Category Archives: Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico: Guess Who Got a Tattoo?

 

I wish I could tell you that I slept in today, but I didn’t. Not a whole lot of time for that and who wants to sleep in when there’s a whole U.S. territory to see? Shayla, (another one of my staff colleagues) and I hit the streets of San Juan early. very early. So early that nothing was open except for the jewelry stores and the restaurants serving breakfast. She was on a mission to track down a tattoo parlor or two, and get some comparison prices for a small piece she wanted done. This would be her first tattoo and she was nervous. I don’t know her well, but she seems really similar to me in that she’s pretty conservative about that kind of thing. I like the idea of tattoos, on someone else, but have never seriously considered getting one myself. But I was curious and intrigued, so I went with her for moral support.

We spent the morning wandering around Old San Juan and the streets reminded me of San Miguel de Allende (Mexico) in some places with their narrow access and brightly painted buildings. It was a nice breezy morning and we just strolled which I love. We dipped into Cafe Mallorca, where they are known to have an amazing breakfast, but to conserve money, we ate breakfast on the ship (free!) and picked up some homemade macaroons to sample while we checked things out (worth the 30,000 calories!). We got bamboozled into checking out some jewelry and next thing I know, I had whipped out my credit card and so had she. I keep justifying these purchases as “gifts” but if yall don’t get any “gifts” when I get back, yall know the deal!

While waiting for the tattoo parlors to open we found a music store (Jah Rastafari) and I was all excited that I could pick up some Puertorequeno tunes, alas…they sold only Bob Marley and Marley-esque tuneage. BUT we did meet Rashonda who is an SAS alumni. She did the spring voyage last year and loved PR so much that after returning home and graduating, she packed up and moved down to PR last August! How cool is that? She was great and gave us a recommendation for lunch, but had no help for me regarding my music crisis. We found two tattoo parlors for Shayla and she got quotes from both of them. I liked the guys (pictured above), but wouldn’t trust them with putting ink on my body.

We decided to mull her options over lunch at Cafe Puerto Rico. I know, cheesey name, but the food was oh, so, good. After mulling the menu, and chatting up the cutie-pie bartender/owner and his brother while he made us some noon-time cocktails…I decided on arroz con camarones, plantanas (yellow rice with saute’d shrimp, plantains) and…red beans (good thing I have my own room, no?). They also made their own salsa picante (hot sauce) from scratch and it worth the sweat beading up on my forehead, they couldn’t give me the recipe though b/c they said their father made it, and they had no idea what was in it!

After lunch we stumbled across this little store (Hecho a Mano) where we spent a small fortune in jewelry and music, a lot of the students had found it too after word got out about the great prices and the place was packed but I picked up two CDs that I am totally in lurve with now and have on constant rotation (Shayla is rolling her eyes). Having made her decision (not the guys pictured above), I accompanied Shayla to the tattoo parlor of her choice and stood-by while she did all the paperwork and got all of the info and warnings.

It took about 20 minutes (17 of which I slept through) and I waited for her in the parlor lobby. The artwork came out beautifully. She hugged her tattoo artist as if she was glad to still be alive and we boogied out of there to a pharmacy so she could get the recommended ointment to take care of her new bodyart. We also stocked up on drinks and snacks, etc for the ship (we leave tomorrow!).

I also found these creepy things which are the worst souvenir idea I’ve ever seen! We spied some old dudes throwing down playing dominoes near the park and stopped to soak up their good time. The last stop of the day: booking our indie (independent) trip to El Yunque rainforest! A lot of people went yesterday with groups but we decided it would be more fun with less people so we cabbed (best cab ever) it over to the Ritz Carlton’s tour desk and hooked up a tour for the next morning. I’m still coming to grips with traveling in a group, but I realized I’d rather travel this way than not at all, so I’m keeping my attitude and perspective in check. All of which are easier to do because I genuinely lurve the majority of the people I’ve met.

Other highlights: Dusting off my rusty spanish and impressing others (and myself) with my ability to get around/get what I needed. I’m an international woman of mystery!

My latest post is up over at Gadling! Our talented team over there is growing. We’d love your comments!

Puerto Rico: Not A Foreign Country

  

these kids can DANCE, originally uploaded by funchilde.

Student #1: Man, I’m so excited to finally be going to a foreign country!
Student #2: Uh, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, its not foreign.
Student #1: You know what I mean!

The students in the photo are from Universidad Interamericana in Puerto Rico. The students in the conversation…yeah, those are MY kids….oh lawd what have I gotten myself into?

Again I couldn’t sleep as we sailed into Puerto Rico’s Harbor at Sunrise. I got pretty good shots of the city, the capital and the famous fort as we sailed in. I caught a cute shot of two of my favorite students. I am loving the  Nikon D50 for these shots, but can’t give up the Coolpix for the everyday roaming around photo ops.

The weather was hot even at 7am, but the sun was bathing everything in a beautiful light, and the energy and excitement on board was electric. I couldn’t wait to trample my new friends as I headed down the gangway. The PILOT boat came out to get us, and guide us into the berth, but before we got cleared to leave the vessel we got a surprise: The Governor of Puerto Rico came by to give us a diplomatic briefing and warn us that Ricky Martin was in town and that unfortunately the concert tickets were sold out.

Getting the ship into harbor, and getting everyone cleared through immigration (yes, even in PR) and keeping the students relatively calm and orderly, requires everyone on staff to be involved to some degree to make the process as smooth and as fast as possible (disembarking almost 1000 people). So I have quickly learned there are no days “off” and no “sleeping in”, but everything is so new and exciting that no one really minds how hard we’re working from what I can tell. 

Once the ship was cleared I cleaned my office (I know what a dork), cleaned my room, and set out my laundry to be picked up. My toughest work days are coming up with the academic add/drop process for the students to finalize their courses, and I wanted this quiet time to get organized. I also wanted to give everyone a running start into San Juan, so that we wouldn’t be tripping all over each other while in port. Some people took off for the beach at Vieques, others for the Museo de nuestra raiz Africana (Museum of our African Roots) but I took off for the Zocalo in hommage to my time in Mexico. I just wanted some time out to myself and by myself to think and observe. After almost two weeks on board and surrounded by people I needed to recalibrate and this was just the spot (except for all the damn pigeons!).

After my navel-gazing down-time, I caught up with some other staff members and we flagged down a taxi and asked the driver to “take us where YOU would go eat if you weren’t working and were taking new friends out to show them San Juan” he obliged and took us to El Jibarito on Sol Street in old San Juan. The place was empty, but had a great vibe and the waitress teased us in spanish before admitting that she spoke flawless english. The three of us hung out in the back room drinking Medalla’s (Puerto Rican beer) in the filtered sunshine, and enjoying the quiet. Little did we know that 700 other people from our ship had the same idea and when we went pay the check and leave, the restaurant was packed with all of our compadres! I chowed down on red beans and yellow rice with grilled pork chops and plantains dipped in garlic butter (yum!).

I had to high tail it back to the ship to get ready for the evening’s activities! I was a trip leader and took 47 of our SAS students out to Universidad Interamericana for a night of cross-cultural fun. We ended up taking 2 buses to the university so about 100 of us in total. When we arrived the Puerto Rican students were outside, all dressed in maroon polo shirts with their school mascot (the tiger) and clapping and singing “ole’, ole’, ole’, ole’, ole'” with huge smiles on their faces. We spent the evening eating local food, hanging out and mostly DANCING SALSA (click to watch video two videos). We were hot, sweaty messes, dancing for 3 hours before we finally packed up our stuff and went home. Many of the students met up with their PR peers later that night in old San Juan and it was fun to watch the boundaries of culture, skin tone, and experience melt as young people pursued those universal unifiers…beer, romance, and dancing.

When we got back on the bus someone had hopped from the other bus onto ours and I was left without a seat as I gave mine up to the last student. One of my male students yelled “You can sit on my lap Dia!” I declined, citing the rumor factory that would have me “giving lapdances on buses” that would be circulating within the hour. The students thought this was hilarious and I told them I’d cut their throats in their sleep if I heard one rumor about me on board the ship. Don’t you wish I was looking after YOUR kids?