the ebbs and flows of life

Sabado 11 de junio de 2011 

Saturday morning I awoke with Ed shaking me “Hey are you going to the beach?!” I packed my 33 liter Osprey Talon pack with beach essentials : spray on sunscreen, a towel, clothes for an evening in San Juan, chap-stick, my water bottle and my light hammock. Then I went to the kitchen and quickly packed myself a lunch noting that I was the last one up and we probably would be leaving soon. An hour later we packed our stuff into Seth’s little sedan and hiked down the long driveway to the main road (the shocks and suspension is shot and cannot handle all our weight on such a bumpy road) Seth’s car can only go 40mph so we had to take the long route to San Juan. Seth’s car also doesn’t have windows that go down apart from the front passenger window which is permanently stuck down. Mark got that seat, Rachel was behind him, Liza was in the middle and I was behind the driver in  a stagnant zone of lifeless air. This particular day was clear and sunny and also very hot!! Seth’s car also doesn’t have ac… After about an hour of driving we stopped for some relief at Baskin Robbins but it didn’t open for another 6 min which meant more like 15 island time. So we went to the BK lounge next door and all got shakes. I got mine with a side of cheese poppers.  Not long after we left we got dumped on by a torrential down pour. Mark ended up getting pretty wet, especially as we were passed on the passenger side… An hour later we setup camp at the end of a stand of palms in a very busy beach in San Juan.

Alejandro met us there. It was sunny and warm so I reapplied sunscreen while the girls went running for the water. While the sunscreen was drying I decided to explore an outcropping of coral. I saw everything one would expect to see but was surprised by a long narrow fish not quite a  foot in length and comparable to a needle-nose gar. He was fearless as he swam in at the surface of the waves only feet from the shoreline. By the time I was about to the end of the out-coping, the girls swam over and joined me. We soon realized we were all in a predicament between the razor cup shaped coral we were standing on and the armies of urchins everywhere. We lightfootidly headed for deeper water and shallowly dived as soon as we had the opportunity. None of us touched bottom until we were amongst fellow beach-goers. The only casualty was Lizas foot as it had grazed an urchins spine. I swear the water is saltier in the Caribbean, my eyes were burning in no time and I was already headed for the shower. Uninterested in getting burned I headed back to our spot and setup my hammock between a palm and a sign. I spent the next few hours lounging and eating lunch. At one point a group of 25ish year old locals started talking NBA with me in broken English. With nothing to contribute to the convo I got out of it as soon as I could. I had Mark take a photo of me with my iphone to send to the fam and then put it away safely in my lunch-bag below my hammock.

A while later Alejandro headed to the showers leaving the 4 of us (Seth was out and about) in conversation. With my back turned from the crowds of beach folk, I saw my lunch sack disappear out of the corner of my eye. I turned around to see a local guy carrying it over to a picnic table with a bunch of other guys. It was the same group that tried talking with me a while earlier. When they saw me looking they quick tried to hide it while passing it amongst themselves behind their backs. So I walked over to confront them and grabbed my lunch sack back, of course my iphone (9 mo 32g iphone 4) was not in it so I asked for it back. They gave my some b.s. along the lines of “no englishe”  and all got up and walked away. So I followed the rough-tough ballers and kept asking for my phone. As we passed the showers I yelled for Alejandro to come over. He asked one of the characters about the phone and was given a threatening response of “don’t make trouble, who are you to accuse” meanwhile the rest of the group walked casually on. I ran to catch up with them while wildly looking around for the two police officers wearing Kevlar and on bikes that I had seen earlier in the day. Murphy’s Law – no luck. I continued my begging but the group had gotten fed up and started swearing and pushing me around. By this point we passed a little security kiosk so I ran back and hurriedly told them my situation. After I retold my situation to one that understood English, the police were promptly called and speeding after the group now quite a ways down the boardwalk. I was told to wait while the security guy road down tword the situation on his bike.   Alejandro was with me again and told me that groups like this are to not be messed with and that they are likely the kind to take revenge. By this time the locals were gathered around. They all started yelling and pointing telling me the police wanted me. So I ran down, meeting the security guy on the bike halfway and kept running till I was to the squad car. 4 of the 5 thieves had their faces to the hood of the squad. An officer asked if these were the folks and I responded yes asked the delinquents pointed at themselves and asked me? me? yes you… At this point we were no longer along the sandy beach but rather at a small grassy area adjacent to a pavilion built on a slope of large rocks leading down to the crashing sea. A few locals were down there but not nearly the crowd that was at the beach. One of them told me that he saw a man run down to the pavilion and throw the phone into the breaking waves. I was crushed. Nothing was found on the 4 men so they were released and walked away giving me dirty glances and mouthing threats. Alejandro talked with an officer and he wrote me last name on his hand after telling us to go to the police station to file a report. A black man originally from Chicago sympathized with my loss and told me the park should be held liable. He also said I shouldn’t take it too hard and that I should head into town and have some drinks. That was a pretty good foreshadow to what we did anyway. The security guy on two wheels told me to look amongst the large wet rocks for my phone. With little hope, that is what I did for the next 15-20 minutes. A nice local girl about my age helped me and eventually Liza and Rachel joined as well. All to no avail. Once back up at the pavilion I noticed the nice girl that had helped me was talking with two guys obviously explaining the whole situation. The two guys took it all in and seeing me motioned a hand across the neck saying “phone, water, ggsh!” I nodded and walked away. The two guys were some of the same two that stole my phone in the first place. They followed us for a bit and then disappeared. I looked on at the rocks from a distance to see if they would return to the rocks to gather me stashed iphone. They never did.

A half hour later the 5 of us were on the 4th floor of a parking garage in old San Juan. We walked the Paseo de la Princesa which is an old stone path the winds around the old city walls. It was beautiful and picturesque – often we were butted up between the old wall on the right and vast expanses of blue sea to the left – but I was now camera-less.  Once through the historic main city gate we stopped at a few touristy shops. Afterwards I saw the second oldest religious structure in the new world (Seth & Alejandro served as great guides) and a towering pole infused with ancient pottery shards which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the island. Next stop off to the old Fort San Felipe del Morro, one of two forts protecting the valuable sea port of San Juan. Construction was started in the 1500’s. The scene was the best I had viewed in a long time. A beautiful short cut, windblown lawn surrounding the south end of the venerable  fort. The structure was back-lit with a beautiful carribean sky metamorphosing into night.   While Mark and the girls sat watching people fly kites Seth and I did some hard bargaining on some sweet fashion statements. With our new hats we walked up 200 yard route to the gates of the castle. While everyone was chatting Rachel and I clambered around the old walls. I was envious of sleek black cat that scaled the terraced walls with ease. It must not be tourist season yet because our group was more or less alone . We walked past the other fort en route to the only brewery on the island – Old Harbor Brewery. Along the way I learned Alejandro shares my desire for continental travel via sailboat. At the brewery 4 of us 6 shared an amazing 3.5 foot clear cylinder of the seasonal brew. Good stuff! I also had a rather pricey bowl of seafood soup complete with 8″ octopi tentacles. Also good stuff!. Afterwards the group sat outside of a bar in an old cobble stone alley while I borrowed a phone to call my dad and Joey to relay the bad news. On the way out of the city we stopped by the police station. It felt like a scene out of a movie and not a place I hope to ever be again. Alejandro did all the translating and in the end it was determined the filing a report on the phone really wasn’t worth it so we headed home returning to the station around midnight.

I unplugged my charger from the wall and packed it into a place where I wouldn’t have to see it again.

Domingo 12 de junio de 2011 

Sunday I slept in. Early afternoon Seth took us all minus Ed down to the grocery store. Since it was a small group we took his car instead of Francis. I spent another $30 on groceries. Mostly I thought about how much it sucked not having a smart phone at my convenience all day. For dessert my mood was lifted as I was introduced to brownie nuggets. yea brownie nugs rule, basically you pour the mix into a hot pan and scramble them as you would eggs… try it some time. Before bed Checo (the coolest professor from Georgia Southern as far as im concerned) felt bad for my weekends loss and mixed me up a cutty sark – 7up.

Ready for a full work week ahead


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