Domes

Looking at Dome's Beach from El Faro Park

Friday, December 25, 2009

Where to Eat in Rincon....


We finally started making some money here, Cyndi through massage and the rental of our "La Olita" unit downstairs, and I've been working with a catering chef, Organic Surfer Chef, at a large villa near Corcega Beach. So, we've been trying a few of the restaurants around town.

A few nights ago we went to The Spot at the Black Eagle, a restaurant near the Black Eagle Marina that serves steaks and fish and pasta and is mostly overpriced and definitely geared to the tourist crowd. It's a great location, and at sunset the sailboats and katamarans floating by provide a dramatic setting, but the place itself is mostly a dive. The menu is prety limited with most entrees over $20. We ordered the Flatiron steak for $23, but to share there is an $8.50 charge, so we didn't order an appetizer. The food was too salty for Cyndi, but I thought it was good. The biggest problem I have with the Spot is that their menu is very limited, no burgers or cheaper entrees, even in the bar and their prices suggest some better service and decor.

Calypso Cafe is just above Maria's Beach and is what you would expect, good burgers and burritos at reasonable prices. The view from the bar is great, surfers and Desecheo island in the distance and Happy hour drinks that are actually pretty good.

We also tried the Shipwreck Bar and Grill, also located near the marina, and while not great, it was better than the Spot, we had Mikeys Famous Fish Kebabs which were very good and there was plenty to share, we also had calamari, which was a huge portion, but a little greasy. There is no view, but the decor was a little nicer than the Spot and the service a little better too.

In the plaza, there is a Mexican restaurant that recently changed ownership so we thought we'd give it a try. We went on Tequila Tuesday so shots of Jose Cuervo gold were just one dollar and Corona's were two dollars. Once again Cyndi and I shared a dish, the fish wrapped in banana leaves. It was about $16. The fish was good, but the plate came with about 3 tortilla chips and nothing else, I guess we were expecting rice and beans. The decor is nice and much like any Mexican restaurant in the states and the service was ok. I think the food was overpriced for what we got, but the drink specials, made up for it.

The best food I've eaten since I've been here has definitely been with Pedro, The Organic Surfer Chef, who I've been working with. He made a rabbit stew one night and whole red snapper another night and recently he served an Asian influenced duck breast with noodles. The food he makes is fesh and from local ingredients and just tastes better, not overly seasoned or just thawed out like so many dishes we find here.

I would also recommend the pizza truck on the 413, near the Lazy Parrot, the crust is very good. And Tapatio a small Mexican restaurant on the 115 toward Aguada.


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dispatches From Rincon....


The picture here is from Domes, a beach just below an old nuclear power plant. The surf's been pretty small this week, but the weather is amazing. The past 2 weeks Cyndi and I have started to focus our energies into what we may end up doing for money here in Rincon. Cyndi will always have massage, but she tries to limit her massages to 2 per day, so that she can provide a better service and not wear herself out, that leaves her (and me) plenty of time to work on something else. In Cyndi's past life she worked in IT and has alot of experience helping people market their businesses on the web and I do a little graphic design here and there so there may be opportunities for us to get more Rincon businesses to have a web presence.
We've started working with the owners of Beachside Villas, http://rinconbeachside.com/ to market their property and we hope to get a few more and the coming weeks. Cyndi's massage business has been doing great and we've met so many great people here in Rincon that we feel confident we'll be able to make enough money to stay here. There are lots of websites that market Rincon to would-be tourists, most of them are really helpful, but I started a website that will refuse advertising from Rincon businesses and list the businesses that I personally recommend, http://rincon411.jimdo.com/ . It just strated, but soon I will have more photographs and info about the businesse listed.
We've just booked our first stay at "La Olita", http://www.rinconsportsmassage.com/Rincon411.html , our studio apartment downstairs and have had quite a few inquiries as the $50/night, $300/week price is very reasonable.

Friday night we went to the Lazy Parrot for a Surfrider fundraiser, they had a band called Supertones who played some cool surf-tunes and probably at least 100 people showed up. I've heard the Surfrider criticism from a reader of this blog, but to me, the work that Surfrider does is invaluable. Wess Merten and the other people who volunteer their time are not "hipcrites" (sic), but people who work hard to keep our ocean, the cradle of so much of our environment, as clean as possible. Denyers of climate change and proponents of unrestricted devolpment can stay in the stone age of their own development, but creating jobs doesn't need to come at the cost of the environmental damage inflicted in the past.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

Re-zoning in Anasco & Rincon


There's been alot of talk lately about a re-zoning plan for certain beach areas in Rincon and Anasco. At a meeting at City Hall in Rincon the public was offered a platform to see the plans and comment, Cyndi went to the meeting. We haven't lived in Rincon long enough to be sure about too much, but the mood around town seems to be that San Juan is looking for ways to make some tourist dollars and Rincon and Anasco are the targets. Even the mayor of Rincon spoke against the proposal.

I read a New York Times article posted on the Surfrider blog :http://s.nyt.com/u/CpO that tells of a town in the Dominican Republic that is working toward attracting the eco-tourists that seem to in vogue currently, and that may be a model for Rincon to follow. Of course any development of these areas and especially anything near the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve http://www.surfrider.org/rincon/rmtp.php should be discouraged, but sometimes the lesser of two evils is the only choice.

Eco-tourism may be a fad and and may draw more people here than we want, but it's not going to be large condominiums and all-inclusive resorts that are the other end of the spectrum. The people in Rincon care about its resources and the future of their town. If we can counter the proposed re-zoning plans with an organic plan of our own, perhaps San Juan would be more interested in listening.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thankful!


The picture here is a poster I made for a Surfrider, Rincon volunteer tree planting that took place while I was in Los Angeles: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_bo-2lysc_Ik/SuY3OuVdTkI/AAAAAAAAAkk/SgmqXNU4aB0/s1600-h/surfrider+tree+poster+Nov7.jpg Definitely a labor of love as I think it is important that people see how much Surfrider does for the town of Rincon. I am thankful for them. This past year has made me so much more aware of the things I am thankful for and none is higher on the list than Cyndi. It has been her courage and dream that has led us to where we are and for this I will always be thankful.
It's been difficult leaving behind family and friends in California, but their support and enthusiasm for our adventure has carried us through some difficult days and for this we are thankful. We are also thankful to our new friends and neighbors who have and continue to help us along the way, we constantly wonder if we were lucky to have such great neighbors or does the island just bring this out?
Of course I am thankful to have found such a beautiful place to live, a place that offers us so much of what we want and very few of the things we don't, but also so thankful for the basic necessities of life such as running water (most of the time). It's sad, but until I experienced not having water for a full 24 hours did I realize what a shameful fact it is that at least 13% of the world's population doesn't have access to running water.
Finally, I am thankful to have my health. Neither Cyndi nor I have a healthcare plan, unless you call eating right and exercising a viable plan. I don't expect the goverment to foot my healthcare bill if I don't take care of myself, however I don't think your income bracket should determine how good your healthcare is. Somewhere there is a way to improve the system, but it seems any attempt at "socialized" medicine gets demonized. We need to open our minds to all options, it's not that slippery a slope. Anytime there is such a blanket backlash against something the way healthcare reform has fared, chances are the truth is being hidden by a different agenda. If you have affordable healthcare, be thankful and consider those that don't.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Back In Rincon (For Good)!


It took me exactly 1 week in Los Angeles to realize that I was just spinning my wheels and that I needed to get back to Rincon. The plan was to stay a few months in LA and make some money, but I'll be honest, I missed Cyndi and I missed Rincon and LA just wasn't where I wanted to be. I kept getting these emails with pictures of the dogs on the beach and Cyndi describing the surf, it made me wonder why I was sitting in an empty, cold house juggling car and homowners insurance bills. So I packed my things and said goodbye to the job and 3 weeks after I left I was back in Rincon.


Had I changed, had LA changed?I think living in LA is more of a romantic idea nowadays than a real viable way of living, unless of course your income exceeds 95% of the rest of us and you can hover above the congestion and crime. Maybe in the 60's and 70's when housing and the costs of living were reasonable it was the place to be, but overcrowding and a lack of urban planning have left LA to be like a knotted up clump of wires behind your computer where nothing leads to what it should and everything just needs to be unplugged and begun anew.


I guess I look at all my friends struggling to make the rent, car payment, living in neighborhoods where parking is nonexistent and working to cover the increasing costs of living and while I understand chasing a dream, for me that was never my reason to be there. LA was my home because I liked the weather and the beach, I guess I never realized it could be summer year-round somewhere else.

I needed to go back because when we moved to Rincon it was on Cyndi's terms and I guess I would always be wondering if it was the right thing unless I had gone home after being in Rincon and decided for myself where I wanted to be. So the 3 weeks in Los Angeles weren't a total loss.

So now sitting down, writing this and looking down at the houses that dot the hills into Aguada, I can feel confident that I am home and that whatever happens, going back to LA is not an option. And it is this revelation that will make me work even harder to make it work here, I'll keep you posted ;-)


Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Making is Thinking"


The title is a quote from a book by Richard Sennet called, The Craftsman, linking the work of the hands to the workings of the mind. I've read a few books in this vein, books that call upon a new arts and crafts movement and we can see this DIY philosophy having an effect on so many areas of commerce. With global conglomerations merging and finding more and more ways to make things cheaper and in more far flung labor-efficient markets, locally made, hand-crafted items may be the equalizer. From small batch foods like cheese and wine to things for the home and clothes, smaller may be better. Better quality, better for the environment and better for the people who make the goods.

I'm writing this because, out of necessity, I've had to construct the furniture and cabinets for our house here in Rincon. Originally we were hoping to buy the kitchen cabinets from Ikea, but there isn't an Ikea on the island, so Home Depot became our second choice, but after seeing the prices and talking to a few people who voiced concern about the quality of such cabinets for a termite infested area such as Rincon, we started thinking about plan C.

I've made a few wood tables, but kitchen cabinets are a whole new ballgame. I started by making a cabinet to hold our TV receiver and DVD player. It came out alright so I looked up some diagrams for kitchen cabinets online and decided to give it a shot. So far I'm working on my second cabinet for the downstairs kitchen as well as making a wall bookcase and shelf for the kitchen. Everything has been made termite-proof and to our specifications so it fits right and I know it's made right.

I understand what Sennett is trying to express in his book because the more I work on this woodworking thing, the more gratifying it becomes. The time I spend in my workshop is satisfying, I've got music playing and the Puerto Rican jungle to look out upon. I see the quality of the work improving along with my confidence in what I can do. I feel the pride in completing a project and seeing the difference between cutting corners and taking the time to do it right. Not everything turns out perfect, but perfection isn't the point. Knowing that there are alternatives to "Made in China" and spending a fortune on a designer kitchen is.


Sunday, October 11, 2009

Surfrider Trashcan Day


Saturday Cyndi and I helped Surfrider install 12 new trashcans at 4 different beaches here in Rincon. We started at 7:30 in the morning at the offices Surfrider rents out of a house near Steps Beach. Wess, the Surfrider, Rincon Chairman and Roger, who owns Surf 787, a surf camp and guest villa in the hills above Rincon, http://surf787.com/Surf787OurLocation.html had already started loading the materials in their cars. Roger donated all the materials; barrels, posts and concrete. There were a couple other people there, but it was looking like it might be a long day if more post hole diggers didn't show up.


We dropped off the trashcans, posts and cement at each location and made our way to the furthest beach, Domes, and started digging holes. Luckily a few more guys showed up and Roger really knew what he was doing so the work went pretty quick. Domes has the biggest parking lot of all the beaches we were doing that day and already had 4 trashcans but needed more so we installed 4 more trashcans in 2 seperate areas. The biggest factors on where to install the cans were putting them where they could be emptied by the municipal trash trucks and not blocked by parked cars, also they needed to be placed where they would get used, not out of the way where more than a few yards walk would be involved. There are also drainage and vista issues we needed to think about and a few places where the ground was too hard to dig.


Indicators, the beach just south of the lighthouse, didn't have any trashcans so we installed 2 at the start of the trail that leads to the beach. Next stop was Maria's which is a very popular spot and will be a focus in future Surfrider projects. There were 2 cans there and we installed 2 more. Finally we installed 2 more trashcans at Steps, to make a total of 4 there. About 10 people ended up showing up and most of the work was done by 11am.


As I wrote before, Cyndi worked on a beach cleanup day with Surfrider, Rincon about a month ago and I'm sure we'll be doing plenty more, but hopefully these trashcans will help keep the trash out of the water between those days. We got to meet a few interesting people, all but one North Americans, most fairly recently moved here. After speaking with more and more people we notice that there are alot of people who live here awhile and eventually leave. Either they can't make a good income or they get sick of the small town life or it's just time to try another spot on the globe. I can't help but wonder how Cyndi and I will feel about Rincon after one, two or even five years of life here, but hope we're still interested in making it a better place.


Monday, October 5, 2009

A New Project.



Well we've been here just over 2 months now and the upstairs looks good, but the kitchen needs some more cabinets. I built and installed a cabinet for the kitchen sink, but it still needs some shelves and doors and we need another L-shaped cabinet and a wall shelf as well. We're planning on buying a convection oven to hang on the wall and for now, we'll probably just use a 2 burner electric stove top. We may buy a full stove top in the future, but it's not a priority.


So with a kitchen sink installed, Cyndi wanted to shift our focus to the downstairs studio so that we can have it completed before the tourist season starts so we can rent it out on a weekly basis. I cleared out the cabinet that was down there, it was infested with rat droppings and scrubbed the floors and walls, took out the bathroom sink and toilet and shower curtain rods. Last week, we patched a few cracks from previous water damage and primered and painted. I also installed a new toilet (not fun), and poured a new concrete floor for the shower.


I also started building a cabinet for the kitchen downstairs. We bought a small sink and refrigerator, when it's done, there will also be a microwave. This week we need to get the shower tiled and then I'll build a glass block wall to take the place of the shower curtain. After that a new sink and vanity and a bed, tv and some furniture and we'll be done. I think we budgeted about $2,500 to redo the downstairs and even with the cost of professional electrical work, we should make it.


When we're done we'll have a 400 sq. ft studio with a kitchenette, queen size bed and a foldout sleeper, probably space to sleep 3 comfortably. After inquiring with our friends who own guest houses in the area, we figure we can get anywhere from $45-$55/night during the tourist season, November to May. We don't plan to rent it out all the time, we have family and friends who will come visit, but if we can rent it out for even 1/3 of the time we will more than make our remodel investment back in the first year.


Or so we hope. I think we really are working so hard to complete the space so our friends and families will visit. We feel so lucky to have found and settled in such a beautiful place and want to share it with those we love. So let us know when you can come!


Saturday, October 3, 2009

Let the Preaching Begin....


While I was in Los Angeles for a week, Cyndi volunteered at a Surfrider beach cleanup here in Rincon. They worked at Maria's which is a beautiful spot where we take the dogs often. They picked up at least 15 bags of trash; bottles, glass, cans, straws, clothes and all other sorts of trash that people take with them to the beach or that the wind blows onto the beach from the nearby road.

Surfrider held this beach cleanup day as a worldwide event, so beaches all over Rincon, the Caribbean and the rest of the Earth were made cleaner on this single day by volunteers like Cyndi. Obviously the cleanup makes the beach nicer, but so much trash effects the animal and plant life in and out of the water. I recently saw a documentary where oceanographers were tracking a giant cluster of plastic in the Pacific Ocean. It was hundreds of miles long and wide, made up of water bottles, fishing line, 6-pack holders and small plastic globules that are used in industrial plastic manufacturing. It was disturbing to see the amount of trash that had made it's way out to sea and the effect it was having on the sea life.

It seems pretty obvious that we need to take care of our oceans, but apparently not to everyone. At the risk of sounding preachy, next time you're at the beach, take a few minutes to pick up any trash you see; even if everyone doesn't do it, for those that do it will make a huge difference, and it makes you feel good.

The Rincon chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, http://www.surfrider.org/rincon/index.php is headed by Wes Merten. He held a meeting on Thursday, so we went to see what they were working on. There were only about 8 other people there, which even though a lot of people from Rincon are out of town this time of year, seems like a very low amount considering it's such a wave-loving community. The next project is installing 24 new trashcans at some of the beaches around Rincon. It's great that Surfrider has the money and the connections to be able to do this kind of thing as it makes keeping the beaches clean a little easier if there are less excuses not to.

Cyndi and I are both looking forward to being more involved with Surfrider and a few other organizations here in Rincon that make the town a better place to live. We're setting our roots here and it's important for us to work toward improving our environment and not leave it up to someone else.


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Can I Makes Some Money in Rincon?


The move to Rincon, came before knowing if we could make money here. Cyndi sold her massage therapy business in Laguna Beach and has started doing sports massage here in Rincon. It should work out great for her. As I've written before Rincon has plenty of athletes; surfers, mountain bikers, kayakers and divers and as far as we can tell only 3 or 4 other massage therapists, none of them just specializing in sports and deep tissue massage. She started by getting a website, http://rinconsportsmassage.com/, and added a free business listing on Google business listings, part of Google maps. She joined the Tourism Assoc. of Rincon (TAR) and got a listing on their website, http://rincon.org/, and a spot on the map of Rincon that is sold for $2 at many of the TAR locations. By becoming a member of TAR, you are also entitled to place your business cards in other TAR businesses. She spent the first couple of months here doing just that as well as meeting various operators and owners of inns and guest houses that can recommend her services to their guests. She has also joined a concierge service, http://rinconvacations.com/, that is a one stop-shop for services for the Rincon tourist. All this marketing work was done before the true tourist season starts in November and Cyndi has already done a few massages.



I had no plans, but a few ideas to make money in Rincon, so when we got here my agenda was to work on the house and get as much information as possible on what's going on in Rincon. There is still much work to be done on the house, but I also need to start having an income. My experience is in the restaurant business and there seems to be plenty of opportunities for employment either as a bartender or waiter at any of the hotels and restaurants around town during the season and that may be my best option for the first year we are here.


There are also roadside foodstands all over Rincon, roasted chicken, pinchos (bbq'd meat skewers), hot sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers and even pizza. It seems to be a good cash only, low overhead business that allows you to control hours and location, but the key is to cook what works and I will not know that until I've lived here through the tourist season.



The town of Rincon is small and other than restaurants, hotels, surf related business and services, has only the basics of stores; hardware, pharmacy, grocery, a few gift shops and art galleries. There really isn't much else. Any store we would open would have to cater to the swell of tourists who come during the high season and hope for some business from the locals during the off-season. A bike shop would be succesful here, but I really don't have the capital for such a large enterprise. We've thought about a pet supply store and several different service business', such as pool cleaning, but once again, the need to know what we're dealing with here is the key to any success and that will take some time.


I think of Rincon a lot like a new frontier, there are plenty of opportunities, but we have limited resources and the key to success will be using those resources wisely. Rents are relatively low, as are wages, but it's a seasonal town. Almost all the restaurants are closed for the whole month of September. For now, I'm meeting a lot of great people and getting some good advice about what to expect, but I also believe that Cyndi and I have a different and fresh perspective on the town and that is our biggest advantage.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


I guess I've written so much about how great Rincon is, it's time to make it real and tell you a few bad things you might want to know before you make the move. We spoke to a few people from Puerto Rico before we moved here and the biggest issue that always came up was the "island" way of doing things. This means that sometimes things move very slowly here and you have to be patient. Coming from Los Angeles this could be quite an adjustment as people in large cities, like LA tend to expect promptness and the freedom to move through their day and tasks with speed and a certain sense of urgency. Yeah, that's not going to happen here.

I really don't know all the reasons for the slower pace, but weather definitely plays a role. The daily rains of the hurricane season break into the day and although its not oppresively hot, the heat and humidity make a siesta seem like a great idea. Also most of the roads are small and cannot be travelled at high speeds. When you get in a car in Puerto Rico it's best not to be in a hurry, enjoy the ride, chances are your destination will still be there whether you drive 60 or 35 mph. Because the roads are smaller, roadwork makes more of a disruption, a lane closed can mean your errand will tke twice as long as planned.

There are other related issues; when we went to register our car at the DTOP (Puerto Rico's DMV), we waited in line to get the right paperwork, then had to go to a different building to pay the fee, before returning to the DTOP to get our registration stickers. While we were waiting to pay the fee, the computer system went down, apparently it happens a lot. By the time the system came back up and we had paid the fee, when we returned to the DTOP, the office was closed, seems they close at 12pm during the summer months.

So the biggest issue: time, if you can't adjust to Puerto Rico's schedule you will make yourself go nuts. On the other hand, living in the Caribbean tends to make you more relaxed and the time issue becomes a way to meet new people and when all your days end with a beautiful sunset on a sandy beach, it's hard to feel too stressed about anything.

For me, the worst thing about Puerto Rico is the endless fast food restaurants that line the streets of the bigger towns. Anyone expecting a Caribbean paradise of small quaint towns with nothing but local authentic cuisines is in for a big disappointment. Mc Donald's, Burger King, and Wendy's are here in force, sometimes all right next to each other. Luckily, Rincon only has one such fast food place, a Burger King on the edge of town. There's also a Quizno's in a mini mall, but I think that's about all the chain type places around.

The language could be an obvious problem for many people. Spanish is the official language and all the street signs and official notices are in Spanish. However, many people on the island speak English and there is usually someone in each store or government office that speaks English. We've met people in Rincon who have lived here for over 10 years and are proud to say they've never learned Spanish, but I really don't think you'll be able to enjoy the culture and traditions of Puerto Rico without some Spanish knowledge.
There are other things; a stray dog problem, some graffiti, trash on some of the beaches, a difficulty finding some of the things we loved in LA (Trader Joes), but these are minor and could be a problem wherever you choose to live.

I really can't think of much else bad to say about our town, Rincon, and the island of Puerto Rico. Maybe 2 months here isn't a long enough time to see the uglier side of things, but I honestly believe that whatever comes our way, as seen through our sunset tinted glasses, nothing will be enough for us to question our decision to move to the "Island of Enchantment".


Thursday, September 24, 2009

The 411 on the 413





Everyone knows PCH, California's coastline highway, but I'm here to tell you about the 413, Rincon, Puerto Rico's own coastline highway. It's really not a highway, just a 5 mile stretch of 2 lane road that circles around the point that holds Rincon's best beaches. It's called, "The Road to Happiness", at least on the stickers you see everywhere here in town.



But it really is the road to happiness, not only because of the amazing beaches, but also because of the views from the hills above the beaches, the sunsets from El Faro (the lighthouse), and the all the quirky roads, businesses and people that line and branch out from the 413.



It starts just outside the main plaza in town, a north west spur off highway 115. Just past the marina, which is basically just a small boat landing, the first few beach areas you come to, Tres Palmas and Steps, are part of the Tres Palmas Marine Reserve. These beaches are protected areas, hold plenty of tidepools and coral and are ideal for snorkeling, but can also get big surf in the winter months. A bit further, the 413 splits, to the left is a road that leads past the lighthouse and dead ends at the old nuclear power plant, but holds some of Rincon's best surfing spots, Dogman's, then Maria's and just south of the lighthouse, Indicators. North of the lighthouse is Domes, and then Spanish Wall, named for a remnant of the Spanish struggle to keep invaders off the island.



To the right of the split, the 413 travels up to an area known as Puntas and then 3 other roads off the 413 lead down to a couple more exceptional surfing spots and beautiful beaches as well as some beach side bars with the most amazing sunset views you will ever see. In Puntas, the 413 winds through a residential area, populated by locals and North Americans. There are churches, schools, and small businesses lining the 2 lane road. The Lazy Parrot, Banana Dang, Mar Azul Surf Rentals and some small bakeries and guest houses are also on this stretch of the 413.



Our street, Sector Cuchillo Pina intersects with the 413 at km 5.3, near its end as it drops back down onto the 115 again, a few miles north of where it started. It's nowhere near as famous as PCH and never will be (hopefully), but where PCH has a romantic coolness, the 413 has a magical magnetism and truly lives up to its nickname as, The Road to Happiness.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

It's a Dog's Life...


By law, Los Angeles county doesn't allow dogs on even one square inch of beach, ever. There are certain secret spots that we would take the dogs, but always with the threat of being ticketed. It's ridiculous. On our first visit to Puerto Rico we watched a surfer head out into the water and his 3 dogs follow him in. They paddled out as far as they could then came back and played on the shore until he was done. They were the happiest dogs we had ever seen and reminded me of Sancho when I used to drive him down to the Huntington dog beach.


I've been taking Sancho to the beach since he was a puppy. He loves the water and is fearless when chasing a ball or a stick into the waves. He's almost 10 years old now and his trips to the beach had become less frequent due to athritis in his front legs, he just can't walk very far. But in Rincon, we can put him in the car and go to the beach for a quick trip without having to make a full day of it. He spends about 15 minutes swimming and gets great exercise without putting too much strain on his old legs. It's made him a much more active dog and I'm assuming much happier.


Our other dog is Pud, a little over a year old, he has taken much longer to get used to the water. We couldn't even get him in the car to go to the beach, but he has started to follow Sancho further out every day, he's overcoming his fear of the water and even gets excited now when we jingle the car keys signaling a trip to the beach. Our neighbor, Angelo, has 3 dogs that he takes down to the beach every morning to run and hike. I don't see a big business for dogwalkers in Rincon because people have the time to do it themselves and a beautiful place for the dogs to get exercised.


California prides itself with having no privately owned beaches, supposedly the beach is for everyone. But I guess that doesn't include dog owners, at least in Los Angeles County. The attitude here in Rincon is that the beach really does belong to everyone and everything. The dogs and horses and yes, even tourists, who roam the beaches can enjoy them without worrying about being harassed. Pud and Sancho don't have to stay home, we don't have to drive miles and miles, they can enjoy the warm Caribbean water with us and the other lucky Rincon dogs.


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Welcome to the Jungle...




When we bought our house it hadn't been lived in for quite awhile and the grasses, shrubs and vines were threatening to overtake the entire property and they did, at least the hill below the house anyway. The landscaping wasn't a priority for the first few weeks we were in Rincon, but soon after Cyndi got bored with the work she was doing in the house and wanted to tackle the jungle that was our yard. The first thing we did was to hire a machete man.



We see these guys all over Rincon, walking with their machetes, so through a friend we contracted to have Sergio, a blade for hire, come by for a full day's machete work for $45. Our friend told us this guy could clear our whole property in one day, so when Sergio got to our house I explained how far our property went and to cut down everything that wasn't a fruit tree. For the next few hours I heard chopping and chopping and still more chopping, but I couldn't see Sergio. Finally after about 3 hours I saw him taking a break near a tree. I put on my work shoes and carefully slid down the hill, through the vines and trash and leaves to see what he had done. Of course Sergio spoke no English so most of what he said I couldn't understand, but I did get that he saw Papaya trees, Mango trees, Coconut palms, banana palms and two other types of fruit on our property.



He gave me a small green fruit picked from one of our trees that looked like a lime and said it was a quenepa. He seemed very impressed with this fruit and when I obviously looked like I didn't understand he took one and bit the skin in half and then sucked on the core. I did the same. It had a large seed suurounded by fleshy fruit that stuck to the seed and tasted a little sweet, a little sour, but not unpleasant. They aren't really eaten so much as sucked upon. Since then someone has told me that quenepas have the same amino acid, triptophan, found in turkey that makes you sleepy.



He also gave me another green fruit that had a yellow glow and said this was parcha, (passion fruit) and this grew on a vine down on our hill. We then made our way further down the hill to where he had been working. He had cleared about half a football field where the hill leveled out and turned into a ravine, but was mostly level. There were giant palms and flamboyan trees covered with vines that formed a canopy shading the sun. It was beautiful, but so hard to get to. I asked him if maybe he could spend the rest of the day working closer to the house.



And he did, but about an hour later came up to say he was done and that tomorrow he would bring a helper and they would get everything cut back in 3 more days work for $100/day. We told him we could pay for one more day and that he would need to work close to the house, but we couldn't afford any more. So the next day Sergio and his friend cut back most everything closer to the house and they even cut a termite nest out of our beloved flamboyan tree, but there was still a lot of work to do.



So we bought a machete, some clippers, a hand saw, a rake, a shovel and a couple pair of work gloves. After the plants were cut back so much trash was exposed that had made its way down the hill we needed to clear the trash before we cut anything else back. There were all sorts of left over construction items, aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, toys, a sink, even a refrigerator. Then Cyndi took to clearing all the cuttings further down the hill into the ravine. Occasionally I would help, but Cyndi really did most of that work and the we actually felt like we were getting the upper hand on the jungle that surrounded us.



We made our way to the side of our house where the banana palms were and harvested the first fruits of our labor, a giant bunch of bananas that were still green, but big and ready to be ripened by the sun. It was nice to be able to offer our neighbors something in return for all they had given us. We've since harvested quite a few bunches of bananas and made shakes, pancakes, fried bananas and even frozen chocolate covered bananas. It's been about 1 month since we had Sergio machete our jungle and its starting to creep back up on us. We actually love the trees and shrubs, but the vines end up taking over and killing everything so its back down the hill, machete and rake in hand. I don't think we'll ever have a manicured landscape, I guess we're not hoping to control the jungle, just contain it.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Buen Vecinos! (Good Neighbors!)


Being Americans in Puerto Rico, we weren't sure if we would be accepted by the locals. We knew when we purchased the house that the driveway was partly encroaching upon one of our neighbors property and then we spent 3 months with a construction crew tearing up our house and piling trash up in the yard, nearest the other neighbor. So when we arrived we knew that we should tread lightly. We also had spent a week here previously and felt very welcome as tourists, but we knew that didn't necessarily translate to a warm welcome as a neighbor.


Our neighbor to the south is named Consuelo and she speaks pretty good English, she used to be a teacher. Her family owns quite a bit of property in the area, in fact we bought our house from her sister. But it was her sister who built the driveway that encroaches on Consuelo's property which is one of the reasons they didn't get along, or so we have been led to believe. She has 2 sons who live in other parts of Puerto Rico, but visit often. Consuelo has had us over to her house a few times and she and her sons have been very friendly, but the issue of the encroachment seems to hang in the air and I don't think we'll be very comfortable with them until that is settled.

Our closest neighbors, Gilberto and Clotilday are on our north side and speak very little English. Apparently they had been parking one of their cars in our driveway on that side of the house. When we first met them they asked if it was ok to continue parking there, but we had just contracted to install an iron gate and in 2 weeks, they wouldn't be able to. They also asked if we were on vacation. It wasn't the warmest welcome, but I'm sure they thought we were going to be one of these absentee Yankees who buy the house and use it a few times, then forget about it and the responsibility of being a good neighbor. Once they understood we would be living in the house permanently, they changed.

Everyday Gilberto or Clotilday bring us either avacados, mangos, eggs from their chickens, lemons, papays, breadfruit or plaintains and always ask how we are faring. They say, "Buen Provecho", as they have bring whole plates of Puerto Rican specialties and their son Osvaldo brings over tostones (mashed and fried breadfruit), his specialty. We have been overwhelmed by their hospitality and generosity. They are both fond of explaining how best to prepare each item and seem to genuinely enjoy teaching us Spanish words and eager to learn those same words in English. The first week we were here, Clotilday invited us to come to her granddaughter's 5th birthday party. We drove about 15 minutes to a beautiful condo development near the water where her other son, Orlando who is fireman in Mayaguez, lives. Few people there spoke English, but once again, Gilberto and his family went out of their way to make sure we had plenty to eat and drink. I thought we might feel uncomfortable, but the guests were nice and interested in hearing about how we came to move to Rincon.

About a month after moving here we had a barbecue and invited the few people we had met. I grilled chicken and pork ribs that a neighbor down the street Angelo, had brought. Consuelo came by for a short visit also bringing a bottle of wine. Another neighbor on our street, Katka, brought banana and coconut pancakes and of course Gilberto and Clotilday brought a basket of wine, bread and fruit. The rain had stayed away that Sunday afternoon and the giant Flamboyan tree kept our patio cool. I watched Cyndi as she handed our new neighbors a blue plastic Dixie cup full of wine, the food was so fresh and the spirit of the evening made me want to hug everyone. I knew we would be happy here.


Oh Yeah, What Happened With the Car?


So I guess I never really explained why I got an "I told you so" about Cindy shipping her car. To recap, Cindy felt very strongly that she should ship her car here to Puerto Rico, I felt she should not. Cindy really shopped around and found a company, Total Car Shipping that quoted a price that was about $1,000 less than anyone else. They are a broker that uses a number of shipping companies to get the car to Puerto Rico. The company that would ship the car from Florida to Puerto Rico was Rosa Del Monte. A representative of Rosa Del Monte suggested that it would take about one week to get the car to Orlando, Florida and then 10-15 days to Puerto Rico from there, so Cindy planned on shipping the car one month before we left, allowing they would let the car be stored for one week free of charge if it got there before we did.

As the date of our departure grew close, Cindy stayed in contact with the shipping companies and another company that was shipping the car from LA to Orlando told her that it would probably take a lot longer to get the car to its destination, so Cindy asked to have the car picked up about 5 days earlier than originally planned, that was a good idea.

After we arrived on August 1st, Cindy started looking into when her car would arrive. We knew it hadn't gotten there yet, but were renting a car and that cost would add up quickly. After one week, Cindy's father and stepmother, Ed and Heidi, came to help with the move and we were able to turn the rental car in, but still no word on when the car would arrive.

Finally a few days before Ed and Heidi were to leave we got word that the car would arrive on Saturday, August 15th, a full 3 weeks after the original date we were told. But that's not the worst part. Along with the cost of shipping the car, Puerto Rico imposes taxes on any car brought in. Both Total Car Shipping and Rosa Del Monte quoted Cyndi a cost of around $800 in taxes. When we got to the Departmento de Hacienda, where the taxes were to be paid, we were told it would cost $2,114 in taxes! Apparently the government of Puerto Rico uses the mysterious "Black Book' to calculate a vehicle's worth and in this "Black Book" Cindy's 1996 BMW 328i convertible with 150,000 miles and a Blue Book value of $6000 was worth $14,000.

Knowing full well a fight was useless, and desperately needing our car, we paid the taxes and picked up the car. We were told the battery needed to be charged, but at Rosa Del Monte, they started the car for us and off we went.

Overall, having a reliable car in an unreliable environment is all well and good, but nowhere near worth the stress and unpredictability of having to ship it. The road from San Juan to Rincon is lined with all sorts of car dealers, to me it seems there are far too many cars on the island, surely they aren't all lemons. We felt very fortunate that the car wasn't damaged or worse and the first few days of driving in Rincon in our car was nice, but we soon came to the realization that a convertible BMW wasn't exactly an ideal car in Rincon and we staring thinking about finding a way to trade it for a Jeep.

I had a specific Jeep in mind. It was a red Wrangler I had seen parked at a local hardware store with a Se Vende sign on its windshield. When we spoke to the owner, Jesus, he told us to come down, we could drive the jeep and he could see what we had. We knew right away that this was what we needed. In the 2 weeks we had the BMW, the interior had been thrashed from sand and sea water as well as the dogs and the hardware store loading up. Jesus called us later in the day to say he would be happy to trade the Jeep for the BMW and $2000. Unfortunately, we said, we didn't have any money, we needed to trade straight across.

3 days later Jesus called to say his daughter needed a car and he would accept an even trade. Somehow things had worked out again. Somehow Fate or Destiny or another of the mythological or metaphysical beings had descended upon us and bestowed its gift, and once agin we were thankful that the saga of the shipped car had a happy ending.


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

At Least We Have a Shower...The First Few Days


As the night of our first day living in Rincon came upon us, the lights spread out and across the valleys of Aguada and down to the beaches of Agaudilla. I didn't know there would be so many lights in the distance, they made our view even more amazing than I had remembered. We bought a nice king size tempurpedic mattress from Costco, however didn't think to buy a fan. We setteled into bed and looked out at the lights. It was hot and there were mosquitos, but we easily fell into sleep, the exhaustion of the trip our best pillow.
Sometime in the night, however, I woke up to Cyndi crying. She told me she was worried that we had made a mistake and it was all her doing. The dogs were nervous and uncomfortable and we were in a strange place and didn't know anybody and the amount of work to do to make the house comfortable was overwhelming. It was raining and the coqui's, small frogs that make a noise at night that sounds like a cross between a bird and a cricket, were doing their thing, the dogs couldn't get settled and the heat and mosquitos were starting to be annoying. She put the weight of our success at building a life here on her shoulders all in one night and I knew that wasn't fair. She had the right idea, it was up to us to understand the challenges and face them one by one. The dogs would calm down, we had 2 months and a decent budget to get the house where we wanted it to be. The rain and coquis and strangeness of his place is why we had come and we needed to look forward to the adventure we had chosen to take upon ourselves. We made a promise to better communicate and support each other and the the thought of staying here started to become less worrisome and we both fell back to sleep, but I don't think the dogs did.
The next few days our bodies adjusted to the heat and humidity and we bought and installed some ceiling fans. We had a lot of work to do and a limited budget so we needed to prioritize, but the fans would give the best bang for the buck. We drove to the town of Mayaguez, about 30 minutes south and bought our appliances at Sears in the Mayaguez mall. Mayaguez is the largest town near Rincon with a population of about 100,000 and a university that is the Caribbean's leading scince and engineering institution. It's also known as "the city of pure waters" which locals say contributes to the quality of its most famous export, Medalla beer.
2 day later, the Sears delivery truck was lost and we had to meet them at the Lazy Parrot. As I wrote before, the addresses in Rincon are almost meaningless and directions usually involve local landmarks more than streets and numbers. I had a case of Medalla I wanted to get chilling so I quickly drove our rental car through the rain a mile to the Parrot and led the truck back to Sector Cuchillo Pina (our street). We got our refrigerator and the beer was getting cold, we had also bought a BBQ from Home Depot so it looked like I might get to cook soon.
The local market in Rincon is a chain called Econo and the parking lot is always full. They have local meat and produce as well as stuff from the states, but they also carry a lot of the overly processed food we stopped buying in the last few years. Partially hydrogeneated oils, mono and diglycerides and high fructose corn syrup are in almost everything on the store shelves back home and here wasn't much different, so we bought mostly just basics. Our first dinner cooked in Rincon was garlic and olive oil marinated chicken, cooked on the BBQ with fresh bread from the EC Bakery, washed down with a cold Medalla. We gave thanks for all that we had achieved in our first few days on the island and looked forward to the challenges ahead.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Less is More


Our lives in Los Angeles were pretty simple. I worked 4 nights at a restaurant downtown and Cyndi drove to Laguna Beach 2 days per week to work with massage clients. Neither of us had alot of responsiblity or stress in our schedules and other than the 2 dogs we had, there weren't many things to take up our free time. So we walked the dogs alot, worked around the house, watched movies and spent time with our parents.

Of course it wasn't always this way. I worked managing restaurants for over 20 years and finally grew tired of the 50 to 60 hour work weeks and seemingly unending ways for the corporate higher ups to create even more work. I genuinely enjoyed being at the restaurant and taking care of the guests who chose to dine there, but I didn't enjoy sitting in an office and sending daily labor and food reports to some bean counter at the corporate office. I know that the secret to a restaurant's profitability lies in the number of people at its tables, and probably has a direct negative correlation to the number of staff at the restaurant's corporate headquarters.

Cyndi worked for IBM as a network engineer, but the corporate politics and cubicle life closed in on her and she decide to pursue a career in massage therapy. Her story is similiar to mine so when we met again in 2005, (we graduated from high school together), we realized how much we each valued our time so much more than things.

I know we aren't the first of our generation to step off the treadmill, I also realize that without kids our options are much more open, but at the moment of enlightenment, the moment when you understand how precious your time is here, it takes courage to act upon and I saw that courage in Cyndi as she must have in me.

Here is a link to a book that makes this point much more clear than I ever could: http://www.billmckibben.com/deep-economy.html . Its really about questioning the more, more, faster, faster ethic we've been taught to cow to. Cyndi and I have come to appreciate the simple acts of living; making our own meals, tending our own gardens, being a positive and social member of our neighborhood. The phrase, " think global, act local" got a lot of play in the environmental movement, but the "act local" part is the key. As the world gets smaller by the minute, and the costs of energy and transportation rise and corporations gobble up and spit out small business, the only way to exert control is to seek out local merchants and products that haven't been shipped in from half way across the world.

It was this pursuit of a simple, localized lifestyle that led us to Rincon, (ok the nice waves and warm Caribbean water also came into play). There has been so much talk about global warming and carbon footprints, green living, reduce, re-use, recycle, I think sometimes people get overwhelmed into doing nothing and pretending they don't care. Cyndi and I have made a conscience effort to be a part of the localization movement, but trips to Costco and Home Depot are inevitable. We can't live in palapas and eat bananas all day, but we can seek out local meat and vegetables, eat the fruit of our own trees and try to buy most of our things from the small markets here in town.


Friday, September 4, 2009

Moving Day aka the Longest Day of My Life




In addition to the 2 boxes we shipped, we were allowed 2 checked bags (at a cost of $25 each) and 2 carry-ons each. Since the dogs would be travelling on the plane with us, (they would be laying at our feet), we would only take 1 carry-on each, so we had to maximize the check in luggage. Each check on bag could be up to 50 lbs., anything over would be charged $50. Of course, as we packed the bags and they got heavier and heavier we realized we might end up paying a lot of money in overweight fees. We tried to balance heavy items throughout the luggage and we even borrowed a friends scale to give us an idea of the weight of each bag. In the end we decided we could afford to pay one overweight fee and loaded up one of the bags.


The house was ready for our renters and we locked up. As the van we had requested from the taxi company pulled up to the house, our neighbors came out to send us off, their grandson loved our dogs and was very sad to see them go. I remember a quick, emotional cab ride through the August night and before I could come up with a good reason to stay, the LAX traffic control tower passed in a blur.


Travelling these days is stressfull enough, throw in 2 dogs, 4 overstuffed suitcases and the nerves of leaving your home and we knew the only way to make it through this night was to be organized, calm and to not let anything rattle us. The dogs were great, they stood in line at check in and through security as if they had done it 100 times. The flight however, was booked solid, not an extra seat on the plane and once we got the dogs settled and sat down, I knew I wouldn't be moving for another 7 hours.


As we landed, I looked at Cyndi and saw the same thrill in her eyes as I was feeling. We made it, halfway there. Just need to rent a car, stop at Costco and buy a bed and then drive 2 hours to our home in Rincon. We left at 9pm on Friday night, at 3pm Saturday we opened the door to our beautiful, albeit empty house in Paradise.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Rincon, Here We Come....


Cyndi sold her business in Laguna Beach. She had to in order to pay for the work needed on the house. She could always build a business in Los Angeles, but her plan was to build her massage therapy business in Rincon, whether I was with her or not (I think). She was able to secure a website http://rinconsportsmassage.com for her massage therapy business in Rincon and built a web page that described her work and that she would be available after August. For my part, I guess I was dragging my feet and when confronted with the possibilities of a life in Rincon or staying in Los Angeles, the easy choice was always LA. But Cyndi is tenacious and after realizing we could rent our house out short term and my job, however good I may think it was, wasn't all that, basically I had nothing keeping me in Los Angeles.


We decided to rent the house on craigs list for 2 months while we went to Rincon to work on the house and explore the possibilities of staying permanently. I would come back after 2 months to return to my job for awhile and Cyndi would stay in Puerto Rico. The biggest issues we faced were getting the dogs there, to ship or not ship one of our cars and of course after 2 months in Rincon how long would I stay in LA?

Though Puerto Rico does not have a quarantine period for dogs and the only paperwork we needed for the dogs was proof of a rabies shot and a certificate of health from the vet ($25), the dogs were not as easy as we thought. We were planning to go to Puerto Rico in August and American Airlines will not allow dogs in the storage area of the plane if it is hotter than 85 degrees. We scheduled a red eye flight that would land in San Juan at about 9:30 in the morning, but most of the weather forecasts we had seen called for the temperatures to be between 80 and 90 degrees. One of our dogs, Sancho is a retired service dog and has a vest and identification, so we felt comfortable taking him on the plane. The other dog was still a puppy and we planned on crating him on the plane, however American Airlines couldn't guarantee that he would be allowed if it was too warm. We worked for 3 months training the 1 year old dog to be a service dog and eventually he got a vest and identification and we decided to take him on the plane with us as well. It was going to be an interesting flight.

Cyndi was dead set on shipping her BMW to Puerto Rico. She did some homework and found a company that would take it from LA and get it to San Juan for $2000, about $1000 less than most everyone else. I didn't think a BMW convertible would be the best car to have in Rincon, I felt she should sell her car and save the $2000 and buy something when we got there. But Cyndi's arguments were valid; the BMW was reliable and she has had it for over 9 years, knew it was in good condition and well taken care of. Trying to buy a car in Puerto Rico could be difficult and could take time to find the right car, what would we do then, car rentals would add up quickly. Cyndi also felt that with everything else being new and different maybe her car could provide some comfort. So at the end of June, a guy came by the house in Los Angeles, loaded the Beamer up on his truck and drove off. I guess I get an I told you so on that one as shipping the car turned out to be a bigger problem then we ever imagined.
We also shipped a few items via the post office, Cyndi doing her homework at the USPS web page to know the maximum size of boxes we could ship for the cheapest price. Initially we thought about shipping our sofa and furniture, but from Los Angeles the shipping price was prohibitive. There were a few things we wanted to ship as we weren't sure of their availability on the island; Cyndi's massage table for example, and we also wanted to have a few essential items when we got there like sheets and towels so we wouldn't have to spend our money on those things right away.
The address of our property wasn't listed on our title, there was just a fine description of the parcel and where it stands in relation to others. Getting the address was difficult as most everyone uses landmarks or kilometer markers to describe where they live. So we shipped the boxes to General Delivery, Rincon , Puerto Rico 00677. Sure enough, 2 days after we arrived the boxes showed up at the post office and we had a few of our comforts from home.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Offer Accepted, Now What?





After the thrill of realizing we owned a house in Puerto Rico, we needed to plan our next move. I figured we would travel to Rincon for a month at a time a few times per year and get the house fixed up slowly. Cyndi wanted to pack a few essentials and sell everything else, grab the dogs and catch the next plane to Paradise. Fortunately, for me, we had to wait about a month for escrow and the house needed a lot of work.



While in Rincon we had met up with a few people who could help us fix the house up. Over the phone, from California we were able to have the roof patched, a few walls ripped out, the kitchen plumbing moved to the west side of the house and 2 new sliding doors on the south or "view" side of the house. We also had a new new tile floor and shower installed, the electricity upgraded and the walls and ceiling refinished and painted. All this was done over the course of about 3 months, actually a short amount of time in Puerto Rican terms and at a cost of $10,000.



So by the end of June, we had the upstairs part of the house as ready as we needed. We felt we could install the rest of the bathroom and kitchen fixtures once we got there. The budget of $20,000 for repairs to the house was down to about half.



Back in Los Angeles, Cyndi and I went back and forth if we should make the move completely or go slow. We have no kids and our jobs are easy to leave behind and start back up anywhere, but we would have to sell or rent our house in LA. I felt we needed to take our time and figure Rincon out, work on the house slowly, spend our money slowly and enjoy the 2 or 3 year process it would take to set up our lives in a new and very different place. Cyndi felt we should jump in head first and not overthink this. We bought the house, we love Rincon, let's go !


Friday, August 28, 2009

Destiny Strikes Again!


So it is the next to last day of our vacation and we know exactly what we're looking for; a house or land in the Puntas area of Rincon for under $100k. We drove the 3 streets that go down the hill from the 413 to the beaches and saw plenty of Se Vende signs with phone numbers, but mostly no answers or prices way beyond our means. At 10am we met with our realtor, Greg to look inside the house we drove by the day before.

He didn't have much nice to say about it. No one had lived there for awhile, it would take upwards of $20k to get it in livable condition, the driveway and condition of the house itself was questionable and he couldn't guarantee that it wouldn't slip down the hill the next hurricane season. But we liked it. The main part of the house had 2 small bedrooms and 1 bathroom. There was a small kitchen and 3 other rooms. In a seperate apartment downstairs was another bathroom and 2 more rooms with a kitchenette. The condition was terrible, there were cracks in the concrete and spots where rebar ws showing through. The roof needed repair and water damage was everywhere. Nothing upstairs was salvagable, it would have to be gutted.

But near the driveway a large Flamboyan tree shaded the south side of the house and gave off vibrant red flowers while hiding any view of the southern neighbors house. The veranda was a small walkway on the east side of the house that looked down over a small valley of jungle and the sea beyond. Down the hill, what once was a terraced landscape was overgrown with Flamboyan saplings, weeds and banana trees. I knew the view alone was worth the $139k asking price. As the cliche of a million dollar view came to mind, this house was beginning to seem like a bargain.

Later we ran into Steve, the owner of the Lazy Parrot and asked him if he knew anyone who could give us a quick assessment of the condition of the structural elements of the house. We were just looking for assurances that it wouldn't fall down the hill in the next hurricane season. He told us he had done construction work in Texas before he came to own the lazy Parrot and would be happy to look at the house for us. 15 minutes later we were at the house and Steve was telling us how he had put in the tile floor of the lower apartment for a woman who was renting it and working at the Lazy Parrot.

Now usually when things come together like this, I run away. There are too many coincidences, nothing is coincidence..., blah, blah, blah. But as I linked the dots to us getting to this point, it even sounds crazy to me, but it seemed clear that it was our destiny to own this house! Once Steve assured us of the house's relatve stability, we began working with the numbers.

The original asking price was $178k, recently reduced to $139k. We could come up with about $90k cash, but didn't want to have to take a loan out. Speaking with the realtor who had the listing, we wondered aloud if a $90k offer would be insulting. He didn't seem to think so and we went to Island West to make up an offer.

That night we packed our bags for the trip back to Los Angeles. Not wanting to set ourselves up for a big let down, we didn't put much hope in the offer being accepted, but we did wonder how long it would take to hear back. We discussed various scenarios; what kind of counter-offer could be made, how could we come up with more money, was this the right thing to do? We've only been here 4 days, this is CRAZY!

The next day we drove to San Juan and spoke of little else other than the small slice of paradise that was just within reach. If only! We leaned against each other at the American Airlines terminal waiting for our flight to board, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for something to break up the spell we had been put under. And then the phone did ring, I watched Cyndi's face as tears welled up and she began to jump up and down. The offer was accepted, the house on the hill in the middle of paradise was ours.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

Rincon Real Estate From The Pueblo to Puntas


Once we decided we were interested in living in Rincon we stopped at a real estate office called Island West Properties, located on the 413, "the Road to Happiness", the small looping road that connects Rincon's surfing beaches and hillside neighborhoods to the 115, the main highway into and out of Rincon. They had some property listings on their walls, mostly condos and houses in the $200k to $300k price range, a little out of our budget. We were looking for a condo or house for about $100k or possibly land for that price which we could build on at a later date.

We spoke to a realtor, who pointed out a few pieces of land at that price, a tear down house and another house that was a little more than we could afford. We got the directions and drove out. The first few places we looked at were in an area called the Pueblo, which is off the 115, close to the main town plaza and the public beaches and is mostly flat. We liked the proximity to the beaches, but we noticed it was considerably warmer down here, away from the hills, and also the beaches in the southern part of Rincon don't have the great surfing that is found around the point to the north.

We had 2 more properties to look at on our list, both were in Puntas, the northern part of Rincon which is looped by the 413 and contains all the great surfing beaches. Our first stop was a piece of land on the side of a hill with beautiful views, the asking price was $110k. Very nice location, but the property was a sloped piece of hilltop and would require alot of grading and money before we could do anything else. The other property was a run down as-is house with the price cut from $178k to $139k. We knew it was more than we could afford and would need more work and money, but what potential!

The house was built into a hillside, made from concrete with a large concrete driveway and a small veranda overlooking a valley dense with jungle, palms and mango trees. In the distance, the next town of Aguada and further, the town of Aguadilla could be seen, along with a small portion of the sea. All around the house was overgrown and peeking in through the windows all we could see was headaches and the dollar bills we would need to spend to make it livable.

That night, while sipping Mojitos at the Rum Shack, the bar at the Lazy Parrot, we talked about what we saw and our options. Maybe we could buy the land and put a trailer on it, use it for vacation. The tear down house in the Pueblo would be perfect for that. But the views from Puntas and the beaches made our decision for us; we would focus our search on that area. The next day we made plans for our realtor Greg to show us the run down house on the hill and we would drive the hillside streets to see if there were other properties for sale.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Puerto Rico, Why Rincon?


Living in Southern California has alot of advantages; the weather, the beaches, but the longer I live there the more I see how the traffic and high costs of living take the joy from what could be paradise. My ,wife Cyndi has lived in Cancun and the Bermuda and wanted to get back to the Caribbean and we have looked into moving to Hawaii (too expensive) and Mexico and Central America (too risky).
So in February 2009 we planned a weeklong trip with the $400 roundtrip ticket probably the biggest deciding factor in choosing Puerto Rico. Of course the fact that Puerto Rico is part of the US and the currency is the same and there aren't any problems with purchasing real estate made us want to see if we could be happy there. We didn't really know what to expect and things got off to a bad start when our flight was cancelled out of LAX. We almost decided then and there not to go, thankfully we didn't.
The first night we stayed in San Juan at a small, B&B type of place that was cheap, but somewhat depressing. We ate dinner at a restaurant specializing in Puerto Rican food and I had my firs taste of Mofungo, the natonal dish that is mashed up plantains and garlic and it was ok, but the whole experience of the first day was underwhelming, I was looking forward to getting out of San Juan and seeing the rest of the island.
The next morning we drove to Ponce, on the southern side of the island. The road was a nice wide toll highway (get quarters before you leave San Juan) and it took us about 40 minutes, but we decided to keep driving and get to our next destination which was a place called Combate Beach, also on the southern side of the island, but west from Ponce.
Finding the Combate Beach Hotel was a little difficult, but the proprietor gave us great directions and fed us a fantastic meal. He was very nice and the room was much better than the previous night in San Juan. The beach was beautiful, perfect for swimming and a 2 minute walk from the hotel. The water was warm and the surf was nonexistent, great for families and older folks, but not what we were looking for.
So the next morning we set out north for Isabella, with a short stop in a town called Rincon. The drive was beautiful, small two-lane roads, but amazing scenery and the turnoff to Rincon was a road with a canopy of Mango trees. When we stopped at a small bakery called EC Bakery to get some coffee, I wasn't sure if we had reached Rincon or not. Looking around the flyers we saw one for an inn in Rincon called The Lazy Parrot (http://www.lazyparrot.com/). Little did we know it at the time, but this was one of those moments that would change our lives forever. We decided to check out the Lazy Parrot's rates and after a phone call and another beautiful drive along palm studded coastline and into the hills overlooking the beach, we found ourselves at this "mini resort" with reasonable rates and a pool and bar that we couldn't resist.
We spent the next 2 days in Rincon, discovering the surf town we've always wished we could own a home in, but could never afford. The beaches had it all, beautiful waves, sand, palms, sunsets and warm water. There were trees everywhere and winding roads through hills that gave way to incredible ocean vistas and a large North American population that seemed to blend well with the locals.
After 2 days we decided to head to Isabella and the beaches and surf that we had heard so much about, just north of Rincon. We stayed at the Parador Villas Del Mar Hau, a bunch of bungalows spread along a beautiful bay with a swimming beach and surfing nearby. They also have horse riding and a beachfront restaurant. Any other time, we would have been happy there, but we had just come from our destiny and we knew it. We spent 2 nights in Isabella and drove back down to Rincon to finish our vacation and possibly look at some property.