Saturday, June 23, 2018

teen club takes Puerto Rico

My husband’s nieces arrived on Saturday. Within a day, one of the girls had slapped a sign on the kitchen cupboard:

The next day, after pouring the concrete floor, this photo popped up in my phone:

Tee-hee-hee! Looks like "Puerto Rico takes teen club" would be more accurate!

For three of the four girls, this was their first time off the mainland, but they were so mellow and laid back, you’d never know it. From trying (and failing) to watch a movie two nights in a row to running out of toilet paper (my bad) to getting eaten alive by mosquitos, they took everything in stride, never even batting an eye. Quick to help out, appreciative, and open to new experiences, they were excellent houseguests.

Even though they weren't here with MDS, they worked at the jobsite whenever their help was needed which, unfortunately, wasn't as much as we’d hoped: the process of laying block isn’t very conducive to unskilled labor, plus, they were such quick workers that my husband kept running out of things for them to do! Even so, they managed to work enough — shoveling gravel, hauling cement blocks, cleaning up — to still get sore.

While it sometimes bothered me that I wasn't doing more Puerto Rican-y stuff with them (with all our guests/volunteers, I'm torn between my all-consuming work and exhaustion on the one hand, and my desire to host and facilitate a meaningful cross-cultural experience on the other), the girls seemed perfectly content to read books, play games, and talk. Whenever opportunities arose, they were quick to create their own adventure.

For example:
*At a street food place close to the jobsite, they bought a sample of everything they were selling.
*When a huge rainstorm hit (the first big one since we’ve arrived), they all took off to go play basketball, never mind the fact that they’d just showered and gotten ready for bed.
*They escorted my younger son the four blocks to the barber shop for a much-needed haircut.
*They spent an afternoon at the fancy local mall trying on clothes just for the heck of it.
*They worked for a good three hours — all of their own volition, too — to clean up the basketball court next to our house.

ten bags full

Three of my kids left on Thursday to go to a youth retreat up in the mountains so then we were down to just five girls in the house. Friday afternoon, after a morning of work at the jobsite and a special lunch — Nilda's visiting relatives prepared sancocho, a Puerto Rican stew of meat and root vegetables — we headed to the beach for a little downtime.

Nilda's daughter warned us that the seaweed rises to the surface when it's cloudy, and she wasn't joking!

There aren't many good swimming beaches around Ponce. The main beach in Ponce is kind of ruggedly wild, and people don't seem to swim there much, but we've discovered a nice little spot about a 20 minute walk from the parking area. The water is not super deep, but it's private (and with shade!) and the waves are big enough to toss you around a bit. It's fast becoming our favorite hang-out spot.

All of us went swimming, and the girls spent hours playing in the water, hurling fistfulls of seaweed at each other (the Caribbean version of a snowball fight?) and trying to ride the waves. On shore, there was some ballet dancing, seaglass gathering, and a bit of sword (plant) fighting.

Back home we scurried around getting showers and heating up leftovers before zipping downtown for a bedtime snack of pinchos (Puerto Rico's famed chicken/beef-on-a-stick) and ice cream.

What a treat it was, having those girls here!

This same time, years previous: cherry picking, buttermilk brownies, Korean beef, the quotidian (6.22.15), magic custard cake, walking through water, cilantro beet salad.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

all before lunch

Monday morning, the concrete truck was scheduled to arrive bright and early to pour the concrete slab floor. Breakfast for my (getting sick) husband and younger son (my older son is staying in the volunteer trailer with the two other volunteers) was at 5:40.

As soon as those two were out the door, I got the rest of the gang up and going. This week, four of my husband’s nieces are visiting. (Even though they’re not with MDS, they’re putting in several days of work.) At 6:45, just as we were ready to head to work, I noticed the van had a flat. Since the knowledgeable tire-changers were all otherwise occupied, my daughter, added by a slew of cousins and their assistant Wikihow, changed her first flat.

Fun times!

After a very slow and cautious drive on a wobbly spare to the worksite, I deposited the girls, and then, while my husband oriented them to their tasks ...

... I hopped in the truck and drove north of town to a rental place to pick up the power trowel. When I got back, the concrete truck was there, all the kids busily working.

I snapped a few photos and had just retired to the trailer to make up a grocery list when the engineer stuck his head in. Those concrete truck guys, he reported, were so curious about our group. They'd asked him, Who are these people? Are they paid? And how is it that they’re working so hard together, and they’re so young, too! The engineer explained to me that it’s unusual to see young people working so hard and so efficiently — not goofing off at all — and the fact that they were all volunteers made it all the more unique.

Later, my husband told me that the man in charge of the truck (in the above photo, in light blue) was so impressed that he worked alongside everyone else to pour the floor, and when my husband went to pay, he slashed the price. This is my drop of sand, he said.

While they were still pouring the floor, my younger daughter and I took the van to a tire place to get repaired, and then to Sam’s Club for the week’s groceries and then the house to drop them off. When I returned to the jobsite, the concrete truck was gone … and so was my husband. The power trowel didn’t work, and now, with the cement hardening by the second, he’d had to fly back to the rental to get another. Turned out, it didn’t have enough oil — a bunch of employees fixed the problem lickety-split — and back my husband flew, honking his horn as he drove up the hill.

I left then, heading back to the house by myself to do office work and to finish off the morning with a soothing lunch of peanut butter apple, cheese, and pretzels.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (6.19.18), language study, the quotidian (6.19.12), Kate's enchiladas, sour cherry crostatas.

Monday, June 18, 2018

the quotidian (6.18.18)

Quotidian: daily, usual or customary; 
everyday; ordinary; commonplace

Father's Day at church: paella for 100.

an equally delicous Father's Day present (that I ate).

Fire hydrant christening: now they're officially city kids (ha).

Concrete cuts.

Ear protection.

Who needs cups?

Saturday, all day.

Struggling to stay above water. 

Makeshift guestroom (didn't work — the mosquitos ate them alive).

Everywhere she goes.

Island sitting.

This same time, years previous: puff!, smart hostessing, dobby and luna, street food, a glimpse, when I sat down, cold-brewed coffee and tea.