Ponce Carnaval

Carnaval was a mystical, heathen-esque party of tumultuous color, sound and steep tradition in my mind. Something to be felt and digested rather than passively admiring. I wanted to attend the Ponce Carnaval since we moved here but the timing was never right.

This was the year! My Dad was in town and we had no plans. Plus – I found reliable information online. This was a deterring factor in years past too. You’d think Ponce would be very clear about the activities but I had to rely on Puertoricodaytrips.com for my info. Although the city of Ponce did have a little poster which said Sunday’s parade would start at noon.

My Dad, the kids and I drove one hour to Ponce to arrive around 11am. The parade was supposed to start at noon so I already felt like we were cutting it close. After all, the little info I gleaned from online said 100,000 people attend Carnaval Ponceño annually. I had plotted out the supposed parade route on my google map. I was as ready as possible.

Sunday was the big parade so we planned for that. I tried calling the info line to ask how early we should get there to get a good parade seat. I’m so Midwestern – Wauwatosa‘s 4th of July parade is SO organized. The past three years I’ve gotten up predawn to reserve seats 3 hours before the parade starts. It’s a well-oiled machine, that parade, so that was my reference point. Plan ahead or be sorry.

We got a good free parking spot very close, spoke with a local woman who said the parade would start at noon, and saw a handful of people already seated. There were plenty of spaces to put down our two chairs in the shade. Score! Now just wait an hour for the parade to start. That’s not long. We located the nearest bathroom (in a bar) and bought a bottle of water so we could use the loo guilt free.

Noon came and went.

Ok. Maybe it’ll start a smidge late. That’s PR’s modus operandi after all.

1pm came and went.

There was a very heavy police presence. We stopped a cop and confirmed that the parade was supposed to start at noon. She laughed. And said it would start at 1:30.

Oye. Great. What’s one more half hour? Well, my kids were very ready to go home by then, parade or not. Mama had already invested this time and energy so no way. This was going to be awesome dammit!

 

 

2pm came and went. Kids wrestling each other. Mama starting to get angry. Another bar/bathroom trip.

The lady next to us comes to the parade annually but said that this turnout was much smaller than years past. Social media had been warning people to avoid Ponce due to recent violence. Oh. However, we have heard from other friends that all celebrations have been smaller and more subdued after the hurricane.

Before the parade started

2:30 came and the parade started! Finally! Pickup trucks with giant speakers blared music (kids headphones were used again).

The Vejigantes are the masked people, supposedly beating away evil spirits with their balloons (originally animals bladders. Ew). They started the parade.

The parade stops to let people take photos

I’m sure the ape mask is traditional

Ponce has a great fire station museum in the plaza

Ponce 1692

My Dad’s turn to pose

Then came the various floats of the Carnaval royalty, the school marching bands and antique cars. This particular Carnaval is 160 years old.

One of the Carnaval kings

This getup was so elaborate you can see her costume was actually rolling on the ground

Every good parade needs a little drag

Yes, those speakers were blaring music.

 If the parade had flowed consistently it would’ve been about a half an hour. But each group stopped to take photos with anyone who cared to pose with them along the route. The high school bands didn’t advance forward while they were playing a tune, and took off their drums to drink cups of water, and even the float drivers would stop for people like me with big cameras should we put it up to our eye to take a photo. Dude, I’m waiting for the best lighting – don’t stop for me! Thanks for the thought I guess. The parade was about an hour long.

Midway through, a guy in the parade was waving to my kids and nudging his companion to look over at us. Now, my kids are blondies in a sea of dark hair so I assumed he was just gawking at their fair hair. Until my son said, “The guy who serves lunch at my school is in the parade” ah. It’s a small island I tell ya.

This young girl and the boy below here were given Capri Sun juice boxes, which I thought would make a great photo of juxtaposition. But she saw me and hid her juice every time I raised up my camera. So much for candid street photography

And a Moana float – cause why not??

We thought it was over so we packed up and went for another bar/potty break, only to come out and see there was a bit of the parade still going on. I missed the iconic stilt walkers but oh well. We were hungry and had enough merriment.

This dance group did a hip hop dance to Cinderella…hmmm…

evil step mom

I’m glad we went just to satisfy my curiosity. I can’t say I’d ever drag my kids to that again though. It was an ok parade. The photos of the costumed people make it look more awesome than it really was. But it would be a cool experience for people who don’t go to too many parades. Maybe I’d go with adults to check out the evening festivities at the plaza where the parade ends. And drink. Maybe next year we’ll stay home and make our own masks.

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Salinas Speedway drag race

Drag racing. Something I’ve only seen in beatnik films and old musicals. How I stumbled upon discovering the Speedway in the town of Salinas I’ll never remember, but it was fate that I did just days before a big race rally. And we had no weekend plans. So…we headed east.

The Facebook page was surprisingly informative. The race schedule said they were starting prelims at 3pm. So 4:30 seemed a good time to arrive. Because you know…island time.

Easy to find (with some terrifically creepy buildings nearby just begging to be photographed)

I wonder if these grandstands ever fill up

$15 per adults. Chillens were free. Decent bathrooms, bar and fried food and all the burnt rubber you’d care to inhale.

I wondered if any other gringos ever venture here. We were certainly the only ones there that day. The ticket guy chatted us up and said he used to live in Boston.

Trevor and I didn’t know how people would dress for this. We stick out yet we still want to blend in haha. The clothes we picked were fine. I made a Princess Leia braid to balance out all the testosterone of the event.

Bursts of four rounds of cars would race and then there’d be a 5 minute break. It actually moved along faster than I expected.

I’m glad we had the kid’s headphones. Trevor and I used ear plugs too. But I didn’t see anyone else with ear protection. The announcers rolled every r like soccer announcers.  I loved it.

I read this strip is on an old runway. Cool!

After about an hour and a half the kids got squirrelly and we headed back to Ponce for a very unsatisfying dinner at Chili’s.

I’m glad we went. Out of the ordinary.

Terrifically

Terrifically creepy building across the street

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Mr. Ms. Doña Don hey you

I remember the first time somebody called me miss. I think I was about 19 at the grocery store and I almost turned around to see if they were talking to the lady behind me. It made me feel so old.

Among my friends in Wisconsin, when we talk about each other to our kids we always use the Miss or Mr. before our first names. Somehow using last names seem so formal and stiff. I was calling them by their first names so maybe my kids could too but the miss or the Mr. made it seem appropriately respectful.

I kind of forgot about that living here for the first couple of years. I started noticing my kids referred to the other parents just by their first names. In fact at their school they call their teachers only by their first name. Not even a Ms. And with all of society seeming to go more informal every day, this seems like the natural progression of things. But I still yearn for a little sign of respect for adults, even in a mediocre attempt by my kids.

Encouraging them to speak Spanish, it just seemed too strange to request that they refer to my friends as Señor and Señora. I do not hear anybody else using these terms, adult or child. Nobody calls anyone else Señor or Señora unless you are at a restaurant or some sort of service counter and somebody’s trying to be nice to somebody who is elderly. Certainly didn’t seem appropriate for people my age. Literally I’ve been called joven may times (young). The bank teller said, “gracias joven” when I handed her something. The homeless guy did too! Bless them. Joven! So, if I’m not a señora but I want my kids to show people my age respect…

I consulted some of my friends.

And they most certainly don’t want to be called Señor or Señora! haha. It would make them feel too old and stuffy. One of my friends said as a child she had to refer to her parents friends with the title of Doña (madam). She wasn’t even allowed to look at her parents’ friends in the eye. Kids were expected to look down and only talk if they were directly addressed by the other adult. We are well past that day and age in 2018.

I always addressed my friends parents by their last names when I was young. I still do!

I have many professor friends at the local university. The tell me their students are quite informal with them too. And one was amazed when a student greeted her with a “Hey”! My sister’s university demanded that she remain Dr. Malischke and never just LisaMarie. Maybe they saw this trend too.

So my solution is to have my kids refer to my friends as Ms. and Mr. en inglés. It’s the right mix of formal but not too formal. Don’t know if it’ll catch quickly. My kids kinda look at me funny when I tell them to say Ms. Norma or Mr. Sean. They don’t even use that for their teachers at school. But eh, a mama can try.

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Take me out to the ball game

Atrápala! Means catch it!

Entrada means inning (and entrance haha)

It’s been three years since we went to an Indios baseball game here in Mayaguez. The stadium is quite impressive. (Except the bathrooms but I don’t expect any public bathroom in Puerto Rico to have they trifecta: TP, soap and a way to dry hands). Usually the minor league games around here play right around Christmas and we’re just to busy to make it to a game. Due to Hurricane Maria delaying everything, mid season is landing in January. Cool!We were expecting to pay about $10 each but the guy st the gate told me it was free (in English even tho I spoke Spanish to him). Free is cool. I’d say there were less than 250 people there. In a stadium that could host over 10000. We went with our neighbors and friends from school. More fun with amigos! The Indios played the Cangrejeros from Santurce. Cangrejo is crab. I don’t know if being on the crab team is funny or badass. Imma gunna go with funny. Teehee. Crabs.The only vendors walking around were selling Medalla beers -brewed in Mayaguez- for $2. $2! Wow!The clouds were ominous (the kid’s school is up in those hills) but the rain never came, unlike last time we went.

I failed the Mother Of The Year year when a fly Ball headed straight for our kids. I didn’t even move, I just watched it glide perilously close to the vulnerable youngins . Thankfully Trevor acted and tried to catch the killer baseball asteroid but it slipped his fingers and fell on the seat in front of my son. Later I supposed I could’ve bravely flung myself over the kiddos to protect them. Or at the very least tried to catch the ball too. Oops. Kid’s would line up atop the dugout to catch balls the players threw. They threw one up at us and I caught it!!!! This time I reacted and prevented it from hitting my precious cargo (aka kids) in the noggin. And now I have a baseball! It can go with my old one signed by Robin Yount. Ah, the Brewers. I tried to explain how the Brewers have a sausage race during the seventh inning stretch but maybe that’s a see it to understand it kinda thing haha. They didn’t even have a 7th inning stretch here. I thought about staring a wave haha

I assume the broken scoreboard was a result of Maria, so we just had to remember how many outs and balls there were. The music and sound bites are similar to major league games and I chanted along. Although, with so few people it’s eerily quiet sometimes!

what fun. The kiddos lasted to the 8th inning when the score was 3-3. Good times.

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100+ days after

While our life has returned to relative normal (aside from periodic power outages when they work in the area, which results in the darkening of major stop lights on the highway – whahoo! Free for all!), life is far from normal for our cleaning lady, our babysitter, and our kids’ school. All who still have no electricity. And from what I hear, many inner island municipalities still are cut off from regular infusions of supplies and reliable medical care. I haven’t ventured up to the inner mountains but from the sounds of it life up there still resembles life immediately post Maria.

There are, however, morsels of after effect that are harder to see. We still receive a newspaper everyday (never signed up for it) and it mostly gets recycled straightaway. But today I glanced at the disturbing and heartening articles.

Municipalities are getting creative to build themselves up. A few are receiving help from volunteers and retired electrical employees to get back to normal. Others are waiving rent fees for their Plaza kiosks in an attempt to re-stimulate the economy and probably entice residents not to leave.

On a more disturbing level is the reports coming from the police departments. No money = officers workin for free. Not gonna happen. City cops are getting paid through channeled federal money. Overtime pay has dried up months ago so thy any cop on duty avoids overtime at all costs. So if that cop patrolling is nearing the end of their shift, let’s just say they are a little less inspired to take any action that might require lengthy paperwork (arrests, tickets). Hm.

Many times around the holidays my reunions with friends result in some sort of hurricane rehash. Whether to mention nightmares during the aftermath, to feelings of helplessness or the psychiatric process our brains and society travels through after something like this.

I have several professor friends and they said the university’s meal program now serves over 1000 free meals daily to students who might otherwise be sustaining themselves on a few crackers a day. We’re not sure what the students situations are specifically. Many have parents who no longer have a roof on their house or are still without power. Maybe some simply don’t tell their parents they are going hungry because they don’t want to be a burden. The professional line between student and professor is blurred when the teachers are exposed to survival stories of their students and their families. How can you keep a professional detachment when you know your students are so stressed out and hungry? Can you really deduct points for students who submitted their English essays handwritten because use of a computer let alone a printer was a little too much to ask? Security around campus has also been reduced due to budget so students are a little more reluctant to walk around after dark. Sad.

Puerto Rico will rise. But oh is it so slow. Thankfully the impromptu junk pile in my area has been cleaned up. Work crews are clearing the felled trees on the sides of the road. Electrical workers managed to repair our electricity when it was out for 12 hours on Three Kings Day (a national holiday), and if the crowded malls, restaurants and movie theatres are an indication of the economy, it seems to be doing ok on the ground level.

Mayaguez also managed to have their traditional Christmas festivities in the plaza. But it was smaller than usual. We still enjoyed it.

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Puerto Rico se levanta

Puerto Rico rises.  It’s the new slogan after Maria.  When we returned one of the first things I noticed was the abundance of PR flags on cars and houses. Displays of local pride were always on the low side here (I always noticed much more tshirts, bumper stickers and flags for local teams back in the States versus here). It’s nice to see a passive show of support and unity.

This is something I just never saw before Maria

Together we are stronger – we are collecting first aid articles and canned goods for the damned by Hurricane Maria. Ok, it actually means Damaged/casualties but that’s not as funny to say.

I went out and bought a $2 flag for our car. I can hear it whap low-lying branches when I drive. oh well.

Posters and tshirts abounded too.

Efforts to have a normal Christmas are underway as well (the usual holiday lights are up in the plaza).  And memes bringing much needed humor abound too.

Crash Boat beach is in Rincon, very far from the famous Ponce sign haha

How do I decorate for Christmas without lights?

Welcome: I only have available ketchup and straws

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The show must go on…even in the dark

When a major tragedy strikes a wide population, there’s an urgency to return to normal as soon as possible. However ‘normal’ has a new look to it post-Maria.

I personally wanted to wrap myself in a cozy hammock until life returned to normal for me, but after so many weeks away from home I was eager to return to whatever new ‘normal’ awaited me.

All stores are open now. At least in Mayaguez. I have not ventured into the mountainous towns.

There are broken electrical poles and lines all over the place. Many transformers line the road and now swerving to avoid them is part of the new norm.

People have kindly marked the low hanging wires with bright cloth.

The potholes have grown exponentially

Hwy 2, the main road looks fairly pre-hurricane except for shredded billboards and bent store signs. There’s at least one stoplight not working but it actually makes traffic flow smoother haha

A beloved landmark of Mayaguez lost its top. The Caribbean “Olympic” games were held here in 2000 and a giant torch was erected. Now it just looks like a silo. And that dumb silver arch completely crumbled too.

Commerce needs to continue. No electricity hasn’t stopped my kids’ school from opening. They had to invest in a gas stove to make hot lunch and a generator for fans and lights. My daughters gymnastics class was held in the dark. They moved the class to an earlier time to make the most of sunlight.

I know of at least four families that still don’t have power. Three of them don’t have generators. It’s been over 70 days since the huracán!! They too have invested in gas stoves, and are forced to mooch off their friends washing machines and spend as little time at home as possible. I’m trying to be of assistance where I can.

I’ve seen the Puerto Rican water authorities and power companies out making repairs. One cherry picker blocked the entire road on my school route. I had to reverse and take another route, making me 10 minutes late. But that’s not the sort of delay you complain about.

one more observation: Home Depot has an abundance of store displays dedicated to selling cisterns, generators and roof repairs. Haha

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Life still in limbo- post Maria

We returned to Puerto Rico last Sunday. I had a cacophony of emotions knowing that the Puerto Rico I’ve lived in for three years wouldn’t be the one I was returning to. How much was back to normal (would it ever be normal again?). How full were the grocery stores? (I shipped myself peanut butter from Wisconsin). Was our house moldy? Was the mood somber, desperate, disillusionly hopeful, or still in post-traumatic shock?

But mostly I felt excitement to be back home and to re-establish a routine. So what did I find on my adopted island?

A much better place than when we left! The drive from the airport showed many blue tarps sprinkled throughout the small towns bearing witness to the many roofs that suffered damage. (why are all tarps blue???)

We didn’t see anyone loitering around the side of the freeway in search of cellular signal, nor crowds gathering around natural springs collecting water. Signs of improvement.

The most telling drive was up the mountain to and from school.  Most of it looked pretty much the same.  All roads were cleared and accessible, even our creative routes through the valleys.   We could see broader vistas due to fallen trees, but here are some photos from the more notable things we saw:

Landslide in someone’s yard. Later that day a cement mixer was building a wall there

We passed several work crews cleaning up debris along the road. Notice the fallen electrical transformer. These are everywhere.

We saw dozens of broken poles like this, and many more leaning over.

In my neighborhood, the trees that fell and were cut were already showing signs of regrowth.

They were cleaning debris and there was a water company truck nearby.

We had to renew Trevor’s club membership. I noticed they had a lantern by the desk. Just in case 😉

Just drive around it. Obviously everyone has for weeks.

I have to drive over downed wires crossing the road 4-5 times on the way to school.

 

Sign on the right “Improving day by day” Sign on left “Merchandise in transit”

I couldn’t find heavy whipping cream or cottage cheese in three different stores, but thankfully I think I’ll have everything I need for Thanksgiving next week.

I assume this area doesn’t have power yet…

These poor people have had an electrical pole leaning on their house for 8 weeks.

New roof! See the destruction in a photo in the middle of this post: http://polarrico.com/maria-immediate-aftermath/

Not far from our house the city has decided to make a dump. Mattresses, old appliances, and broken wood now claim a corner by this four way stop sign.

I sure hope this unsightly dump is temporary. There’s a ton more than you can’t see here.

Slowly life returns to normal.  I’d say maybe half of Mayaguez has power now. The kid’s school is running on a generator for one building and I believe simply going without power in the building for the older kids. (Good thing Montessori is low tech!)

This AEE employee gave me the peace sign as I passed. Putting up new poles

Oh and AT&T sucks.  SUCKS!!! Claro, the Mexican based cell company, has rocked. They were up and running here first. Apparently T-Mobile is also working everywhere too. Well, we have AT&T, and thankfully at least the companies have somehow opened access to any tower and when we don’t have AT&T access (all the time) my phone now mysteriously connects to Claro. But that’s only for making phone calls and local texts. No internet on the phone. I can call out of the area when I’m at home. But not 800 numbers. Those just hang up.  So weird.

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adios bolsas plasticas

(this was drafted before the hurricanes)

Way to go Puerto Rico!  Last winter a law went into effect that banned single-use plastic bags in retail stores (and restaurants).

As soon as I moved here I bought reusable Pueblo grocery bags.  I was so embarrassed back in the 1990s when my Mom was the ONLY one who brought cloth bags to the grocery store and here I was-the only person using re-bags at Pueblo. Way to go Mom! You were way ahead of the game.

Big stores like Walmart and Pueblo must’ve bulk ordered plastic bags at the last possible date, because it wasn’t until sometime over last summer Mayaguez finally ran out of their stockpile of plastic bags.  Now I’m no longer the only one bringing in my own bags at Pueblo.

The only downside is now I have to buy small plastic garbage can liners-no more free bags! haha

Walgreens has opted for using paper bags, Pueblo sells durable/reusable plastic bags for 10 cents, but Walmart and many other mall stores just don’t offer anything. So people do bring their own, or make like Sam’s club and just cart it all to their car without bags.

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Homeschool Happenstance

I’m not overly paranoid about my kid’s education.  I know they’ll learn what they need to learn with gentle guidance and self motivation.  Over summer they resisted learning to read because “it’s not school work time!”  I didn’t sweat it.  Summer is supposed to be chillax anyway.

Fall is for back to school, new school clothes, fresh Trapper Keeper plastic ‘let’s learn something’ smell.  (oh wait, that was back in the 80s).

Anyway, school starts mid-August in Puerto Rico. My son is in a new classroom after being with one teacher the past three years. There are new routines and new expectations for him. I knew once he got into the swing of it he’d stop asking, “Do I have to go to school?” in the mornings. Give it time, he’ll be fine!

Hm.  Time is one thing we haven’t been given this fall. Hurricanes cramped our style.  No time to get into a groove.  No rhythm. No routine. We had two and a half weeks of school then a week off for Irma. Then seriously ONE week of school, a puny half day the next Monday and the school principal sent out an email that basically said, “Closed until further notice. Take care of yourselves!” Ok, she was more eloquent and optimistic than that.

Google translate is a little rough. (Maria hit on Wednesday)

At first it was a little joke when my son asked, “Do I have to go to school today?” and I could, in all seriousness, repeatedly answer, “no.” But when it became overly clear that we wouldn’t have school again for another month, I’m not sure if it was guilt or motivation to tackle a challenge, but I realized it was time for homeschooling! Bring it!

Right away in Wisconsin I whipped out some worksheets I had stored at my Mom’s – math and writing. Workbooks aren’t necessarily Montessori approved but I let them pick what they wanted. I hit the library for reading materials and was gifted more workbooks by a local first grade teacher. We took nature walks and learned about hickory nuts.

We went to the zoo and made posters of our fav animals. Yes, one poster had a pic of an elephant butt. Know your audience, right?

In a few days we will embark on a Route 66 roadtrip – a vacation planned way back in spring.  So, without any other rhyme or reason to my homeschooling, I decided to teach them about things we’ll see on the Mother Road.  Geology of the Grand Canyon, science of asteroid craters, chemistry of neon lights, physics of hot air balloons, and the artists who covered various versions of the song “Route 66”.  Heck I’m learning a lot too!

The chemistry lesson about neon went a bit over my 5 year olds head, but she did pet a snake at the ecology center!

If we got 30-45 minutes of work time in a day I considered it a success. All in all, I’ll be happy when school starts again! What a crazy fall.

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