Sunday, January 10, 2016

Puerto Rico

Although they don’t get voting representation, our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters live in American territory. It’s hard to believe I’m in America sitting here in the shanty in Anasco.

Very wet clouds off to the east.

A line of evening traffic to the south coming from Mayaguez.

We are high up on route 411 with views of the mountains, fields and ocean to the west. I hear drumming, a djembe by the sound of it, and singing- not recorded but live if I were to guess. Crickets, tree frogs and dogs are pretty constant. Birds fluttering from trees and chattering are more occasional. What looks very rural by day takes on a lighting design much more like a city at night. The air is soft and moist. When we first stepped off the cramp fest that was our Newark-Aguadilla flight, the smell is that of stepping into a greenhouse.

Driving here is fun and nerve wracking.  Unless we are on a major highway, there are no straightaways and no level stretches. Roads are curved and steep beyond anything we’d ever see in Maine. This is for the same reason that we don’t see any pickup trucks in yards with snowplows on them. Plenty of beater trucks, but no plows. There are inclines here that feel like the dreadful upward part of a roller coaster, and downslopes where you have to stop and then creep because you can’t see anything past the hood, and the road may just as likely take a 90 or 120 degree turn in the part you can’t see.  In snow, you couldn’t get a snowcat up one of these places much less a four wheel drive truck.

Below our shanty there is a tar road that looks, because of perspective as though it goes uphill very gently. Observing vehicles from the deck tells a different story. Sedans snarl and strain to go what looks like about 7 miles per hour, and an SUV comes through that gets stuck spinning on leaves and has to go back down for a running start.

Having gotten around on St. Croix during a couple of trips, Puerto Rico is a much more relaxing place to drive. Here, as at home, they operate for the most part on the right hand side, except for any occasion when you encounter another car on the twisty roads, in which case they always drive in the middle. The driving pace is a lot slower here as well, with no great straight roads with people going 70 and clearing the 3 foot mahogany trees by six inches or so as they do on St. Croix.

The other thing I found actually very nice about driving here is that there is not a lot of tension about who goes next at an intersection. This is because: A) everybody goes at once; B) nobody does it aggressively, and C) it seems to work fine.

In spite of the spectacular view from the Shanty, we had to leave. The fluch didn’t work. At all. I consulted with our host on putting in a vent pipe and doing something to clear out the hippy-style barrel-in-the-ground septic system. The other disconcerting thing was finding the shower running and a men’s watch in the shower area upon returning from the beach.

The loose dogs were ok. The trash and horse manure strewn walkway were authentic and charming in their own way. A nightly soundtrack of very confused roosters, dogs, jungle noises and club music and car alarms was also enchanting in its own way. Intruders and no place to-ahem-go, were not going to work. The junk cars, occasional gunfire and crazy neighbors actually made the place feel like home.

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