Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Food, Garbage and Nuisances

First I'll start with the nuisances - nuisance 1 - there is a Coastal Contacts ad banner on my blog and I have been having a really shitty time trying to get a %$^% order from them! I do not want this ad on my site. I just got an email saying "thank you for your return" which of course is for an order that did not come at all. Nor did I get a slip from the Post Office or a call from Fed Ex or a tracking number or anything. DO NOT ORDER from them if you are in Puerto Rico anyway. There is no free shipping HERE despite us getting USPS. Their 1800 number doesn't even work - you have to search all over their crappy site and by chance try their international number to get through to someone who doesn't know what is going on.
Piss off 2 - I have been waiting for a jar of pet wormer pills from a Canadian company (no one in the US sends here that has this product and price). I believe it is coming since I have a USPS parcel slip that I have a registered package, but it could be some unknown delivery of something for my birthday (that is really unlikely since I don't know of anything and what I REALLY want is the cat wormer pills for my b-day anyway!) It could be taking a while since it is medicine and from Canada but it has been 8 or so days (but a holiday was in there). My fingers are crossed. USPS is one of the few things that WORKS in Puerto Rico. The gal even delivers my packages behind the gate so I don't have to go to town and wait in a line to get them!!! If these nuisances are their mix up we are really doomed and it is all going downhill!

Now on to food and garbage. I was reading on the Huffington Post Green page about a gal who tracked her garbage from her house to the transfer station to another transfer station to the dump. She tabulated all the miles that garbage traveled and it was a huge waste. The average person makes 4 1/2 pounds of garbage A DAY! I have never been a fan of garbage and since moving to Puerto Rico, where it is much more "in your face" and "on the ground" and "in the caves" and "on the beach" and "thrown out of cars" etc etc I have become outright disgusted. When I say "in your face" what I mean is - in the states all the disgusting packaging is removed before the consumer sees it so it is easier not to think about. You buy furniture and all that crap stays in the truck they deliver it in. You buy a refrigerator and the old one is "taken away." Here in Puerto Rico these are not options. Everything comes to you with all its original foam, cardboard, plastic, tape, wood etc and it is amazing. Of course there is a lot of just plain bad behavior here - the supermarkets will put one fruit on a foam tray, wrap it three times with plastic wrap, put a price sticker on it (the apple even comes with its own sticker on it anyway). Times that times all the fruit or vegetables you need on a trip and you end up with a lot of foam and plastic - or you use a lot of gas to go somewhere you can buy loose fruit/veggies. Here they actually have a person come up to you with a "paid" sticker to stick on a cat food bag or other large thing that won't fit in a bag. They even TIE a bag to the handle of say laundry soap if it won't fit in a bag. WTF? Do they think you are going to run off with a 20 pound bag of cat food? People here don't run anywhere ever! My favorite bad/non thinking behavior is little mini coffee cups that they automatically give you a lid and stir stick with and won't refill your paper cup - they will give you another cup/stick/lid if you get another mini coffee. If you refuse it they just throw it away even though it is perfectly good. They also put only 2 things in each plastic bag. Bag manufacturers make bags that are so crappy you have to double bag to carry anything and they are just too large - the bags could be half the height and use half the petroleum to make or at least make a shorter stronger one. So the answer is cloth bags, right? Not here - they continue to try to put my stuff in plastic bags and then put the plastic bags in the cloth one! It is a battle every time I go to a new checker or store. In the states I used to love it when they would put say soap, or dish soap in its own bag inside the bag - hey, it is already in a plastic bottle and I am going to use it to wash the fruit anyway...does it need another bag? Ok, so SAMS club might be better you think. is all the packaging from a little trip that I haven't even unpacked stuff from yet. 

Inside the ziploc (yes plastic) box were - 6 more boxes of bags! Just think of this one example. Every store that sells the individual boxes gets them in these small boxes and dismantles it all to put them on the shelves. How many bags can a person use? It is so easy to grab a bag for cut carrots or a few grapes ... times each item, by each kid's/adults lunch and you get the idea. Are we the only country that wastes this much or it is people as a species? Then there is the lunch meat in a plastic bin, that houses 3 plastic-embalmed circular meat packets of  "slices" that are then sealed with a plastic band which apparently pops open and there is a need for two pieces of plastic tape. Is buying "bulk" really helping anything at all? I also have a great plastic meshy type bag of "artisanal" red onions - how ecological and artisanal is that? So I have 5 pounds of carrots that I peel, chop ends off of and slice for the freezer (in the plastic bags) or for in a water filled plastic container in the fridge for easy eating/cooking. This gives me more waste that at least I can compost. I think I am going to compost cardboard now too - most writing is soy based ink so it is safe to put down to suppress weeds and will rot and add fluff to the garden. So overall I am thinking about what to do about garbage and about the garbage society we live in-- I must have too much time or irritation on my hands!

On to some good food news. If you are reading this from the states you can start laughing now. The big excitement yesterday was bing cherries, scallops, frozen blueberries and asparagus! There isn't any green or colored food here. Only hairy brown vegetables that cook up white and green peppers.  The cherries are amazing and despite my knowing that they had to come here by way of fossil fuels I am enjoying the immensely. I wouldn't whine so much about food here if it were here because it was sustainably grown here. Unfortunately it isn't, 95% of food is shipped/flown here so why can't there be choices? Why can't stuff be grown here - at least the majority of what is flown in (guineos, platanos, yucca, name, pimientos)? I guess the Dominican Republic does it better! Some delightful food news is that we have terrific fruit in our yard and we always have something. If I could live on fruit we would be all set. Carambola is good enough for a few things and we get fruit like this 4 times a year. I planted more kinds of avocados to increase the season with different varieties. We have around 10 trees and they are separated so they don't cross pollinate (hopefully) and bloom at different times. We do get fruit at different times but it still isn't as long a season as I'd like since they don't keep. This year was going to be spectacular but wind knocked off a lot of the little fruits. I can't wait for this most perfect fruit! The longan is blooming nicely.

This blossom is for a corozone which is a fruit you will never eat unless you live here or somewhere in the tropics and know a person with a tree. The fruit is ripe one minute, overripe or pecked the next and doesn't store at all. Boy is it yummy though!
I go back and forth about the soursop (guayabana). The flowers are cool and the fruit is prehistoric. I chuck it in the blender, then through a sieve and use the pulp in pancakes, or breads, or make juice. I first had it in Fiji and when it is ripe and you are in the mood it is very refreshing!
The oranges are looking good. The quenepas are getting bigger. There are loads of bananas and the lemons are ripening. I've eaten some strange peanut butter fruit and of course lots of parcha! Growing your own food is very satisfying and I need to do a better job with vegetables.  I stopped planting things since we thought we had the house sold but I am ready to plant some things now since we are staying put for a while! It is hard to grow vegetables this time of year though when the rain starts. If you've got fruit and the rain comes they will crack or become like balloon animals. I need to build a structure to do it better. So those are the rantings of the day. I think I need to sort through stuff and get rid of things. We don't have all that much stuff but then again we do.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the reality check. Personally I'd rather be informed of both the +/- of daily life. The problem is that many people choose to ignore problems that are correctable. As Surfrider, and ARF address problems, is there a way to organize a group to focus on the litter/noise problem?


Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Hmmmm - the litter problem could be DRASTICALLY reduced by stores/supermarkets and plastic bag makers. People here don't want to spend much on anything, and if it were pointed out that the bags cost them money they may want to put more than one item in them (the stores). The bags should only be about 1/2 the height they are to hold what most people buy and what older people can carry so that would reduce the bag problem. The other issue would be training. Part of it is that cashiers can't weigh items and figure out what to charge - thus the pre-priced/ wrapped single item. At Walgreen's I picked up medication that is in a little plastic container, that they put in a small bag with precautions etc and then put in a plastic bag. In talking to the cashier (because all I wanted was to pay and put the container in my purse) she said people are embarrassed and don't want other people to see they are on medication. Well guess what...everyone is there for the same reason, but this is the thinking process. All these behaviors (stir-stick behaviors) are automatic and no one thinks. If I could sew maybe a group could make strong, small reusable cloth bags to disperse for free (get a garbage grant or something) and older people I think would find them much easier to manage. Noise -did I blog about noise? I can if you want to hear about it!

Fran and Steve said...

Bags: We stopped taking our Trader Joe's bags to the supermarkets because the baggers would always put stuff in plastic bags, then put the plastic bags in the TJ bags.
Noise: There are actually noise ordinances, but I don't think they are ever enforced. Otherwise why allow advertising vans with those giant speakers? Or the Jeep parades with their fake ambulance/police sirens? All right in front of law enforcement, with no consequences. Oh yeah, and young folks with their car speakers blasting, which might be slightly tolerable were it not for the FILTHY lyrics of the "music", so everyone, including children and the police can "enjoy". Ay Bendito! Wake up, my people! -- Fran

Summer said...

Problemo Uno: You can block websites from advertising (Coastal Contact) on your website via Adsense. Email me if you can not figure it out and I'll walk you through.

Problemo Dos: Your pet wormer will arrive. Canada Post is by far the slowest shipper I have dealt with (and I've dealt with hundreds of countries). And, registered mail takes twice as long, because they literally will not move it from one point to the next without someone signing for the responsibility of accepting/delivering it from point A to point B. You will be waiting for a while, but it will arrive eventually (at no fault of USPS or PR). ;)

Problemo Tres: The amount of garbage we produce in America (and probably most "civilized" countries) is disgusting. And the way it is thrown around in PR is retarded. Recently I have decided that instead of being angry about stupid stuff in PR, I am going to try to "be the change you want to see", and it has really helped me cope with living in PR. It sounds kind of cheesy, but stopping traffic with my car so a couple of horses with riders that got stuck in the median when a light changed on them, really felt good. And let me tell you, those super tough puerto rican guys on those horses, were SO grateful that I bet that changed their perspective on things ever so slightly. And even though I think it's gross and annoying that I have to haul plastic cups and other peoples trash off the beach and out of the ocean, I make it a habit to do in hopes of making some sort of difference (a cleaner beach/ocean and inspiring other people to do the same). As for the grocery stores, there are ones in PR that don't act like you are crazy for using your own, non-plastic bags. We exclusively shop at the Edwards Coop now and not only are the owners extremely nice, they constantly ask if we found everything we are looking for and if we have a suggestion (organic peanut butter, for example), they literally get whatever it is that we ask for.

"No bolsas plastico, por favor. Tengo mi bolsas aqui!" If you have to put up with the ignorance (and bad driving!) here, make sure that they have to put up with your "crazy" gringa ways when they have to (bagging your groceries for example).

Puerto Rico is a LOT of trail and error, but small positive changes are being made and I want to make sure that ball keeps rolling!

Plastic products in general: You have to wean yourself off of them. Isn't that sad? We used to drink individually bottled water by the truckload. Until I saw how quickly our recycling bin was filling up and knowing that most of those would blow out of the Rincon "recycling center" and literally into the ocean. After trying several different options I finally found one that works. We got a watercooler and our neighbor sell those 5 gallon jugs of water for $3 a pop. Cheaper, greener and tastier then bottled water, but how do I keep the bugs out of all of the glasses of water I leave laying around? I bought glass swingtop bottles ( ), fill them out of the water cooler and they stay fresh/bug-free for weeks on end, wherever I decide to leave them and forget about them ;). Also, I had to demand that Stefan stop using ziplock bags to store everything (mash potatoes, really?). Use tupperware whenever you can. There arn't many uses for ziplock baggies that tupperware (or pyrex, if you're hardcore) can't do better.

Jeff and Katrina Kruse said...

Thanks Summer - I'll try the ad blocking spot. Wormer did come (but not Coastal Contacts - I did order and receive 1800contacts fast and at a higher price but I got them in 2 days). Where is this co op? Have you gone to the church-run place across from Home Depot? They are polite, helpful and have good things and people who shop there are polite also. Yes - Living in Puerto Rico is a true test of one's spirit...then you go outside or underground or underwater and know exactly why you are here!

DMONEY said...

Haha. Got to love the Jeep parades!