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Published: November 28th 2017
I slept though our arrival in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Neither Peter nor I heard the loud silence from engines being cut, distant shouts from dockside crew catching heavy lines to secure the ship, rubber-soled patter from customs, immigration, health department and Coast Guard officials boarding us to allow for entry into the US. Nowhere on our travels did the officers and crew have to experience such scrutiny than that from their own fellow countrymen. I’m glad we missed it, especially since we landed at 0345 (3:45am). Bureaucracy is enough to discourage anyone from working at sea these days.
I rose before a gorgeous sunrise, our last, over Bahia de San Juan, where the cruise ships always land, and spent the morning taking videos and photos of all parts of the ship. While this might not be our last cruise experience, most likely we will never be on one this big again. We six met up on the back deck for an early morning confab to made plans so we would disembark at/about the same time. Our hotels were in slightly different areas of the city but were luckily only a short distance apart.
We said our goodbyes to new friends made onboard. Peter especially made a new friend with Joel _, a retired doctor in the medical profession who expressed great interest in the Inside Passage project. He had been searching for a meaningful approach to volunteer work since retiring and was fascinated how Peter started the IPDP with such entrepreneurial flair. Of course, we don’t know how to do it any other way! Joel shared new ways to incite collaboration and nonprofit strategic tips and Peter got him thinking about his own passions and interests. It was a mutually satisfying start to a new friendship and I bet they stay in touch for many years.
A short farewell to many others and to the ship that carried us 4100 nm (nautical miles) safely and in style to this island paradise!
Our taxi dropped off the Reams & Foggs in the Condado neighborhood first then transported us to a small old-style hotel, just one block from the beach! It was funky but the hotel staff accommodated our fussy needs for screens on our windows, despite the zika virus warning posted!
wasted no time in checking out the restaurant across the street and found out Cocina Abierta
just happened to be one of the best in S.J. Dinner that night far surpassed all the food we were served on the ship (and that’s saying a lot). But before we ended our day there, we first walked to Escambron Beach to get a feel for the warm Caribbean waters. We next found our way to Del Morro in Old San Juan situated on the western tip of the island. It is part of San Felipe del Morro Fortress
, a 16th
century early Spanish dwelling built on top of 45’ high cliffs and fortified with 12’ thick stone walls. As is the case of almost all historic sites on the island, it was closed due to no electricity or water. Instead, we wandered throughout town, checking out retail stores operating by Coleman lanterns, churches by candlelight and generator-operated cafes where we tasted the sweet and savory tostones (ripe & unripe plantains) and the local lemonade.
Having talked to every local who could take the time, we found out that Puerto Ricans are a hearty lot. No one complained (almost) about the government not doing
enough, or blamed recovery efforts on a politician, a utility company or even the weather! Not resigned, but instead they were almost uniformly resilient to the time it will take to rebuild structures and repair services. They were in good spirits and expected to have improvements (or even electricity) one of these days and no one seemed worried that it wouldn’t happen, not if, just a matter of when.
We enjoyed a day at the beach on our second day in P.R. then joined the Foggs for a farewell send-off dinner at a local family diner. It was especially hard to say goodbye to these two because we were already feeling deprived of close fellowship having had to say goodbye to the Reams the day before. When every day, for weeks, starts and ends in close camaraderie, it’s pretty hard to be without it.
On the last day in P.R. we took a taxi to Ocean Lab Brewing Co.
not far from the airport and smack dab in the middle of a long beach that runs along the north shore. It is a beautiful beach, slightly protected by a barrier reef but still heavily impacted by Hurricane
Maria. They had just reopened a few days before and were hosting the chefs from the esteemed World Relief Kitchen
in preparation for a big thanksgiving feast. I only had an hour but helped debone a dozen turkeys before having to dash to the airport for our return flight. It was a joy to hear the good stories from kitchen crew and sad to hear that many were volunteering because they were laid off since so many restaurants had to close for lack of services.
Our flights home were a blur. As Peter Fogg says, “no one should have to go that fast,” quite a difference from the slow boat from Europe. We dream of our bed and the lovely Luna cat awaiting our return, while sitting upright in packed sardine can airplanes.
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