Monday, December 19, 2011

Any Time Now....but Still Waiting!

After about 5 months of buyer after buyer and bank after bank (3 buyers and 4 banks) we sold our house in San German and figured it would be only a week before we'd close on our little house in Moca. JaJa! The sellers of the Moca house added onto their first loan (probably to do work on the house) and the lawyer didn't properly file papers so there is a lien against the house for the amount of the first and second mortgages (both with the original bank). After a couple trips to San Juan the owners have gotten the proper papers filed and our friend/lawyer is working on the next-step. We are of course in xmas week and everything starts grinding to a halt. I think our thoughts of being in the house by xmas are not going to materialize which is unfortunate for the gal buying our house who kind of wanted to have xmas in the new house with her kids. Not much we can do about it. Anyway, we are pretty much packed and ready to rent a truck and go! Closets are empty...cupboards bare, down to a few cans of beans and soy milk. Almost anything that can be in a box is in a box. There is a new and improved kitty shanty town.

The refrigerator is now at the new house and while I was waiting I was plotting what I will do here, in front of the house - I'm thinking couple bird baths (cat watering holes) and grass removal/plant installation of some kind. The house needs paint and this is the time of year - hmmm, maybe yellow and white? But then again maybe sky blue (a new coat) is good?
I am wandering around our current yard looking at all the beautiful trees and thinking about what I will want to plant at the new place. A Maria Tree is a must even though it won't in our lifetime be as large as this one. Bats love it.
I don't know what this is, I call it the umbrella tree, but I have taken a small start of it.
The Santol has a nice shape and leaf. It hasn't fruited yet but I think I'll plant one.
This is a cool "money tree" that is usually sold with three stems braided. I like the bottle shaped trunk so I buy and dismantle for a single trunk. The Pomerosa is a nice fruit. Attractive and tasty so I'll plant one of those.
The Ceiba is a tree you won't find in the nurseries. I'll have to find someone with a tree to give me a start. This start was 4 inches when I planted it about 2 1/2 years ago. The Higuera finally got gourds on it - novel and interesting. They are big suckers! I've been taking cuttings of my favorite plants and sticking them in cat litter buckets to take with us.

The kitties are hanging out and know something is up. How we are going to move 11 cats is going to be interesting! We have 2 carriers but they are too big to go two in one. We've got awkward stuff like the kitchen table, king size termperpedic mattress and scuba compressor to move. Since every round trip will be 3 hours we'll probably try to rent a truck. Our cats are too wild to go loose so we may have to rig a big box with holes or something for the back of the car! I am trying to enjoy our jungle view while I can - it'll be different in Moca.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Well, we have officially sold our home. This is a little bit sad and a little exciting and mainly just relief! Guama has been a great place to live for the past 4 years and we would live here longer except for Jeff's commute. With the job outlook there is no chance of things improving any time soon and all the engineering jobs have moved north so we are going north too.Luckily we don't have to move to the metro area, we are moving to Moca which will be much much closer to Jeff's work and everywhere we play. We are EXTREMELY lucky to have sold our home in 5 months, even though the 5 months, 4 banks, 4 surveys, 4 appraisals, new septic installation, hand rail installation etc has made  it seem like an eternity. More on that later. We will miss Amparo (our closest neighbor), Hamilton and Guillermino (previous owners/builder of our house/friends) and many other things. We have put a lot of work and love into this house and it is sad to leave, but I have a million ideas of what to do at the next place and I love the planning and doing part the most. We are leaving the new owner a great house and property. Here is the view we will miss. From our front enclosed porch we looked out at the jungle every day and night. This is how the property looks now after years of work. A hillside full of fruiting and flowering trees: grenada, ylang ylang, canister, abiu, caimito, nipper, limn, mamey de pais, and sapote, bunchosa, pomerosa, fig, santol, longan, rambutan, higuiero, jaca, cacao, mandarin oranges meyer limes, mango, avocado, guayabana, acerola, tamarind, carambola, quenepa, chinas, chinojas, flamboyance (all colors including blue), ceiba, cafe. Under the trees mani is spreading and I started planting understory gingers and flowers. Jeff is thrilled to be leaving chickens behind!We did not bring any here but they are like the cats - they just show up. Sometimes I throw corn out and other times I don't. I want to take Big Red and the white one (it isn't Puerto Rico without chickens) but we don't know if we can catch Red

For now we are lucky the new owner is letting us stay here while we buy the Moca House. That purchase is underway as we speak. In another week we should have a house up there and be blogging from our new location! Moving is exciting but full of danger. We don't know if we'll have no water Wednesdays like Rincon, or salty water like Cabo Rojo...we don't know how often the power will go out and we won't have solar. I am sure it will have a new set of disturbances (everywhere has them). What we do know is that Jeff will go to and from work in 2/3rds of the time it currently takes him to go ONE WAY! 28 minutes! I can check out water conditions with gear in the car for after work diving but if conditions suck can go to the grocery store instead or just go swimming. We will dive more I am sure. Caving will be a LOT closer. We can stay longer in the caves since it won't be 2 1/2 hours to drive home tired. We can do more of what we came here to do. AND we can sit on the deck looking out at the valley, Moca, San Sebastian and off toward Desecheo while the BBQ cooks up whatever and it will be light enough for us to eat outside when Jeff gets home. All of these are good things!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Cueva Agua y Jaguar

Last Saturday Tom, Bret and I went looking for some new-to-us caves. We started by looking for Cueva Jaguar.  We looked and asked around for an hour but had no luck.  Off we went to Bosque Rio Bajo to find Cueva Agua. Here we are in the park. Typical jungle hike. We found it by luck since the map was so bad.

There is a small stream that runs through it.  We tried to keep our feet dry. Cueva Agua was small and only took 15 minutes to go through.  After leaving the cave we took the long way back to the car.  Just a few minutes before we got to the car we found another un-known to us cave.  It was nice and filled with lots of bats.  There was a bit of graffiti in it and it was well visited because it was so close to the camp ground but it was not on the map.  I didn't get any pictures of it.  My camera was acting up. During our hike to Cueva Agua Bro called me back.  He gave us better directions to Jaguar.  So we went back to find it.  After some more searching and asking the locals we found it. It's similar to Dos Chorros which is just down the road.  But this is "dry".  Notice the mounds of sand. 

It took an hour to reach the "end".  Its a big breakdown room.  There are some small leads we didn't explore because we were out of time and energy.  There is a bit of climbing up and over then down again through some small holes and unstable rock.  This cave is not well visited and could be because of the next picture.

This is the entrance to the cave.  A big garbage pile. The reason we had a hard time finding the cave was because of the directions we were given.  They said to look for the big garbage pile.  And we did but we didn't find the cave.  That is because it was the second big garbage pile we were supposed to find!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Just 100 feet away! I should add that this is on the bank of theAreceibo river between the road and the river.  The bank is very steep so I guess the water doesn't get high enough to reach the trash. 

This is a friendly little boa I picked up in Cueva Tuna a few months back.  I was very gentle with the snake.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thinking about Art

I was in the Mayaguez Mall the other day (probably getting cat food again) when I came across a scattering of artists showing their work. A friend in my old photography group had just posted something about a guy who traveled around in a van showing different artwork as kind of a mobile artmobile-gallery-show in an effort to engage people. A flood of memories came over me about my years selling my photography at art fairs, gallery shows etc etc. As usual there were some not-so-good things (most) and some jewels. This is the first time I saw something I really liked! What made it even better is that the artist spoke English (not so common in our part of PR) and proceeded to explain that he used archival materials and things I of course used to use too. When I told him I knew all about that stuff we talked for a while about where he got his frames and acid free foam board etc. On the island there aren't any Daniel Smiths or art supply stores and shipping is super expensive. I sold my mat cutter and all my paper supplies before moving since this climate isn't good for that sort of thing. I ended up purchasing a couple pieces. The artist's name is Dennis Bracero Pabon and he lives in Cabo Rojo. When I saw this piece I at first thought of the opening of a cave. When I looked closer I saw three profiles and looking even closer I saw that they were the 3 Kings! The 3 Kings are a huge part of Puerto Rico...bigger than Christmas! Around this time of year the platforms go up in the malls and the camels and kings are having kids sit on their laps etc. Of course Santa has his rival set -up elsewhere. I like this piece because it is understated and surprised me. I really enjoy art. Whenever we travel I try to find something I think represents the area we are visiting so it was about time I got something here. The piece is a small, private piece and the Kings are not screaming out "I am here" which is part of why I like it. It is also painted on a feather, which is yet another surprise about this little piece.

A while ago I let my website disappear. I didn't know how to add to it since all my computer friends are in the states and frontpage isn't supported anymore. Also some of my external drives are corrupted I think and I have a myriad of other obstacles and lack of desire. Until now. Now I am wanting to be around artists again and may get my land camera fixed (I took my good one into a cave and now it doesn't work) and may consider getting a digital camera and housing for underwater. Here is one of my photographs of a coralimorph I took in Saint Croix. I may have Dennis frame a print for me so I can have some of my art hanging in the new house. I am picking up the other art I bought from Dennis next week and hope to continue to work on establishing a friend network here. It is always hard to make friends but when language is a barrier and there are no real ways to make connections it is even harder. Artists though always end up in the same circles eventually!

As usual I can't resist throwing a cat into the blog. Tuca, the one-who-likes-to-burrow, is under the cat beds. Hysterical!

So a big thanks to Craig for getting me thinking about art again and to Dennis for showing some pretty nice work. I am looking forward to the other piece which is a painting of a paloma (dove), and a graphic rooftop with some Taino designs on it. Think about art and surround yourself with it - it makes life better! Art can be flat (paintings, photographs, drawings etc) or can manifest itself in handcrafted jewelry, metal work, stone, bone etc. Really take some time to look at and appreciate art when you can find it!

Friday, October 28, 2011

The Mystical, Magical, Composition Notebook

You know the one. Black on the cover and kind of speckled. Lined, empty, full -of -possibilities paper on the inside? Ya, that one. As a teacher I used to have kids buy several as their school supplies and with my own money bought many more for kids whose parents were cheap or lazy or who didn't have a buck. After math activities I would have the kids write about why Mrs. Kruse would have them do what we did. The beginning of the year I would get such "magical" thinking as "because it was fun," or honest ones like "because she said so." At the end of the year many of the kidlets would surprise me with things like "I think she wanted to make me think about how things are made," or "this wasn't  fun, I had to work a lot and think," or "I think she just wants me to get smarter."  Magical, yes, and all recorded in that little composition notebook.

Here in Puerto Rico I have one of those notebooks. When I see things on the internet I write down links, or recipes, or ideas in it. Lately I have recorded clasificados house numbers and realtors numbers in it. In Puerto Rico I am not the only one doing this - you cannot go to a doctor's office or a lab without seeing one. WHAT? Yes, you read correctly. These little notebooks appear in laboratories and doctor's offices and are referred to when the office staff look up codes for lab work, the medical codes for x-rays etc. There is a notebook for each insurance company. Not a printed directory or on-line, on-screen page - a composition notebook. Yes, it is 2011. Today I went to make oatmeal for breakfast, looked in the cabinet and realized I did not have any oatmeal to make. Hmmm, I was just at Walmart and could a sworn I bought 3 canisters since they had old-fashioned not quick ones. Shit. In all the excitement to get out of the store I must have left a bag behind.. I checked my purse for the receipt and yes, I bought 3 and had none. Since I was at the mall this morning to get my elbow x-rayed I decided to see how much of a hassle it would be to see if anything could be done and to my utter amazement was able to leave with oatmeal in hand and NO LINES OR WAITING. Here is what happened.

I went to the door person at the store. "Hables ingle?" "No." "Lunes compro oatmeal aqui pero cuando voy a mi casa no tengo esta." "Un momento."

Then it appears! Like a magical genie bottle or something the woman goes and retrieves a composition notebook. She looks at my receipt, flips some pages and inside that book, 3 days after it happened are the words "Quaker Oats."!!!!! I sign my name, take my oats and happily float out the door with an improved attitude about Walmart. Yes - the notebook is a most powerful thing.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mangroves of Paguera

Saturday Jeff and I went with friend Tim in his little boat out to the mangroves in Paguera. Jeff had been invited to go spearfishing and I usually don't go is hard to be on the water for hours and hours if all you are doing is snorkeling or beach or boat sitting. I decided I needed a break from the house mess, and since we didn't have to kayak out there I figured it would take a lot less time and be kind of fun. I was right! First we met at a reasonable hour at the Mayaguez Paguera "campus" - the spot where you take the little ferry across to the island  where Tim is doing Grouper studies. We piled into his boat and headed out.

While the guys swam around spearfishing I explored a little island that was new to us. Usually we just go to Cat Island because I don't want to kayak too far out against the wind. We had the opportunity to go to this different and very nice little island that had a channel/lagoon in the middle of it. I walked around the whole thing watching birds and small fish doing their thing. Mangroves are like aquariums and are fish nurseries. I came across this "coconut" circle obviously put here by aliens. 

Then I started  to have camera problems. I take the camera into caves all the time where it is moist and or wet. Walking around in full, hot sun vaporized the moisture in the camera and I had instant fogging inside the lens. This is a bummer since the camera has worked reasonably well considering the abuse it gets! None-the-less I aired it out in the shade and then continued with these foggy shots! I found this patch of morning glory that was reminiscent of spring wildflowers in the mountains of Washington. Different flowers of course but a sweeping ground coverage thing that brought me from sea level up (in my mind).

The guys took a break and we had lunch. Then we picked a spot on the other side of the island where there was some nicer reef, more depth and some fish. I did some snorkeling around until they were done for the day. Then it was back to the island to moor the boat, catch the ferry and go home. The little island is covered with all kinds of iguanas that are kind of good-creepy.
On the ferry back (a 2 minute trip) we enjoyed looking at all the colors of the houses along the water. The foggy camera doesn't show them in their best light but you get the idea!

Thanks to Tim for a nice day on the water. He got a couple Lion Fish and Jeff caught a Jack and Parrot Fish. We had a nice fresh fish dinner. Yum!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Cueva Ensueno (Dream Cave)

First off, was it a dream or a nightmare? Jeff and I headed out on a SEPRI (cave group) trip that lead us to Cueva Ensueno in the Camuy area. I had just crunched my knee the night before - smacked the kneecap on the road and it was swollen and raw. I needed a diversion from the selling-the-house mess so I figured I'd go anyway and skip the second cave. Cave 1 was a short walk and short cave so I figured it'd be ok. There are different reasons people go into caves- for some it is a totally ruckus affair and totally social and for others, like us, it is a quiet commune-with-nature-and-marvel-at-nature-with quiet friends kind of thing. This trip was ruckus. The cave itself, once I could think, was quite beautiful and very decorated. It was a small cave but it was full of helictites and flowstone. What it lacked in "adventure" (climbing, crawling, swimming etc) it made up for with formations. Here is Dallas working his way through the cave.
The group, like most groups, was too large. 15 people is just too many to move through a cave. Too many personalities, too many "missions," and definitely too many people moving at different paces in tight places. To move carefully you have to have some room so you can stay fluid. When people jam up, whoever is behind has to shift their weight around while they are crouched in uncomfortable positions. People just don't seem to understand this and they don't leave room for fluid movement. This is when formations get bumped, hand prints get on clean formations and things break. Oh well. I always try to be first or last because I move smoothly and quickly. Didn't happen this trip. So back to the beauty. The room was covered on the ceiling with helictites, or what Puerto Rican's call ecentricios (don't know if I spelled that right). I figure that means "eccentrics" or something close to that since they are the anti-gravity grow-in-all-directions formations. This cave has beautiful ones! Here Jeff is pointing out another one...
Here it is up close. At the end there were the drippy, candle-wax flowstone formations. Perfect for Halloween.
This was my favorite formation of all - a giant slab of bacon hanging from the ceiling. With the bacon and helictites it is clear where Chihoully got his inspiration (underground and underwater and flowers I think). Nature's chandeliers trump anything man comes up with.This formation was HUGE!
It was also very clean and well-formed. It was very high up so it was intact without damage.
More helectites..
The water drops show that the formations are still growing.
Here Bro is on his way out. Above him are lots of stalactites and shields.
Leave the dog a bone.
The jungle walk is always full of beauty as well. Here a palm has a multi-colored trunk. I'll leave out the worst nightmare. Sweet dreams!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guest Blogger - Rip

First off, it ISN'T RIP as in Rest In Peace (which would be kinda a cool name) they named me after some fairy tale dude Rip Van Winkle or something whoever he is. Like I care. Yeah, I'm the "guest blogger.' Whatever. All I know is the I'm having a nice little snooze on my tent when the proprietor gives me a shake and hatches the plan for me to tell what's happen'n at the compound. Soon as I do it I can get back to important stuff....

So She's built a cardboard shanty town in the main room that is kinda cool. The Tuc (she hates it when I call her that) is worried and won't leave  the house, but me...hey, when I'm sitt'n on top of the boxes I can keep an eye on everyone. I can see Mini comin' into the yard and can give her a good chase right back out. She might be a little freaked about shanty town too. Yeah, the boxes are great! When Dakota, the old fart, nods off in the big box I can scare the crap out of him and poke through the hand holes..

Tuca likes the bouncy ball room. She tunnels to the bottom and just sits there. What a freak!

Mostly everyone is just hangin' around. Sometimes the phone rings and the proprietor spins off into a frenzy and takes my tent, our beds and chairs and makes them disappear. Still don't know where they go.

Then we've gotta scatter 'cause intruders come up the drive. Yeah, so somethin's goin on and I'm not quite sure what. Things seem to have calmed down some and the crazy cleaning has stopped (kind of tired of "Ocean Energy" wafting around stinking up the place) so maybe things are all figured out. Gotta go - Mini is comin' across the lawn....