I boarded the plane at five in the morning and sat in the cozy seat between two strangers. The woman on my left seemed to be traveling for business and the man to my right was probably going home. I was kind of in-between in more ways than one. So many thoughts ran through my head.
First, I felt overtired (that would happen after only 45 minutes of sleep the night before hopping on a three-hour flight). Then, I took one last look at the snowy earth below the plane and I was excited. I can’t believe I’m finally leaving NY for more than a week “vacation”. I’ve been complaining about the northeast winters since I graduated college and there was no need for me to be home anymore. As the plane rose and there was nothing to see out the window and before the in-flight movie had begun, I started to tear up. Knots tightened in my stomach and I cried a bit while everyone around me slept. I did have a moment of fear and homesickness and uncertainty pass through my body- but just as fast as it came, it disappeared. Our movie was “Due Date”, which I couldn’t wait to see, and the comedy covered my negative feelings. Then things looked up from there.
I had noticed a couple of guys my age board the plane and remembered Jens’s text from the night before. He told me I was on my own with transportation to Rincon from Aguadilla since all their rides fell through. “Most of that plane is headed to Rincon, anyway, you can easily split a cab,” he reassured me. So, at baggage claim I introduced myself to the guys, Dave, Rob and Brian and turns out they were not only headed my way, they had five other friends and two rental cars- so they gave me a ride and a fun weekend! Instantly, I had eight new friends. I showed them around like a “local” would and we hung out as a big group all week. It was a pretty good start to an amazing couple months.
Stef and I have a cozy apartment with two sweet roommates, Matt and Tim. Our place has connecting “hostel-type” rooms so we meet new “neighbors” every couple days and they share morning tea/coffee/conversation with us. I walk everywhere, including places to look for work, we buy eggs at the corner bodega and the beach is about a half a mile down the hill. We’ve helped foster a puppy named Rica and unwillingly shared some cliff bars with, um, a baby mouse… it comes along with the open-door type living we have.
True-local Puerto Ricans, not just the people (like my friends) who are seasonal, are so friendly. They’re always waving and saying “Buen Provecho” (enjoy your meal) if you’re eating near them. All the “stray” dogs have names like Carlos and La Playera and “live” with everyone at different times or just hang with us on the beach all day. I’ve seen Puerto Ricans riding horses at night to the bars and an old lady in her nightgown flicking ice cream to a cat on her roof. I’ve eaten pinchos (chicken shishakobs) on the beach, tons of plantains and the best sushi I’ve EVER had (and it’s rolled by my best friend, Jens)! I do some yoga stretching in the mornings and run up and down my hilly street, I’ve watched the sunset with a coconut in hand and went bowling with Stef and my new friends.
I’m constantly learning something new and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been (as cliche or cheesy as it sounds). Even if it’s listening to the travels of our hostel-staying friends or finding out about an interesting spot near mi casa nueva, I appreciate every moment, person and event and I will never regret this decision- even if “society” looks down on me for it…
Gracias, Puerto Rico.
Created March 13th, 2011. Location: Rincon Puerto Rico…
“The screen door has been known to whine as it opens, so I escape quietly, closing it slowly behind me, leaving the big door open so a breeze can travel over our guests as they sleep on the couch bed inside. I set my laptop down on the plastic furniture on our third-story deck and have a seat in the nineteen-nineties floral seat cushions that line the plastic chairs. As I type, the subjects in my peripherals distract me, hence why it takes me so long to write out here! I see the valley coated with tropical plants and trees that disappear abruptly into the ocean beyond them. Brightly colored, cement houses are swallowed by the greens, yellows and pinks of the brush and plantains and coconuts that hang from their branches. It’s never too hot out here since the breeze and clouds visit every now and then to say hello. Besides the leaves blowing into each other on the palm trees or bananas brushing against the house, the only other daily, constant noises we hear are frogs and animals. The Coqui frog is my favorite, with it’s high-pitched singing that helps us sleep at night. There’s also the galloping of local Puerto Rican’s horses as they cruise around town. But the most distinct and frequently heard around here are the roosters when they crow their little hearts out. Yes, that well-known crow you hear in movies as a farmer’s alarm clock happens every few minutes in Rincon and not just at dawn… (It’s a much more pleasant sound than trucks and cars whipping passed my bedroom window all day on the busy streets of the New York’s suburbs.) Some visitors have thought the noises to be annoying, but I’ve come to love it. It’s a soothing reminder that I’m living in a place where people own roosters instead of extra cars.
I can’t help but think of my mom every time I’m on this gorgeous, wrap around porch overlooking all this beauty. She’d love being here. Actually, all of you would. And if you’ve been here, you’ve probably already told me you miss it and throw out some memory or crazy Rincon icon that stands out in your mind (like the Medalla Light drinking, bus stop crew or Bienvenidos, the traffic director). Someone asked me what it’s like but I just can’t fully explain it. It’s going to be to hard to go back to the “real world”, especially when I have no plans for my (near) future. So, I may be back here next winter and try to keep up this lifestyle for the summer and see where it takes me…”