Looking at Dome's Beach from El Faro Park

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, 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.