07/26: Wednesday morning

Woke up this morning to the sound of a pack of chingos (wild dogs) that were
barking like crazy at 6:00AM.  

Today, we are going to San Juan (the capital city) to visit El Morro and the 
Plaza of the Americas.  Its a two hour plus drive to San Juan, so we got 
started around 8:45.  We arrived, and went on a self-guided tour of the 
Morro, which is named after Castillo de San Felipe del Morro in honor of 
king Felipe II of Spain.  This is a fort that was built by the spanish 
back in the 1600s.  They had just discovered this new land, and declared 
that no one else was allowed to enter this area.  They felt that Puerto 
Rico was the gateway to the islands, and thus needed to fortify it to 
maintain their self-proclaimed monopoly.  The structure is massive!  
Walls 18 feet thick, about 150 feet high, with multiple levels, tunnels, 
etc.  We took lots of pictures here.  I had forgotten to take my hat, and 
my head got a little too much sun exposure.

As we were leaving, we saw a cruise ship coming in.  We travelled down to 
the dock where it was to land, and took some more pictures.  It was a large 
Carnival cruse ship.

We then went to the Plaza los Americas, which is a 3-story shopping mall - 
the largest in the area.  We arrived around 2PM, and paid $5 to park in the 
valet parking (saving time of trying to find a close parking spot).  We 
went to the third floor, which is the food court.  Ate lunch, and then 
we split up to check the place out.  We had already done a lot of walking, 
so we decided only to spend an hour.  You could probably spend a couple 
days here going to each shop, there were so many!  I would say probably 
1/3rd of the shops were ones I'd seen in other malls.

I went with Patty, and as we were coming back, we ended up at a different 
third floor!  We ended up having to walk outside on a walkway (still on 
the third floor) to get to the other area where the rest were waiting.

On our way out, we saw a men's clothing store that had dress shirts for $7.
Willy and I stopped in, and made some purchases.  I picked up a cream and 
a black shirt that was in a style that is popular here in the islands.  
One of the few times I picked up something for me! :-)

As a group, we discussed amongst ourselves that we wanted to take Willy 
and Gladys out for dinner.  Willy called Gladys (who was planning on making 
dinner for us), and she agreed to go with us.  (She originally was going 
to go with us on our little expedition, but stayed home to attend to her 
mom, who isn't at the best of health.)  We arrived home around 6:30PM, 
took a little break, then went out to a local restaurant that, surprise 
surprise, was only 15 minutes away!  Had a good meal, then stopped by a 
local market to pick up a card to give our hosts.  Went home, and commenced 

07/27: Thursday Morning

Our last day here!  I think I actually got like 6 hours of sleep last night!  
I got the rest of my stuff packed, and headed over to the main house.  
Gladys was making pancakes!  Mmmm.  All of the local relatives came over, 
and we prayed and blessed them for their hospitality in housing and 
transporting us.  Each of us said a little something, and it was a very 
precious time - not a dry eye in the room!  We had made new friends.

We loaded the van, and made off for the airport.  There were long lines,
but we were there plenty of time in advance.  It took us 30 minutes to get 
through security, with no problems.  Boarded the plane, which was a nice 
one: two isles, with seating of 2-4-2.  Each seat had its own video screen, 
reclinable seat with lumbar support, etc.  I was able to get Patty moved 
closer to us, and because the plane wasn't totally full, she ended up 
sitting in the same row as the rest of us.

Made it ok to Philadelphia, where we had to walk quite a ways to get to the 
next plane's gate.  It got moved, so we walked further.  Wew boarded the 
plane almost an hour after its scheduled departure, then ended up waiting 
in the plane for another good hour (with very little AC!).  There were 
massive lightning strikes all around, which caused the airport to 
temporarily shut down the runways.  

We arrived in Rochester just after 11PM.  Everyone's luggage made it except 
one piece that Isaac had.  My mom met us, and took us home.  We made it 
home safe and sound!  Isaac did get his luggage piece the next day.


I think one of the things that made an impact on me was the friendliness of 
the folks down there.  We were not always in the tourist areas, but most 
were smiling, and helpful.

Its interesting that the demise of the sugar cane fields came as a result 
of the US ownership, and the arrival of welfare.  

It was HOT down there!  As of the writing of this, Rochester is experiencing 
a heat wave of 90+ degree temperatures.  This is very similar to what they 
experience on a daily basis!

The island is beautiful, but not as "tropical" as I would have thought, 
in terms of greenery.  It isn't that much different from Florida, perhaps 
with a few less palm trees.  There also weren't a ton of bugs (huge spiders, 
snakes, etc..), at least where we were.  It was interesting to see the 
power poles made out of cement!  Many of the houses, mostly all made out 
of concrete, are painted different colors, so it makes for a very pretty view.

In the larger cities, you can get high speed internet access.  Most places 
we were, no one had it.  A couple had AOL dialup.  A reminder to web-site 
designers that not everyone can load pages quickly.

The driving, especially in the country areas, is wild - probably worse than 
New York City.  Its a good thing it doesn't snow there! :-)  

Roosters should be shot! :-)  While the time zone (in the summer) is the same 
as NY, the normal day is significantly shifted from my normal schedule - 
like about 4 hours.  I would definitely need to be more prepared for this.

There are many more things we did not see.  Would be neat to see more.  
Air conditioning would be nice next time! :-)

I mentioned the coquis - the little green frogs that are in abundance down 
here.  We didn't get to see any directly (at least to take pics), but here 
is a sound clip of what evening sounds like.  The whistles are the coquis:

http://bobpuff.com/pr/frogs.mp3 (MP3 format)
http://bobpuff.com/pr/frogs.rm  (Real Audio format)

I have finished uploading all the important photos from the trip.  You can 
view them at:

There are quite a few, as I tried to make a well-documented log of this trip 
for us all.  Collectively, we took over 1300 pictures!  I probably won't do 
this detailed type of log again, as it took at least two hours for every day 
to type the log, sort through the pics, etc...  

I hope that through this account you were at least partially able to 
experience the event with us.  I had a wonderful time, as I'm sure all of the 
rest of our crew would attest.  Now, its time to recover! :-)

If you wish to see any other days of the BobLog, check out: http://bobpuff.com/pr/