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Monday, January 7, 2019

Puerto Rico sojourn

It’s our third day in Puerto Rico. We are in the town of Aguadilla on the northwest corner of the island. It’s Monday.  We will be here until Friday when we go to our second destination, diagonally across the island  from here on the  southwest coast.
Our house is directly on a beautilful beach..  There are perhaps a dozen of them along the beach. Some seem abandoned, or at least not repaired from the hurricane, a year and a half ago.
We have to walk down the beach from the beachfront restaurant and bar, where we park.  To  get to our house. Not a bad way to approach one’s home. 
The beach is covered, in several spots, with seaglass, more than I have ever seen before, more than I possibly can collect.  I am being somewhat discriminating, but will probably have to cull it and leave some behind.  I am particularly looking for blue cobalt, which is hard to find.  And for some reason, it only is in tiny pieces, unlike the other colors.
The  spot directly in front of our house is one of the prime spots.  This morning I met a woman collecting, from an island in Washington state, who calls herself the beachcomber artist. That is actually the name of her website. She earns her living making jewelry, and in the winter travels to a warmer place and combs the beach.
I have just returned from my second collecting foray of the day. This time, there was a local couple collecting. She talked to me at length. Her husband smiled at me and never said a word.  They live in Mocha, about 25 minutes away, and up in the hills.  She told me that this was nothing compared to the amount after the hurricane. They collect and sell the glass, online.  She showed me one particular color, an aquamarine, that she said they’d never seen before the hurricane. She believed in came from the blue house a couple of doors down from us, which used to have blue glass windows.
The beach is relatively quiet. We’ve seen few people, other than the glass collectors. We met a couple from California with an infant who are staying a few houses down. But we haven’t seen them since.
Our first night, we ate at the beach place.  Food okay, we had several hors d’oeuvres, including chili rellenos. One of our favorite foods from the time we lived in New Mexico,  we always have to try them when we encounter them on a menu.  These came pretty close.  All the food we tried was fried, so pretty much of a junk food meal.  Perhaps we will eat there again and try some of the entrée items.
Only problem with the bar so close, they play music loudly at night. It hasn’t bothered me much, because it’s music I like. But somewhat intrusive, especially when it gets late. Tonite, they are closed, although my friend on the beach told me they are usually open on Mondays. So we don’t yet know if there will be music the rest of our nights here, or if it is mostly a weekend thing.
This place is just about perfect. Or was, until, when we sat drinking our coffee on the porch this morning, a loud hammering noise started coming from the house next door. Oh, it’s Monday, we realized, the first working day since we arrived.  And hoped it wouldn’t continue  for too long.  It didn’t, but was replaced by the much louder sound of a jackhammer, on the roof, just feet away from us. We looked at each other grimly.  And hoped that it wouldn’t continue for the entire day, or worse, the entire week.
Thankfully, they stopped the jackhammering after about a half hour, replacing the concrete that was decaying with new concrete blocks, a quiet process.  It remains to be seen if that will be the end of the noisy construction.  We have spent little time inside the house, aside from sleeping, showering and cooking.   Most of our time is on the porch, and it will be a disaster if we are unable to use it much.
Yesterday and today, we spent time driiving around to other nearby towns and beaches.  Yesterday, to Rincon, about a half hour away. It’s a little livelier town, with a few tourist related shops, but still pretty quiet.  Here in Aguadilla, there were no businesses open yesterday. But it was Sunday, and also a holiday, Epiphany, I think.  Today, however, was a working days. Still, nearly no sign of business. Many of the storefronts appear to be empty. A few have merchandise in the window, but closed doors. It’s It's hard  to know how much is due to the effects of Hurricane Maria, more than a year ago.  Or perhaps it’s just a kind of urban decay, with most of the business out on the major roads outside town. 
We passed a Marshall’s on the way here, just before town. And then remembered that when Marshall’s was sold Mr Marshall kept just the Puerto Rican stores.  I believe he lived here in his later years.
I have a particular spot in my heart for Marshalls. Not just because it’s one of my preferred places to shop (after thrift stores).  But because the very first Marshalls was a block away from our house. When we first moved there, more than thirty years ago, one of the neighbors was just retiring from working there for 30 years.  She told us about Mr. Marshall’s original produce stand, followed by a truck selling clothing and who knows what else,  in the very spot the store eventually stood. Our neighbor worked for him then, and took the cashbox home at night. I don’t think even most people in Beverly know that the business originated here. Or I should say, there, since I am now on an island far away.
I hope to check out the Marshall’s here, just out of curiosity, to see how similar it is to the ones at home.

Today, we drove along the coast in the other direction, north.  Not much in the way of attractions, but always interesting to scope out the local scene.  We passed suburban neighborhoods, with nice middle class houses, and some areas of luxury, with mansions with ocean views.  There’s an international airport here, surprisingly, and a Coast Guard station.
Online, we’d seen references to beaches, ruins, and surfing locations.  We drove down one pitted road to find an area with about 20 cars, but no signs of any people on the beach below.  It’s left us puzzled. The beach is called Surfer’s Beach, but no sign of any   surfers in the waves, either.
The ruins turned out to be an abandoned lighthouse from the 1890’s, with the light long gone. Very scenic, with lots of exposed brick that had orignally been covered, and spectacular views of the sea. Not far away, a ruined set of buildings, the remnants of a Navy station where they’d conducted secret sound experiments in the ocean below.  Those buildings had been abandoned in the 1970s.  Empty, decaying and covered in grafitti, they had a charm of their own.  There was a sign indicating a plan to convert the building into a visiitor’s center, with r activities to promote tourism in an ecological manner. It had the feelilng, though, of a plan never to be realized.
Then, back home, but to the next beach down from us, a short walk.  Our beach has waves and a rocky bottom.  The other one is incredibly calm, my kind of water.  I took a dip, and hopefully will  return tomorrow with my underwater MP3 player, and maybe one of the floaty toys that we discovered in our house.
That’s it for now. More in a day or two.

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