Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy birthday, Kelly!

Kelly and her family came to Ola Lola's last night to celebrate Kelly's 18th birthday. Kelly, we are honored you chose to spend part of this special occasion with us. Thank you.

And tell you younger sister and brother you know a great place to celebrate their eighteenth birthdays!

(I don't think Kelly was quite this fuzzy after her birthday celebration. I think it was a slightly fuzzy photographer.)

(BTW, Kelly, if you and your family have any other better photos from this night, we'd love to see them. Please e-mail them to Thanks.)

Anyway, happy birthday, Kelly, and thanks for sharing it with us!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

All of us here on Lola's corner - me, Elaine, Amber, Jazz and Chocolate - wish all of you, wherever you are, a Thanksgiving full of love and friendship, peace, joy, happiness, and a deep appreciation for all you have to be thankful for.

For me: Elaine. For Elaine: me! For both of us - Our five amazing children. Our two grandchildren. Our incredible friends - an incredibly long list that gets longer nearly every day - here on the island and back on the mainland. Our crazywonderful dogs, Amber and Jazz. Elaine's horse, Chocolate. Our amazing lives together here in Puerto Rico. Sunshine, blue skies, the opportunity to share the ocean with thousands of fish and beautiful corals nearly every day. Our "treehouse" home. And, most importantly, our better-than-can-be-imagined love and support from friends and family.

And thank y'all for reading this and being interested in our adventure.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

OMG - there are two of them!!!

A week or so ago our good friend Zan (right) got a phone call from Cheryl, a Michigan State sorority sister. "Hey! Haven't seen you or talked to you in 14 years but we're going to be in San Juan next week. Come pick us up so we can spend a few days with you."

It's like a flashback to college - here they are, two blond sorority chicks, loose on East Lansing, Michigan. Only this time, with Cheryl's boyfriend Tim as designated driver, they're loose on the beaches of Isabela and at Ola Lola's (among other watering holes). The second night at Ola Lola's we had to ban them from singing sorority "fight" songs, especially the ones they couldn't remember all the words to.

So Cheryl and Tim are in town, staying with Zan 'til Thursday. God help Isabela!

Meanwhile, our friend Trudy left this morning, headed back for Minnesota. But we're sure we'll see her again soon. We're pretty sure she's going to move here for a job. Wish her luck.

For now, we get a break (sort of) before the Christmas season starts in earnest with Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

A week of big waves and big wind

Big waves usually make the surfers happy but this week's big waves haven't been very clean or all that well organized, at least here on the north coast. I've heard Rincon has had some better waves for surfing but I haven't had a chance to get down there.

We've had pretty constant 20+ mph winds for past week, day and night (which is a little unusual). The winds have kept the waves choppy.

Our dear friend Trudy has bee visiting all week. She's a Master Gardener and came down for an interview to create and run an organic produce farm for a big project here. We wish here all the best. For one thing, it means she would live close by. For another, it would mean fresh produce close at hand. Both are things to be grateful for. Trudy leaves tomorrow. Hopefully, she'll have a little time to put our garden in better shape.

Between the huge waves and chilly wind (okay, it's been in the 70's, not the 20's or lower) Trudy hasn't had much ocean time this trip. But it looks like she'll be back in January, maybe for good. There will be a lot more chance for ocean time then.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Whew! We're still here...

just way WAY behind!

It's been yet another couple of busy weeks here on our corner of the island.

We had a GREAT week with our daughter Amy and granddaughter Kennedy Anne. Kennedy is a beautiful, precious, loving little "mani" ("peanut" in Spanish). What a sweetheart!

Amy had a wonderfully relaxed week with abuelo and abuela gladly taking over some "Kennedy time." Both Amy and Kennedy learned firsthand about the healing, restorative powers of of hammock-time.

We also spent a lot of time last week with six wild and crazy guys from New Hampshire, down here for some sun and surfing before heading back to snow and skiing. The group (shown at left) consisted of Matt, Seammus (a master chef who cooked us dinner one night), Mattie, Carl, Ryan, and Bobby (Elaine is the one in the middle of the group, laughing).

Three of the guys are in a band called Audio Kickstand. They came to Ola Lola's last Monday and jammed! Trevor (from Villa Tropical) sat in on bass guitar. Everyone danced - including Kennedy Anne - and played instruments, using our "paranda" percussion set from our friends, Michael and Michelle (now in Maryland). More than one person said it was the most fun night ever at Ola Lola's. That's sayin' somethin' 'cause there have been some fun parties here. It was a blast, though. The boys are already planning their trip back next year.

We can't wait. Just make sure you bring the guitars, guys. And thanks for a fun week.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Visit from hija y nieta

We're having an island-vacation HERE this week with our daughter, Amy, and granddaughter, Kennedy. They arrived on the red-eye flight early early Saturday morning. Life has pitched Amy some unexpected and not-so-fun stressful curve balls this past several months (divorce, moving, job loss) and we decided that now was the best time to spend time with family and to make our own "winter holidays" for the next week.

Kennedy is now 16 months old - walking, jabbering away, responding to commands in both English and Spanish (she goes to a Spanish-speaking daycare back in Michigan), and the most happy, loving little girl ever. We may be biased, but those are the facts. She's been smiling, hugging, laughing, and winning hearts at Ola Lola's all weekend.

So, both baby Kennedy (our little "mani") and Amy are spending time just enjoying the sunlight, catching up on rest and a little pampering from parent/grandparent units, and having a bit of a tropical vacation with us. It's been a joy - the pictures tell much of the story so far. More will be posted on Flickr soon.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A new day

We woke up this morning in a new world. Obviously it's all over the news and blogs everywhere but I have to add just a few more words to the mass. There is the obvious - we have elected the first African-American President in U.S. history. While that's historically important, to me it's less important than the man himself.

We watched his acceptance speech with tears running down our cheeks. It was so good to hear inclusion - everybody is part of this - and not the divisiveness we've heard for so long. There was recognition that we face huge challenges but also recognition that together, we can overcome them, that it will take effort from all of us to do so. When he used the word "we," he seemed to include all of us, "We," as in "We, the People," not the "royal" we.

I haven't been so impressed with or moved by a speech since JFK's inaugural address.

In fact Obama reminds me a lot of JFK, young, energetic, fresh. There is a power about him but also a humility.

He said, "But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you...This is your victory... I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead."

"Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, 'We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection.'"

And there is one last great bit of symbolism and irony. Obama made his acceptance speech in Grant Park in Chicago. Forty years ago this past August, Grant Park was ground zero for the protests and riots during the Democratic National Convention in 1968. For those too young to remember, that was a time when the country was torn apart by the Vietnam War. For many years our country has been divided by fear-mongering and divisive "you're either with us or against us" politics. For Barack Obama, a Democrat, to make the inclusive speech he made there is all the more amazing.

Here's looking forward with hope. "Yes, we can."

Meanwhile on the Puerto Rico, we observed our first election on the island. WOW! It was a holiday for most businesses, full of participatory electoral energy and passions like we have never seen before. Cars were painted on their windows and windshields with candidates names, flags of various candidates (used much more than anything like the bumper stickers we see in the states) were flown from houses, business, light poles and waving from cars loaded with people which drove through business areas and neighborhoods shouting and cheering for their favorite candidates. Vans and SUVs drove with doors slid open so that passengers (including children) could lean out and yell to pedestrians, people sitting on their porches, and passing cars alike. At our friends' home last night a dozen or so people met and gathered 'round the television cheering, arguing, and watching the latest election results as they came in. Even the 9-year-old got into the discussion about which policies and candidates "should win." In the end, we have a new governor on the island and the incumbent mayor of Isabela, "Charlie," also won while parties and debates continued until late in the evening!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day


For all of you in the US (and that includes PR), election day is finally here. Whatever your opinions, whatever your choices, please go out today and exercise your right to vote.

Having said that, however, we are not voting today. We can't vote in Michigan anymore and don't feel comfortable enough with our understanding of politics here on the island to make any kind of informed decisions. And, because we have no congress persons or senators from Puerto Rico (i.e., no representation), there are no federal candidates to vote for either - including the presidency. So we're sitting this one out.

A good friend who now lives "off-island" shared these observations about Puerto Rican politics:

"The island is a strange place, as you are finding out. Think about it – in [the US,] a nation of close to 300 million in population the President gets to appoint 2,700 to federal positions (cabinet, sub-cabinet, ambassadors and the like). Puerto Rico only has 3-4 million (depending who you ask), but the governor gets to appoint 5,000 to state jobs. No wonder the politics are so emotional. There are a lot of jobs at stake. After the elections tomorrow make sure not to stray too far from home. It will get crazy in the island during the counting of the votes...I cannot emphasis [sic] this point enough. It does get crazy."

I think we'll take his advice and stay close to home tonight. Ola Lola's is closed because it's Tuesday - but we would be anyway because it's election day. By law, no alcohol can be sold between 12:00 am this morning and 9:00 pm tonight. That's so the passions at the polls aren't fueled by alcohol. Today is a holiday in PR. Many businesses are closed so people can go vote. The political passion does translate into high voter turnout here, though. Typically, more than 80% of the voters actually vote.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Uniquely Puerto Rican (Part II) – Roadside Sightings

While driving in Puerto Rico, there are a number of common sightings here that are very uncommon, to say the least, in other places we have been.

The following are ten of these, in no particular order:

1. Horses. Many, usually without halters, but a rope around the neck tied on the side of the road, eating grass. Others, being transported in the back of pick-up trucks (with wooden sides), held in by a rope, and – recently seen, a horse with a rope around its neck loping behind a new Yaris with a young teen sitting in the trunk, one hand holding the lid up and the other on the rope pulling the horse.

2. Unmarked food stands with warming lights over fried pastry-looking objects. These are empanadillas, not unlike Cornish pasties, filled with everything from pizza sauce and cheese to octopus or chicken. There are also balls and tubes of meat or cheese wrapped in cornmeal (sorullos) or potatoes (papas). They are always fried. Cost – usually less than $1.50 each.

3. Power and telephone poles painted in 3 colored 4-5 foot stripes on the first 10-15 feet from the ground. We have been told the colors signify which pueblo or township they belong to.

4. Signs that show the silhouette of a cow or say that livestock may run into the roadway (“ganado en rodaje”).

5. Political posters, almost always with a smiling headshot of a candidate who goes by his or her first name (i.e., “Charlie,” “Freddy,” “Janice,” “Norman,” “Ivan,” “Evelyn”). Apparently, this gives the impression that this person is your friend and thus, deserves your vote.

6. Houses or buildings painted with random subdued but tropical colors (reds, oranges, yellow, lavender, blues, greens, turquoise) as if someone just grabbed a bucket and painted for the day, then grabbed a new bucket the following day and so on.

7. Airbrush artwork. On vans, usually painted with caricatures of cartoon characters (Peter Pan and Tinkerbell, Lilo and Stitch, Tom and Jerry, Superman, etc.) selling pizza along the roadways. On incredible murals - some more urban punk, some more impressionistic style - painted onto concrete walls, poles, buildings. Or, on signs for businesses.

8. People sitting on porches within 2-3 feet of the road, watching cars go by and remarking on them and their contents (“Ah, que lindo” for example, when we have the dogs with us in the car).

9. People stopping or parking their cars in the roadway so they can chat with friends, either standing in the road or driving the opposite direction. Traffic comes to a standstill but nobody complains. (The only honking we ever hear is when cars don’t move quickly on a left turn green arrow – these are never green long and everyone wants to get through the intersection.)

10. Vendors on foot, at intersections with left turn lanes, walking between the cars and selling things like bunches of bananas, bottles of water, newspapers, and bags of plantain chips.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Halloween

And happy birthday, David, from all of us at the Ola Lola's Halloween party. We all sang "Happy Birthday" to David who was with us in spirit(s)! (This picture doesn't show everybody, just everyone who was there when we took it. More pictures coming on Flickr.)

We had a great time and as you can see, a whole bunch of great costumes including our top adult winners of Susan as "Tinkerbell" and Trevor as "Johnny Cash." There were kids with great costumes, too, and a haunted Ola Lola garden with a graveyard and monsters galore. Thanks to everyone who joined us and special thanks to everyone who brought food. It was WONDERFUL!

Hope everybody out there had a safe and fun Halloween and David had a wonderful birthday. David, we missed you and toasted you, several times throughout the evening.

Today is El Dia de los Muertos - the Day of the Dead. In many Latin American cultures - especially in Mexico - today and tomorrow are special days that bring the spirits of the dead close to the world of the living, sometimes even crossing over. It's very similar to the Celtic traditions at the same time of year that eventually became All Saints (or All Hallows) Day (today, November 1) and All Souls Day (November 2) in the Catholic church. Our Halloween is actually All Hallows Eve (or Even) - the evening before All Hallows Day.

Anyway, in the Dia de los Muertos tradtions, the spirits of the dead, are not to be feared but rather to be celebrated and honored. So even though this not an especially big holiday in Puerto Rico and we didn't build a Dia de los Muertos alter, today we're celebrating the family who have gone before us, especially Elaine's mother, both my mother and father, and right now special thoughts for my great aunt Nora. She was like an older sister to my mother. She passed away two weeks ago at nearly 92.