Looking at Dome's Beach from El Faro Park

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: . 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.