Thursday, February 28, 2008

Still waters

Looking toward Blue Hole from the dune next to Villa Tropcal

The ocean has been flat - flat - flat! The surfers are all wailing because there hasn't been a good swell in nearly three weeks and pretty much no swell at all for a week. The up-side is it has been summer-like flat for snorkeling and diving. Twice this week we've gone diving on the outside reef at Shacks, something that normally only happens in the doldrum days of summer. This time of year most diving is "around the corner" of the island at Crashboat or Naturale. Any time we get to go to the "outside" at Shacks this time of year is a bonus.

A pair of angel fish about 50' down, Outside Reef, Playa Shacks

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A beautiful day

I've posted pictures like this one before - it's the view as you top the dune at the end of the calle that we take down to the beach. I go over this dune at least once a day, some days more often. Every time I walk down there it is an "oh my god" moment. When I walk out from under the trees and see the ocean open up in front of me, I just have to stop a moment. It doesn't matter if it's sunny or gray, that vista opening up is truly awesome. Every time I thank the universe for this place and for allowing us to share it.

But some days are special. Some days it is so beautiful it takes your breath away. Some days "oh my god" just isn't enough. The colors - the emerald greens and turquoise and deep star-sapphire blue of the ocean and the paler, softer blue of the sky - are almost physical. You feel the colors as much as see them. You can almost taste what "green" is like; you can almost smell "blue."

Monday was such a day. The photo is a washed-out, blah representation of the real thing. I try, but there is just no way to capture it. It's fleeting. It is right now but only for a moment. You have to be here to experience it.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Home again

Amy and Kennedy Anne are back home safely in chilly West Michigan. They left Friday evening and got back to Michigan in the wee hours of Saturday morning.

It was a great visit with them. I don't know about Elaine but I've forgotten how much work it is to have a baby in the house. (It's been more than 20 years since there was a baby in house - until Kennedy.) She is a sweet, beautiful, smart, adorable, baby. And her mom's pretty darn wonderful, too.

Now we're getting ready for more visitors from the States. Our friend Erin is coming for her second visit and Mike and his wife Tracy and Dan and his daughter Alison are coming to fly kites with us next weekend.

Our plan is to have a fully fledged festival on the beach next March. Next weekend is a preview for local residents and potential sponsors of what we can do with sport kites and what a festival on the beach might look like. More about that as it happens.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Amy went surfing!

Amy went surfing for the first time. Our friend Jose from Aquatica Dive and Surf shop took her for her first lesson at Jobos, a favorite beginner training spot. She got up on very first try and got three or four more little waves after that. She quickly found out surfing is a more physically demanding sport than the good surfers make it appear. But she did great for her first time out. She even managed a little turn. Puts her WAY ahead of me. Well done, Amy!

BTW - there are now new pictures of Kennedy Anne on Flickr. What a photogenic little beauty (not that I'm prejudiced...)!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Nos nieta

So did I tell you our daughter and granddaughter are here? They got here Friday and - in addition to having a busy weekend at Lola's - we've been busy being grandparents. Both mama and baby had colds when they got here but both are better now and enjoying the sun and warm on Shacks Beach.

Oops! Kennedy's crying - gotta go!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Saying adios to friends

This week we said adios to three friends who moved off the island for career changes.

Brian and Lesa and their son Mitch were here for a year and a half. Mitch went "home" to California at Christmas time so he could finish his senior year of high school playing baseball with the friends he'd grown up with. Brian and Lesa moved back this week so Brian could take a new position with his company. We will miss you guys!

Cindy is a surfer who supported her surfing habit working as a chemist. She's moving out of the lab for a new gig in San Francisco. Yeah, she already knows she's gonna need a good wet suit. Cindy, we will miss your easy smile and your red long board.

Bueno suerte to all of you. Be sure to stop into Lola's when you get back to the island - 'cause you will be back!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our Puerto Rican perro

This is Jazz, our really truly Puerto Rican puppy.

Jazz has been acting weird lately, especially at feeding time. He hasn't been eating well and he's distracted and itchy. Elaine finally figured out he has a food allergy. So, we had to find a new, completely different food. We found one, but he wasn't much more interested in that than the old food.

Now, Jazz has always been a picky eater. We frequently add something - a bit of canned dog food, cheese, something - to entice him to eat better. Elaine had some fat drained off when she cooked some chicken and thought, "that'll do it!" Not so much. Jazz sniffed at it and kind wandered off.

About the only thing left to put it in his food was a little bit of our friend Marisol's rice and beans. So in it went. Same food, same chicken fat, just a little rice and beans added. HE GOBBLED IT! I mean just snarffed it up!

So now he gets a little rice and beans mixed in with his sensitive stomach formula food. Marisol has been making extra rice and beans for months to feed us. Now she makes a little bit more extra for Jazz. Whodathunkit?

Happy Valentine's Day!

Okay, it's a day late but the sentiment is real. All of us at Ola Lola's hope you had a wonderful day full of magic and love. We did!

John, Elaine, Amber, Jazz and Chocolate

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I'm normally not a big golf fan. With apologies to those who love the game - and they are legion - I've tried it and it's just not a sport I enjoy playing or watching. Most of my experience with golf course construction involves somebody ripping up a perfectly beautiful piece of land, moving piles of dirt, planting grasses that were never meant to grow where they are which leads to the heavy use of chemicals, fertilizer and irrigation.

That said, there are exceptions and one of the most amazing exceptions is right here in Isabela. A friend of ours from California is designing several courses on a big, incredibly beautiful piece of land along an ocean bluff. While on the whole I prefer a nature preserves, this is second- and third-use land, much of it old cow pasture. There really isn't much about it that lends itself to nature preserve. It does however lend itself very well to huge concrete condos,which have been proposed for the site. The owners are developing the golf courses as a way to preserve as much of the land as possible in an economically viable way. The golf courses keep the land (mostly) green and not covered in concrete.

The design and development of the courses incorporate all local vegetation - grasses, trees, etc. The only imported grass is for the greens. Everything else is being grown in an on-site nursery from seeds harvested on the property. Since all the plant material is native, it doesn't need the chemical boost necessary on other courses. Irrigation currently comes from wells, but eventually will come from lakes and catch basins on the courses.

As much of the building material as possible is coming from the property, keeping the need to import materials to minimum. David (our friend the designer) designs each hole individually using the existing contours of the land and only moving as much dirt as necessary to make a challenging, playable course. As much as possible of what exists on site is retained. For example, one hole, named "Hurrican," has two big, living almond trees that were blown over in previous storms. These living trees are now features of the fairway. In the photo above, the rock wall (built by local artisans with stone from the site) surrounds a beautiful old tree. The "local rule" says no ball that lands inside the stone wall can be played out. Rather it is removed and dropped, without penalty, all to protect that tree.

So, in spite of my golf course prejudices, I am impressed with what these people are doing. If it has to be a golf course, David and Stanley and Charlie (the owners) are doing it right. It's obvious talking to them they really love this property and protecting it is important. There are some spectacular views of the ocean. And we're in favor of almost anything that preserves green and keeps out concrete.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A bunch o' belated congrats and happy birthdays!

To newlyweds Kara and Jake (from the east side of Michigan) who chose to spend the last evening of their honeymoon in Puerto Rico at Ola Lola's;

To our friend (and master sushi chef) Sharon who celebrated her birthday January 21;

To our friend Andrea who celebrated her birthday with an early Mardi Gras bash;

To our friend Jen who almost shares a birthday with her daughter Jackie;
To Jackie, who just turned one, and almost shares a birthday with her Mom;

To Carolyn who celebrated her birthday February 2 at Ola Lola's;

To Melissa, a surfer from California who came to Puerto Rico with her dad to celebrate her 18th birthday (they loved the pina lo-ladas, by the way);

And lastly, to my mother, who would have celebrated her 81st birthday on February 7.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A new blogger in PR

There's a new blogger on our end of the island. Our friend Rico's blog is called "Living in Paradise" and he started it as an outlet to write about Ola Lola's. We sincerely hope he branches out and writes about other experiences here on the island, but his first three are about Ola Lola's.

Anyway, check out Rico"s blog at

Is there anybody else out there writing about their experiences in Puerto Rico or at Ola Lola's? If you are, let us know. We'll link to your blog.

Thanks for reading (and writing). And thank you, Rico, for the wonderfully kind (and true) words.
What can I say? I couldn't have written it better myself (and even if I could, I'm far too modest).

Saturday, February 02, 2008

I saw whales!!

Finally! I got to see whales breeching off Wilderness Beach this morning!

Last year I was taking pictures at a surf competition at Surfers Beach. Somebody said, "Did you see the whales?"

"No. I was watching the surfers."

About 5 minutes later, somebody else ran up to me and asked "did you see the whales? Did you get a picture of them?"

"No. I missed them."

This basic exchange was repeated half-a-dozen times or more. Seems everybody on this island saw whales that day but me!

Well, today I finally got to see whales. It is an incredible sight! I talked to some long-time islanders who told stories about diving with them or coming up from a dive and seeing them overhead. Wow! Someday...

For now I'm just grateful I got to see them at all.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Happy February

Local legend Mike Shand on a wave at Wilderness. He's one of those surfers who came down here in the '60s, fell in love with the place, and basically never left.

January gone already? Hard to believe.

But a new month means new "traffic allowance" for So the web site is back up and running with a new set of pictures from January 28. There hasn't been much since then. The big waves everybody was talking about never made it. In fact, churned up waves and gusty winds have kept surfing and kite surfing (AND snorkeling and diving) to a minimum.

So we've been working around the house, getting things ready for visitors from the States. February is going to be a busy month for us: friends come next week, then our daughter and grand-daughter on the 15th, then a bunch o' kite flying friends at the end of the month. It's gonna be hectic but we can't wait. If you haven't noticed, we love sharing/showing off our little bit of paradise.