Monday, June 8, 2015

Vacation, Day 6

I woke up early on Saturday. The air was cool and felt great. I didn’t hear anyone stirring, so I attempted to write some more in the Blog. I got frustrated and gave it up. I switched to reading, instead.

When I heard people talking, I threw on a shirt and shorts and came outside. Evy, Iris and Mundy were up. Yanessa was still crashed on the sofa couch (she had slept with Evy) and Vicky and Myla were in the guest room, sleeping as well.

Mundy gave me a cup of coffee and asked me if I wanted breakfast. I told her, “Thanks, but no.” Then she asked me (again) if I wanted sugar in my coffee. I declined.

Sidebar: I asked Vicky later why everyone always wanted me to put sugar in my coffee. She said that’s how they drink in here, so they are just surprised that I don’t use it.

The coffee is excellent, BTW. I forgot to ask if this is the homegrown stuff, though.

Then I went and shaved and showered, so I wouldn’t be in anyone else’s way.

Vicky and Myla eventually got up (Yanessa slept on) and Mundy fixed them breakfast. It looked like scrambled egg sandwiches on the French bread.

Mayra returned to lead us to the city of Ponce. Vicky wanted to show me the cathedral. Mayra asked Iris if she would like to come and she said yes.

So, she loaded up the wheel chair in her car and Iris got in. We got in the SUV and we all headed out.

Mayra took a different way down the mountain. This road was even smaller with more curves! Mayra later admitted to me that she took that way because she knew it would scare Evy (and it did). Sisters, LOL!!!

It was about a 30 minute drive to Ponce. We did the usual driving around in circles to (finally) find a parking spot.

The cathedral was beautiful and I took a picture. But we found out you can’t just go in. It opens at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. only and then just for mass – no tours. Bummer!

So, we checked out the old fire house. It was black and red (the Ponce colors) with all kinds of painted lions, each with its own meaning.

Why lions? Because Juan Ponce de Leon was a Spanish explorer and conquistador. He became the first Governor of Puerto Rico by appointment of the Spanish crown. He led the first European expedition to Florida, which he named. He is associated with the legend of the Fountain of Youth, reputed to be in Florida. And, Leon means “Lion” in Spanish.

We did more souvenir shopping and then went to eat in yet another souvenir/sandwich shop.  Mayra, Iris and I stayed in the sandwich area and, after taking everyone’s order, got some food and drinks. The sandwiches were again huge. I got a turkey one “todo” which meant with everything (lettuce, tomato, etc.)

Vicky ordered a ham sandwich and they somehow messed up the order and made two. They didn’t charge us for it, but they just gave it to us. So, we wrapped it up and, when we left, we gave it to a homeless woman outside.

Speaking of homeless, in San Juan, there were feral cats everywhere. Out here, there are feral dogs. I’m not sure what either of them eat to survive, but you see one or two (or four at the beach) here and there.

Since the cathedral was a bust, we opted for a trolley tour of the city. There weren’t enough seats in a row for all of us, so I sat up front by myself. A little while into the trip Mayra came and told me to switch seats with her, so Vicky could interpret what the tour guide was saying for me.

We saw the music institute, an old high school where many famous Puerto Ricans graduated from, government buildings with statues of Ponce de Leon and a bridge with two huge lion statues on top the columns (these were each different but both magnificent) and a deep, dry river with concrete sides that they said becomes a raging torrent in the wet season.

We also saw an old, old tree that was famous (maybe for being so old). It had been damaged in a hurricane and was starting to topple over, so they built a metal support for the one remaining branch. I tried to take a picture of it, but the screen on the window got in the way of a clear shot. I wished I’d gotten one of those lions!

We also toured an area Evy had told me about. They were some of the original houses, all painted red and black. She said you can buy, but not change anything about them, even the color. I told her about the old section of Charleston, SC.

After the trolley ride was finished (about 40 minutes long), we all went to the local beach. By the time we were leaving, it was getting dark.

Sidebar: I don’t remember if I told you, but in the tropics, there is no real twilight, like we have here in Michigan. It’s light and then it’s dark, bam!

We headed back home and the special dinner that Mundy had been making all day.

But, we had one more stop, first. Evy wanted to see her brother. His name is Heminio, but everybody calls him Negro.

Sidebar: Before I get any comments about being a racist, let me explain. He is very dark and that was his childhood nickname. It does NOT refer to his ethnicity, it’s just the Spanish word for black.

So, we drove up what looked like an alley to his house at the top of a hill. His house was small, too, but gorgeous! We went through the gates.

Sidebar: Every home had a gate and, if it has a porch, there are bars on it at well. I asked Mayra and Vicky what they were afraid of and they said it was a Spanish custom.

I met Uncle Negro, his wife Viviana and his six year old daughter Nydia Paula. Negro recently retired (in Michigan, of course) and moved back down here.

As I said, the house was beautiful, with custom cabinets in the kitchen, etc. He is an avid gardener so he showed me around out back. Unlike Mundy, he does have ten acres, but most of it is still jungle. He’s clearing it out, bit by bit. He, too, has a wide variety of fruit and vegetable plants. He has the chicken and turkeys, but also has a small calf.  He said there was a pig, but they slaughtered it last week.

Back inside, he started talking with Evy, Mayra and Iris. Viviana offered to take Vicky and the girls on a tour outside, so I tagged along. Some of the things Negro forgot to show me was the outside washing machine building, with places to hang the laundry to dry, a summer kitchen building to cook when it’s hot in the house and the basement (not under the house per se, but lower and next to the house). They had a collection of antique sewing machines, old radios, etc. in the basement.

Back in the house, we had some flan and some fried little bananas.

Sidebar: Mundy has them growing at her place, too. Mayra picked one and literally shoved it in my mouth to try. They are not baby bananas, but full grown and they are only about four inches long. They are very sweet and when you fry them like Viviana did, they taste like candy.

Then another long ride up the mountain in the dark. The headlights on the SUV were not that bright, so Vicky used the high beams whenever she could.

We got in and settled and Mundy started serving her dinner. It was a beef stew kind of dish that she served with plain white rice and a ball that was mashed potatoes around a ground beef mixture. She was very proud of supper and insisted I take two of the balls on a separate plate.

Sidebar: Mayra noticed my discomfort (I was full) and snuck one of the balls back to the pan for me.

It was late and we had to get up at 3:00 a.m. (more about this on Sunday’s post) to make our early morning flight. So, I said goodnight. Mayra hugged me goodbye and I thanked her for showing me that there really were nice Puerto Rican women. She laughed and told me not to hold it against Vicky, she can’t help being part Ecuadorian.

Back in my room, I took a quick shower and shaved. I packed my suitcase for the trip home, just leaving out some clothes to dress in and my morning pills. I was tired, but I couldn’t fall asleep until almost midnight.


  1. “Sidebar: Before I get any comments about being a racist”

    You’re not racist. You categorize people differently than I do. No description, as far as I’m concerned, about you would do anything to define GPF, and he’s your Brother. You’re also not anything like, what you would call, any of the “white” people in my Family (two of my Brothers, etc.) or most of the “white” people I’ve lived around for nearly 40 years. That’s all.

  2. Sounds like a nice end to the trip. The lions really were cool.