So a bit of surf lingo to start off: a “quiver” is a surfer’s collection of boards and is perpetually lacking at least one board which would really make it well-rounded. Now that the terminology is out the way – I’ve spent my free time this week getting a nice surf rack setup for my quiver. After a bit of internet research, a few Home Depot runs, and a few hours of stressing out the cats with drilling, it was all done. See Jenn so elegantly presenting my work below.
Unfortunately we don’t have too much to discuss this week as we’re getting ready to make a trip back to Maryland and have run out of time to pursue other adventures. We were hoping to get a bit of ziplining done but that’ll have to wait until we return. We may go out to meet our Spanish teachers for some beers later today at La Placita, a food market by day and bar/hangout spot come evening. We’ll update accordingly if it is as interesting as it sounds.
Yesterday Pat and I went to the Ron del Barrilito factory for their tasting tour. They’ve been producing rum there (with a brief pitstop in medicinal alcohols during prohibition) since 1880.
The tour began in the visitor’s center, which is a new building since the original was knocked down by Hurricane Maria. Our tour guide was Edgardo, who is studying chemical engineering and hopes to take over as master blender one day. Since we were the only two people on the tour, we had free rein to converse and learned a lot of interesting stuff from him.
We started with a briefing on the history of the company, from its roots as Spanish naval officer Fernando Fernandez’s hacienda, to its sugarcane production and subsequent rum business, to post-prohibition development of new versions.
From there we headed outside to the hacienda (where a member of the Fernandez family still lives) and the windmill where they formerly ground sugarcane. Currently it’s their administrative offices!
We weren’t able to see the bottling process since that portion is closed on weekends, but we got an extensive look at the barrel warehouses. The barrels are placed first, and then the rum is siphoned in and labeled with the year. As the master blender puts together each batch, he uses this information to assemble 2 through 5 star rums.
The oldest rum barrel in the place is from 1952 and, per the request of erstwhile owner Pedro Fernandez, is to be opened exclusively on the day Puerto Rico gains its independence. According to Edgardo, it’s got about 30 years before most of it evaporates away, so we’ll see how that works out.
Finally, the tasting portion! We were given samples of a 2 star (aged 3-5 years), 3 star (aged 5-10 years), 4 star (10-20 years), and 5 star (20+ years) rum to try. Edgardo encouraged us to smell first and sip slowly, to really get a sense of each flavor profile; he even gave us items like cinnamon and coconut to smell alongside the rum to pick out its nuances. As the rums progressed in age they became noticeably smoother. Pat and I both like the 4 best, even above the 5, which was bolder but less sweet.
At the end of the tour we were given certificates and tokens to exchange for a rum cocktail at the bar.
While we were drinking, Pat decided to buy a bottle of the 4 star rum, which was a bit of a production – you have the option of drawing it and sealing it yourself.
We have a selection of rooms in our apartment. Here is what they look like.
The apartment has two doors, one in the living room and one in the kitchen. This, according to Pat, is due to an architectural decision which allowed the servants to enter the kitchen, make the food, and leave without ever being seen. Horrors!
We have elected to use the kitchen entrance because we are uncouth. Also this allows us to pull a baby gate across the opposite opening and keep the cats from making a run for it. Pat has dubbed this “the airlock,” and I am only angry I didn’t think of it first.
So the kitchen is sort of the de facto first room.
After that you have the combined living/dining area. It contains various things for the cats to sleep on. Their favorites change weekly.
To your left you have the bathroom. Mind the giant sloth.
On your right is the theoretical guest room. Currently it’s more the room we put things we’re not sure where to put yet.
And straight back is the bedroom. This is where we keep the other things the cats sleep on and/or under.
It’s been about 2 months since I started my new position and I figured it’s about time I pull some weight and write something. (Note: The government frowns upon employees posting online so I won’t get into too many details.)
All and all things have been really good with my new position. My coworkers are all entertaining and more importantly, seem pretty competent. My boss is demanding but takes care of everyone on his team. Additionally, he has taken to mentoring me in a learning a variety of Spanish curse words. I’ll leave those for a separate post.
The work itself is interesting and will undoubtedly be challenging. The project our team is currently undertaking involves pulling down an eleven story tower down which sits directly on top of an active hospital; needless to say demolishing a building “quietly” is not an easy task. As a side note, I also need to figure out a way to get the tile mosaic off the side of the building (about 80 feet up) and put down in front of the main entrance without destroying it; feel free to contribute ideas.
It’s definitely a unique experience being the only gringo in the office (and throughout most of the hospital). So far I’ve said my share of idiotic things in Spanish but everyone seems to enjoy it and are quick to correct me. It also works both ways – I’ve become the non-official email spelling and grammar checker.
The guys also are excited to show me around the island and they’ve been a good resource for figuring out places to go explore. Unfortunately, in the last 2 weeks we haven’t had too much time to get out since we’ve been working on setting up our new apartment; another post on that coming soon too.
So things are pretty good and we’re starting to settle in to our new home. As a bonus, Jenn’s work has been happy with her teleworking… so good stuff all around. I’ll leave everyone with a picture of some of my work buddies that hang outside of my office.
A lot is going on, but we’re not quite ready to share all the newness. While you’re waiting, please visually enjoy these pancakes from Coffeeterra in Ocean Park. To quote Mary Poppins quoting Keats: a thing of beauty is a joy forever.
What’s both helpful and difficult about practicing Spanish in Puerto Rico is that in San Juan, where we live, a solid 80% or more of the people are bilingual – like really bilingual. You can start out speaking Spanish to someone, rummaging around your brain for the words, but they’ve already switched to English because you’re taking too long. As long as you stick to cities and major towns, you could easily navigate Puerto Rico without learning any Spanish at all.
But that’s no way to live, so we are now in the midst of our third week of Spanish classes. They were surprisingly difficult to secure. You can’t swing a (purely proverbial) dead cat around here without running into an advertisement for English classes, but since everyone already speaks Spanish there’s not nearly as much availability.
Luckily we were able to locate private tutors, which come in a symbiotic set: Eddie is a native Spanish speaker and Geraldine is originally a French native who now speaks Spanish and English; she serves as our bridge both in language and in her ability to get into the mindset of a non-native speaker.
Much of the class is precisely what you’d expect: some verbs, some tenses, some practice. What really makes it valuable is the opportunity to converse in Spanish, slowly, groping to say what you want to say with the words you have and then finding out from the teachers if you made any sentences worth keeping for later.
Meanwhile Minxie and Ruffian have learned no Spanish whatsoever. They are cultural ignoramuses. ¡Las gatitas son tonta!