Week of July 16th 2018- Getting Frustrated with Puerto Rico then Loving the Ocean

Hello again, wonderful readers. I must admit I’ve gotten into some bad habits. It is Sunday night as I write this. I am getting better at my laziness though. I wrote an outline of each day’s events so I wouldn’t leave out a day like that one time last week…

Monday, July 16th-Getting Lost at a Puerto Rican Hospital

It’s almost better writing at the end of the week versus the same day. It lets me know what details are important and which aren’t. For example, I can tell you guys that we went to Office Max to make copies and that it took a long time because my birth certificate is bigger than a regular sheet of paper, so one of the employees there made a copy of it himself (versus the self service printers). But that’s not important to the rest of the day or week. Looking at it now on Sunday, this day wasn’t super productive.

After going to Office Max, Gia, Robin, and I went to the police station to get some more documents we need for the internship. They got something called Ley 300, while I got the step before that called “Antecedentes Penales”. I don’t know exactly what they are for, but I assume they are something like a background check. From there we went to speak to our dietetic director who told us the mandatory drug test would be on Tuesday. Then we got lost in a Puerto Rican hospital. Seriously, how can a hospital function and be so disorganized?! All the people we asked for directions sent us to different floors! One clinic can’t be on floor 1, 2, and 3 at the same time! Oh well.

For our misery we tried out a little Puerto Rican restaurant close to our apartment complex called Mandy’s BBQ. It was good. The chicken soup was delicious! We went home afterwards to lounge a bit before heading to Starbucks to charge our devices and use their internet. We must have had a lot of things to do online, because we stayed till 8:30 or so almost till close.

Tuesday, July 17th-Frustrated with Puerto Rico and Going out to a Bar

Drug test today! My roommates (plus Gia) and I all had to be there, but I left the apartment before any of them to go find out about a package that was supposed to be delivered the previous day. The post office didn’t open till a few minutes after 8 am and there was already a line of like 7 people, so I left and ran into Gia and Robin who were walking to the train station. After meeting up with the other interns in the dietetic director’s office, we got instructions on where to go and what cup to pee in. Once that was over, we returned home via the train.

Well, Gia and Robin did. I went back to the post office where it was emptied out for noon lunch. The guy at the front reminded me of a sloth. His manner was slow and lazy. Not in an intentional way. More like that was just his nature. It was infuriating. Turns out my package had been returned the previous day and the address was written wrong. Couldn’t have been that wrong if it ended up in my neighborhood post office! That was the last straw. Everything is different here. The work ethic is completely distinct from the United States. One week tomorrow since we’d made an electricity account and still nothing! Plus the whole mess at the hospital the previous day. I was over Puerto Rico! Wanted to go home to my family and forget everything about this island.

But no. I was here and would remain here for the next year. In too deep. So, I went to Starbucks with Gia and Robin. Robin was tentative around me as my irritation radiated off of me. I just got an expensive drink and a cake pop and tried to convince myself to adapt to the changes. This isn’t Texas and I shouldn’t expect it to be. I’m in Puerto Rico. There’s good and bad. I just have to learn, accept, and adapt. From here, we went to Econo (a big grocery store chain here in Puerto Rico). We went to the big one seven or so stops down on the train where we met Lilly, a college friend of Gia’s and an intern from the previous year. As she bought groceries for her last few days in Puerto Rico, I bought the ingredients for my mom’s lime pie.

After the grocery store, Lilly invited us (Gia, Robin, and me) to go to an eclectic place called 24 Hour Market. It’s a little grocery mart by day and a bar by night. I felt very under dressed with them since I was dressed in all black (pants and t-shirt) while they were in casual club blouses. You know, where you show a little something, but are still somewhat classy about it. We found a little table and sat there listening to live music for an hour or so. It felt like more to me as I forced myself to drink beer and tried to listen to the conversation over the bar and music noise. Some time later, we moved to a table outside. While Lilly and Gia went to buy some fried mashed potato and meat things, I was left with Robin to proclaim how nothing mattered. …Yes, I became a philosophical drunk. That’s all I’ll say about that night.

Wednesday, July 18th- Going to a Clinic

I woke up in Robin’s hammock. That’s not a euphemism. I actually woke up in the hammock Robin had set up in the balcony of our apartment. I remember saying goodnight to him as we returned to our apartment and heading to the hammock to lay down for a bit before entering my room and possibly waking my roommate, but… I guess I never made it to that second step. I couldn’t let that stop me though. It was going to be a busy day. I dozed a bit on the couch, too embarrassed to go to my shared room at like 6 am, before meeting up with Gia and Robin to go to Rio Piedras. There Gia got her water utilities set up while Robin and I went to a laundromat a few streets away.

Once Gia finished at the utility office, she met up with us so we could head to a clinic. We still needed to get a certificate of health for our internship but we weren’t about to go back to that maze of a hospital we’d gone to on Monday. We waited thirty minutes for a bus that never arrived before taking a train and walking twenty minutes (still lugging around our now clean clothes) to the clinic. After the clinic we stopped by our apartment to drop off the clothes before going to the bank. We asked about making an account, but were unable to get approved for a student account which would waive the monthly maintenance fee. Since we were already at the mall, we grabbed a bite to eat at the food court. Chinese food for me, yum!

Then came our, now routine, Starbucks visit before heading home and falling asleep. It was early, but it was dark without electricity so what else was there to do?

Thursday, July 19th- Shopping Day and Gym Embarrassment

Today was unplanned. Gia was busy and it seems like Karen and Axyl usually have their own thing going on, so Robin and I decided to go visit some shops. We started with Ikea where we found a bunk bed I hope to get for my room. Then we found a CVS y más. Y más?! What’s the “and more” part?? We went in and it was like the little shopping aisle of CVS was magnified across the whole store! It was great! There was even a little book section where I bought a coffee cook book. When in Rome, right? (Coffee is a huge thing here.)

Then Robin and I went to the dollar store of which there only seems to be one store in Puerto Rico called Always 99. It wasn’t as large and extensive as back home in Texas, but it did the job. I got shampoo and rubber bands. A ton of essentials for cheap. From here, we walked to what looked like a fancy restaurant which turned out to be a decently priced sandwich shop called Sobao. Once we were fed, we walked back to the train. Crossing the street, I almost got run over by a car. The light was red when we began crossing but all of a sudden he was there a few feet away from me without a sound to be heard. It’s okay though, because I lived to hear a guitarist play and sing on the train then pass around his hat. That was a first here. In Mexico, sure, but Puerto Rico? That was cool.

Somehow, I got suckered into not going straight home. Robin wanted to check out a gym close to the train station. I was lugging around a bag full of stuff from the dollar store plus my back pack, as one of the managers at the gym gave us a tour of the facilities. He asked for our experience and goals as he began his spiel on the prices per month and whatnot. I really wasn’t interested. Especially not after saying I’ve never gone to the gym regularly and I would like to lose weight if possible. Ugh. It’s always worse to say things out loud. I know I’m overweight. I know I don’t exercise regularly. But to say it… *sigh. That’s a different thing. I got Robin to agree to think about it before signing a year long contract and on the way home I reminded him of a Planet Fitness not even five minutes walk from one of the train stations. Sure, there’s some travel time included there, but we commute so much since we don’t have a car here that we have 90 day unlimited passes. Might as well use them. Plus, $20 per month versus $50. Yeah, I’d rather commute. You know… if I did the whole gym thing.

Back at home Robin and I picked up a desk and table from Gia that past interns had left behind. Thank goodness for hand me downs!

Friday, July 20th- Breaking Into Gia’s Apartment and Celebrating Gia’s Birthday

No motivation today. I lounged around all morning just rolling from one side of the bed to the other. I don’t think I actually left my bed till an hour after I woke up. In that time, Robin invited me to Starbucks, which I declined. Gia met up with him at Starbucks and they both tried to convince me to hang out with them, but I just didn’t want to leave my apartment. So I stayed as Gia headed to her own apartment and Robin went to the airport to pick up his girlfriend who came into town for his birthday on Saturday. Today was Gia’s birthday and I’d promised to make her a lime pie since I don’t have cake pans or electricity to bake her a cake. So, with all the laziness in the world, I got up and headed out to her apartment. That’s when she texted me that she’d gone out to the mall, but that I could just come in. That she’d left the door open for me.

That’s great, but someone had left the door closed at my apartment. Robin. The copy of the key that I’d gotten at Home Depot doesn’t work. The gate to my apartment was locked and can only be unlocked with a key from the inside or outside. *sigh. I had to call Robin who had to walk back to unlock the door for me then dash off again on his trip to the airport. Then, when I got to Gia’s apartment, the door was locked. *sigh. I thought about calling her, but I looked around and found another way in. I texted her that I’d gotten in like a robber, but that I was in. There I made a simple lime pie that I put in her refrigerator (hence why I had to make the pie at Gia’s [still no electricity at my apartment]).

I stayed a bit expecting Gia to come back, but every car that passed I was afraid would be her roommates (whom I haven’t met). I didn’t want to look like an intruder in their apartment, so I returned to my own apartment. Locked again. I definitely hadn’t locked it. Karen was home though, so I knocked until she let me in. Some time later Karen and I met up with Gia and Lilly and Ubered to the restaurant where we would celebrate her birthday. There we met with Robin and his girlfriend, Kathy. No sign of Axyl. It was a little Puerto Rican restaurant called Casa Blanca. It was okay. They gave us a round of shots called Chichaito (made of rum, but that tasted like cough syrup) for free. That was awesome!

After the restaurant we said goodbye to Robin and Kathy and got in an Uber. Barely. The driver was already driving away when I had just gotten one foot in the car! My instincts kicked in and I kind of hopped along with the car as Lilly, Gia, and Karen yelled at the driver to stop. One day my quiet nature will kill me. I don’t think I said a single word. Thank goodness for friends. The driver apologized profusely and I told her it was okay. I wasn’t hurt and I know she didn’t mean to. That’s enough reason to not be upset for me. We got off at a bar called Triple B and got some refreshing Lime Coladas (like Piña Coladas, but with lime instead of pineapple). We didn’t stay too long though. Once home we packed a beach bag and then began an hour long ride in a car that Lilly had rented to where the ferry would take us to one of the most beautiful islands of Puerto Rico- Culebra.

Saturday, July 21st- Trip to Culebra (Puerto Rican Island)

We made it to the line for the ferry at 1 am. As Lilly and Gia hunted for a parking spot, Karen and I waited in line. At around 4:15 we finally got our tickets and boarded the ferry. I’d never been on a boat and it was a bit nerve wracking when big waves hit, but it mostly reminded me of riding a horse. Steady and rhythmic. Calming. Once we were on the island, (around 6 am) we caught a little van that takes people to different beaches on the island. None of us had ever been to Culebra, so none of us knew which spot would be the best. We asked a police officer nearby and he suggested Flamenco beach, so that’s where we went. The sun was just rising as we stepped onto the breathtaking, fine white sand. I was ready. As the girls headed to a little palm tree to set down their blankets and sleep, I took a quick dip in the ocean. It was quiet and devoid of people so early in the morning. I felt at peace.

I didn’t stay too long though, since I was the only person on the entire beach in the ocean. I tried to read a little bit (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), but soon fell asleep using the book as my pillow. I awoke to a hot back. Don’t fall asleep on the beach! I got under the palm tree and put on some sunscreen before everyone else woke up. Then the four of us (Lilly, Gia, Karen, and I) got into the ocean. Karen got a bit worried about leaving our stuff unattended, so she headed back after a few minutes, but Gia, Lilly and I walked over to one side of the beach where Lilly had found a little pool of water where the waves didn’t hit earlier in the morning. We stayed a while there before going back. I, adventurous as always, began swimming back. Gia walked, but Lilly followed me. She joked that I should give her swimming lessons as I kept having to stop to wait for her. Ahh! It just felt so good to swim! I can’t even describe the feeling of complete peace that washed over me as I swam. It felt natural. Like I belonged there. *sigh It was devine.

When we arrived back with Karen we went to a little area where there were little food stands. I got a shrimp empanada (and a guava and cheese one for dessert) while some of the other girls got chicken shish kabobs (called pinchos here). Delicious, as always. From there we returned to our little palm tree where we all took a two hour or so nap. We’d stayed up all night to get those ferry tickets and were clearly still exhausted. I just stared at the ocean when I woke up. Longing to go back to it. Gia woke up then and joined me. Lilly came by soon after. I daringly swam out further into the ocean then let the waves take me back to our little group. It’s an unbelievable feeling. To just let yourself trust the ocean and flow with it. Ah! I want to go back!

I’ll spare you the details after this. Here’s the facts: we wandered into seaweed territory then got some last minute snacks like a super charged piña colada and some ice cream (coconut and nutella for me). Then we returned to the ferry via that same van service we’d gotten to the beach on. Back in the rental car, we drove to McDonald’s for a quick bite to eat. Once back at the apartment complex we (finally!) ate a slice of that lime pie I’d made for Gia’s birthday. It tasted just like my mom used to make when I was little. I said goodnight and headed to my apartment while Karen stayed to charge her phone at Gia’s apartment.

But wait. My key still doesn’t work. And Axyl still wasn’t home. So, Karen came to open the door and told me I had to get a copy that works. She told me we’d go tomorrow to get it done and I snapped at her. I’m not proud of it, but I don’t like it when people tell me what I have to do. It pushed my buttons and I snapped. *sigh. She didn’t say anything. Just left back to Gia’s apartment. When she came back she announced we have electricity. Yay! I just charged my phone and fell asleep.

Sunday, July 22nd- Axyl’s Return and Real Talk with Gia

I woke up to Axyl banging around. Axyl?! He’s alive!! None of us had seen him since Friday morning! Granted we weren’t in town all day Saturday, but still! I didn’t give him a big welcome home inquisition though. I just reverted to my antisocial ways and sat in the living room by myself singing and planning what I would cook for the following week now that we have electricity to use the fridge and stove. Gia came by and chatted with Karen and Axyl as I continued doing my antisocial thing.

They eventually came to the living room, so I picked up my papers and stayed there with them. I gathered from the conversation that Axyl had met a friend from Puerto Rico that took him on a trip to the national forest here (called El Yunque). A few minutes later, Axyl, Gia, and I took off to the nearby grocery store. There I bought all of the dry items on my list for the week. Why just dry? We don’t have a car. And it’s about a mile away (.9 miles or 1.5km). All the household staples like oil, flour and such were so heavy!

But the three of us made it home to chat in the living room again. Soon Axyl went to his room while I continued to chat with Gia. We got past the small talk and began talking about some of our life changing experiences. Stuff about our old friends and experiences with psychologists. I love getting past small talk. I understand small talk has a purpose, but I prefer substance. Realness. Rawness. It was refreshing, since everyone I’ve met recently (at least since I moved to Puerto Rico) have been new acquaintances. I look forward to more conversations like this with Gia and my other fellow interns.

Notes:

1) Sorry about the length. I know this weekly blog is longer than usual. Especially that Saturday one. I was fascinated by the ocean and got carried away…

2) So we finally have electricity, but still no internet. I’m here at Starbucks again as I write this so I can publish it. I’m going to set up the internet for our apartment tomorrow and hope to have it by the first week of August. It’s all coming together guys!

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