Monday, September 30, 2013

Mysteries Solved

When you first arrive in Puerto Rico (and really for all the time you are here after your arrival) you will see things that you have never seen and just can't figure out. 

FOAM - One of the things we saw over and over in our San German neighborhood was a piece of really thick foam haphazardly lying across car hoods or across car windshields. It seemed really bizarre that people would have that kind of garbage lying around and it didn't make sense that you would store it on your car where it could get black and moldy in the rain. Then mango season rolled around and we figured it out. After driving and having mangoes drop out of the sky denting the car hood and bouncing into the road we got it - foam is protection from mangoes that can break your windshield. Of course not parking under the mango tree would work too but hey, you can find free dirty foam alongside any road and park the car where you want.
GRASS - When we would drive up to Aguadilla to go diving we always saw old guys on the side of the road chopping grass with machetes or driving around with grass overflowing out of car trunks, passenger seats or trucks. Apparently it is cheaper ("better for you") to spend 10 bucks in gas to drive and get free grass for you horse instead of buying more nutritious hay.

CHURCH -When we first tried to find dive sites people kept telling us to "turn at the Church" to find the Rincon Wall. We drove up and down the road I don't know how many times looking for an Iglesia only to discover it was Church's Chicken they were talking about! All directions are near the "bridge," "mango tree" or so and so's house that isn't there any more.

BURLAP SACKS IN THE JUNGLE - When we started caving (and later we started noticing this on the side of country roads) we would run across people in the jungle, or emerging onto the road FROM the jungle holding really big, body-size burlap sacks. Honestly it was kind of scary and we didn't want to ask what was in there and tried to steer clear of the whacko out doing who-knows-what with his sack of who-knows what. Later we figured out it is just people out digging malenga or name or collecting other fruits or roots from the jungle.

FOAM AND PLASTIC CUPS/PLATES/UTENSILS - It used to piss me off to pay 30 bucks for a fish dinner in Joyuda or 12 bucks at Martin's BBQ or any amount really and have food put on disposable crap. It really irritated me when I found a vegetarian restaurant (don't get excited) that has reasonable food (still cafeteria style though) and serves it on foam. Somehow I think if you are vegetarian you kind of value more ecological things. I asked the owner why she doesn't use real plates and she told me "people stole them." Yup, they walk out with the plates. We hear this a lot though as an excuse for no toilet paper, no paper towels etc. If it is the truth it is pretty darned sad. I think they probably don't have water to wash things but it could be true.

MIMING - A favorite thing is when you see grown people inside their cars with their hands on the glass moving them upward. This entertaining "miming" is just a way to get the window up since a lot of things just don't work the way they should here! Still makes me chuckle every time!

PLASTIC WHERE CAR WINDOWS SHOULD BE - Everywhere there are cars with plastic stretched taut where a window should be. Everywhere. The same cars for months it seems driving around like that. We thought people couldn't afford to replace the glass and that was the problem but no, in most cases it isn't. When someone broke into our car and smashed out the passenger window we went to have it fixed. It was over a month that we drove around with plastic while we waited for the monkey who was using our new window as a raft to make it to shore. Apparently though he knocked the 15 cent clips off the raft when he paddled!

CAR AND VAN DOORS TIED OR WIRED OPEN - This one threw me for a loop until I followed one one day. The guys driving around were stopping to read water meters! The guy on the door-wired-open side could pop out and read the meter and pop back in.

GUARD RAIL SITTING- There was a guy we thought was a road gnome until we saw him move one day. At certain places you will see people consistently sitting on the guard rail or, the more innovative ones, in a chair near the road. They will sit out there for HOURS. What we have figured out is that they have no cell reception in their house and have to sit outside to chat for hours on the phone.

STICKS IN ROAD - Everywhere you go there are sticks or twigs in the road and sometimes garbage cans or junk metal rods and all seem to have streamers, or sacks, or balloons on them. Usually they have holes around them that are bigger each day you pass them. Sometimes the sticks move out more into the road until they are in the middle. This is because there is a leaky or broken water line. The water company takes 7 or more days to "fix" it but doesn't fix the road over it so in a day it is usually broken again. Sometimes neighbors will dump dirt over which doesn't last. But good news- since water loss is over 60% the water company has vowed to fix fountains in 2 days AND to fix the road above them. Let's see how that goes.

DRESSED UP PEOPLE WALKING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE WITH UMBRELLAS - You get used to people wandering the small roads with plastic bags. Sometimes you don't know where the hell they came from but now we know it is probably a "colmado" in a nearby house and they are getting bread or canned things. If the people are dressed up though, they are spreading Gods good word after yelling and tapping their fingernails on the gate to get you out of the house.
WHITE VANS FULL OF PEOPLE AT NIGHT - White vans cruise around neighborhoods collecting people to bring them to church. You will see the same vans a few hours later bringing them back.

AVOCADO CAGE - My favorite guy at the San Sebastian market puts a lot of stuff into prison. He has plenty of cheaper things on top of the cage and one day I asked him what was so special about the prisoners. He told me that he counted how many people touched a single avocado he placed on top. In a couple hours over 129 people had touched or squeezed the avocado and not bought it. The no-touch avocados have no bruises and he guarantees them!

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