh!). So for now, except for a few pieces that we find fit well here at Ola Lola's, we just enjoy most artwork we find from a distance.

We took Amber and Jazz to the festival. They haven't been out socializing nearly as much here as they were in Michigan. That's partly because we don't go out as much to places they can go. We used to take them just about any- and everywhere. They did great in the crowds. The heat was a bit much for them but sitting in the shade, sharing our lechon asada (roast pork) lunch and a big bucket of water seemed to help.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

KAP at Jobos, July 4

I did KAP another crowded beach on the 4th, this time at Jobos. I had some "technical difficulties" so I didn't get as many pictures as I thought I did but I did get a few good ones.

This is the best of the bunch. Compare that with the photo below of the same beach but taken on a non-holiday, winter morning.

I may try to KAP some more this weekend but we're going to a hammock festival today. Hey - any place that has a festival to celebrate hammocks, I gotta go to. We'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy 4th of July

Hope you all have a wonderful safe fun 4th of July holiday.

This picture is a KAP taken last 4th of July of the beach at Montones, part of the beach a couple of miles east of us.

July 4th is one of three back to back summer holidays here in Puerto Rico. The first is Noche de San Juan, the night of Saint John, honoring St. John the Baptist. This is an "unofficial" holiday the night of June 23-24. People camp out (and party!) on the beach until midnight when, according to tradition they throw themselves backward into the ocean three times, supposedly to remember John baptising Jesus. Who knows? It may have been a truly religious holiday at one time - and probably still is for some people. Mostly it seems like a good excuse to ignore laws against camping on the beach and party all night. This year's celebration was pretty subdued. We had a beautiful lightning show that lasted for hours. The storm passed right over us and then moved out to sea. Interestingly, it didn't rain, just lots of lightning and thunder.

Like I said, the 4th is the second holiday, again with camping and partying on the beach. The third is Constitution Day on July 25 with follows a similar pattern to the other two.

There are two other "local hero" holidays in July. July 15 is the birthday of Don Luis Muñoz Rivera. Muñoz Rivera (1859–1916) was a prominent journalist, poet, and politician who advocated independence from Spain and later, the United States. His son Luis Muñoz Marín was the first democratically elected governor of Puerto Rico. In recent years his birthday celebration has been included in with the 4th of July.

July 27 is the birthday of Dr. José Celso Barbosa (1857–1921), a medical doctor and an early advocate of statehood, founder of the Republican Party on the Island. This is a Commonwealth holiday and all government offices and banks are closed. Sadly, many Puerto Ricans don't know who Barbosa was or why July 27 is a holiday.

End of history lesson for today.

I hope to get some KAP pictures of the beaches today. But Lola's is open tonight and we have a lot to do to get ready. You'll know tomorrow if I got pictures today.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kennedy Anne!

Kennedy Anne is one year old today! Happy Birthday, nieta!

Much love to you and your mama from tu abuela y abuelo

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Good news to share on Canada Day

"Oh, Canada..."

Happy Canada Day! Especially to Jen, Trevor and their multinational baby Jackie.

We have good news about the mega-project!

We've written before about the plans to build a five-story tall, 110-unit condo complex right on Shacks Beach and some of the efforts (and consequences of those efforts) to stop the project.

Well, "little" people CAN make a difference against the rich and powerful! In the face of much vocal local opposition the developers of the project have WITHDRAWN their request for variances that would have allowed them to build higher, closer to the dunes and with buildings closer together than zoning allows. They have decided to revert back to the much smaller project that was approved for the site in 1999. Although we don't (and probably will never) know all the reasons behind their decision, we think they may be facing the possibility of not being able to build anything on that site.

This will probably not be the end of the dispute - there are still several issues even with the original plans. And things have changed since 1999. They may not even be able to build the project that was approved then. That remains to be seen. For now, in the short run, this is a victory for us poor, powerless folk who don't want to see Shacks Beach turned to an overdeveloped strip like some of the beaches in Rincon.

We will continue to keep you updated as we know/learn more. At the moment, we're celebrating!

Thank you for your interest and your support as we've worked to protect the dunes, beaches and reefs we love so much. And special thanks to the voice of our community (she prefers to remain anonymous). She has been coming to this area since she was a child with her grandparents and grew up appreciating the beauty of the area.

She says "I know my grandparents, who have both passed, wanted me to speak up for them, for us and for future generations. Without the support of my husband and others in the community who were not afraid to join forces and say "NO", my voice would not have been strong enough to prevail. I hope this is an example for other communities in Puerto Rico and elsewhere, that together you can and will be heard. Bottom line, don't complain, if you are not willing to do something about it."

Without her, they would probably be pouring tons of concrete on the dune by now.