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Wednesday, January 9, 2019

AGUADILLA, PUERTO RICO - continued

I am back. It is now day five of our six days here in Aguadilla. Our days have gone at a leisurely pace, as they should and do in a tropical setting. At least for us. We are not the resort type, nor are we into water sports (other than swimming)  ziplines, or the like.  Our favorite winter type of trip is to a quiet  beach, with as little company as possible.  Surf and good swimming for Loring, calm warm water that I can float around in for me.
We did well in picking this place in Aguadilla.  The beach is directly in front of us, walk off the porch and there you are.  Of the dozen or so houses along the beach, perhaps half are occupied, or at least occupy able . It’s hard to know how much is due to the hurricane, but I would guess a lot of the destruction here along the beach is.
The construction next door is continuing , but luckily the jackhammering is only sporadic. We’ve been out much of the middle of the days, and it hasn’t bothered us much, as we had feared.
The rhythm of our days has a similarity, a couple of hours sitting on our porch, reading.  Then breakfast, cereal and fruit.  A couple of days we went out in the car, the others we walked over to the painted houses, or the other beach near us.  Then back here in the early afternoon for lunch, and more porch sitting in our lounge chairs and hammock chair.  Loring takes at least one long swim every day, usually two.  He has swum back from the nearby beach to our own twice.
While he swims, and often while he is not swimming, I am collecting beach glass. Lots of it.  Did I already say that I have never seen this much anywhere?.  There are several other people collecting, too.  Some are local, some are visitors.  We have encountered very few people from the mainland, most people here speak Spanish as their first language, most speak at least some English, and many are quiet bilingual.
Most of the people I’ve spoken to on the beach make sea glass jewelry. I am collecting with the plan to make a sea glass mosaic, although I have used beach glass in jewelry before.  I have collected a ridiculous amount already, and the more I pick, the more compulsive it gets.  I have only winnowed out a few pieces so far, so am not sure how or if I will carry it all back.
Yesterday afternoon, and again this morning, we walked thru the hilly streets of town, where many of the houses are painted with bright colorful patterns and a number of murals.  It seems to be the town’s main attraction, aside from the two beaches. You can only get to the bottom few by car, for the rest, you have to walk up.  We made it about halfway up the hill yesterday, then decided to go back today earlier in the day, when it wasn’t as hot.
Many of the houses are abandoned, although  at least half are lived in. A sign at the bottom explains that the concept was by a young local man. But it is unclear how many people have participated in the painting, or if there was any opposition by dwellers in the area, since all the houses in that area are painted. It goes on for several blocks, and also up for an equal distance.
The effect is stunning and cheerful, probably a great boost in spirits for the people who live here and lived through the hurricane.
One particular mural, a woman in profile, especially caught my attention.  The art is of a higher quality than the rest, and incorporated into her profile are the park between the painted buildings and the ocean, and a couple of municipal looking buildings. I took pictures of it yesterday. When we went back today, I realized that our two beaches, the city one with the calm waters, and our own beach are quite clearly depicted.  They are right at the bottom, just above the artist’s signature.  The date it was painted was December 28th, 2018.  Not even two weeks ago!  The rest of the project was done last year. The hurricane was in September of 2017, not quite a year and a half ago.
There is supposedly a museum here, in a municipal building. Not sure of how interesting it will be, but sometimes the small local ones are hidden treasures. It is apparently not open all week, the first day it is open since we  have  been here is tomorrow.
One of the nicest things about this house, aside from the incredible setting and view, is the icemaker in the kitchen, separate from the refrigerator.  It is about half the width of a dishwasher, and makes a limitless seeming amount of ice. Far better than our refrigerator at home.  What a treat. And a complete contrast to our very first island sojourn, almost 50 years ago, when Loring was the caretaker of a tiny, privately owned Bahamian island.  He, and then we were the only people on the island. We had a generator, but only ran it sporadically.  Our biggest treat was our once a week trip into Exuma, by boat, for groceries, and cold drinks!
Whenever we travel, I try to find books written by local authors, or that take place where we are.  I found a couple that were accounts of the hurricane, but neither was especially good. They weren’t that well written, but more to the point, neither gave a very good account of what the hurricane itself was like. They did both give some idea of how people coped in the ensuing months, though, and that was fairly interesting.
I also read a dectective book, one in one of those series that features a different crime, or a different  different  location, with   the same detective, in each novel.  This one was called Puerto Rico pearl, and the main character is a gem detective. Again, not great literature, but good local color, and I might even be inclined to read another in the series if I were in the location where the novel took place.
The best Puerto Rico book I  have read here is called is The Time it Snowed in Puerto Rico. It is about a young girl in the 1950s in a small Puerto Rican town.  The author is of partly of PR heritage, although her name is Sarah McCoy, her dad was apparently not from here.  It is beautifully written, and I loved the local references. Her family goes to the very beach we are now on,  numerous times, when she is a young child.  It does not seem that she has lived in Puerto Rico, but the story feels real.  I assume she heard lots of stories from her grandparents, who she thanks in her ackowledgements.
We have eaten most of our meals here, cooked them ourselves. We find that we prefer to cook most of the time, and just go out to a restaurant once every few days. Here, there hasn’t been much of a choice.  We ate our first night at the restaurant right here on the beach, a nice way to start out.  We have found anoather restaurant, which seems like it might be the only one in the village itself.  There are nearly no open businesses. It is hard to know how much is due to aftereffects of the hurricane, and how much the town is and was derelict, even before.  It reminds me of dying downtowns of American cities, where all the business and housing has moved to malls and suburbs.  There is a large mall right at the edge of town, with a  supermarket, a movie complex, and a whole indoor mall that we didn’t go into.  We have done our grocery shopping there, twice.  There aren’t even any tiny grocery stores in the town itselef.
We have found one other restaurant, a couple of blocks from here.  I checked out the menu last night, and discovered that Wednesday, today, is Visa day.  All diners charging their meals with a Visa card get 20% off!  So guess where we are eating tonight!  Not that there is much choice. Although we would haave been happy just eating here.
So I will stop here, finish my rum and fresh papaya that Loring concocted, and off to dinner we will go.
VCR


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