Saturday, June 14, 2008
Minor Setbacks and My First Puerto Rican Meal
"But that looks like a homemade mango daiquiri in a frat house cup and some lunchables..."
Well, it is. Turns out, they have lunchables in Puerto Rico, and that was my first meal here. Actually, I suppose you could count the Subway veggie delite as my very first, but I was too shocked and horrified to enjoy it. Let me give you a rundown of the past, very traumatic, 24 hours in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
I was supposed to rent a house in Rio Piedras Heights, a gated community near the University of Puerto Rico. Although quite late, a lovely woman named Ruth, a friend of the homeowners, picked me up from the airport and even gave me a quick tour around the university grounds, which are beautiful. As we drove past the Rio Piedras Heights gates, I looked with excitement at the stunning homes of the neighborhood- it was obvious that these were some of the more financially fortunate families in San Juan. Then we pulled up to my house. It was...okay...I guess...from the outside, some overgrown plants but nothing major. A very old man, the home's supposed "caretaker" was waiting inside, mop in hand. The mop was a prop (and I'm a poet and didn't know it!) because the house was a complete disaster. It had the look of a condemned property, right down to the chains and padlocks, which were the only "lock" that the house even had (totally creepy). I'll spare you all of the details of what I, from now on, shall call, "the 12 hours from hell," but suffice it to say it contained cockroaches, mice droppings, stray cats, lizards, coquí frogs, lots of dirt, a TON of rust and mildew, and me pooping in a plastic bag. Things that it did NOT contain include hot water, lights, a working toilet, relief from sweltering heat, or, thanks to a taxi strike, a way to get myself the hell out of there. Gracias, taxistas.
Cut to morning time and after awakening and, in daylight, finally seeing my room and the 4 dead cockroaches on the floor (apparently they couldn't stand the heat either), it was sianora, Rio Piedras. While I was sobbing hysterically on the phone, Scott found me the cheapest hotel he could online, called The Coqui Inn in Isla Verde. For some reason, I actually really really like this hotel. It is literally a 5 minute walk over a bridge to one of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico, is within walking distance to lots of bars and shops, and at $69 a night for students, is a great deal. Plus I have 2 beds, a large fridge, a stove, a TV, a great air conditioner, and most importantly, FREE Wi-Fi!!! Is it sad that I feel dead without internet access? I suppose. Anyway, there is also a cool atmosphere to this hotel. The people are very nice (the guy at the front desk offered me a room with a full kitchen after I showed him my lunchables), and there are beautiful murals painted on the outside walls (see pics on website). Apparently this hotel actually used to be 3 separate hotels, so there are 3 pools and the entire hotel spans a whole block. The rooms, at least in this part of the hotel, are sort of maze-like, which is nice because it gives it a more private feeling than your traditional hotel. I am actually planning on proposing to the owners a deal to see if I might stay here for the entire 2 months for some sort of discount. I feel like they have so many rooms, having someone stay for 2 months merits a pretty deep discount, especially since it's off-season time. The hotel also, somewhat randomly, features a Chinese/Sushi restaurant built right inside of it, which, being a hot 16 steps from my room, I shall review in the next post. Perhaps in a few days I will post a full review of The Coquí Inn as well.
Anyway, although I generally don't believe in fate, I often find that my gut steers me in the right direction. For some reason, I was drawn to a local business today where I met a very sweet older gentleman who was from Isla Verde, and knew many people in his church that rented apartments in the area. This man, for the record, has totally renewed my faith in people. He called several of his friends and set up appointments for me to go see a few apartments that are literally on the same block as the Coquí. Actually, the one I am going to see tomorrow is directly across the street from the Coquí, and includes 3 bedrooms, water, electricity, TV, cable, fridge, stove, etc. I am also seeing another one on Tuesday, so hopefully by Wednesday I will figure out what the hell I am doing for the next 2 months. I told this man that I wanted to buy him a present for helping me so much, and he said, "No! No! You just stop by sometimes and say hello to me, that's all I want!" How nice is that?
So, for now, even though I don't actually know where I will be 3 days from now, I am completely calm and cool in a comfortable hotel room, sin gatos y cucarachas, and truly looking forward to my 2 months in Puerto Rico.
Except now I can't hear the coquís...