Thursday, January 31, 2008

Other sports

I tend to write about and photograph the "ocean sports" - snorkeling, SCUBA diving, surfing, kite surfing - because those are the ones that interest me most.

But there are other sports on the island. Baseball, basketball and volleyball are the most popular on pro and semi-pro levels. Soccer has a small but growing following. We even have a United Soccer League (USL) team, the Islanders, that plays in Bayamon.

Kite surfing is not the only aerial sport either. I spotted these hang gliders (looking more than a little like the Starship Enterprise) riding the currents against the cliff above Middles Beach. These two were soon joined by two more. We see ultralight aircraft, gyro-copters, and paragliders (those things that look like a big parachute with a lawn chair and big fan below them) pretty regularly. On the other side of the island sailing is pretty popular in the San Juan area.

Puerto Rico is one of the few places in the U.S. where cock fighting is legal. It's not as brutal as some places - they don't put blades on the roosters' spurs for example. But it's still hard for our sensibilities to take. We haven't been to a cock fight (yet) but I'm hoping to do a documentary video about them in the near future. We'll let you know.

And, for some, putting ball in a hoop 10 feet off the ground isn't challenging enough. They do it on ONE wheel. Here's a two-on-two game in one of the local neighborhood courts.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Many of you have seen my Kite Aerial Photography (KAP). (This one is from last October.) One of my heroes is Craig Wilson, a KAP-master from Madison, Wisconsin. Craig does amazing work.
The current issue of a magazine called Madison Originals is featuring Craig and his KAP work. You can download a pdf of the magazine at
You can also see Craig's work in the Kite Aerial Photography group on Flickr. His screen name is KAP'n Craig. His work is just amazing.

Oh, yeah - he's a really nice guy and good friend. Check out his stuff. It's good!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Has it been a week??

Has it really been a week since I last posted? Almost. And I can't believe it's the end of January.

It's been crazy busy. Ola Lola's is BOOMING! Our 9:00 o'clock "closing" time has slid to 10:00 or 10:30 and lately 11:30 or MIDNIGHT. That's later than we want it to be but it means people are enjoying themselves and having a good time and don't want to leave. And I gotta admit, it means business is good.

We're finally past Christmas here. Surf season is in high gear. Big waves coming in tonight and tomorrow. I've been out shooting surfers as much as possible. I got some great shots (if I say so myself; the one above - titled "Wave Dancer" - is one of my favorites) last week in the late afternoon. And the winds have been rippin'! So lots of kite surfing pictures as well. And lots of processing and editing.

I'd say go check out the photos on the web site but is getting so many hits, we went over our bandwidth allowance for January! Looks like we're going to have to increase the traffic allowance. In the mean time, you can still see a selection of the best of the photos on Flickr.

There are supposed to be monster waves - 20 footers maybe - coming later this week so I may be doing a lot of shooting. But I've got more post to write so it won't be a week between them.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Christmas must really be over

It has nothing to do with Christmas, but I saw this stick stuck (a stuck stick?) on the edge of the deck. When I tried to pull it off (to unstick the stick as it were), it MOVED! It's not a stick at all. It's a bug. Kinda cute and really well camouflaged - except when it's stuck to the deck.

Now to Christmas - The village of San Antonio took down their Christmas light from the plaza. (If you remember, they were among the first to put lights up.) And this morning I took the Christmas lights off the Ola Lola's web site home page. Still haven't taken the "tree" down from the front of Ola Lola's though. Our family tradition is we don't take down our Christmas tree until at least Valentine's Day. This year we're going to change the green rope lights and the star on top of the tree for red rope lights and a heart and make it a Valentine's tree. We may never take it down. Just keep changing it for whatever season it is.

We got word today that a dear dear friend of ours, another kite flyer, passed away. Brisas suaves, Tom.

Yesterday was beautiful here. Great waves for the surfers, big wind for kite surfers, sunny and warm all day. I missed the surfing and kite surfing (but not the sunny and warm parts) because it was a day of work around the house.

Our friend Tito helped us replace the shutter on the "guest room" and repair a couple of other doors. I'm building a railing around the little deck and putting fishnet in all the upstairs railings to make them safe for our grand daughter Kennedy who is coming to visit next week. Lots of little chores that tend to get put off 'cause doing them would interfere with play time. But they gotta get done some time. Speaking of which, Tito is here to finish up so I gotta go.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The two seasons of Puerto Rico

I had to go to (GASP!) both WalMart and KMart today. If the "big 2" are the indicators, Puerto Rico has two seasons - Christmas and Summer.

All the Christmas stuff - even the close-outs - are gone from both stores. In the space where Christmas used to be they are now re-installing the Summer lawn-and-garden centers. Those spaces will remain lawn-and-garden until the second week of September when they revert to North Pole South.

Of course, Christmas and Summer are our two favorite seasons anyway so we're fine with that. And, with apologies to those of you still suffering through it, Christmas and Summer are seasons we prefer over Winter and Road Construction, which are the two seasons in Michigan.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Small waves, big wind

The waves were small so we did go snorkeling on Wednesday. It felt really good to be in the water.

But the big news has been the wind. The surfers are missing the waves but the kite surfers are lovin' it! Wednesday and Thursday our friends Eric (that's him in the picture), Charlie and others were rippin' it up at Shacks Beach. I heard there were a bunch of kite surfers down the way at Montones Beach also. It's so easy just to walk out to Shacks ("our" beach) and there's so much to see and do that sometimes it's hard to make myself go somewhere where else. If the wind comes up today, I may check out Montones. Variety is good, right?

There are pictures from both Wednesday and Thursday on Flickr and

PRSP has been getting a lot of traffic, lots of people checking out the photos. A few of the Stateside surfers tell me they look at it regularly to get an idea of what conditions here are like - and just to remind themselves of why they love this area.

With a couple of days of voting left in the Lonely Planet "motion" challenge, my surfing photo is tied for sixth, seven votes behind the leaders. At least one of our regular readers logged on and voted for it. Thank you!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Speaking of Flickr

Lonely Planet travel guides has a page on Flickr. Every two weeks they hold "challenges" for photos with different themes. Photographers can submit one photo then everybody votes for their favorite five photos.

The current theme is "motion." This photo of Kaela Kennelly (taken in October at Middles Beach) is currently tied for fifth place, six votes behind the leader.

Yeaaa! It's all for fun but it's nice when somebody likes one's work.

"Everybody's workin' for the weekend..."

Wow! (I use that word a lot down here but that's the way I feel about things.) It's our weekend and we're enjoying it!

It's been a busy week here - both at Ola Lola's and away from the business.

Elaine and I had our first yoga class today. I've always known yoga was harder than it looked but I had no idea how much harder. You find out really quickly what parts are tight and kinked up and need stretching. But it's only the first class. We'll do better next week. Poco a poco. (Little by little.)

Congratulations to Mike and Michelle who were married this week up up on the mountain. They - and all their friends - spent the evening before the wedding celebrating at Ola Lola's. We've hosted many wedding parties but I think this one gets the prized for longest distance traveled: most of the wedding party was from various parts of Alaska! Bit of a change of scenery and weather for them!

We toasted the (almost) newly-weds with coquito and fun and much joy and laughter. Congratulations, you two.

The weekend was pretty good for surf pictures also. I got some good ones Friday and Sunday. I love taking the pictures but the post-processing - downloading them, editing them, doing whatever corrections they need - is time consuming. I like doing it, but it takes me away from other things - like writing the blog. But I think the results are worth it. You can see the best of them in two new sets on Flickr and more on Check 'em out. Let me know what you think.

Not much snorkeling or diving this week. Between the wind and the waves it's been too rough. But t0day, this afternoon, is beautiful so we're headin' out in a few minutes. Hopefully we'll have some new pictures to share. If not, well, we're supposed to go diving tomorrow morning. And there are always more stories to tell (even if it takes me a while to get around to telling them).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Back in the water

We've had big waves and big winds the last week or so. The waves have been churned up so for the most part they haven't been very good for surfing (although a few hardy souls have been out anyway).

Yesterday the wind died down, the waves were calm so we wen snorkeling off Shacks Beach for the first time in a long while. Among other things, we saw this porcupine fish. They're kinda cute and almost cuddly - until they puff up and their spines come out. Mostly they just hang out under rock or coral ledges and stare at you with those big eyes.

One weather note: While folks back in the States were enjoying unseasonably warm weather, it has been cool here, especially at night. Last Friday night people at Ola Lola's were wearing jeans and sweatshirts or fleece jackets. Not that we're looking for (or expecting!) sympathy, but it's just interesting that we were probably dressed about the same as y'all in Michigan for a couple of days. But it looks like things are returning to normal, both there and here.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Dia de Los Reyes

For many - especially those stateside - the holiday season came to an end on January 2nd. Back to work, back to school for some, the holidays are over.

But not here in Puerto Rico. The biggest holiday of the season is happening now. Today is "Dia de Los Reyes" or Three Kings Day. Known elsewhere as Epiphany or Twelfth Night, this holiday is 12 days after Christmas, January 6th. In Catholic Church doctrine it celebrates the coming of the three wise men - the three kings - to Bethlehem with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In Puerto Rico Dia de Reyes is bigger than Christmas Day. Many families exchange small gifts on Christmas Day but save the "big" ones for Three Kings Day.

On January 5th, the eve of Three Kings Day, children and families cut grass or hay. They then tie the grass in small bundles placing them in shoebox-size boxes, often decorated just for this day. The boxes, with the grass to feed the kings' camels (or horses, since there are no camels in Puerto Rico) and sometimes cookies and treats for the kings themselves, are place under the children's beds. The children may also take boxes to the homes of relatives for them to place under their beds. In the night, while the children sleep, the "kings" take the grass and treats and leave presents in their place for the children to find in the morning. The tradition says that the children must have been good all year and asleep when the kings arrive or they will receive no gifts at all or a lump of dirt or charcoal instead.

The rest of the day is often devoted to family, visiting friends and - as with all Puerto Rican celebrations - LOTS of great food! This includes traditional holiday foods such as lechon asado (roast pork), arroz con dulce (rice pudding), and temblique (coconut pudding). Relatives come to visit, bringing with them the shoeboxes now empty of grass and treats and filled with small gifts.

Much of the local art, whether painting, sculpture or ceramics, depicts the Three Kings. It is a rare Puerto Rican household that doesn't have some depiction of the Kings.

Some businesses and many government offices are closed, not just the week between Christmas and New Year's, but the week through Dia de Reyes as well. And if Dia de Reyes falls on a weekend, as it did last year and this year, the offices are also closed the following Monday.

Wishing you all a Feliz Dia de Los Reyes!

Saturday, January 05, 2008

poetic appreciation

Today I am in love with this place.
It has returned to me a passion for life,
through its simplicity,
through the peace breathed herein
through its beauty without
comes the desire to laugh...
freely and at peace...
I love this place.

This beautiful poem was written in our guestbook by our new wonderful friend and guest, Kayse, on December 29, 2007. We are blessed beyond words to have friends like Kayse appreciate and express - in her case, so eloquently - the atmosphere that we try to share with others. THANK YOU to all of our Ola Lola friends, both here with us in person and those with us in spirit reading this from afar.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Finally caught up - almost

After more than a week without Internet access and two busy weeks, we've finally mostly caught up with the blog, with photos on and with new photos uploaded to Flickr. Whew! There are still a few more photos to process and upload, especially photos from a couple of SCUBA dives, but pretty much all the surfing and kite surfing photos are up. Hope you enjoy them.

And it's good to be back.

New Year's Day - Things to do

John: go SCUBA diving with Darryl and Michelle - check

Elaine: ride Chocolate on the beach - check

Fly kites together on the beach - check

Have a kite surfing lesson - check

Run the dogs on the beach (keeping an 18-year-long tradition alive) - check

Share a wonderful dinner together on our deck - check

So far it's been a wonderful year!

New Year's Eve

Ola Lola's was open for New Year's Eve but we closed for an hour to join friends on the beach to say goodbye to the fading year and toast the new year with Champagne as the sun set. It is a wonderful tradition here.

When we got back and re-opened Ola Lola's, we hosted the "last night here" party for a wedding party from Villa Montana. Congratulations to the newly-weds! Since their anniversary is December 30, the day after ours, the happy couple promised to come back and share a combined anniversary with us next year. We really hope to see you then.

We closed Ola Lola's pretty much "on time" and then we were off to party and welcome the new year at our with friends at Marisol and JR's house. It's great having a bar that closes early enough on New Year's Eve that we get to go party too. We didn't stay late - we had a long to-do list for New Year's Day.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Backing up to catch up: Christmas day - on the reef

Okay - cross-country skiing was out for Christmas Day, so what else is there? I got it: SCUBA diving!

Our friend and dive instructor, Darryl, David, our friend visiting from Michigan, and I went SCUBA diving Christmas morning. What better way to celebrate than swimming with a couple of green turtles? The reef at Naturale was beautiful in the early morning light.

Christmas evening we had some friends over for a very non-Puerto Rican dinner of Southern-style bar-b-que with coleslaw and potato salad. It was wonderful.

Happy New Year!!

May this be a year of peace, joy, love and prosperity for all.

Happy New Year, everyone.

John, Elaine, Amber, Jazz and Chocolate