Many Travels – Puerto Rico Part 4

San Juan (Corina, Stacey, Josue)

The next day we were up bright and early enough to catch a coqui!

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These tiny little frogs are named for the sound they make (can we say onomatopoeia?) every night like song birds.  Of course, some people hate the sounds they make, and it keeps them up, but I thought it was beautiful.  Plus, if you can sleep through the songbirds pre-dawn every morning, you should be able to handle a few measly frogs.

Camuy, etc.

Then, we were off to the Camuy Caves, a huge system about an hour away from San Juan.  From what we’d heard, these caves had the potential to be closed though – there had been an accident about a year ago in which falling rock had killed a woman, the first accident to ever happen during a tour at this cave site.  Consequently, they were closed to update safety procedures for some time.  Kelsey had told us the day before that she had gone to see them, and they were open for business, so we were excited to have the opportunity to see them.  Unfortunately we arrived just after an English tour filled up, so they told us we’d have to wait for about half an hour for the next one.

2-3 hours later, we still were not actually in the caves.  In fact, not a single tour group had departed since we arrived.  After severe questioning of the authorities, we found out one of the trams had broken, there were still at least 90 people in line ahead of us, and they had no idea when the next tour would even depart.  Thankfully we were able to get a refund, as we wouldn’t have time to come back to the caves, and typically they only give rain checks.

We had planned to spend the afternoon on the beach, so we quickly headed off in the direction of the coast, hoping to recoup some of our waiting time at the caves.  We were all starving by that point as well, so some food seemed in order.  I can safely say, the roadside stand we stopped at was excellent, and those pinchos were the best part of our day.  And Corina really liked them too…

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Of course, as soon as we stopped to get out of the car, tropical heavy rain.  The beach was out for the moment.  Instead, we half-stumbled into this lagoon area where swimming was forbidden, but many people were fishing.  So we set of to hike around a bit, and discovered…snails.  Not just one or two, but hundreds of the big old things.

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Antennae!

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There was plenty of other wildlife as well.

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San Juan

Finally at the end of the day, we relaxed on the waterfront of San Juan with fried foods and several Medallas (local beer) each.

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Eventually we worked our way over to listen to a reggae group we’d heard about, and took some time to look at the water at night, and enjoy the stars while we slowly relaxed into evening.  And despite a few showers and a possiblity of a rain-out for the band, everything resolved itself in the end.

All in all, though it was an unexpected sort of day, and if it was early-on filled with waiting and boredom, it was also full of hidden surprises.  And if you can’t recognize those when they spring out at you, what’s the point anyway?

Unattributable cost.

I’m very close to my family.  Sometimes I like to say that we are psychically linked.  My mom calls me out of the blue to check up on me and see how I’m doing.  If I’m having a great day but feel sad and don’t know why, I may check to see if my dad is sick.  My knee hurts – I ask my sister Shelly if her knee (which she’s had surgery on) is bothering her, in case I’m picking up sympathetically on her pain instead of realizing my own.

It’s the same thing with economics.  Certain variables in the system of price and supply and why companies work cannot be calculated.  There’s the idea of customer service and customer loyalty.  There’s an idea of ‘giving back to the community’ by some businesses that results only in costs for them, and may or may not give them increased sales.  There’s benefits from a thriving main street area, whether or not an individual living in a community visits one particular storefront.  We subconsciously react to variables we cannot compute in our everyday purchases, as well as our interpersonal interactions.

A new study has shown that such reactions may come from a further remove than you might expect.  At up to three degrees of separation, there is a notable impact between people on happiness.  That means a friend of your friend’s friend could make you statistically more likely to be happy strictly through their own mood.

It’s something of a scary thought – somehow, we’re all picking up on each other’s vibes from a bit of a distance.  Your friend is glum, which makes you a bit unhappy, of course, since you want only the best for them.  Another friend reads that from you, and is slightly off because of it, and the sadness ripples outwards, decreasing with each successive link in the friend chain.  We can’t know exactly where these feelings come from, but we know they are real and meaningful things.

But at the same time, there remains a choice.  You can be happy, or unhappy.  You can spread joy, or leak regret.  So far (by 9% versus 7% in overall impact on others), it seems happiness is winning.

The Santa man.

Being sick sucks.  Going to the doctor sucks.  Being sick and then having to go to the doctor really sucks.  You know it’s especially bad when 4 or 5 people in your office ask you if you’re dying in a single day.  But there are compensations.  Today, in my hours-long doctor experience, there were a few shining moments of rare goodness.

The first one would have to be the jolly old guy who I first saw in urgent care.  He introduced himself and he seemed to be one of those nurses who actually still enjoys his job.  He was, after all, jolly.  He sat me down and started asking all the usual questions: symptoms, allergies, medications, that kind of thing.  It’s a rare man who can ask you kindly if you’ve been having diarrhea.  Of course, he also had the requisite fluffy white beard and grandfatherly expression.

The second was the actual practitioner I saw.  For the five minutes I was there, I don’t think I got a word in edgewise, which is pretty amazing considering treatment is usually based on symptoms described by the patient.  I guess I managed to convey most stuff with a few dazed nods in answer to her questions.  But she did love to talk – about kids, dogs, neighbors, a co-worker of hers who also has wild allergies (of COURSE we discussed my steroid intake and her love of certain new asthma meds).  All in all, it was a little overwhelming, but for just five minutes, it was like a breath of force.  Bam!  Ego in the Freud sense.  And then afterwards you stumble out and hopefully discover you liked the whole experience after a little recovery time.

Of course, then I was waiting at the pharmacy for 45 minutes and lost all patience with the world, but who’s counting?  What would a doctor’s visit be without a heaping helping of frustration?

My roommate

I’ve had some questions of late as to the potential crazies of the girl I now live with.  Ok, I’ve lived with her almost a month now, and I’m still not quite sure.  There’s the lonely factor.  I’m absolutely certain that the fact that she can’t stop talking to me has something to do with her having basically lived on her own for the past year.  But she also has two cats, and is on her way to three.  Not that I mind cats – still the attention she pays to them in place of actual people could be indicative of a slightly imbalanced state of mind.  However, she’s a perfectly sweet and nice girl.  As a roommate, her expectations are low.  And she certainly doesn’t expect to be a part of my life, though she occasinally talks my ear off.

So are the potential crazies really a bad thing?  True, she’s possibly a little awkward to have around if you’re welcoming a new acquaintance into your home.  But she’s not the type to become physically dangerous.  And even if she does, she’s about half my size, wispy, and not nearly as mean as me on a joyous and stress-free day. What could she possibly do?  Even if she were to attempt to talk me to death, there’s always the possibility of fleeing in outright rudeness to get away.

On the other hand, she might be catching.  Let’s face it, I’m not the most socially balanced person all on my own.  Sure I can laugh at myself and often do, but I also tend to act even more ridiculous when I’m nervous.  So am I simply more worried of myself sinking into catladydom?  Or is there some deeper, less ridiculous fear there?  Or does it not have anything to do with my own fear for myself at all?  Is it more about this girl, who I don’t know or have any intention of knowing outside of living in the same apartment as her for a year, who I’ve already comforted on one of her bad days because there doesn’t seem to be anyone else?  What does it say that my roommate came home from her job crying and i was almost afraid to hug her?  What kind of world is that?

Whistle whilst you work, Tibetan-style.

Some time ago I mentioned my own visit to Tibet and some of the wonderful things I saw there.  Most of these things were not tourist sites or anything extraordinary, but were the wonderous moments of every day life.  Two of them happened to me at the Potala Palace, but that was inconsequential to the events themselves. I will share them with you as they came to mind when I was looking over some of my old pictures for good images to decorate my new (adult) room with.  Somehow, looking at serious photos makes you appreciate your delight in the simple (and perhaps not serious) sides of life more.

The first was my favorite pit toilet of all time which was basically in a cave.  Potala is built on a rather large hill, and evidently some of the caves below are still largely open to sunlight.  Hence, this particular trough of a toilet was open to the sun from below.  It was a little scary, but the crack was really too narrow to fall through.  Still, the image of urine arching downwards into multiple rays of sunshine has stayed with me.  Not to be vulgar, but as a woman I rarely get to watch my urine arch anywhere.

The second (of which I have recently rediscovered video records) was a song-and-dance group of the unintentional kind.  While we were walking around the Palace, I could hear music drifting outside – beautiful, top-of-the-lungs filling and joyous music.  It didn’t really sounds like monks chanting, and there were female voices included as well (I had yet to see any nuns at Potala).  So I thought it was some sort of special performance.  After all, the voices were singing in unison and on key – anyone who’s ever been to a Chinese church knows that carrying a tune is not a skill the majority of the population possesses.  However, when we eventually wound around to the ‘performers’, they were in reality the roof repair crew.  I’ll give you a little electronic sampling of thier stylings:

It’s only about 5 seconds long, because I was afraid to embarass them by taking a picture while they worked.  Below is a bit more, with a woman pouring the plaster.  Sorry about the sideways image.

I don’t know why they were beating the plaster into the existing roof, or why they felt the need to sing.  Still, it was a moment of joy and goodness in a potentially bland and sometimes opressive world.  Despite everything, we still grow.  We still sing.  We still dance, in step with a neighbor or two, under the sun.