Thursday, November 29, 2007

Of Roosters and Little Potatoes

This fine fellow was strutting up the citrus hill to the upper end of the lawn area one morning doing the ur ur ur ur urrrrr thing. Our fraidy cat "Little Boy" went to the screen and growled a primeval growl at him. Sometimes the chickens and roosters stroll up into our area to give us the wake up call. There are thousands it seems around the hills and valleys and we hear them all at dawn, dusk and when a cloud rolls past and it gets dark. The leader of all commotion is down the hill from us and when he starts up every one else answers. They sound like babies, or witches or just weird cries. Makes for some odd dreams.

These lovely looking things are breadfruit. The one on the left is a regular breadfruit that can be cooked a variety of ways depending on the ripeness (pudding and cakes for the ripe ones and frying as a potato-like fry). The one on the right is a "seed" pan, or a semilla de gran. It is a very spiky green basketball that turns slightly yellow to brown when ready to harvest. You will hurt your fingers pressing on unripe ones, but there is a smuushy give to the ripe ones. The fun begins with tearing it open and fingering out the seeds that look like chesnuts. They are hard seeds embedded in a spongy, sticky goo. You rinse them and boil them in salt water, take off the outer skin and toss them with salt. They are like little baked potatoes! The neighbor lady told me how to cook them. She doesn't speak english and my spanish is crappy but I caught the main verb "hervir" so I knew to boil them. If she hadn't shown me how to get the seeds out I never in a million years would have looked in there or thought anything in there was edible. Very tasty! Most of the fruit here has spikes and looks bizarre. More later about that. Look forward to a few photos of the stingy stuff in the next post...I've got pan grans to eat!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Cat Just Ate a Gecko, We Have Hot Water!, I Ran Over the Neighbor's Water lLne with the Lawn Mower!

The cat is adjusting well. We have let him walk around outside for a few minutes. He likes it but is very jumpy. Stomp your foot on the ground and watch him jump straight up! It's hysterical. We finally got a hot water system hooked up. Its a gas (LPG) instant on hot water heater. We weighed going "green" vs the gas hot water system. First the economics really don't add up to go solar. A good solar hot water system would cost $2100. There is a $500 tax break so it would really cost us $1600. The gas system cost $200 and $30 worth of connections. $1400 can by a lot of LPG!
My second thought was that the solar system was not completely without environmental impact. The thing is big. It took a lot of metal to create and it may only last 10 years before major repairs. Another thing is it uses a 220V electric heating element when the weather has been cloudy for a couple of days or if it gets too cold at night. The gas system doesn't give us super hot water but it should be fine. We might break even in 10 years with the solar system but we really don't plan on using that much hot water in the first place. We could change our minds later but lets see how this works first.
Well, I was mowing again and I did not see ourneighbors water line and I ran over a coupling with the mower. Water sprayed up and I followed the line until I found a shutoff valve. The water lines here are some times above ground and sometimes just below the surface and are usually a combination of both. I called for Katrina because the neighbor doesn't speak English. She is a very nice lady and Katrina spends a lot of time with her going over plants in the yard. I said Yo soy los siento and Katrina conveyed the rest of the message and then all we had to do was point to the broken water line. We then needed to convey that I would fix it within an hour or so. So off I went to HQI pluming. Then the neighbor starting picking giant grapefruit in her yard and handing them to Katrina. They then started to make a bunch of grapefruit juice. Then when they were done with that she then started to make us lunch at her house. I arrived just in time and put a new coupling on then had lunch. Hows that, I break her water line and she makes us grapefruit juice and lunch! I then got the chainsaw out and asked her what she wanted to cut up in her yard. She has been hacking away at some 10 inch trees with a machete! I made short work of all the old trees in her yard even though she was reluctant to ask for help. Then she told Katrina that it's OK to cut the breadfruit tree back so the fruit will be lower. I cut some big branches off the tree and the neighbor started to help me drag them away. It's not some thing you see a woman in her 60's do.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Truck is Stuck and Other Car Related Adventures!

Our first car related adventure was all about trying to figure out how to get a driver's license. We were told to expect it to take all day, and had heard various chatter about the requirements so we figured we better start investigating - we also heard that the car sticker (which is similar to a car tab) includes collision/injury insurance but is only good if you have a valid license. What does it all mean? We still aren't sure... We headed out to Aguadilla to find CESCO (Puerto Rican DMV). We went there instead of Mayaguez because Crash Boat Beach is there and we wanted to have some fun time. Just our luck, the system was down and there were no lines! That meant I could bumble along with my labored spanish and get the forms. The forms we hoped would enlighten us and they sort of did. We need the take the drivers written exam and an acutal driver's test. Where do we get the english verison of the drivers test? At the Pharmacy of course. We also need fotos - ?Donde busceamos la tienda por fotos? They told me to go to the barber shop. "No, no, no necesito una pelo corto...necesito fotos " They kept telling me to go to the barbershop and I kept telling them I didn't want my hair cut. We got photos at the barber shop! They sent us to the glass doors down the hall for a $1 and a $10 stamp needed for the licensing paperwork. We collect that. Now we have to get the medical exam...yes a medical exam. For $10 and no waiting they fill out a form that literally had "piernas, brazos, manos" on it which means "legs. arms, hands" and I told them I had contacts and they made up that I had 20/25 vision. So for less than a co-pay we had the last part of the form completed so all we have to do is study and drive. We are hoping we just have to stay in the lines! It'll have to be on another day...
This next adventure happened after our successful day at the beach (the following day).
This is a photo of Jeff chainsawing a banana tree on our upper driveway. After bringing my desk to the top of the house so we could get it in he decided against my advice (my advice is always "do what the locals do"-- Eddie the gas guy drove around our tree so he was pointed in the right direction) to back down the hill. Well he went off the driveway, broke the water pipe and got stuck! Just 5 minutes earlier he had called our friend (and previous owner of our house) to see if he had recycling that need to be taken in. Now he was stuck. After spinning tires and burning rubber the thought was to cut the dam bananas and gently back the truck onto the flat area before he tips it into the gully. But he keeps spinning and spinning... and it gets more and more stuck.

What a surprise. He shuts the water main off and we stack up palm leaves for traction. Not gonna work.

The truck is now two tires off and this is not good. Lucky for us Hamilton decides to rescue us. But his truck is 2 wheel drive also. (just cut the damn bananas) They don't want to cut the bananas so they concoct this "I'll pull you out" scenario which fortunately for us works out just fine.

I am very happy I convinced Jeff we didn't need a new truck...and we are extremely thankful that Hamilton came by to help us out! We had a little beer and the guys were off to recycle! Jeff would have to stop at our local supermarket "Mr. Special" to pick up some pvc pipe to fix the water. Everything here is very practical - water lines are where you can see them so when they break you fix it easily (under 5 minutes this time), supermarkets have pvc pipe and glue, paint, pipe fittings and other hardware-store-type things. It all just works out great... what's gonna happen tomorrow? Hmmmm

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

Today we went over to Toni and Gerd's for Thanksgiving. We had a wonderful time. While Katrina was helping Toni in the kitchen I went snorkeling with the guys. I had the pleasure of spotting a Manatee. Thanks a lot Toni for the most excellent dinner!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Yard is Shapping Up and Every Time We Step on the Scale We Lose a Few More Pounds!

The yard is starting to be under control. I almost have the lower section all knocked down. So far I have spent about 15 hours and figure I have about 5 more to go. It sure burns a lot more calories than sitting at a desk all day! So far I have lost 12#'s and I am not watching what I eat. Katrina doesn't want to admit it but she has also lost a few pounds. Soon all the real intensive work will be done. Then its just maintaining it. It was almost a year since some of the yard was worked on. It looks good.
Katrina cleaned up the front yard. The debris filled the back of our pickup 3 times on just the front yard alone!

This is what I have been tackling. Some of the weeds are over my head! Yesterday I got into something very itchy! I couldn't stand it. It was like someone put itching powder in my shirt. I had to shower immediately and use soap 5 times! It drove me crazy for about 30 minutes. Today I got a little itchy but was able to go through 3 tanks of gas on the weed whacker before I had to shower.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Pictures

Here are some pictures we took yesterday. Katrina wielding a mean a machete. Bananas beware. The driveway is lined with Bananas and coconuts.

Dos Caballos in our back yard. Sometimes there are 4 horses in the back yard munching away. Sometimes we are woken up to there whinying. Katrina with her orchids.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Where is the Proof Where the Money Came From...

Hurray we finally got on line. DSL and cable were not available, we had to go wireless. It's a bit expensive ($60/m) and isn't as fast (only 256k) as cable but we (I) am happy to be back on line.
The picture above is yesterdays harvest. There is the meat from only two coconuts in the container on the left. We made rice with the coconut water. It tastes wonderful. We could harvest a lot more every day if we wanted to but there is only one avocado left to pick. Now that we finally got our mailing address worked out (the first address the post office gave us was wrong and our mail went to a relative of the previous owner of the house). It was time to get a bank account set up. Up till now we have been paying for stuff with $100 bills. We get funny looks and increased scrutiny when we do. Now we know why, even the bank won't accept $100 bills from new customers without proof of where the money came from!!! It's absurd. We came in with a check from a very well known financial institution. We didn't want to cash the check we just wanted to put it in our new account and when the check cleared we wanted to have access to the money. Sounds reasonable right? Well, we were in the bank for an hour getting it ok'ed. They wanted proof that we sold our house and the check came from that sale. We had to show them passports, SS cards, and Drivers licenses. Now it could be up to 3 weeks before they clear the check.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Katrina's First Impressions

She said... (Katrina's view)
We've been here for a bit now so I will hit the highlights!
JELLY ROLLS - The old owners of our house brought us a Guava Jelly Roll and Queso Jelly Roll. These little goodies are delightful vanilla cake rolls with filling that everybody here loves! When we went to Ricomini Bakery to get some more we ran into Elvin...the guy who sold us our house. Jelly rolls come in seasonal flavors and always queso (cheese). I am looking forward to mango and passionfruit.
BIG HEAD PINEAPPLES - The old owners brought us a Lajas big headed pineapple that made great pancakes, and just plain good eating!
NIGHT SOUNDS - At 6 am and pm all hell breaks loose as the sounds of our jungle/barnyard come alive. There are insects, and coqui frogs, regular frogs, birds, cows, horses, roosters, pigeons...the orchestra plays together so completely it is hard to distinguish individual voices. Sometimes the sounds crescendo and decrescendo and then we can hear popping sounds or just the coquis.In the morning it is like the Wizard of Oz when the roosters start. The first rooster starts up and the the others join in and it is like a round or like the "wave" in the stadiums - the next rooster ur ur ur ur urrrrrr, then ur ur ur ur urrrr and it goes all around the mountains we now call our jungle home. I had dreams of the monkey scene in Wizard of Oz since the roosters get hoarse after all the "ur" ing.
PUERTO RICAN SCREECH OWLS - The call of this owl has been our ringtone for months, but we never ever thought we would hear one for real. In the middle of the night we get up and answer the phone but it is a screech owl outside in our yard calling to another one in our forest! Just lovely and exciting!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

10 Days Later

It’s Sunday and we have been here 10 days. My sister had a baby boy. We are very happy for her and her husband. Everything is going as planned but we still don’t have internet and haven’t received our mail. Hopefully we will get cable internet tomorrow but I don’t think there is a cable that runs to our neighbor-hood. I don’t think we can get DSL either. Other than dialup it might be possible to go wireless. Wireless costs $60/month vs. $25 for cable.We bought a 2000 Chevy S10. So far it seems to be running well enough. Searching for a car was a lot of work but we were able to find one in less than a week and return the rental car on time. We are having fun starting over but it’s been a lot of work. We are not big shoppers so it’s an ordeal for us to go shopping for the day. We did get a HE clothes washer from Sears. It works well and uses very little water or electricity. A good solar hot water system was going to cost around $2000. Now that the weather is more normal (the first few days we had a tropical storm) the water entering the house is almost good enough for showers. So instead of a solar hot water system we are going to go with a simple instant on gas (LPG) hot water heater. They cost $220 at Sears. Since we don’t need to heat the water up very much we shouldn’t use too much gas. We are trying to go green but the solar hot water system is physically big and probably took a lot of energy to make and will need to be replaced in 10 to 20 years. The gas system is quite small, about the size of my lap top. If it looks like were going to go through a lot a gas then we can install solar later. We have been eating avocados from the yard every day. We bought some yard tools from Sears and finally have had some time to tackle the yard. Wow! It’s going to take a few hours every day for many months to get things to where they should be. We took some time off and went to the beach today. The water sure is warm. The days get also get a bit warm. We don’t have a thermometer so all I know is that is it hot. I have my Direct TV installed but my TV is on back order and won’t be here for 3 weeks! Also the Direct TV Latin satellite doesn’t carry the Sci Fi channel yet. Big bummer! We found some furniture we like so we will be buying it next week. The cat has adjusted well but we still haven’t let him outside. Katrina’s Spanish is coming along very nicely. Most of the 63 boxes have arrived. We are still waiting on the rest. This week we plan on getting internet, furniture, finding a bank, installing the gas hot water system and more yard work every day.

We are in Puerto Rico!

It’s Friday night, we have been here one full day. My sister went into labor just about the time she was going to drive us to the airport. We had already set up a backup plan just in case and we are glad we did. Dave came to the rescue and was our chauffer for the trip. Just before he came over our cat decided he was going to be a problem. We have kept him indoors for months now because the last fight messed his eyes up so much. His eyes have been fine now for weeks. We don’t know what happened but one pupil was dilated and the other was all goopy. He was messed up but we were going despite him! The people we have met have been very nice. The previous owners have really been wonderful and they are great people. They have really helped us with the PR house while we weren’t living in it. They had the yard cleaned up before we arrived. It was a jungle before they cleaned it up. INTERUPTION: A Puerto Rican Screech owl just started calling in a tree near by! How exciting. When I get internet access here at home I’ll post a link to the sound that the PR Screech Owl makes. I have the sound as my ringtone on my cell phone. END INTERUPTION What were we expecting, leaving the house for 9 months, a house that’s in the jungle! Actually I wish we had pictures of it. I thought the grass might be knee high and a bunch of rotten fruit and leaves would be on the ground, not vines covering the porch iron works and 6’ bushes all over. The flights were easy. Seattle to Washington DC to San Juan. Then a 2 ½ hour drive. We took the cat on the plane and put him under the seat. It counted as a carry on and still cost and extra $85! We had his health certificate, rabies vaccination, and a form for PR that wasn’t even looked at. There is no quarantine for cats and dogs to PR, thank goodness, otherwise he probably would have had a stroke. Heck, he probably had a stroke just before we left. He is already the dumbest cat I have met so he really couldn’t get any dumber. I‘ll let Katrina write about all the sounds we hear at night. All I’ll say is that it is loud and the sounds aren’t from people. Tomorrow we look for a vehicle. Even though we shipped 63 boxes US mail we are basically starting our lives over. We do have a bed but only one cheap plastic chair. We haven’t showered yet because there is no hot water. We have someone coming on Monday to price a Solar Hotwater system. Untill then we will be taking short showers in the afternoon when its warm out. The mornings are in the 70’s. That’s enough for now. I’ll let Katrina write a post or two.