Monday, November 30, 2009

Bathroom Re-do Time - Decisions are Made!

This is one of our bathrooms. It is a typical, regular sized bathroom (5 x 8) and we aren't doing anything dramatic - but come on, it is a little bit blue! In its time (30 years ago) this was probably a good design, but 30 year old grout just doesn't ever get clean and the color - well, take a look. I had no idea how difficult decisions would be though. In my logical mind I thought I'd be able to find one color/texture of tile that would come in several sizes and several shades and that things would "match." This is not how tile works. Everything has a different texture/design to it and nothing matches. Hard to have a simple, clean design when everything is different!

Right now the inside of the shower and the outside floor has little 1 by 1 inch tiles. I want as little grout as possible, but in a small shower you can't really put large tiles. Since we aren't tackling this job ourselves I want it as easy as possible for the guy who does it so I am going with 2 x 2 tiles that are in a 12 x 12 square. The shower doors are nasty, and metal just doesn't work here. I want low maintenance so I want glass blocks that don't move. I'm going with 8 x 8 x 4 since the wall they will sit on is a little over 4 inches wide and that will let me do a wall around 4 blocks wide and probably 8 tall. It won't block the window, will have no moving parts, will keep the toilet from getting wet and look a little more modern (I hope). The tile doesn't go all the way up the walls and we aren't changing that. I want some wall space so I can transform boring beige (commonly called "neutral") by painting color on the walls and getting colorful towels. I'm also thinking practical and will have a towel bar inside the shower to hang bathing suits on since this is a weekly occurrence.

The floor is also the 1 x 1 inch tiles and I am going with 16 x 16 inch big ones. Less grout means easier cleaning, because I don't care if you put sealer in the grout or not grout will always get nasty in the end!

This is the old sink and vanity. Kinda blue! There was a lot of room to store stuff, but luckily I'm not much of a girly girl so I can live with less. There was a grey/blue toilet when we arrived but we switched it to a low flow white one in the first couple months.

So the new scheme will be boring beige. I am drawn to all the cool Caribbean colors like turquoise, oranges, yellows, greens and blues but know better after doing wild colors in our previous house. This is the "accent" tile - two rows will go on top of the wall tile for contrast. It is the same shade as the tiles in the shower and should connect things well.

The light beige 8 x 12s are for the walls and the mixed beige 2 x 2s for in the shower only. The floor outside the shower will look like the lightest beige of these only will be 16 x 16.

I love the new sink/vanity. We found it here - in Puerto Rico - if you can believe it! It is modern but still practical. It hangs on the wall (so you can sweep and mop under it) and has room for a soap dispenser and toothbrush holder on top.

My favorite part is the bamboo-like zen faucet that conserves 5% more water than other ones but mainly I just like that it is a wide stream that sounds neat. Jeff also hooked up the hot water here too which is nice this time of year. So now the hard part. Who to hire? We've never had any one do work on anything so it is an adventure. All the old tile has to get chipped out and after doing some of it I decided I would rather hire it done than flying glass-like shards in my hair and clothing. This also means a trip to Fondo Seguro for insurance in case the guy chisels his leg off or gets tile shards in his eyes if he doesn't wear goggles. Things are different here definitely...we'll see how this goes. If it goes well, we have a harvest gold bathroom that needs upgrading as well...then there is the kitchen...I'm exhausted thinking about it. Guess I'll go outside and build something!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

More Cueva Lucero Pictographs

Here are a couple pictographs - don't know what the drawing on the right is.

This snake has some graffiti under it. It was large and in a side room.

Buried beneath a lot of graffiti are a couple drawings.

This wall shows a few drawings - a person? upper, bird and on the right it looks like a seal to me and at one point there were seals in the waters around Puerto Rico.

One of my favorites - "creepy man."

I have no idea what this could be.

Another face.

I have no idea what this could be or if it is anything. It was very faint so I added some contrast to try to bring out the design.

This is a broader view of an earlier image that shows the third, far right drawing.

I'm not sure if all of these are "real" or not. I googled "Taino Petroglyphs and Pictrographs" and saw some of these designs but not all of them. It looks like there are a lot of caves and Taino art in Dominican Republic! A lot of petroglyphs appear to be scattered around our island also, in stream beds, caves and other places that would be hard to locate unless you know someone who has been there! Interesting stuff for us!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Cueva Lucero

Cueva Lucero is a cave in the Juana Diaz area that is close to the road, well visited, and offers Taino petroglyphs and pictographs as well as a huge amount of graffiti. When we first entered it didn't seem like it would be that interesting for a few reasons: it was an easy saunter to get there, the cave was very small and didn't involve crawling or much mud, there was a lot of graffiti mixed in and over the interesting stuff. It is kind of like going to the Guanica Dry Forest - if you don't know anything about the plants there and their uniqueness it is a scrubby place that doesn't seem special at all! Luckily we had some avid caver friends with us who know what is what and who have some historical information to help us comprehend what we are looking at. This trip was done to try to document through photos, drawings and mapping the locations and designs of important petroglyphs and pictographs. The other people used rulers to show scale, or gave locations inside the cave as to where they were located and I just set out to record the images themselves.

When you slip through a hole into the cave you are really in a giant room where the top has fallen in. The area is bathed in light and the rock walls that get light have a green tinge to them. This opening above is huge and there are also little tube type "windows" up above. There are two main passages that lead to areas that have a lot of carvings in them. This petroglyph is inside the initial entry. It is believed the Taino slaves would escape to this cave to hang out I guess. They couldn't read or write so many of the designs are very simple. (I am trying to piece together information I heard, that I've read about, and if any one has good information for me I'd like to investigate these things further!)

There are mainly pictographs and some are very faint which is why we are documenting them. This one is obviously a bird, probably a heron, but some of the other designs are kind of odd looking and don't look like anything to me.

This could be a pelican.

These carvings are designs found elsewhere in the cave as well. Some designs are repeated in multiple places. I don't know if this is the sun god I've read about but the other design maybe is a butterfly?

The designs are all very simple. It is disappointing that there is so much graffiti covering things, but the graffiti also has a story to tell (that is another post).

These are probably turtles.

A centipede maybe?

Possibly a coqui? I guess it is natural to try to figure out what things "are." I don't know why I feel like I need to know but I do. Maybe there are clues as to what things were living here and what was important to the people. I would love to come here with an anthropologist!

These figures were in the main fallen-in-area. I have many more photos of different designs and a lot of historical graffiti that is interesting but you can't fit many images on a blog post so they'll have to wait! It was a small but interesting cave that when you start really seeing what is there becomes a very interesting cave. Every cave has a personality and this one is the first that seemed full of people!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Warm Furry Bodies All Around

It's been awhile since we've had a cat post. They are still a huge source of amusement and we seem to have shut down the baby factories - no new kitties (whew). Tuca of course was the little kitty my neighbor brought over. She is the most socialized since she was young when she came to us and she sleeps in the crook of my arm at night. She is ugly and adorable at the same time. Why do we love these little sacks of guts?

I came home after being out and discovered Stripes totally comfortable and stretched out on the bed on a rainy day. When we are home he isn't ever on the bed. What goes on when we are out?

Princess is the one who had the armpit slice that was totally feral to the point of the vet putting the bird cage she was in in a bag to administer gas so they could knock her out before touching her to fix her up. She sits next to me now and likes to be scratched or gently petted. She is really homely and one of her eyes is very foggy. Poor girl.

Chicken is the first and one of the favorites (except when he hops off the bed and wants out at 4am). Look at that little pink mouth! He is still kind of a solitary guy and I think he hangs with the real chickens in the morning.

Blanco is beautiful and super sweet. He is so soft and gentle...a lovely boy.

Bepo was the baby factory and is mother to all except maybe Mini and Pollo and Chicken. She had those huge wounds a few months ago but they are healed and she mainly stays inside and doesn't wander unless it is directly near me in the yard.

In the morning after breakfast the group picks an area and heads out in a caravan up the hill, down the other hill or into the plants. On the bottom is Puff, upper left is Mars, and on the right is Pollo..Mini was the leader and is up top somewhere. Where do they go all day? Sometimes I discover them in little mobs snoozing under shrubs or trees or in the tall grass. Some of them just hang out on or under the couch. They really like to be on the balcony outside the screen they have pulled out that gives them entrance to the I guess. We love the kitties...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Yesterday's Rain

I still can't get all my little videos on here so I just have the one. Yesterday it rained almost 3 inches in a couple hours after a long, grey, day. Our river appeared again and sent debris down down down near the fence line. The neighbors chain link fence borders the two properties and we are/were on the "up" side but they think digging it out is a good plan so it gets deeper and the water moves faster and one of these days the fence will fall over. It is unbelievable how fast and furious the water moves and then in an hour it is completely gone. I have been planting gingers and trees and all kinds of things I dig up and move from one place to another down there. I have some bamboo started and the plan is to plant that down there to stabilize things but I don't want to do it when it might get washed away! The house and "creek" have been here for 30 years so we know the house isn't going anywhere and the erosion is gradual I guess. I plan on planting vetiver in the path of the water every 10 feet or so when the wash out danger is past but it will probably only divert it somewhere else! If I can grow enough vetiver I can use it to terrace things with a trail on the upside and the vetiver as a dam sporadically across the hill. What I WILL NOT be doing is digging it deeper! It doesn't rain all that much here but when it really does!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Ideas Requested...

Jeff and I are looking for a couple two night mini-vacations on the island. They don't need to be diving or caving adventures - just a couple nights on the eastern, central or northern part of the island.

We'd like to see El Yungue and maybe do some hiking. We enjoy waterfalls, hot springs, adventures, animals etc. We also like botanical gardens and kayaking. Staying in a small cabin or bed and breakfast (with a normal American breakfast) would be nice. We aren't extravagant. We are interested in Culebra or Vieques but can't get good info on how to get there - sounds like walking on is best but then what? We need to take a couple trips by the end of December. Maybe a bunch of botanical gardens close to good food...someplace quiet in the forest near hiking trails etc...some kind of neat place where they wander around with you pointing out amphibians, different types of coquis or plants... it seems best to sort things out by seeing if any of you have gone anywhere!

So if you have gone overnight somewhere in those areas and have a place to recommend we'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tanama River 2009 - Part 1

Last year we went with the caving group (SEPRI) on a float down the Tanama and had a lot of fun. It is a yearly event and we decided to go again with "refined" tubes (we made plywood platforms to drop in the hole to sit on). This event gives previous, present, and future cavers and their families an event to participate in that isn't a cave. When we got to the river I was shocked to see a Willy Wonka Chocolate River where last year's clear river was! This is following our day of mud and rotten pig in Hog Hell! Oh well, it'll be fun anyway. The river was rising up to 1000 cfs around midnight and then dropping to around 100 during the day. We were starting out in the morning and I guess the deluge of mud enters with the big rains at night. Here I am on the left staring at the Chocolate River from the bridge.

Every one was assembling at the river bank with tubes, helmets, and other gear. It was quite a large group this year.

After standing around for a while and getting a safety briefing people started plopping into the river and heading downstream.

The river is really pretty with jungle and old farming crop remnants on the side. There are a lot of big boulders in the river that made nice little rapids. I floated for a while just looking up at the sky.

Hey - isn't that Jeff? He is happily bobbing down the river.

Like everything here it is hard to show the scale of things. Things are big, and tall, and very jungley.

There were a few spots we had to get out of the river and walk around. There were either sticks or rocks or some other combination of debris that made it unsafe to try to float over. The safety guys in the front would determine if an area was unnavigable and then send tubers to shore.

Here's Jeff just sitting on a rock happy to not be in Hog Hell! Maybe he is thinking about yesterday and is happy to be in the clean air, not in a cave and not underwater...

Tanama Part 2

The entire river is rather scenic but this waterfall is kind of a nice spot to hang out for a while and have second lunch (if you remembered food). You can see the top of the waterfall to the upper right and it must be spectacular in the rain!

The falls are a favorite photo spot since you can cool off sitting under them on the log.

I really like the wild spots of the river where the trees and bamboo are spectacularly tall and there are immense boulders in the middle and just jungle to the sides. We'd see jungle with what looked like banana groves interspersed. People must have farmed here in times past. It makes for good snacking when you can find the ripe bananas.

After the falls and down the wild spots we go to the end. There is this last bit of fast narrow water before the dam. The safety crew has a rope across the river after this little bit so no one gets caught in the current and swept over the dam. A lot of people portaged rather than go down this part. Last year I flipped but this year it was smooth sailing!

Then it was time for the little walk out (30 minutes or so). Like most of our adventure things it was through the jungle.

We could see the dam which had a lot more water going over it than last year.

Then it was on to the catwalk - look at the huge boulder!

There were a few trucks/vans/cars at the exit waiting to shuttle people back to the put-in spot. How many people can ride in the back of a pick up? A lot!

It was a very fun day again. Last year we didn't have our tubes quite right but this year it was a comfortable ride. The higher water made it nice and the day was pretty sunny! Can't wait til next year1