ruthless compassion (aroraborealis) wrote,
ruthless compassion

Puerto Rico in review

So, my time in Puerto Rico was, for the most part, good. The conference went well, all in all, and when it was done, I was very glad to get out of the "resort" hotel.

As you may recall, I decided to splurge and get the hotel right on the beach, which was so vastly the right move that now, with the clarity of hindsight, I can't believe I even considered doing otherwise. Here's the view from my window:

You'll note the proximity of the beach and waves, as well as the queer pride american flags and the fact that it's windy. (All pictures taken with my nifty new phone, which I'm still figuring out, so they're so-so, really.)

Again with the view:

And here's the view from the toilet:

The hotel was very much a gay male hotel, which meant two things: First, the bar was not a good place for me to hang out and meet people (though it was great for sitting in the afternoon for a cocktail), and second, no skeevy guys trying to pick me up in the hallway! In fact, I'm going to have to remember the gay hotel tactic in the future, because, truly, the gay hotel is the natural habitat of the single woman traveler in Caribbean and/or Latin America.

Because the hotel was right on the water, I did a lot of swimming. Well, okay, it was mostly wading and playing in the waves, because the breakers were big enough that most of the time, I didn't want to venture through them. It was fun when I did get past them, but I was pretty happy just splashing on the shore, too. I just love being in living water.

We also ventured into Old San Juan, which I greatly enjoyed. I walked a lot, including to a park where a woman sells bags of food for pigeons. Imagine the excitement of 500,000 pigeons with a ready food supply. (It may not actually have been a full 500,000 pigeons, as I lost count somewhere past 50.) Fortunately, the little girl who was, literally, covered in pigeons (sadly, no photo of this) was having fun. She had a pigeon on her head, a full set running from shoulders to wrists, and probably 6 or 7 clinging to her shirt. Others fluttered around her trying to get in the bag. It was a riot.

There were other interesting sights, but you can read about them in a travel book or something. I want to talk about the cats. Now, most of the places I've traveled, there are a lot of mangy dogs hanging around. Sometimes the dogs aren't so mangy, but they're rarely attractive. In San Juan, rather than dogs, they have cats. The cats own San Juan. It was amazing. Here is a cat in what I think of as a classic dog-in-the-street pose:

These cats are just taking a break from owning the sidewalk:

And this cat has decided that it likes having a car:

While I was walking down a street, there was a woman walking a small dog in the opposite direction. As they passed a corner, the dog yipped and leaped backward, making me worry what I was going to see when I turned the corner. Naturally, it was a cat. So far as I can tell, the cat was just sitting there, minding its own business, not hissing or puffing itself up or anything. Nevertheless, the dog was clearly spooked. This interaction told me a lot about the state of four-legged affairs in Old San Juan.

The food was great, the piraguas (snow cones) were fantastic, and it turns out I actually like rum, if it's dark and interesting enough. I've never had such good piña coladas, and, of course, the mojitos were nothing to sniff at.

What I found most difficult about being in San Juan was the language barrier. No, not the Spanish thing, which was actually fine, but the fact that I didn't know what language to use. If someone else started the conversation, we'd just run with the language they started with (usually English), which was fine. But if I was starting the conversation, my inclination was to start in Spanish, even though it's my weaker language. But based on some of the reactions I got, plus a comment in my guidebook, I was afraid that starting in Spanish was offensive, implying that they didn't know English (which most people did). Of course, starting in English seemed presumptuous that they DID know English, and if they didn't, was I being rude assuming they did? And if they knew both, and I started in Spanish, did I then look stupid if I fumbled around for a word?

Obviously, I overthink things. Nevertheless, this was a big hangup for me and probably stopped me from being as chatty as I might otherwise have been, in either language.

On the bright side, I actually did understand Puerto Rican Spanish at least some of the time, which was a personal coup.

Next time I go, I'll have to get out of San Juan -- I don't really think I can say I've been to Puerto Rico so much as that I've been to San Juan. Which is a fine start, but no more than that.

No doubt my minimal tan will be gone by the time any of you see me, but for now, I'm enjoying it :)

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