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Monday, June 4, 2007

Puerto Rico state of mind

By: Slater Rhea

June 2, 2007

Riding the bus to the airport was a surreal event. Having been up late the night before finishing final group projects, I was wiped, buzzed with the raw static of only a couple of hours of sleep rudely interrupted. I was hot, sweaty, and sticky from the humidity of that morning.

a night out with some of our ladies in Old San Juan

Heaven had opened up the night before and let fall a real torrent of rain. “Hot vapors come after the rain,” Robert Rabin had said the day before. He was our last tour guide, and though I had the sense that he was a bit of a hack, he had with certainty been right about that one thing – it was hot and humid after the rain.

I sat on the bus and thought back over time spent in Puerto Rico. It was a blur. I know – cleverly trite statement there.

Since I was a little boy, I have always tried to put for a second a recent experience out of my mind. I sit back and imagine the trip has not begun. I simply am, and try to put myself in the frame of mind that I was in before the experience even began. Then I look around and think to myself: “It’s over.”

It’s a weird, weird feeling that comes over me – it feels as though I’ve just traveled through time from before the trip to the end – sort of like when I run and dive into my pool back home. I jump head first, shifting my weight forward so that I flip under water. It disorients my body, and for a moment I feel weightless.

That’s the way it feels when I zone out and come back. I do both of these activities over and over. This trip is especially effective.

We saw so, so much, but when I think back on it, it happened in such a brief, intense time that it defies description; it overwhelms perception, and befuddles my capacity to remember it.

What is the reference point for such a vivid, dramatic experience taking place over such a time period? I have scarce answers.

Dianne poses in front of some bushes representative of the stunning flora of Puerto Rico

What I do know is this: that in that time, however short, I forged intense personal relationships, and that from strangers, I found great friends.

There’s a song that Elvis Presley sang in his later, darker years, it goes “Memories, pressed between the pages of my mind…” That’s sort of how I see this trip. The vivid imagery is there, made more vibrant, indeed pressed as flowers between pages of a book by the emotional reality of the experience.

The picture of the experience in my mind is as a blur now like a video recorded with too few frames, or more exactly, action which takes place between the frames, and defies our ability to record it.

One of those final mornings, after a rain and before the new day, I stood on the roof of our hotel, Casa Alta Vista and watched the sun rise. It was a moment of intense beauty which I will always remember colored by my feelings, of the isolation of our group within that culture, and of the communion that sprang there-from.

This is a scattered and disorganized piece, and I have no excuse for it, save that it is the way of things, an account, a try to explain, to take someone along on an experience, a slice of life; a disorienting, jarring, blurred, but beautiful thing.

sunrise from the roof of the Casa Alta Vista in Vieques, Puerto Rico

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Reality teaches you to appreciate.

By: Dawn Scales
June 1, 2007

It's the day after arrival back into the continental United States from Puerto Rico when I'm forced to recon with reality and attempt to start my car. I say a silent prayer and proceed to insert my key, I turn it and a false hope takes over my body. The sound of cranking spook my nerves but after seconds of time flew by I realized it wasn't turning over.
Next option: Walk.

Having too much fun at club Nuyorican in Old San Juan. Quick, hide the pina colada!

I think to myself maybe this is a blessing, "Relying on a piece of metal to get me about town only cripples me."
After walking almost every where in Puerto Rico the breeze and not so scorching weather here in Norman seem to be a blessing in disguise. Twenty minutes into my walk sweat starts dripping from my forehead and of course the arm pits. Let me remind you, I'm not walking for my amusement. I have to pick up a pay check from Burger King and meet with my boss Angela at my other job, News writer for the College of Arts and Sciences. I'm writing a special piece about my experience in Puerto Rico for their magazine Kaleidoscope, which isn't hard at all. I'm sure I could write for days about my experience.
About to pass is a Norman public transit bus with the words Lloyd Noble printed on the top for everyone to see. I figured it was heading from Lloyd Noble to the south oval of campus. I waved it down, not thinking it would stop but it did. I entered to find myself the only one riding and immediately asked the old white haired man what bus I would take to go to Wal-mart. I had to purchase some Cd's to copy all the Puerto Rico pictures I had stored on the Mac laptop Gaylord College had provided during our stay in the Caribbean. He said Alameda and suggested he could call and have it wait for me, fore it was leaving in less than 5 minutes. I said thanks but I had to take care of some other business first. I thought to myself, he was a nice little man.
After picking up my check and making it over to the Arts and Sciences building, only to find Angela was on lunch break, I headed over to catch the Alameda bus. I stepped onto the semi-packed bus and sat down. The bus pulled out of the south oval and I finally realized two blue eyes were peering up at me. The eyes of this three month old baby girl made my face light up, while her mom jokingly said to her, "It isn't nice to stare." At the moment I didn't mind. Only after I noticed her gaze hadn't parted my face nearly 10 minutes into the bus ride did I begin to feel a little bothered. I had spouted all the baby talk and smiles I could muster. Pleasing babies unless it's mine, so I'd like to imagine, seem to be a hard chore for me. Finally I was at the stop for Wal-Mart. After crossing busy 12th street, purchasing three blank Cd's and making my way back over to the stop I found myself sitting next to a guy I thought looked mighty familiar. Nevertheless I proceeded to make conversation as if I had never seen him before.
He looked African so I started off with, "Where are you from?"
"Angola," he replied. "Do you know where that's at?"
"Yea, Africa."
"Good, I've had some people ask me what city is that." We both shared a laugh and I told him some people are just ignorant.
He asked me what I thought of the weather, I said it wasn't that bad.
"It's hot," he said. "But not hotter than you." I thought to myself, it's probably hotter in Africa but of course I didn't voice that. I just told him that I just got back from Puerto Rico and the weather is noticeably hotter there. Only seconds later did I realize he was voicing a cheesy pick up line. I took the compliment and tried to move on as quickly as possible.
"So are you taking summer school?"
"Yea, history and math. Are you?"
"Well the trip to Puerto Rico was a class but other than that no I'm not taking any classes."
From there I asked him what his major was, which was petroleum engineering but he expressed to me that he would rather be majoring in civil construction. His father, is apparently controlling his decision and he added that people in his country are overly concerned about money. I felt for him. Especially after co horsed questioning when he brought out the fact that my major was journalism, I love what I do and the trip to Puerto Rico only enforced my convictions.

"We are total opposites. You love what you do and me on the other hand, I don't," he said in an accepting tone.

Top: Enjoying the water at the Camuy

Bottom: Dianne and I making music with the local vendor along side the beach.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Stressful shopping

By: Lauren Cave

With a list in hand of the people I wanted to purchase gifts for I headed to Viejo (Old) San Juan. Old San Juan is the home of shops, restaurants and bars. The goal is to get everyone something uniquely Puerto Rico.
Avoiding the tourist shops where shot glasses, bags, maracas and T-shirts splattered with psychedelic paint and Puerto Rico written across, are sold I ventured
into shops that had the “wow” items. Persistent in buying things that would prompt others to ask, “where did you get that fabulous bag?”
Looking at my list and taking a mental inventory of what people would like I realize fast that I must run damage control and put in a phone call, asking politely for my mother to put money in my account.
The names Vanessa, Hailey, (sisters) Clayton (brother), Jim (step-dad), mom and my two best friends, Matt and Adam were scribbled on the back of a receipt. Hailey is easily satisfied with some gaudy jewelry; Vanessa loves funky stuff to add to her eclectic apartment, which I helped decorate. Actually, I provided most of the décor from artwork and trinkets I brought from Spain.
Clayton, my difficult to shop for brother, would be satisfied with anything so maybe I would end up getting him the Puerto Rico graffiti T-shirt. Step-dad is completely content with food of any sort as long as it is sugary and bad for you. Does Puerto Rico have its own chocolate? Adam and Matt requested Don Q rum so picking it up last minute is no problem. Finally, my eyes reach Mom. Calling her to find out if there is anything she wants is out of the question. The answer is always “I just want you to have a great time and tell me everything when you get back.”

What a novel concept, however, I know her words are true do it does not clear the guilt I’d feel if I obeyed her. Also, it wouldn’t allow me the pleasure to see her reaction, which is always giddy excitement. I drive myself crazy every holiday season, birthday and trip. The worry over getting the best gift for others is a minor anxiety compared to the sheer stress I feel. I decide to let stores guide my decision.

A building in Old San Juan representative of the Spanish architectural influence.

Store one, Hecho a Mano (Made by hand), is filled with sarongs, jewelry, shoes and bags with Moroccan flair. I get caught up in talking myself in and out of buying a bag. Store after store I rationalize why I won’t pay more than $30 on anyone than my mom… and myself.
The open-air market in the Plaza de las Almas is filled with artisan booths with some junk, jewels, artwork and food. Approaching one vendor, I know I will be able to scratch a line through Hailey’s name. Necklaces with big, colorful beads, ranging in size and shape with earrings to match, line the table. The lady is proud to tell me it is all handmade by her husband and lets me get two for $25, a bargain and a curse because now I must decide which one is cuter for me to keep for myself. One down, seven to go, my family is way to large. Successfully, I knock out my step-dad’s gift quickly. Coffee with a hint of chocolate flavor, a dessert for breakfast, Jim will love it.
While waiting for the free trolley to take us to a different part of town I popped into a store cold Blue Lotus. Here I was able to buy my sister a mask at a bargain or at least in my budget for $30. Store after store I as able to get something that I was sure my family would like and that would be exclusively from Puerto Rico. Purchases of a ten-dollar T-shirt for my brother and alcohol for my friends proceeds the pouring, I decided to return to the hotel.
Once I get back to Hotel Miramar, I decided to fondle my purchases. After I show off my lovely purchases I realized I didn’t get anything for my mother. Immediately the stress sets in and I decide that I will not worry about it, there is always Vieques, where I may have no choice but to pay an arm and a leg for a gift. I look forward to desperately searching for the best gift for SharBear.

So THIS is Paradise...


By: Kelley Davis

5:45 and that annoying phone alarm goes off that wakes me up most mornings. I hate that sound! I am definitely not a morning person, but once I put my feet on the ground and washed my face, I started to get excited about Vieques. What would it look like? So many say the beaches are the some of the best around, but will they really be that great? I would soon find out! Riding the ferry was an adventure for me! I love being out on the open seas and I love the rocking of the boat. I felt sorry for some of my fellow classmates who suffer from seasickness and had to take Dramamine. The whole concept of the ferry reminds me of cattle being herded into a huge trailer to head down the highway to be slaughtered. But luckily for us we were headed for what I would soon know as paradise instead of the meat grinder. We finally arrive in Vieques and we head to Casa Alta Vista. With its simple accommodations, it is the perfect place to stay in Vieques. Vieques is a simple place and that’s what I love about it. Kelly Ann, Lauren, Hayley and I immediately put on our suits and fled to the beach. We wanted to check out this paradise for ourselves! Well the rumors proved to be true! I have never seen such blue and green water and felt such fine sand in between my toes. Every shade of blue and green somehow made its way to this part of the ocean. While sweating and baking on my sarong/towel, I looked behind me to the giant palm trees and realized I must be on the set of a photo shoot for a post card for the best beach in the world! Was I really lying in the middle of a paradise? And this is a class that is offered in college? I like this course already…great curriculum! Now I now why every time I call my dad, he asks if I ever have class! What did I do so great to deserve this? As soon as I couldn’t take the heat of the sun anymore, I made my way to the water (a whopping ten steps) from my towel. The water quenched my skin’s thirst. The water was the perfect temperature. Not too cold, but also not warm. A tiny uninhabited island lies straight ahead of me and luscious green hills hug the beach on either side. Civilization was nowhere to be found, except for a couple of tents near the beach, where locals had been camping for it looked like days. Listening to Dave, Zeppelin, The Stones, and The Black Crowes on my iPod, and surrounded by great company, I could not have been more content with my life! I hope this day never ends…

Sunday Funday Part Two

May 27, 2007

By: Kelley Davis

Waking up to our last full day in San Juan made me realize how fast our time here has gone by. It seems just like yesterday that we were all sitting in class for the first time together in Norman introducing ourselves. What an incredible experience San Juan has been for me. Old San Juan has definitely been the highlight of being in San Juan. With its old cobblestone, narrow roads, it reminds me of great classic movies. The city is so unique with it’s great dining and entertaining night life. After enjoying a relaxing and long lunch with KJW, Kelly Ann, Chelsea and Angie, Kelly Ann and I ventured off to contribute yet again to the San Juan economy. Sunday proved to be the most successful shopping day yet. My favorite stores to walk into are the stores with merchandise from India. I love the sound and the smells when I walk inside. The incense is burning and Indian guitars and high-pitched voices are heard throughout the store. I finally found presents for my fiancé and for my dad. Kelly Ann and I were extremely excited about our sarong purchases that we had been carefully watching for the perfect one in Old San Juan. We took the city bus to and from shopping, which was an experience in itself. I now know why so many people take the bus. Cabs are expensive and the bus is cheap. Duh? That night we went to eat at a wonderful restaurant, Amadeus. It had some of the best seafood ever! After dinner, I went with Kelly Ann and Lauren and sat outside on a lively patio at a hotel overlooking a wedding reception. We soaked in the fun going on downstairs. All of the sudden we heard what we thought was a marching band coming through the hotel. We look down and see about six drummers marching through the reception. I had never seen this before and I thought what a great idea that is to liven up a party! By the time we got home, I was so tired I fell right to sleep as my head hit the pillow. I was not looking forward to waking up at the crack of dawn Monday morning, but I am looking forward to Vieques, our last stop on this incredible journey

Clouds and Cookouts

Monday, May 28, 2007
By Chelsea Young

It’s not always wild nights or an expensive dinner that creates a good time. Sometimes it’s the simpler things. Tired of spending money and wanting to savor the cool night after the sun had set, a few of us decided to have a cookout on the roof of Casa Alta Vista. Before class, Dawn, Angie, Jessica, and I made the 15-minute to the small grocery store in town. Stalking up on hot dogs, canned goods and chips we made our purchases and walked back, opening a Dorito’s bag along the way. After class we gathered up the food and took it to the roof. Kimberly and Haley met us there, and later, Kendal and Wes showed up with pizza.
A view of the Caribbean from the rooftop of Casa Alta Vista. This was taken before the night-time cookout.
The cooking got off to a slow start. For one, it was dark so we couldn’t see anything. Plus, we couldn’t get the grill to fire up. Finally we found candles and matches and got everything in order. With hot dogs and veggie burritos (idea courtesy of Angie), we all sat down to a table of chips and salsa and crackers and cheese to talk and relax after a day of travel and class. All was well; some ate hot dogs while Angie and I ate the burritos.

Sitting back I made a comment saying, “It’s raining” and Dawn said, “It’s just sprinkling.” Not a minute later the sprinkles because a downpour and in a frantic we all jumped up, grabbed what we could and ran downstairs. Moments later I went to the roof again to grab more, prepared to battle the storm, only to discover that the rain had stopped as soon as it had started. This was depressing because I’m sure we could have all stayed on the roof a lot longer.

Even though our time was short and sweet, it was nice to stay in and prepare our own dinner overlooking the waters of the Caribbean. Another plus? We all got to enjoy a Memorial Day cookout.

The Wonderful World of Technology or Not So Wonderful

May 29, 2007
The Wonderful World of Technology or Not So Wonderful
Jessica D. Johnson

During this entire trip I’ve had access to technology and the ability to carry on with my life as if I am still in Oklahoma. I have attempted to catch up on old projects, and tie up loose ends, but today technology does not seem to be on my side; high price gadgets have failed me. Now, I am not a techie junkie. I don’t have a lot of gadgets, download millions of music or songs from the Internet, surf the net for hours on hours, and upload millions of pics on Facebook or MySpace. I have a friend who cried when the Mac representative told her she wouldn’t have her laptop for weeks because it crashed. She apparently downloaded too much crap from the Internet.
But, yesterday on our journey from San Juan to Vieques, my luxury has turned into my worst nightmare. Upon arrival I noticed my brand new “bling bling” Blackberry Pearl became sick during the nearly two hour Ferry ride and despite its good fight for survival – my cell stop breathing this morning and unfortunately, died this afternoon.
See how cute my "bling bling" is? Unfortunately, it's dead.
Talk about being cut off from the world, from my boyfriend who lives in New Jersey. Living more than a thousand miles apart, telephone conversations are relationship lifeline. In a long distance relationship every conversation, every email and every time you see each other is just as important as the last conversation, the last email and the last vacation spent together. Luckily for me, I head to New Jersey on Thursday, so I’ll soon be in the arms of the one I love, but until then I guess I will cut off from him and the rest of the world; this could be a good thing. Just think about it for a moment. I am in Puerto Rico, on the small island of Vieques. They are small shops here, a small green grocery store and white sandy beach, however my dilemma of the day is the fact that my technology including my MacBook Pro is not working right. At the moment I can only think about obligations that I need to fulfill and the fact that my phone and Internet access isn’t working is a pain.
Have I gotten so used to the luxuries in life that I don’t appreciate the most beautiful and simplest things? As much as I am ready to be in New Jersey with my boyfriend and visit my girlfriend Terra who lives in Philadelphia, who just had a baby girl Taegan. I am missing out on something really exciting and peaceful all at the same time.

This beautiful, alluring Caribbean beach lured me in. It literally called my name.

The fact is, I am convinced that I will miss these wonderful beaches, friendly people and mouth-watering plantains. While this trip has been a demanding adventure, in the most humid conditions it has definitely been a personal discovery. I guess I rediscovered what I already knew. Enjoy the moment and the beauty that is in front of you RIGHT NOW. So what if I don’t get to talk to James for a couple of days. Hey, I think I will head to the beach and study there. Tests await me on tomorrow.

Why I Want to Va a Puerto Rico! (I'm good at Spanglish)

By: Haley Hernandez
I will graduate with a minor in Spanish and last summer spent six weeks in Chile and Argentina. My experience last summer changed my life because it taught me a lot about myself and other cultures. I feel like the trip to Puerto Rico is my opportunity to combine journalism and my Spanish. Most importantly, I’m eager to learn about travel writing because that’s an important aspect of journalism but not a course available during the regular school semesters.
In the future, I plan to work for a television news station. No matter what station I work for, I know the importance of being bilingual and having worldly experience on top of excellent writing and reporting skills. I think the trip to Puerto Rico will not only help me work toward these goals but teach me so much more than I can even imagine.
This past fall semester as an intern at OU Nightly, it became clear that I want and need more hands on experience to know what I am good at and what I like. I am a firm believer that the best education is not always in a classroom and hope that I can have the privilege to study in Puerto Rico this summer to give me a journalistic experience that will help me to accomplish my goals by furthering my education in ways that are not possible sitting in a classroom.
I commit myself completely to everything I do and especially to furthering my education. I am a hard worker and I make it a point to learn from every experience. I would not take the learning experience in Puerto Rico lightly, instead I would use the two weeks as an intense training for what I want to do with my future.

Camuy Caves

By: Dianne Lee
Parque De Las Cavernas Del Rio Camuy, or more commonly known as the Camuy Caves was the highlight of our Wednesday tour on May 23. It is the third largest cave system in the world. The cave was en route from San German to San Juan. It was mid-morning when we reached our destination. The caves were located deep in the middle of the forest, about 200 feet down where a trolley would shuttle us to the cave’s entrance. We waited for nearly an hour before hopping onto a trolley, which descended through the narrow winding roads carved out in the forest.

The moment I stepped into the Camuy Caves, I was squeezed through a narro
w passage. Droplets of water from the numerous stalactites protruding from the ceiling fell on my head. After a brief maneuver through the passage to avoid the droplets, the entrance opened up to reveal a dimly lit cave as tall and as wide as a Carnival Cruise Lines ship. Of course I would have known the measurements of the caves had I been standing near our tour guide, Minerva. However, my hands were already slipping into my purse to pull out my faithful Canon SD600. I stood still and absorbed the majestic beauty of the caves. Stalactites hung from the ceiling, tiny hills sat on the uneven ground and sunlight streamed into the cave from the two huge opening. A thong of people past me, but I was rooted to the ground, as I attempted to hold the camera still for a couple of seconds to allow as much light to filter into the camera.

A view of the opening from inside the cave.

A couple of pictures of the same spot later, I was satisfied and proceeded slowly through the slippery ground to catch up with my tour guide where I soon learned that the caves are homes for
bats and blind fish. The tour guide led us out of the second opening and we were greeted with a heavy downpour of water falling out of a blinding bright light – the sun. Nearby, a stream of pristine water flows over a sharp but bumpy slope where tourists humored themselves trying to find the best way to drink the water. I cupped the water in my hands and brought it to my mouth, only to have it spill all over my cheeks and chin. In the end, I only managed to gulp down a small amount of water with a taste of hand sanitizer that I had rubbed on my hands earlier. I decided to forgo the water experience and instead, captured silly pictures of others in the middle of their water quest. A short while later, the group retraced our steps out the first entrence and left the wonders of the caves behind as we returned to the real world.

"To know the place for the first time"

By: Slater Rhea
May 24, 2007

I get in the cab – “Hey, buddy,” he repeats for the third time in a thick, Caribbean accent. He’s a thirty-something dark-skinned man from the Dominican Republic.

Short, wavy hair, pencil thin mustache, small gold earring, large gold ring on his pinky finger.

“Bobby” is his name – sounds like what he’s calling me. “You like smoke?” he asks me. I told him I had a cigar every now and then – nothing regular.

I’m not so sure he is talking about cigars – or cigarettes. Oh well. I’m in a daze.
A vacant street in Ponce, Puerto Rico illustrative of my time here on the island.

“Hotel Miramar,” I tell him. I’m spent, gone. I left the girls at the bar to go home and be. I went to go think by myself, and, I tell myself to look at our readings for class. But I don’t want to do any of it.

There’s a line in a Bob Dylan song, “My feet are so tired; my brain is so wired.” This is me.

Pale yellow buildings and white columns flash by the windows of the van. Green, brown, vines, palms, banyan trees, bougainvillea, key lime pie and canary painted limestone and concrete. Wrought-ironwork, pale orange and blue jean sodium bulb lamplight appear and go – flashing by like I were in one of those old-time cartoon machines – I think they called them zoetropes.

Guilty as I may feel to say so, I must confess that amid the dramatic scenery and historic grandeur of Puerto Rico, I have spent more time reflecting on my own feelings and within my own thoughts.

I find that most of my images of this island are in sort of a kaleidoscope form – wrapped around and back over themselves and mixed inextricably with my feelings at the time they came in.

Loneliness, intense longing for connection – call it homesickness – to be away from one’s end of the world and next to all but who may care; it is a powerful, deeply affecting state of mind in which to be.

“Where you from, buddy?”


“Oh – Luzianna! It’s pretty there.” Bobby or whoever is astute.

This is a pretty place, too. It’s a sad, sweet mix of color and feeling – a blur of a time spent on busses and shuttles and vans and taxis, catching the passing images in digest, sleeping as we can.

There is a trite quotation I learned back in high school and that receives all kinds of abuse by hacks and pseudo-intellectuals. T. S. Eliot famously wrote it. I just can’t get it out of my head.

“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”
A storefront on a busy night in Old San Juan

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Washed Away

By: Angela Fetty

It was completely dark; the only light in our hotel room was a sliver shining through the crack where the curtains did not touch. It was a dreaded moment, my body and mind did not want to wake up and I knew I was going to be cranky until I got that treasured cup of piping hot coffee with a splash of milk. After a freezing cold shower, which was not my desire, but the hot water had all been consumed because my roommate beat me to the punch; I rounded up all my belongings, preparing for our 6:15 departure. The excitement was mounting, in a matter of hours I was going to be dropped off on a tiny island, where I would be in paradise for three days.

The chewable raspberry Dramamine began to take affect and my eyelids began to close like an automatic garage door someone had the remote to; the bus trip was a blur. Our miniature bus pulled up to a ferry station as our driver José maneuvered through the bustling crowds of people all in need of a ticket to cross the large body of water. Women wore bikinis with simple cover-ups, leaving areas of skin exposed, their brown skin glistening in the morning sun, which captured the eyes of men swarming around them. Children formed circles, playing patty-cake, laughing, and running around uncontrollably. While waiting, my stomach cried out and instantly I had to listen, but the idea of eating worried me because my history of motion sickness is a long one and has haunted me ever since those excruciatingly curvy car rides in Germany’s Black Forest, so the option of eggs and toast was not a possibility. As I was meandering down the crammed street an aroma of sweet citrus engulfed me. A young man with dark tanned skin was positioned behind a raggedy blue station wagon with the back hatch swung open and oranges piled high in the back in open boxes. His worktable, protected by an umbrella, was invisible and was covered with already prepared oranges, strategically priced at only 50 cents each. I craved this orange and would have paid $2 at that moment if I could just consume a piece of fruit, it felt as if I had not had fresh fruit for an eternity. The oranges were peeled in a circular pattern by a hand-cranked machine. He grabbed the first orange he could reach, took a small black knife and cut the top off like it was a small pumpkin, while the veins in his muscular arm bulged and I could not tear my eyes away. I asked in Spanish how I ate this new delicacy, because it was unlike anything I had seen. With a combination of Spanish and sign language, he showed me and by the end I had mastered the task. Imagine the orange is a tube of toothpaste, squeezing and wiggling and pushing all the juice to the small opening at the top and slurping. Then, tearing apart the soft skin to eat the mangled innards of the juiceless fruit.

Right: Slurping up the juice created a rather large mess, especially when the juice squirted on Chelsea and her cute new bag! Oops!

Above: The treasured treat.

The journey on the ferry was as equally a blur as the bus ride, probably because of the other disgusting raspberry Dramamine I chewed. I am now in Vieques, an island only 21 miles wide, but amazing. I am greeted at the guesthouse, La Casa Alta Vista, meaning the tall house with a view and the name is not a lie, by a woman with a barefoot baby balanced on her hip. Her English is perfect and she tells the group what there is to do on the island, which is not much except for the beach. We are advised that food at the tourist restaurants is ridiculously expensive, especially for us poor college students. However, there is a grocery store within walking distance, as much of everything is, so we discuss grilling out on the roof for dinner. The store was not like a grocery store I am used to, the yogurt was expired, there was a bizarre smell lingering in the air, and the cheese was spotted with white fuzzy mold. However, keeping my eyes peeled for reasonably fresh food was not as much of a challenge as I anticipated and I purchased enough food for a cookout and for my next few days here on the island. Night fell over the island earlier than in Oklahoma and as we sat in the air-conditioned lobby/store/check-in area we were eager to be dismissed from class so we could fire up the grill and pig out.
Five of us ladies started the grill and sat in the darkness with only a small flame flickering from a candle on the roof. Sitting in a white plastic lawn chair, the breeze kissing my skin was more than I could have asked for. The view, overlooking the scattered houses and small shacks led straight to the ocean. The trees with orange, yellow, red, and purple flowers caught my peripheral vision and made me wish, ever so hard, that Oklahoma had this much color and beauty.

Right: Absolute perfect beauty in Vieques.

The night passed quickly while sitting on the balcony next to my room. Darkness enveloped the balcony, but while leaning over Dawn’s shoulder our computer cast a warm glow on our faces. As the night cooled and the breeze grew more powerful the urge to journey to the beach loomed over us. A quick stroll to the boardwalk led Dawn and I to an entrance to the beach, a set of stone stairs, dark and mysterious, with palm trees creating a tunnel to the sand. Stepping down into another world, the nearly full moon illuminated the sand and rocks and the waves splashed on the beach. My feet sank and were sucked up by the sand; the ocean was eating me. Over looking the glistening water, with reflections of the dark clouds and moon it was like no one else in the world existed except the two of us. The ocean was endless with no sign of life. If the ocean had swallowed me whole, tomorrow night another person would overlook the never-ending water and realize how massive the world is and how small we all are.

Taking Procrastination to a Whole New Level

By: Haley Hernandez

Planes, buses, automobiles and ferries; the convenient ways we’ve found to travel across Puerto Rico… and make some people very motion sick. Fortunately I was drugged up on Dramamine yesterday morning so I slept through both the bus and the ferry which brought us to Vieques. This peaceful island is located an hour (by ferry) away from Fajardo, Puerto Rico.

right: Horses on the beach

We arrived yesterday at 11 a.m. and it was evident to me that this would be the most dangerous location to stop at of all the four places we’ve been. Not because there’s crime or malicious animals here in Vieques, but worse… there’s tempting beaches. Beautiful, gorgeous, plenty of temptation for procrastination sitting right across the street from everywhere we happen to be. Our hotel has a beautiful view of the ocean, restaurants have beautiful views of the ocean, and just about every time you stop to look up, you see phenomenal blue and green beaches that hardly seem real.
I couldn’t help it; there was no time for work yesterday. The beach was calling my name. My three roommates Kelly, Kelly Ann, Lauren and myself managed to swim, nap, talk, and listen to the music for two and a half hours in a spot far away from other people (as most things are here in Vieques) and we stood in awe of this place we all agreed must be the definition of paradise.
So, I didn’t get much studying in. I actually didn’t do much of anything else yesterday but stand and absorb the smell of salt, colors of blue and green, and the sound of the waves hitting against the shore less than a few feet away from palm trees. Although I might be regretting the procrastination now that I have a lot of work to do today, I made memories yesterday that I will always remember. The beaches of the Caribbean have set a standard in my head of what breathtaking beauty really looks like.

Me in heaven!!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Exploring Old San Juan

Saturday, May 26, 2007
By Chelsea Young

Oh, the joys of having free time. Shopping, dining, walking…it’s all a part of the quintessential Old San Juan experience. I only wish that I had had more time in this amazing city. I’m in awe of the culture that makes San Juan so lively and all that there is to do here.

On Saturday morning Angie, Jessica, Dianne, and I began the day with breakfast at the hotel and then took the bus (for only 50 cents) to the Castillo de San Cristóbal. This historical fort had beautiful views to the ocean and we were able to walk into the dungeons where the walls had ships drawn on them from old prisoners, showcasing their plans for escape. My favorite part of seeing this fort was the views from the sides of aqua water and bright green grass – that was absolutely stunning.

I'm standing near Castillo de San Cristóbal overlooking the ocean. What a view!
After the fort, the four of us took a trolley to the central part of Old San Juan for a shopping excursion, and an excursion it was. There are so many shops and boutiques in Old San Juan that we literally spent all day there. Those of us who aren’t vegetarians ate hot dogs from a hot dog stand for lunch. We went to the open-air market, souvenir stores and boutiques as well as “must see” stores like Señor Frogs, which was honestly not that impressive. I prefer local places that are more unique.

One of my most memorable moments was when Angie and I went into this dress store that was owned by an older couple. The store specialized in dresses all made from beautifully colored fabrics. We were determined to find dresses that fit, but after trying on clothes for over half an hour, we gave up and walked away empty handed. Although a depressing moment, looking back it was rather funny how much we just wanted a cheap dress despite how well it fit. Trust me, we both almost forfeited a proper fit for a good deal and that’s not always a good thing.

We spent a good amount of time in outlet stores, which is ironic since the merchandise can all be found near home in the continental United States. Even though I’d rather give my money to a local store I still spent money at the Polo store, which is probably something many tourists in Puerto Rico end up doing. Regardless of where everything I bought is from I look forward to the moments when I can tell people “I got that in Puerto Rico!”

After a long day of shopping we were definitely ready to sit back and relax at dinner, but we wanted something cheap since our pocket change was getting low and the numerous swipes on our credit cards left us a bit worried. We happened to be walking through Old San Juan when a man by the name of Lenny approached us. He was somewhat small with a long white beard and he was extremely friendly. Lenny handed out some cards to a restaurant called Café Amapola saying he owned the restaurant. We quizzed him about how much it would cost and he told us we could get rice, beans, sweet plantains for under 10 dollars. After that we were sold.

The restaurant overlooked the ocean and at Lenny’s suggestion, we sat on the terrace. Kendal, Wes, Kimberly, and Dawn were all also there so we sat with them and enjoyed good food and conversation. Lenny came to the restaurant and I know that he was happy we had decided to go to his restaurant and even happier that we loved the food. Later, after leaving the restaurant we saw Lenny on the streets again, trying to entice people to dine at his place.

Before going home we walked through the market again where a live band was playing and people of all ages were dancing. This was a true display of culture. Seeing all these people kicked back, relaxing and enjoying the music or moving their bodies in rhythm made me wish that our own culture was more like this, more carefree and about just living life. I’ll never forget this one old woman, who was so small and frail, but she was dancing away in the middle of the crowd.

Spending time in Old San Juan gave me a better idea of the Puerto Rican culture. I had so much fun in that part of the city and was able to immerse myself more in the Puerto Rican lifestyle by observation. Although I was completely exhausted by the end of the day, Saturday in Old San Juan was one of my most memorable times on the trip.

Do it the Puerto Rican Style

By: Dianne Lee

I was still groggy when the bus left San German for San Juan. The night before, Kimberly and I had been stuck in the reception lounge after it started drizzling. It was then that I found myself trying to communicate with a couple of boys despite only knowing “Hola” and “Gracias.” Yet, fast-forward an hour later, we were hanging out a nearby parking lot where the university’s graduation stage stood. A car stereo provided us with repertoire music as we gathered in a circle and attempted to overcome language barriers. As usual, I pulled out my camera and suddenly, their eyes lit up.

A student making a funny face. Unfortunately, I forgot his name.
A smile is a universal language and we started going picture crazy. I watched, laughed and snapped pictures of the boys bribing the university police with alcohol, performing handstands, showing off their ‘sexy’ legs, and dancing to the music.

The initial group of students that started the party showing off their sexy legs.

Slowly, our group grew as a slow trickle of students started appearing at the parking lot. Some students had left their books behind to relax while others brought along their notes in hopes of studying at the same time. The university police cars kept stopping by the parking lots during their rounds and a few students would venture towards them and offer them alcohol. It was a form of corruption. Yet, it was moments like this that allowed me an insight into their culture – laid back. One police car even offered to buy ice after learning that the ice had melted.

Two students talking to the university police while the rest of the students continued chit chatting without a thought for the police.
By the time I left, the initial small group of seven had reached fifteen to twenty people. It was nearly three in the morning when I thanked them for their time and got ready to leave. They immediately began spluttering long sentences in Spanish, looking at me as if I understood them perfectly. I nodded my head and smiled. Ricky translated their farewells, good luck, safe trip and come back to San German for me. As I left the parking lot, I held on to my repertoire CD gift, and thought of how the students and I managed to overcome cultural barriers through a genuine interest and effort to learn about each other’s life and culture.

An overview picture of the students who were hanging out at the graduation stage in the parking lot.

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle...

by Kimberly Querry
May 24, 2007

We started our second Thursday in Puerto Rico heading to El Yunque, the rain forest. Our driver Jose pointed out the “white land” as Indians used to refer to it. Just as it did back then, white clouds crowd the sky around its peak, giving the illusion of the forest reaching to the heavens. It is located on a mountain- like structure, which gives an ominous illusion to the local horizon. We reached the rain forest and began to travel the long narrow paths it contained. Looking around, we couldn’t help but notice the intense shades and tints of the colors surrounding the forest. Everything seemed more alive and vibrant; green was now a deep abyss of emeralds and limes. There were flowers of bright passion red and rosy cheek pink that colored the forest as if it were a painting canvas. We then climbed the rocks and ended up in the center of a waterfall, which proved quite dangerous. As we were climbing back to the path, my friends slid down the sharp rocks, one right after the other as if it were a warped game of dominoes, which are famous here. Luckily, everyone came away with a sense of gratitude for all of our limbs remaining connected to our persons. After we survived the slipping, the sliding, and the hike back to the bus at the top, we headed to the beach. The beach was not crowded like I had expected, but it also wasn’t sunny. The rain that occurred in the rain forest carried over towards the beach as if it were a predator stalking its college prey. We stayed out of the water, which many horror stories had been told to us about, and remained on safe, solid ground. It almost started to rain while we were soaking up what little rays of sun seeped through the cloud cover. At least there were no sunburns that day!

Fifty-One Nifty States

By: Wes Ward
May 28, 2007

I now realize why it is that the United States is so interested in Puerto Rico, and why Puerto Rico has so much trouble deciding whether to be annexed into the union. After spending almost two weeks on the island, I have developed a theory.
Picture 1: El Capitolio houses the Senate and Representatives in separate wings.

In simple terms, Puerto Rican days and nights are full of life. Drinking, dancing, and ambiguity pack each sun filled day with a myriad of events and conflicting beliefs. The social standard in Puerto Rico is vastly different from that of the United States. The standards that have become familiar in the states seem to evoke Puerto Rican life as an illicit atmosphere.

In Puerto Rico, any day is acceptable to go out with friends and mingle with complete strangers while carousing the night away. Of the countless establishments on every street, people have the ability to choose where and when they will go, and are not limited in any way. Crowds of people, which are compromised of every generation, begin to dissipate long after midnight has passed and disperses entirely as the sun rises, dawning a new day.
Picture 2: A view of Old San Juan from Fort San Felipe del Morrow

There is no question of the carefree lifestyles being socially acceptable in Puerto Rico. The United States and Puerto Rico remain linked as a commonwealth because of the immense conflicting social taboos that push and pull each society into the unique relationship that has stagnated of late. Puerto Rico has been “given” the ability to choose its future, whether or not it includes a relationship with the U.S. In creating this link the U.S. government has created a fail-safe scenario in which every outcome becomes a win-win situation and has yet to be concluded. The lazier-faire attitude of America tugs on the foundations of which the U.S. was built and evolves into yet another accomplishment that the “greatest country in the world” may boast. Failure of the creation of an independent Puerto Rico is at fault of the Puerto Ricans, while annexation would mean the salvation and embrace of Puerto Rico and its heritage. I eagerly await the end result, which still looms in the unbalanced air.
Picture 3: The Puerto Rican Flag flies next to the United States Flag.

Drinking in Puerto Rico must be a hobby!

By: Dawn Scales
Friday May 25, 2007

I woke up tired after a long night of partying on the town in San Juan. We were awakened by our room phone, which rang twice as Kendal slowly turned over to pick it up. It was our wake up call from the front desk that we had requested the night before. I laid there not wanting to get up but I knew it was a must to jump in the shower and get ready as quickly as possible for today was the day we would visit the TuTv channel 6 television station and Casa Bacardi, which I and others had been looking forward to visiting even before we had landed in Puerto Rico. It wasn’t a secret. Two free alcoholic beverages was enough information to get me there. But let me not get side tracked, let’s talk more about the station.
The station was not strictly television, housing a radio station as well. One station was devoted solely to classical music and the other was a form of entertainment targeting the older generation. From wall to wall were up to date equipment that would more than likely amaze radio personalities in the states. Let me not speak for others but it definitely impressed my little socks off.
Maritley Lasant, manager for public relations, was kind enough to explain the dynamics of the radio control rooms and shortly after Osualdo Perez Torres, director of the station, whisked us around the corner and up the stairs to show us the new master control room, which they had been renovating for close to a year and a half, Osualdo said. The room was state of the art, filled with the latest technology. Flat screen TV’s massed the far wall as we walked in, computers and ingesting equipment outlined two outside borders of the room.
As pretty and high tech as it looked it wasn’t actually working yet, next Thursday would be the first day they drop their old ways and begin a new. Dana Rosengard, one of our accompanying professors, asked some good questions and comments. Insinuated that this was now basically a one-man job. Jorge Jay Norate, master control assistant, objected and said they were not updating in order to reduce the people working there.
“It is intended to reduce the people errors that occur and speed up the process, but I don’t doubt that could happen it’s just not our focus,” he said.
After leaving the new master control room we entered into what will soon be the old one. After seeing the previous room this room seemed extra rickety and filled with outdated equipment that worked okay but not as efficient. After visiting the technical side we were able to go down and see a live show in the studio. I was amazed. The set was colorful and modern, very reminiscent of Puerto Rican culture and there was also a live band. From working in the newsroom on campus I know how things are basically run, hectic and busy. I definitely saw that but in the end things seem to come together and come out close to perfect. That’s exactly what happened.
A bartender was on set to show the viewers how to make pina coladas. Well after throwing in all the fruit and mixing it together the hosts had a chance to taste it. I literally thought one of them was going to get a brain freeze from drinking it so fast and in such large quantities. She couldn’t even talk for wanting to taste more. Shoot, the way she was sucking on that straw had me wanting some.
That was a nice end to visiting the station because shortly after that we were entering the gates of Casa Bacardi. Immediately our tour guide, Jose, was giving us two pink tickets for two rum drinks of our choice and a green ticket, which was our ticket to taking the tour.
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Wes, Kendal and I show off our drinks in front of the Casa Bacardi gift store.

I learned a lot about the man behind the alcoholic beverages branded Bacardi and also how much risqué marketing goes behind supporting such a product. I felt like I was literally in the club during more than half the tour.
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The bat symbol that brands every bottle of Bacardi is represented as a sculpture.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

I left San German a different being.

By: Dawn Scales
Wednesday May 23, 2007

There was no turning back, all our belongings, all 10 tons of extra baggage were packed and we were on our way to San Juan after spending four nights at the Universidad de Interamericana (University of Interamerican). Now that was an experience. Spending four days on a college campus in Puerto Rico really isn’t too different from spending time at OU. Many of the students were going through finals so staying out late was rumored not to be happening but every night there was a crowd of guys posted up in the game room or court yard. Most of the individuals that stayed in the dorm were athletes so they had no problem walking around with their shirts off or sporting skimpy little shorts. I was feeling the atmosphere though, even though I don’t speak fluent Spanish or even maintain adequate Spanish I was able to communicate with them. I knew enough words to get by and a few students that knew English that could help me out.

Students at the university made the visit worth while.

It was amazing how many students I came in contact with that didn’t speak English when speaking around a large group but once around a smaller group they would open up and by the end of the night they were speaking fluent English. I later found out that most of them were shy or not so sure about their English. I on the other hand would try anything to connect, throwing out words that weren’t conjugated and even acting out words. Basically I looked like a fool and then I would ask a person sitting right next to them a question and they would know how to understand and speak almost perfect English. That cracked me up really. I’m over here struggling and you’re secretly watching me probably thinking, “what the heck.”
The night before we left Steven, our host, gave Kendal and I some wise words to leave with.
“Do what you have to do to succeed, there will be people who will spite you and dislike you but in the end you have to be strong and do what you got to do,” he said.
I thought that was great how he cared that much to share those words, they struck me and added yet another factor to my loving Puerto Rico.
While in San German I also got my labret pierced. Yes, kind of a random act but I saw a flyer and noticed how cheap it was so I thought what would be better than to get a hole in Puerto Rico. So Angela and Jessica accompanied me while Rosa Sierra drew a dot underneath the middle of my lip and inside, clamped and thrust a needle from the outside through the inside of my lip. I thought it would hurt even more. It hurt but not as much as I thought.

Getting my labret pierced in San German was more than amazing. Rosa was off the chain.

That night the ball fell off and I found myself at the piercing shop the next day. After minutes of trying to reopen it Rosa had me fixed up and in no time conversation of religion had spawned, only because I initiated it of course. She immediately said she hated religion.
“People here are so judgmental and because I wear a lot of black I seem to be targeted a lot,” she said.
She followed by telling me a story about how she walked out of her shop one day and this woman handed her a flyer saying she was a sinner and she was going to hell if she didn’t follow the teachings of God.
“Religion is confusing and if God is going to send someone to hell because they follow a different teaching, I don’t want to be associated with a God like that.”
Despite her views religion seems to be ever present in every aspect of life. The art, the buildings, the numerous churches dispersed around the area, the jewelry and even the people walking around all scream religious affiliation.

Remembering my undergraduate days and understanding “race” during my visit in San German

Jessica D. Johnson
May 27, 2007

Many people who know me- know that I am very proud of my undergraduate experience; I spent four wonderful years at Langston University before attending OU. I often reminisce and boost of the togetherness of students, the bonds and ongoing relationships with my professors and mentors, and the pride of attending a predominately black institution. My memories at Langston include small classes that created a family environment, eating home cooked meals with professors, excitedly watching the roaring Marching Pride band at football games, Greek parties and barbecues, and the countless hours in the Communication department.

During our four-day stay in San German at the Inter American University of Puerto Rico these memories were awakened and for a minute I remembered what it felt like to be in an environment where everyone looks like you and share a similar ethnic background. Although students may have been another hue, came from a different state, or had different parental upbringing, almost all students identified with being African-American. My initial purpose for attending this trip was to learn about another culture and study diversity issues while visiting Puerto Rico.
During my last night in San German, I sat and talked with Samuel, a freshman psychology major at Inter American. I felt we were old friends as he shared his life, the place where he grew up, his familial upbringing and college experiences at the university. He asked me about my family, values, religion and what Oklahoma was like. Later, the concept of race in the U.S. and Puerto Rico found its way into our conversation. Most people from the island consider themselves Puerto Rican regardless of their color. He explained there is no distinction among the people here in Puerto Rico; they are all one race of people. This was true as I watched Puerto Ricans interact with each other and other students who weren’t native Puerto Ricans in the dorm. Race is not a topic of discussion as Puerto Ricans are of African, European, and Indian descent.

Inter American is small and is a lot like Langston in many ways. Just as Langston is on a hill, the small main campus of Inter American is in the city of San German and is full of hills. After four days of walking, I should have lost at least ten pounds making my way up and down the hills on their campus and in the town. The students are also fashionable in their dress attire and have adopted the hip-hop culture in terms of dress and music. One student had a “bling bling” watch on and a Lacoste polo shirt and another male had rims on his car and blasted Eminem while driving on campus. The females aren’t far from being Fashionistas either in their cute tops and three inch hills.
The morning of our departure to San Juan, I stopped by the student center to have one more glimpse and to reminisce again of my undergraduate days. The student center features a sizable “Café” including the financial aid, admissions and study abroad offices and the university bookstore.

Students gathered to have breakfast before they headed to take finals and I boarded the bus to head to San Juan with a new perspective about race or “the lack of race”.

Mixing it Up in Puerto Rico

By: Wes Ward
May 26, 2007

Picture 1: Statue that overlooks the Capitol building next to the ocean.

Puerto Rico is a melting pot of cultures, ages, and beliefs. Like the United States, this island is mixed heavily between diverse cultures and ethnicities. Architecture, dancing, and music are all entrenched with multiple identities, which blend into one vast and prideful identity.
The colors are rich and vibrant. Bright blue ocean waves splash the rocky coastlines that quickly become filled with abundant fields of green grasses that further inland transform into lush vegetation.
Picture 2: Mountains in El Yunque National Rain Forest.
The abundance of colors that the island displays creates a beautiful image for anyone’s delight. The people are as pale as the sun bleached sand that surrounds the island, but others have become as dark as the shadowy encasement of an underground cave. Although it is obvious that color and race are not as large a problem as it is in the United States, I do believe that this issue is a clear and defining symbol of Puerto Rico. I am not just describing the color of the people or the landscape, but of the culture itself.
Walking down a street in Puerto Rico a realization will hit you very quickly. The architecture is flooded with stylistic aesthetics influenced from countries throughout the world. Giant stone walls fortify the city of San Juan, not only creating a picturesque scene, but telling the story of its history and people. The language is different from the country to which it pays tribute, and the music is an eclectic mix of combined sounds heard throughout the world. The architecture paints a visual picture of what the world was, is and can be. One building will be painted a vibrant Easter egg blue, contrasting the adjacent building, which is composed entirely of a bright burning orange.
Picture 3: Calle de San Fransisco in San Jaun, Puerto Rico.
The colors and styles of the buildings brilliantly display the energy and abundance of life that floods the streets. Streets rumble with Reggaton as thundering bass and the incessant beat of drums blares from the odd assortment of cars on the streets. Off the streets and inside the beautiful buildings that house the cobbled streets, salsa and merengue music is softly echoed throughout the halls and plazas.
Flamenco dancing and Spanish revival architecture showcase the Spanish upbringings, while the influx of Burger Kings, Starbucks and gas guzzling Ford pickups showcase the industrial and commercial influence of the United States. The struggles of slavery through which Puerto Rico has endured, to the constant clashes over Independence or statehood; this island has prevailed and will continue to shine brightly in the Caribbean Seas.
Picture 3: Flamenco dancer performs for an audience at the local restaurant, Barrachina.

Rain in the Rain Forest...Who Would Have Guessed.

Thursday May 24, 2997

By: Kendal Tate

After visiting a dry forest, it only seemed appropriate to tour an actual RAIN forest! Early this morning, I got ready to head out to the El Yunque Rain Forest. This place is absolutely breath taking. Our tour guide, Jose Morales, gave us a synopsis of what kinds of plants; birds, monkeys (that we were not allowed to photo because they have rabies and get mad, plus we didn’t see any) and insects are in the rain forest. The environment was so green and full of life and sounds.
Picture 1: Caterpillars in the rain forest, with the babies!
Along the way, Jose pointed out snails that were edible (if one were to be lost in the forest and needed to know how to survive) and where the poison ivy was located, as to avoid it at all costs! When our hike paused (on the path, that I do not believe is historic!) I was able to see the waterfalls. They are incredible; the water is ice blue and a wonderful cool temperature. As you can imagine, what makes more sense than rain in the rain forest? That’s right, while we were playing, photographing and recording the waterfalls; it started to pour down rain. I was prepared with my poncho in bag, but after sweating buckets it didn’t seem appropriate to let the rain get the best of me. Eventually, it did.
Picture 2: This is before I fell on the rock...KJW took a great shot of the waterfall!
After retrieving my camera from KJW, she took my photo in front of the giant waterfall, I was following Wes to another area that was beautiful. I laughed at him for slipping and falling down on a rock. Well I learned karma sucks, because after pointing and laughing at him, I did the exact same thing…I fell down really hard and spun ¼ of the way around. Wes tried to capture the shot on film, but failed. The next day, I had a bruise…a real documentation of my journey through the rain forest. Anyway, after hiking down the rainforest, and the millions of stairs…surprisingly yes there are stairs in the rain forest, I realized I would have to hike up those stairs! I was not a happy camper. But with KJW as the leader, the 30-minute hike seemed to take ten minutes. For every one step she took, I think I managed to take four! We finally made it back through the rain forest, and on the bus to head to the Luquillo Beach.
Picture 3: Bamboo plant in the rain forest, and what my cups are made out of.

Luquillo Beach is a beautiful beach with a view that goes for miles. The water seems endless and although the sky was covered with rain clouds, I was able to imagine what the sky would look like on a non-cloudy day. This beach had incredibly soft sand, palm trees to provide shade, and clear blue Atlantic Ocean water. Every beach we have been to so far has had beautiful, blue water. It must come with being on an island, everything is much more serene and peaceful. I spent my time on the beach not in the water, but enjoying the scenery and the towel I was laying on. I took a nap; I was exhausted from the hike through the rain forest, and nothing is better than a beach nap. Before loading onto the bus for San Juan, I found a cute, older gentleman selling bamboo cups. Now these were one-of-a-kind cups, nothing I had ever seen before. He was a very sweet man who let me choose my cups and for a reasonable price, I had a complete bamboo set. The man said that the cups should last a lifetime, and if I had any problems to give him a call (his card was included with a purchase.) After making my purchase, I headed to the bus to continue on our voyage toward San Juan, Puerto Rico.

San Juan Offers More Than Just Rum...

Friday May 25, 2007

By: Kendal Tate

Today is going to be an exciting day, I have decided.

The day started out with a tour of TUTV channel 6, the Puerto Rican television and radio station. The station is amazing. First, we went into the rooms where the station broadcasts on the radio. We were able to meet the major voice of the station and get a glimpse of what is done on a daily basis. Then, we were able to look inside the script room, where about nine microphones (that look as though they are from the early 1900s) were actually digital. They reminded me of the microphone Christina Aguilera uses in her Candyman video. After looking in the radio rooms, we were ushered into the digital control room. Inside, there were flat screen monitors, several computers and “old equipment” with necessary information that was being transferred into the new wave of technology. Following this room was the “old control room” which was half the size with more equipment. There were only two computers, and half the monitors. This room will be out of date February 17, 2009. This is the date in which all studios are required to switch from Analog systems to the Digital systems. Our multiple tour guides showed us how the “old” equipment worked. With the punch of a few buttons, the tape was pulled out of its location, placed into the VCR and with another click, it would be broadcast. (He did not push that button, because other shows were on air, and that would have messed up the broadcast.) Our final room was the live broadcast technology room. This room was freezing, at one point the tour man gave his sweater to Angie because she was so cold! I felt like I needed 24 layers to be warm, it was that cold!! The behind the scenes people were slowly making their way into the control room for the live broadcast of a talk show that was to start at 1 P.M. The last stage of our tour consisted of watching a live broadcast of a popular talk show. The two women were very enthusiastic, even though I could not understand exactly what was being said.
Picture 1: The hosts at the beginning of the show
There was a male performer, who had an incredible voice, (of course he sang in Spanish), and swayed to his own music. After the performance, there was an interview with how to make an alcoholic beverage. After the two hosts downed the drink, it what seemed like 30 seconds, it was time for us to head to our next destination…Casa Bacardi.
Picture 2: The performer on the talk show, clapping and swaying to the music

The tour of Casa Bacardi was better than the one of Casa Seralles. I had no idea this brand of rum had so much history. It was not just my favorite because I was able to have two free samples, of which were both the best pina coladas I have ever tasted.
Picture 3: Casa Bacardi gift shop and me
The tour started with a historic video that explained how the rum has been in the family for over 130 years and originated in Cuba. At one point, there was an issue and the business almost went under. Due to extreme desire to make the rum a worldwide delight, family members revived the rum and their dream has come true. The distillery showcased the varieties of run and old photos of the original vision. The last phase of the tour was by far the most enthusiastic. The bartender, Thomas, explained the different types of rum Bacardi offers, and how to mix a proper Bacardi drink in the comfort of one’s own home. Thomas described that the classic Rum and Coke (not Rum and Diet Coke, Rum and Diet Rite, or Rum and Dr. Pepper) was named after “free Cuba” and the name stuck. When Thomas was finished explaining the drinks, one enters a room full of pictures, bottles and web videos. This is where one can email a video of about 30 seconds to two people with the bottles in the background. The tour ended at the gift shop.
Picture 4: Thomas explaining the four types of rum on the counter.

This day was my favorite, and I was so glad I was able to write about it because not only was it full of historical information, I was able to see the entire process of rum making. The tour of the TUTV, allowed me to see a live talk show, that only reminded me of the Ellen DeGeneres show. I was hoping the hosts would get up and dance the way Ellen does, but their version of dancing today was consuming a beverage as fast as possible, while avoiding a brain freeze!

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