Saturday, November 18, 2006

Trip to PR: Getting there is half the fun...NOT!


Getting there is half the fun...NOT!

Danny and I were already awake when the alarm rang at 2:45am.  
Motivated by nervous energy,
we showered and headed to the airport.  We had already packed and put the bags in the car
Sunday.  The airport was quiet and after checking in, we headed to the gate where I napped until
we boarded the plane. The flight to Atlanta was uneventful.  We then faced a three hour layover.
If you're going to be stuck in an airport for hours at a time, Atlanta is the place to be.  The
airport is huge and has a good variety of restaurants.  Our first obstacle came as we were
preparing to take off for Aquadilla.  There was a passenger in front of Danny who was behaving
strangely.  She became unruly and refused to turn off her cell phone.  The stewardess had to
become firm and advise her that the situation was not negotiable and if she refused to comply,
we would return to the gate and she would be removed from the plane.  So, she turned the phone off, and as soon as the stewardess was looking the other way, turned it on again.  As the flight progressed,
she kept pouring little bottles of liquor into her drink, became docile, and passed out with her
legs splayed over the tray.  As we were descending into Puerto Rico, she had to be awakened so
she could sit up before we landed. 

As we approached the island, Danny became increasingly excited, which brushed off on me.  As
we saw the coast, we could make out coral formations near the shore.  Our plane, heading south,
banked east and we approached the runway, which is literally on the corner of the island.  As we
were about to land, I could make out the palm trees.  We quickly deplaned and were greeted by
the balmy weather, as a sense of relaxation came over me.  What a relief after the dry cold of
Cleveland.  The baggage claim was efficient and within minutes, Danny's brother Javier was
there with his wife and two kids.  The enthusiastic affection in Danny's family is very moving to

We headed out to the parking lot where Danny's old car, a 2003 Toyota Echo, was waiting for
us.  It's in better condition than I had expected and I had to wonder if it was a good idea for
Danny to buy a new car here instead of shipping the Echo from Puerto Rico. 

As we headed to the hotel, I immediately began to sense that Puerto Rico is a land of
contradictions.  Gasoline is measured in liters, distance in kilometers, and speed in miles per
hour.  Proud of their Spanish background (Español is the primary language, with English a close
second - although 80% of the population is bilingual) the island is overrun with American fast
food restaurants, and signs advertising "servi-carro" (Wendy's) and "auto-mac" (McDonald's).  

Puerto Rico is on Atlantic Standard time.  They neither "spring ahead" nor "fall back", so they are
one hour ahead of Eastern time during the cold months, and the same during the warm months.
We reached the Villa Forin hotel about 5pm and were wiped out.  Danny and I took a quick
shower and rested for a while before heading out to meet up with his family for dinner. 

We headed to the rendezvous point, a nearby Walgreens, and got a few supplies before the
family showed up.    

By now it was dark, and we began the drive to a restaurant on the coast in Aguada that was run
by a Puerto Rican gentleman who, coincidentally, had spent two decades living in Cleveland.
We compared notes on Cleveland and talked...and talked...and talked as we waited a near
eternity for dinner.  As it turned out, there was only one cook and it took a while to prepare our
dishes.  Puerto Rican cuisine generally agrees with me - too much so, as I gained a substantial
amount of weight on the trip.  During the latter part of the meal, we had an upexpected visitor.


After we left, I heard the surf outside.  Then, Daniel Sr. led a caravan around several parts of the
island, and Danny commented on the new developments that had sprung up in the last year.  We
also drove through a blatantly cruisy park in Aguadilla.

We got back to the hotel around midnight, and I effortlessly fell into a blissful sleep.

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