Sunday, October 3, 2010

Puerto Rico

I'm comfortable in Puerto Rico. My little island marina offers its own security, by way of its removal from the mainland, but I'm also comfortable on the bigger island, even alone.
Two years ago, I was here with a male friend and I feel more more secure this time. I think I just understand the place better.
Much of the beautiful, centuries-old Spanish colonial architecture is crumbling. Most of it needs a paint job. The salt air makes the metal balustrades and gutters rust, discoloring the cement buildings. Even disregarding a lack of wealth, lots of places appear run down.
There's also lots of garbage in the streets. I can't imagine why it isn't managed, but it's all over, even along ocean-front property with stunning views, on municipal beaches and at business frontages.
People are mellow and sociable here, so they hang out wherever there are other people (they call it "liming"). There are impromptu little gatherings wherever you look.
In Michigan, property in disrepair, garbage on the ground and groups of people hanging around are all clues to a bad neighborhood. Those standards don't apply in Puerto Rican culture. Two years ago, we were intimidated by these visual cues, but now I'm not. The garbage looks awful, but it doesn't indicate danger here.

********Driving is very different in PR, too. People routinely let pedestrians and other drivers go in front of them. Nobody speeds up to prevent someone from getting ahead of them. It's very courteous, really although at first glance, it seems that everyone pulls out in front of you. They're just expecting the standard accommodation that is the norm here.
Motorcyclists (even cops!) all squeeze between cars, too, even on a freeway. There are few parking restrictions, so street parking is chaotic. Products and packaging aren't the least bit environmentally friendly, which is unusual for an island. People are very loving to children, often kissing them and being very patient. Customer service is non-existant; if the clerk is on her cell phone, you'll have to wait for her. Strangers greet each other.
It's so fun to learn the intracacies of other cultures!

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