Sunday, May 12, 2019

The Plaza On Mother's Day

The fountain in centre with the Church just beyond.
Puerto Rico is a delightful mix of the new and the old.  The history here is almost palpable as the people keep the old ways alive, and much of their history has it's roots in Spain since 1500s when Christopher Columbus arrived.  It was during this time that Plazas were introduced to the Island.

Each little town or municipality has its own central Plaza.  They are a place of obvious pride for the people who live nearby and are kept neat and clean.  Fiestas, music and many other activities can be found in the Plaza, as well as a variety of vendors plying their trade in the streets around the town centre. This Mother's Day, we were joined by Cruising friends, Pat and Darnell for a relaxing dinner at Donde Pica el Peje (where the fish bite), and then for dessert...we came here to the Plaza in Guayama in search of ice cream!

Just one of the old buildings sporting a fresh coat of paint!
I felt a welling of pride as we walked the street to the Plaza from the side street where we parked the car.  Of course I have no reason to take pride in the accomplishments of the people of Puerto Rico... I've only just moved here and had no part in it... But I feel it anyway.  When I hear the exclamations of pleasure and surprise at how lovely these old buildings are and how well they're maintained, it just makes my heart feel warm.  Yes, the people of Puerto Rico have undergone a terrible trial with hurricane Maria, but they have worked together and brought their towns back from disaster and made them fresh and new again for all to enjoy!

The sound of easy-listening music reached us as we stepped into the Plaza.  There were people standing around, or seated on the many park benches... couples, families and lots of little children... all just relaxing and listening to the music and song in the balmy Caribbean breeze.  The lights of the Plaza were soft in inviting... But we were looking for REX CREAM!  We've seen this place and wondered at the name many times.  It wasn't until several friends recommended it that it made its way to the top of our bucket list!

It's a small shop with a long list of flavours, most of which are regional such as Tamarind, Guava, Passionfruit... I've even been told they have CORN ~ although I didn't notice it on the menu when we went... I'll definitely look that one up!

Seriously though.  And only $3.75 each!
I chose Almond and Bruce got his favorite, coconut.  We both got waffle cones and were not prepared for the explosion of richness that shut down our ability to think!  Next time we will settle for a simple one scoop cup because nobody deserves THAT much heaven in one serving!

Seriously people... this ice cream is the most creamy, rich and flavourful ice cream I've ever experienced... and the prices are LOW!  I'm in trouble!!!

Does that look like happiness?  It IS!!!
We took our rapidly melting treats to the plaza centre to find a bench for the four of us to relax and listen to the music.

We had no idea that our search for ice cream would end in a relaxing, cultural experience in one of the most beautiful Plazas in Puerto Rico.  We've been here in daylight and found it pleasant, but a whole new kind of magic happens here at night.

The people aren't rowdy... they just quietly enjoy the air and the music and time with family.  It's a free show for all to enjoy and it just makes us all-the-more sure that we've chosen the perfect home!

The babbling fountain sparkles in the night.
A local man welcomed us and volunteered to take our picture together.  So nice!

Bruce and I don't go out at night much... but with promise of music in this Plaza ever other Sunday, and maybe a decadent treat... I think we may make this a semi-regular event!  We finished our ice cream and called it an evening... But Darnell suggested we check out the brightly lit vendor across the way first.

Soft tiles were laid out on the sidewalk to create a "kid space" for the littles.  They were wiggling but engrossed in a cartoon that was playing on a big screen next to the food truck.  And what did we find for sale in that food truck?  COTTON CANDY!  For $2!!!  OMG I'm in heaven!

I have no words!
Every time we leave our Villa we find something else to love about this island and we look forward to visiting ALL of the many Plazas here!  My Mother's Day was everything I could want with the exception of a VISIT from my daughters... but a phone call will have to do!  Happy Mother's Day to all of our Mom friends out there!  I hope your day was everything you wanted it to be!

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Earthship And Urban Art

I love this island!  There are so many things to do and see here, many of the lesser-known places get few visitors.  Living here allows us to dig deeper and in doing so, we get a more broad appreciation for this place we call home.  

With the arrival of Cruising Friends, Patrick and Darnell, we're ready to run the roads and see some spots that I've kept on the back burner... First of which was a visit to Earthship Tainasoy!

Getting to the place was easy, until we left the main highway.  The road turns into a one-lane paved path along the top of a ridge with stunning views and steep inclines.  

We rejected the first way in suggested by Google because it was a ridiculously sharp bend and a plunge into the unknown... But when we went around the loop, we ended up taking that plunge anyway.  There's no getting out of it!  Just hold your breath, grip the wheel, and keep your foot on the brake pedal!  If I could have closed my eyes, I would have!  

We found a place to park along the roadside just below the modestly marked entrance to the compound and walked back up the hill to be greeted by the property owner's son, Oryon.  He's a quiet young man charged with the job of signing visitors in and making sure that everyone releases the property from harm.  You can also leave donations or buy commemorative  t-shirts here.  

Looks like it's got two heads!
We continued on past some delicious-looking pineapples growing wild and just about ready to eat!

The compound is built down in a ravine with sweeping views of the towering, forested mountainsides.  A small stream runs alongside the buildings and stands of bamboo grow wild and tall.  

Descending the stairway, we got our first good look at the place.
We walked down the wooden stairway to reach the centre of the compound where we were greeted by Noemi, the property owner.  

She took us inside each building and answered our many questions about the purpose of the site and how it was built.

The first building is being used as a community centre.  It's a little small and newer buildings are being build a bit larger.  They're learning as they go and figuring out what is best for this group.  Nobody lives in these buildings but perhaps in the future they will!

They're building this project in phases, three have been completed so far.  About a hundred volunteers for each phase come from all over the place and live here in the outdoors while they build.  You can find a way to volunteer for Phase 4 on their Facebook Page if interested.  Or just give it a LIKE to keep up with their progress!  

The shower room is outdoors.
Just outside the shower is a small sink
The toilet has a beautifully painted door for contemplating life.
The purpose is evolving and they've begun collecting bees in hives and are producing some lovely honey infused with local fruits.  Noemi said that the bees were gone briefly after Maria, but they have returned and are growing in number.  Very encouraging!

They use trash and donated glass and plastic bottles, and cans to fill the tires that form the walls of the buildings.  They've learned along the way, that using cardboard to insulate their ceilings is not optimal, because it moulds and deteriorates very quickly, so they plan to switch to styrofoam in future buildings.  

Some cardboard was used in the ceiling but they'll be transitioning to styrofoam

Different wall types and the power plant
A large gourd grows in the overflow from the toilet.
The goal of this project is to live green.  They're completely off-grid and use solar panels to charge the batteries that run the lights.  They are collecting water and using it several times.  They drink and cook with it, shower with it, clean with it, and water their crops with it. Their sewer is flushed with grey water and even the overflow from the toilet is used to create a green space.   

Noemi explaining the next phase
The tool shed
Grey water garden
They're experimenting with different wall finishes

The cistern collects the rainwater that runs from the rooftops via gullies.
They are always accepting donations of trash, glass and plastics to be used in Phase 4.  They cut the glass with a tile saw and use it in many beautiful ways for decorating their walls.  They let the light in similarly to stained glass.  It's beautiful!

The trash is stored here to await the next phase of building.
There is a lot of bamboo, but it's not suitable for building

Walking down into the current kitchen area which is outdoors beneath a tarp.
The goat mansion.  They use goat leavings to help feed the chickens who live underneath, then use the droppings as fertiliser.

Outhouses off beside the kitchen area
The kitchen and community area
After a thoroughly enjoyable tour with Noemi, we braved the steep hills getting out and stopped at a nearby mountain sports bar called Breaks for refreshment.  The mangos are coming into season and we have passed thousands of them just lying in the roads and gutters.  We picked up a few of the more recently fallen ones. I love them with fish tacos!

Mangos lying in the gutter across the street.
I love that they have "beach bars" in the mountains!
Sangria hecho en casa!
The food at Breaks looked and smelled heavenly, but we had one more discount coupon for the little restaurant in Yauco, Cocina Fresca, and planned to us it for a late lunch before we went on to our next agenda item for today's outing... Our coupon was for two, and there were four of us so we got to order from the menu and everything looks so good here.  The exterior, while neat and clean, does give one pause due to the fact that it is adjacent to a gas station.  But don't let that deter you if you ever find yourself in the little town of Yauco... The menu here is top notch and the owner is a sweetheart.  

So what is that agenda item?  We've been to this town no less than four times... and I had no idea that it was hiding such treasures.  I found out some days after our last visit that there are many, many murals created by island artists scattered about the narrow streets here.  

The project is called Yauchromatic and you can take a look at these amazing pieces of Urban Art on their website, but they are far better in person!

After a lovely lunch, we picked the one closest to us and started our search!  It was such fun, sort of like an adult easter egg hunt.  Some of them were tucked back away from the streets so we parked and walked to find them.  It was great exercise with a purpose!

We didn't see them all, but we did find a few that were not on the map... and we will be back here for sure when we have more guests to visit.  Here are the ones we found.  I've named and numbered them so you can find them easily if you're looking at them on the interactive map on Google. (you can import them into your Google Maps to find them easily)  I've also scattered some photos of the lovely old buildings we found along the way.  One of my favorite things about this island is the historical buildings.  Instead of tearing them down, they revitalise them and use them as homes and businesses.  They are like living pieces of history.

#8 Bob Snow
A local business... not on the map!
#15 Jean Carlos Ortiz Bimbo
#9 Sheez Nicole
Not on the map but awesome anyway! Life Doesn't Change, Generations DO!
These corner buildings are popular!
Unlisted SKOsf
Unlisted Random
Unlisted Awesomeness!
Life is like snow in the sun.  Time passes and the new ones come.  Blessed is he who does good.
#10 Rafa Enrique Vega
Two sides of #11-1 Omar Vélez - a car was parked in the middle of it.  You can see the whole thing on the website. 

Click to go to the website for more photos and information
Several murals are in clusters and we found the project name among these around the beautiful and historic town plaza.  This one has a representation of the church that dominates the plaza.  

A majestic old theatre! 
#1 Javier Vecino Cintron 
#2 Andres Cortez
Quoted from the website: Resident of Culebra and with only 15 years old, Andrés considers himself the youngest PR muralist. He did not study art, however his talent has been reflected in Projects such as Santurce Es Ley, Culebra Es Ley, recently in Ponce Es Ley, Las 50, among others. In the month of April he painted the Tanque located on the Flamenco beach of Culebra. His passion is art, and that is why he will soon start studying at the Humacao Specialized School soon.

#3 Carlos Amador
#3 continued around the corner
Unlisted and not sure what medium.  Some pieces are mirrors!
Next we drove to another area where several pieces were clustered.  We found this lovely space!

I love that these little towns memorialise important figures. A bench beneath a tree immortalises this man.
Baby kisses! #4 Nube Negra
#5 Cristian H. Duque
#18 Nuestra Bandera Yaucana

#6 Manuel Morales
Unlisted near #6
#7 Doel Santana (SKO SF)
As mentioned above, we didn't find all of the murals.  Google Maps kind of dropped the ball here and there are multiple routes that lead to roads that have been blocked off, perhaps to move traffic among these displays, but while we were looking for #14 (never found) we happened upon the second phase of Yaucromatic, called Brisa Tropical!  (It's on Google Maps as "Macromural Brisas Tropical) The street was blocked off and there were vendors and a band playing as the Saturday night fiesta got going.  The sun was beginning to wane so we took some photos from below and will check this portion and those others we missed, next time!  

Just WOW!

Just seriously... WOW!  I can't WAIT for our next guests to come so that we can return to this awesome place.  I think there are a whole bunch of little towns in the US who could learn from these places in Puerto Rico.  This is "Neighbourhood Revitalisation" on steroids!!!  The people of small towns all over the island have used nothing but talent and gallons and gallons of paint to make something amazing that draws visitors to their town.  The restaurants benefit greatly and that money filters through the local economy, because there aren't many big US chains operating in places like this.  Brilliant!  

I am becoming familiar with the work of these local artists and you can find their art scattered throughout the island. Come to Puerto Rico and learn to love her as we do!