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Guayanilla and Guanica

May 3, 2013

Puerto Rico – Sunday, April 28

The motel had a decent breakfast so I fueled up for the day and tried to do a little more donation research, and then headed out to see what I would see. To put my mind at rest a little, I figured if push came to shove, I could always make 2 big donations (to Red Cross and the 1 food bank I’ve read about) instead of 7 smaller ones, but I’m hoping that’s not how it ends up.

I decided to stop in the first town I came to, which was Guayanilla. There wasn’t anything in particular to see here, other than finding a place to start some of my walking. The entrance to town was over a nice red and white bridge, with good sidewalks, so I found a parking lot, and walked over the bridge and back. Then I walked through town, which was mostly just one street, with small shop buildings and narrow sidewalks and old cars parked along the street. I could hear chickens, and it even sounded like one of them was crowing from inside a house! But it was probably from an internal courtyard. On the way back through town, I took one of the side streets into a neighborhood, and was happy to see that it led to a number of streets in a very pretty neighborhood. The houses were mostly small, square, and flat-topped, and all of the homes had either concrete fences or iron gates in front of the properties, but everything was still neat and colorful. There’s hardly any space between houses, and yards are tiny – some are just rock, or sand, or plants – a few had grass. And nearly all the houses had floor to ceiling iron “gates” in the fronts of their houses, and part of the living space was simply open to the outdoors. The bars/gates had different filigree designs, and some bowed out, and they were painted different colors, and that all kept it from looking prison-like. It was a very attractive neighborhood. I did see some old cars like Gremlins and the old-style VW bugs. And I could hear people talking (arguing in one instance!), and TVs, and music, and meal preparation – the drawback to some of the open living areas. Once I made my way through the whole neighborhood, I ended up walking a little over 5 miles. I had a bottle of water with me, but the one I left in the car was almost too hot to drink, so I stopped for a cold drink.

Then I drove on to Guanica – a seaside town in southwest Puerto Rico. Along the way, I passed the turnoff for Guanica State Forest and Biosphere Reserve, so after a couple wrong turns, I managed to go into the mountains a bit and find a tiny visitor center there. One of the guys there spoke a little English, and he recommended a couple trails, so I walked on those, and listened to a lot of birds. This is a “dry” rainforest – which doesn’t quite make sense to me, since I associate rainforests with a lot of rain, but there are bonsai-type trees here (which I didn’t see) and trees that don’t need much water.

Then I drove into the town of Guanica and walked along the bay and through part of town. The island just offshore is called Gilligan’s Island because it resembles the island from the old TV show. By then it was nearly 5:00, and it looked like people were setting up for some sort of little festival. I asked a couple people if they spoke English, and when I found someone who said she could speak a little, I asked what was going on – if there was a special event or something. She told me that people frequently gather by the bay on Saturdays and Sundays, and there’s often some music, and tonight there seemed to be some religious event going on (I couldn’t understand a word though), and there were big inflatable toys for kids to jump around in, and carts with food and tables of crafts, so when I was done walking (and I did so much today I made up the mile and a half from yesterday, plus 2 extra!), I got some BBQ’d pork on a stick, and corn-on-the-cob, which they cleverly serve with a skewer in one end, and the ear of corn is upright in a plastic cup with melted butter in the bottom, which makes it easy and less-messy to eat while walking around. There was a big banner of Jesus up by the stage, and a priest sitting in the back, and that’s why I thought the talking that was interspersed with the music was religious. There were a couple nuns walking around, and I tried to talk to them to see if this was some sort of fund-raising event for the church, but we could not communicate. Various people in the audience had guitars, and drums and tambourines, and if they felt like joining in the music, they would do so. And there was often a simple circle dance going on that people would randomly join for a while, and then leave. So it was interesting to see all of that even if I didn’t know what it was all about.

By the time I’d eaten and watched the festivities for a while, I was ready to drive back to Ponce. It had been an enjoyable day overall, and although I still haven’t made a donation, I’m feeling a little more comfortable in my new surroundings.
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