Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Silver Hair Adventure


I might just let my gray hair show!! Hahahahaha. I don't know if I am ready yet but it is a thought. I know it isn't the gray hair. Today's adventure was going to El Yunque, my favorite place in the whole world and I went with a motley crew. Carmen, Victor, Mom and I drove for an hour out to El Palmer, using the new toll road Route 66, then the well driven Route 2. Once we started driving up the curvy palm tree and fern lined route 191 we knew we were in a different world. As always there were the ooos and ahhhs, as each curve opened to a more beautiful spot filled with miramelindas or arching bamboos as we took pictures of the Coco Falls and trickling rivulets, or wandered into the Juan Diego stream and splashed some water. But that wasn't the highlight. The highlight came after we climbed the Yokahu tower and saw the coast with its turquoise ocean and the swaying trees in the delicious breeze. We were just hanging around waiting for Victor to come down, and Carmen insisted on taking some pictures of me and mom as we waited. I was a little anxious by then because I had to rush to make it back on time to San Juan for a very important doctor's appointment, but as I considered my options I decided I wasn't going to ruin a nice afternoon getting impatient. A few minutes later I spotted Victor peeking out of one of the openings of the tower and he said he was on his way down. When Victor came down he began setting up his tripod and took some pictures of all of us on a bench to record the day. Mom was just sitting there as you see in the picture, when this young man, who could not be older than 13, came over. I had seen him in the tower, and he looked slightly handicapped. I couldn't pinpoint his condition but I knew he had a disability. All I know is that as he approached Mom, he gestured and hardly saying a word with a big smile on his face, he assured me he only wanted to greet mom and I shook my head yes and took her hand and then gave her a hug. He looked up at me, straight at me as he hugged her, and Victor unbeknownst to me took a picture. It was a divine moment. We all stood there in awe for a few moments. I said, "that was an angel." Then I turned and located his mother, and she had a big smile on her face. She also had a camera in her hand and had recorded the moment and I thanked her and loudly said God bless you. She waved and then they were gone. And that is what happened today.
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Thursday, April 03, 2008


Yesterday we went to visit my sister's house in Naranjito. You can see some of the views atop of her house.
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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Panaderias- Bakeries and Names

When it comes to a bakery, there is no place like home. From the time I went to live in Trujillo Alto with my parents around 1969, one of our favorite stops on our way home down to Cupey Bajo, was La Facciola. When it first started they had it right smack on the corner of Sagrado Corazon building at the corner of San Claudio and the road to Cupey. If you were going up to El Senorial you could stop there to buy bread, pastries and coffee and if I was going down to Fair View or Venus Gardens, the same.

I will not get sidetracked with the silliness of English names for subdivisions in a primarily Spanish speaking country. Such inconcruency is a reflection of a nation's lack of self identity or the influx of foreign capital. Of course you must be thinking she's writing in English. Okay so I am sidetracked. I can't help it. It is not my fault I learned to speak, write, and read English well and that it comes so easily for me to express myself in English, but I do also in Spanish. Anyway, I am an exception, yet part of a growing exception, but none the less an exception. I would have been just as happy if most of the subdivisions or urbanizaciones as we call them had Spanish names.

I am glad to see so many urbanizations coming up with Spanish names, but I still can't explain Ciudad Universitaria with no university near by. No seriously, some are La Encantada, Terranova, Mansiones, Terrazas de Guaynabo, El Paraiso, Sagrado Corazon, Punta Las Marias, Altamira: I just love those names. They evoke tranquility, spaciousness, and adventure, whereas Ocean Park, Levittown, Fair View, Summit Hills,Caparra Terrace though well intentioned do not offer the same peacefulness or imagination for people who don't understand what the words mean.

Actually Caparra Terrace, sounds pretty jarring to me. And it was with it duplex houses neatly squeezed together and divided by a thin wall where you could easily hear the other family's activities and so close to the street you could hardly fit a tree edgewise. I had to walk through Caparra Terrace desert, twice a day under the unrelenting sun to avoid eating the rice and beans they called lunch at the Gabriel Mistral. Umm, I do not sound nice today. But it's true I didn't like those lunches nor could I stand the smell, but fortunately now the school lunches include fresh fruits, vegetables, and not the canned soy beans which made me so ill.

But back to the names..Actually back to bakeries in PR. Truly Spanish roots. Except for La Francaise. Dona Ana called it La Francesa and it was established in Old San Juan, in Puerta de Tierra by my ex husband's grandfather, Jean Pieve, and an associate. So every time we went by Puerta de Tierra, my mother in law would always tell me the story about how her father, came from Corsica, went to live in Lajas where she was born, but then moved to Puerta de Tierra and started La Francesa with a fellow Corsican. Today La Francaise is on the Caguas road near La Muda and has the best sweet bread in town.

But La Francesa was an exception. If you look at the majority of bakeries or panaderias in the San Juan area, you will find that most of them have Spanish roots. As well as connect Puerto Rico to it roots they also are a venue for a great deal of the cultural activities in town. There you can see people having tertulias or meaningful conversations about politics, gossip, or family or reading the newspaper over a cup of freshly brewed coffee, either un posillo or a cafe con leche. WiFi has not yet sneaked in, but I am sure it is a matter of time.

There is something very Spanish about panaderias. Let's start with the names...Listen to these names... La Viña, Madrid, La Catalana, La Nueva Sevilla, La Coruña, La Gallega Bakery, La Mallorquina and La Mallorca (both in Old San Juan, you just can't walk past these last two). All of these have names that point you directly back to España, to la Madre Patria, Old Spain, with it fancy European pastries, smoked ham hanging from the rafters, masapan candies, turron during Christmas, sardinera for Easter, colored breads for our spam sandwiches, and pan de agua o sobao.

So whenever I am in town, I stop at La Facciola, another exception, an Italian name, But the panaderia is modeled after the many Spanish ones, including hot food, and Caldo Gallego, a very typical Spanish soup, made with chick peas. I have my coffee, chat with Maria Luisa, the attendant, who is ever so nice and sweet to my mother. It's the silver hair again. And we have a media noche and coffee and buy too many pastries: un quesito, "un neopolitano", cream filled tornillos, chocolate covered strawberries, tocino del cielo, etc., etc., etc. and I am in trouble again. Es culpa del Español, ole! (It's the Spanaird's fault!)

I love my Spanish roots. Y amo a mi patria. Dios bendiga a Puerto Rico y a España!

2012 Still love this post.  The panaderias are still there and I think Kasalta now has wifi...but as always the conversations are wonderful and friendly.  
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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Pinones and Alcapurrias de Jueyes

There is nothing more Puerto Rican I guess than some well made alcapurrias de jueyes (jueyes are crabs). Because mom's memory is faulty, I document a lot of the things we do together and yesterday we decided to go to the best place in town for alcapurrias and bacalaitos (cod fish fritters). Darn, I should have taken a picture of the inside of the kiosk where they had all the alcapurrias and crisy bacalaitos all lined up on a shishkabob stick, soaking in the heat from the big oil kettle. Hopefully no transfats and zero calories! Ha ha.

We went at just the right moment because there was hardly anyone, but as people streamed by and saw cars parked and people eating the place got full. The lady there was kind enough to fry us fresh alcapurrias,and then for some unknown reason she barely charged us. I think it must be mom's silver hair that did it. Tomorrow I will try to take a picture of the place. I would say it is about a mile and a half from the entrance to Boca de Cangrejos, just past the big open area for parking on the right and the pool of sea water on the left. Anyway you can see Mom enjoying her alcapurrias at our seaside oasis.

Later we went down to the beach at a real serene little spot, which has a posita or pool and I waded in the posita and collected shells while Cuchi, mom's nurse, sat with mom and both enjoyed the ocean waves churning, rising and falling, and shimmering in the sunlight while they sat under the shade of a palm tree. Unfortunately I would not recommend you do the same thing unless you go on the weekend or with a larger group since the place is a bit solitario. Instead, I think it is better to park near the open parking area which is being restored. Around Easter weekend PR had a pretty bad winter storm whose waves hit the area furiously and caused the road to be closed for several days. Terracota sand was still piled up ten feet high on the side of the road even yesterday when we drove by.
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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Puerta de Tierra, sere Puertorriqueña?

Today, Hector, Mami and I got together for lunch at EL Hamburger. One of the best places for hamburgers in town. The last time I had been there, it was with an old boyfriend chuchucientos años ago. Chucuchientos is a vague term so your kids can't come and correct you about how many years ago it was and that way they don't know if it was a boyfriend or a husband, whatever. Probably both. Anyway, the place is as good as always. I was amazed and pleased. They still had the blue cheese and plenty of sides. Lots of fun and you can't beat the view. That line of palm trees themselves, with the aquamarine ocean as a backdrop is enough to fill ones eyes and day.
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Joseph M. Acaba, First Puerto Rican Astronaut!

Another day, another delay. This flight has again been pushed back and this time for no sooner than March 11, 2009 giving NASA the opportunity to check if some newly installed valves could cause the Shuttle any damage during its take off. My goodness this flight has been postponed so many times, that these astronaut's heads must be spinning. You can just imagine, thinking okay in a week we will be on our way, and then another delay. Of course, they must be trusting that each delay makes their flight safer and we do, too. But it doesn't hurt to pray, in fact, it blesses to pray. So Lord Jesus, we just pray that you be with this crew for Mission STS-119 and that their flight be surrounded with your protecting hand and blessings. Amen. Updated March 9, 2009.

Well, I just found out this week that Puerto Rico is going to have its first Puerto Rican astronaut, Joseph M. Acaba! Mr. Acaba who is also a teacher, with a BA and MA in Geology, was chosen from at least 2,000 other candidates and will be a Mission specialist on the Space Shuttle Discovery in December[ Apparently this mission has been pushed back a couple of months and according to most recent information, it will depart no sooner than February 16th]* on his way to the International Space Station. I am so proud and to think how this can encourage our Puerto Rican students to put more effort into their studies. Though Mr. Acaba was born in California, both of his parents are from Puerto Rico. During his visit he quoted a Puerto Rican poet in saying that had he been born on the moon, he would still be "boricua."

On March 18th he visited the the island and was greeted by the Senate of Puerto Rico, including Senator Kenneth McClintock and Representative Luis Daniel Rivera. He also went to el Parque de las Ciencias (Science Park) in Bayamon and greeted students from several schools. My cousin, digo, mi niece, Michelle and her husband Victor, who are both active in the Sociedad de la Astronomia de Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico Astronomy Society) participated in the activity.

If you want to read more about his visit you may go to Astronomy Society of Puerto Rico website

Also see his bio at

and also at wikipedia

I wrote another entry recently with some great pictures of the completed mission as well as great images of Mr. Acaba in a space suit.

This bio includes information about Mr. Acaba's experience as a teacher in Florida. How about that?!

*Updated September 20th, 2008.