August 31, 2008

Back from the island

Well, I've returned from the island, only a few hours after the near collision of two jets just north of San Juan. Yikes! (and yes, Petchie, that meant that I was probably at the airport the same time as you! But we got there later, I think a bit after your flight left... unless you were on our flight, in which case... whoops! Either way, I missed you)

Anyways, this trip was different... almost.

  • No one spoke to me in English... almost. Actually, English-wise (or lack of) this was one of the best. Everyone I talked to defaulted to Spanish, which was great. I'm not sure what was so different about this time... let this be encouragement for everyone who keeps hearing English on the island--you can do it!
  • I didn't see any cockroaches... almost. The only ones I saw were outside, which I don't mind--except that I was outside at the time and they were huge. Gross! But they weren't inside the house, which is what counts. Those of you living there know that cockroaches are in your house, no matter how clean it is. It's just a fact of life. So not seeing any was quite an unexpected and pleasant surprise.
  • I didn't get any bugbites... almost. I didn't start getting any until a couple days before I left. Since then, I've gotten a lot, though. Worst part is, they're all mostly on my face. Bizarre, right? They're even on my lips. Ugh! Apparently gringo skin is just too tasty... or maybe they're trying to tell me something.
The trip other than that was pretty uneventful. I didn't get too many pictures but most of the ones I do have are pretty useful so I'll be using them in posts later.

By the way--I know a lot of you have been leaving comments for me. I really do appreciate it. I'm sorry I haven't been able to reply to all of them as of yet. I know I've gotten a few requests from people on some older posts and I honestly haven't been able to find answers. Sorry! Anyways, keep commenting, because I have been reading and a lot of you are adding interesting information that is really important. Thanks a lot to everyone!

August 26, 2008

Daddy Yankee and McCain: An Uncommon Couple

Last night I could not believe what la comay was telling me. Daddy Yankee endorsing John McCain? Would such a thing be possible?

Well, it is.

You can see the video of them together and some... commentary right here.

August 22, 2008

Photos, Río Piedras: Urbanization meets Nature

I thought I'd share a couple of the photos from yesterday's adventures.

Fruit stand on the corner.

I know everyone hates the strange color choices on the island. Don't ask me why, but I love it. It's "trashy" and I love it.

"yo soy la fokin maravilla y si no te gusta brega k-bron" (plus some other stuff)

Dirty rag by flamboyán...

I love this picture. Who decided to put these two trailers together and leave them in that perfect spot, anyways?

August 21, 2008

Props to El Nuevo Día...

... for posting this on the main page.

Yes, that's right, it says, "Thirst for vengeance". That plus that particular photo is just genius.

Between this, Ricky Martin's twins which he fathered through a surrogate mother, and the corpse that was kept standing up for the wake, the media has been having a field day.

Río Piedras

Yesterday we took a short field trip to Río Piedras so I could go book-shopping. I'm a closet voracious reader and the only way to get books from the island is to go shopping here, or at least until the bookstores get their act together and start selling them online (one having already started--I'll get to that in a moment). While I'm guessing there are bookstores all around the island, the only ones I know of and the ones that are most familiar to Puerto Ricans in the metro area are the ones in Río Piedras. Because the University of Puerto Rico's main campus is located there, bookstores have been built all around it. I really do mean all around it--the streets right off of campus have plenty of bookstores. Not surprising since the university publishes nearly all the books about the island.

First we stopped in this one in the photo; I can't remember its name for the life of me. Yes, it was incredibly disorganized and dusty. My friend with asthma couldn't even come in. This is my favorite kind of bookstore, though, since you don't know what you're going to find. There were a lot of older books which caught my eye, with pages so old they were disintegrating. But I was specifically looking for Puerto Rican books, which they had in the very back.

Then we headed to Librería Isla, which is an exceptional bookstore for 3 reasons: 1, it was organized, 2, they have a website, and 3, central air conditioning. I would bet it was the only place with it on the street, if not the whole neighborhood. Awesome. Anyways, it was a really nice store and I would recommend it.

So I bet now you're wondering which books I got. Here's a list in some sort of order:

  • Arqueología linguística: Estudios modernos dirigidos al rescate y reconstrucción del arahuaco taíno, Manuel Álvarez Nazario
  • El habla campesina del país: Orígenes y desarrollo del español en Puerto Rico, Manuel Álvarez Nazario
  • Estudios de lexicología antillana, José Juan Arrom
  • Lengua, identidad nacional y posmodernidad: Ensayos desde el Caribe, Carmen Centeno
  • Esclavos, prófugos y cimarrones: Puerto Rico, 1770-1870, Benjamin Nistal-Moret
  • Historia de la esclavitud negra en Puerto Rico, Luis M. Díaz Soler
  • La mujer negra en la literatura puertorriqueña, Marie Ramos Rosado
  • Los otros cuerpos: antología de temática gay, lésbica y queer desde Puerto Rico y su diáspora
  • Dos centimetros de mar, Carlos Vázquez Cruz
  • Vida y obra de Luis Llorens Torres, Nilda S. Ortiz García
  • La guagua aérea, Luis Rafael Sánchez
  • Felices días Tío Sergio, Magali García Ramis
  • Las Horas del Sur, Magali García Ramis
  • Esperando a Loló, Ana Lydia Vega
  • Falsas crónicas del sur, Ana Lydia Vega
  • La cabeza, Pedro Cabiya (brand new and recommended to me)
Before anyone objects, this isn't meant to be a list advising people on what books to start with if they want to learn more about the island. These are specifically books that fit the following criteria: I don't already own them/I can't get them easily from the local library, the subjects are interesting to me, and they are unavailable online. Actually, if I had to compose a list of books to start with, it would look similar to this list from before, give or take a few... mostly give since that is a really short list. If anyone has any suggestions, English or Spanish, I'd happily make it.

Anyways, I'm eating the most juicy and delicious mango I've ever had in my life as we speak! Sorry, but I had to share. You can't go wrong with a combination of perfect fruit and great reads (unless, of course, the fruit gets in the book... happens more than I'd like to admit).

August 19, 2008

A couple of observations

Being here, as opposed to relying on accounts from friends, is forcing me to take note of things that have changed since I was last here about a year ago. A few thoughts:

  1. Elections are coming up. I mean, not that I didn't know that before; even from afar it was pretty obvious. But the intensity of these elections contrasts with the as-of-yet lackluster American elections--or rather, maybe they seem that way because I've been here a bit over a day and it's already rubbed off on me. Anyways, there are political ads (several of them pretty funny) on the television every couple of commercials, the signs are everywhere, and yelling names of candidates at random strangers is perfectly okay.
  2. Puerto Rico is starting to catch onto the whole "green" trend. Every couple of news items includes something about it. But of course, the island still has a very far way to go and it'll be a long time before things really change.
  3. This is a bit more personal but man did I miss the food! Coming to a home and getting fresh food with all the flavor I haven't had in forever has just been great. I'm really going to miss this.

In other news, Aníbal is being charged with 5 additional crimes, bringing him up from 20 to 25. I have nothing to say about this, it's that pathetic.

August 18, 2008

A surprise

I am back on the island!

I know you're excited about that; if not, I am excited enough make up for it.

The next week and a half (I'm not going to be here too long, unfortunately) will hopefully bring lots of pleasant things to this blog! Or perhaps not; most of my writing while I'm not on the island is nostalgic memories, and now it will probably be more like non-nostalgic grievances as I get re-acquainted with reality.

... just kidding, it's not that bad.

Anyways, I'll be trying to post often while I'm still here.

August 17, 2008

A couple tourism ideas

First off, Petchie points out that buses are currently free until December. As she accurately points out, it is a cheap and sad voting ploy--but it still is a free ride. Take advantage of it.

The ever-reliable Renee has written about rum and how to get it for free... at least as a starting point. A side note: if you ever want a great guide to drinking in the island, there is a TV show called "Three Sheets" which hilariously introduces some of it here. The show is on some obscure Cable+ channel but you can watch it on Hulu for free. Go watch it.

August 15, 2008

Sad news...

I'm only being slightly sarcastic.

Daddy Yankee's film "Talento de Barrio" is now the Puerto Rican to sell the most tickets in a single day, passing the internationally acclaimed "Maldeamores", it seems.

Despite the complaining, I'm not actually anti-Daddy Yankee. Actually, I have a decent amount of respect for him for his role in the reggaetón genre. And I'll probably watch this movie at some point, just to see if it's decent. Those numbers are just disappointing though.

August 12, 2008

Asthma in Puerto Rico

So Renee has written up an excellent post about asthma in Puerto Rico, both pointing out the astronomically high rates, even among Puerto Ricans living in the States (20% of children, by far the highest of any ethnicity), and theories as to why.

I was meaning to write a post about asthma at some point myself, but as usual she has both beat me to it and written far better than I would have. Anyways, this is a very important issue for Puerto Ricans so I highly recommend you read up on it.

A Head's Up

Just warning everyone: there are two large tropical storms heading towards the island, both supposed to hit on Thursday. There's a possibility they get weaker first though, or even miss the island entirely, of course. Anyways, be ready, don't move into that low-lying house on the beach quite yet if you can help it and don't make hotel reservations on Culebra for Wednesday and Thursday night. Seriously though, most houses, especially those not on the water (or perched precariously on the tops of mountains--you know who you are), are pretty sturdy. Close your windows and doors and use common sense with the storm... if it comes.

August 9, 2008

La situación política de la isla

Como yo lo veo, nuestra isla es como una novia siempre a punto de casarse. Si algún día Puerto Rico escoge ser un estado de la Unión, tendrá que aceptar el inglés, el lenguaje de su futuro esposo, como su lengua oficial junto con el español, no sólo por ser el lenguaje de la modernidad y del progreso, sino por ser el lenguaje del poder en el mundo de hoy. Si la Isla escoge la independencia y decide quedarse soltera, por otra parte, tendrá que sacrificarse, y aceptar la pobreza y el atraso que significará vivir sin los beneficios y la protección de Estados Unidos. Independientes no seremos más libres, porque los pobres no son libres. Desgraciadamente, es muy posible que caigamos víctima de uno de nuestros caciques políticos que siempre están velando tras bastidores el momento de usurpar el poder. No me cabe la menor duda de que la independencia nos atrasaría más de un siglo, y que significaría un enorme sacrificio. Pero ¿cómo dejar de ser lo que somos?
Isabel en La casa de la laguna, Rosario Ferré, 1996 (p97)
I'm not going to bother trying to translate that, seeing as there is an English version of the book and inevitably my botched attempt would be compared to that. No thank you!

That said, if you don't speak Spanish you should really get your hands on a copy in English, and if you do speak Spanish, there is one on Amazon for you as well. Actually, Rosario Ferré is, unfortunately, one of the few Puerto Rican writers readily available on Amazon. Nevertheless, La casa de la laguna is a great read.

August 7, 2008

A smaller presence

I'm sorry if anyone is feeling abandoned, my social life caught up with me!

A couple of things of some importance:

So American Idol came to Puerto Rico and it was a huge bust. Only about 300 people showed up, as compared to about 10,000 for normal stateside auditions. Objetivo Fama, feel free to gloat.

Also, the final count is in and... there are only 22 Puerto Rican athletes going to Beijing, the lowest number since 1952. Yikes!

And finally, there is a new documentary on reggaetón called Straight Outta Puerto Rico... you can watch the trailer here. It doesn't sound great but I'll see if I can catch it anyways and let you all know how it is.