Friday, December 30, 2011
After lunch, we headed east for our first vacation in six years. We spent Christmas night at a friends in Fajardo and on Boxing Day morning we boarded the ferry for Vieques.
Vieques is the largest of the islands off the eastern point of "la isla grande" (the big island) of Puerto Rico, south and east of Fajardo. We (obviously) live on an island and for us to go to "the mainland" means going to the States. For Vieques residents, Puerto Rico is the mainland. They take the ferry back and forth to work, to go shopping, for a lot to things.
Vieques is an island of contrasts. The beaches - especially on the southern Caribbean side - are everything a Caribbean beach should be: stunning long arcs of brilliant white sugar sand melting into sparkling blue waters. Much of the eastern third of the island, including many of the best beaches, is a nature preserve under the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a wildlife refuge in part to keep people out. This is the part of the island the U.S. Navy and Marines used for live-fire target practice from 1948 until 2003. There is so much unexploded ordinance and contamination in this part of the island no one is allowed except for a narrow strip along the shore to reach the beaches. So there is all this natural beauty but it's really only protected because it's not safe to go there.
The Navy took over two-thirds (22,000 of 33,000 acres) in 1941, displacing two-thirds of the population. The Navy began live-fire bombing exercises on Vieques in 1948 and continued until 2003.
There were sporadic protests against the bombing exercises and the Navy's occupation of the island over the years. Protests started in earnest in 1999 when a civilian Navy employee, Vieques-native David Sanes, was killed when two bombs dropped by a Marine Corps jet missed their target by a mile-and-a-half. The Navy stopped targeting Vieques and left the island in May, 2003.
We'll have more on our trip to Vieques over the coming days. Unfortunately, there won't be a lot of photos. The memory card that had most of the pictures from the trip imploded and is now dead. Sad, but we have memories and we'll try to share them in words.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Happy Anniversary to US and to Ola Lola's!
Seven years ago today we got married on a beach in Barbados.
Five years ago today we opened Ola Lola's in Puerto Rico.
You know you’ve become part of the Puerto Rican flora and fauna when:
You are on a first-name basis with the frog(s) in your bathroom.
Lizards are a regular wall decoration in your home.
Six-foot iguanas sitting in the middle of the road or hanging out in the trees don’t even phase you.
You own a Mazda pick-up truck and think nothing of putting a few pieces of wood rail across the back and sides and using it to haul 2 horses.
Horses loose in a neighborhood are no cause for alarm.
You wake up at 3:00 am, 4:00am, 5:00 am and 6:00 am to a rooster crowing under your window.
You go to sleep with a thousand chirping coquis (tree frogs) as your lullaby.
You see a woman tying up her goat or cow outside a store while she goes in to get a few groceries.
You see not one, but several, older men riding 1-speed bicycles as their primary means of transportation, often pulling a cart full of cut grasses to take back for their horses.
You are on the beach and see a pack of dogs – all sizes and shapes – while you eat your picnic lunch, and all of them either stay away or come over closer with their tails wagging, looking for handouts.
You go to the airport and see people with their dogs INSIDE the airport waiting to greet relatives or friends getting off the plane.
You see a horse in a field and there’s an egret sitting on top of it while it’s grazing.
You use a weed whacker or machete as your primary means of “mowing the lawn” and as soon as you finish, it’s grown enough you need to start again.
Horses tied in empty river beds or alongside the road with a rope around their neck are a common sight.
You have to wait on a major highway while dozens of cattle cross it to move from one pasture to another.
You’re watching a hummingbird dart from one hibiscus plant to another while you hear a hawk’s cry as it soars over the cliff.
While you’re out snorkeling, you see sea turtles, reef squid, spotted eagle rays, thousands of different fish, eels, crabs, flounders, bristle worms, sea urchins, and maybe even a dolphin, nurse shark or a manatee.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Deep fried pizza. Is there anything better than that?
Actually, it's not all that good. It should be much better than it is.
Turns out there is a Saturday afternoon practice/training/demonstration cockfight in the middle of town.
I am in no way any kind of fan of any kind of animal - dogs, roosters, people - fighting. But I admit to a certain fascination with the culture of cockfighting. Why? Why do people do this? There was a sense of a community "fair" about this: families and children gathered around, everybody talking about the merits of this rooster or another, food vendors hawking empanadias and soft drinks and beer. One teenager rode up on a scooter with his wire cage draped over the handlebars and his fighting cock under his arm. (I am truly sorry I missed that picture!)
Cockfighting is a very old "sport." (I used the term guardedly.) For a long time it was quite pervasive in the islands all over the Caribbean. Louisiana was the last state in the US to outlaw cockfighting - and that was just in 2008. Now it's just underground instead of out in the open.
Cockfighting - and betting on cockfights - is still legal here in Puerto Rico. There is nothing underground about it here. I know people who make their living raising and fighting cocks. Part of the "demonstration" in San Antonio was to display and market fighting cocks to potential buyers.
We didn't actually get to see a cockfight, even a demonstration one. The fights weren't scheduled to start until 3:00 and we had to get back to open Ola Lola's. One of the things on my to-do list is to make a documentary abut this culture here on the island. Maybe I'll understand it better then.
Saturday, December 17, 2011
Last night we felt not one but three temblors/terremotos/earthquakes. According to the Puerto Rico Seismic network between 2:06 and 2:14 am, there were three quakes in the same area offshore in the Mona Passage about 10 miles west of Mayaquez. Mayaquez is about an hour drive south of us.
The two stronger quakes, magnitude 5.1 and 5.3 respectively, were in almost exactly the same spot about three minutes apart. We felt them shake the house enough to wake us up. I've looked around and I don't see any damage. So far nobody has reported any damage on Facebook.
Earthquakes are pretty common all around la isla. In fact there have been four more quakes in that same are of the Mona Passage since the three last night. We just don't feel most of them. Most are in the magnitude 2.1 - 3.2 range with occasional 4.+ "events." Most are offshore and fairly deep (10-40 km) deep in the earth's crust. But every now and then we get a surprise.
Last night was one of those times and one of those surprises.
Friday, December 16, 2011
We took Kennedy to the beach Thursday afternoon to see the big waves. Elaine wrote Kennedy's name in the sand just above the wave line.
Kennedy thought this was so cool she got a big stick and started drawing in the sand herself.
It was so much fun to watch her create her beach masterpiece. She has amazing talent and motor skills for such a little one.
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Fun times, fun times! If I can't be diving myself, shooting pictures of surfers is my next favorite activity here.
Monday, December 12, 2011
It was a great fun night with a wonderful - make that two wonderful - performers. Thanks To Rique for performing and to everyone who came out to party with us.
Friday, December 09, 2011
Thursday, December 08, 2011
You can see all the best photos from both sessions on our website, www.puertoricosurfphoto.com
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Well, that last dive appears to have been a one-shot deal for a while. For now, SURF'S UP!
Got some beautiful pictures at a sunset session at Wilderness yesterday. I love it when the light gets behind the wave and it glows like turquoise neon.
All the photos from this session are up on our website, PuertoRicoSurfPhoto.com. Take a few minutes and check them out.