Friday, November 08, 2013

pr travel journal, 10/29: chasing waterfalls

10/29/13, Tuesday

1. welcome to the rainforest

After a morning of thwarted laundry, we set out for El Yunque, the rainforest and national park in the center-east of the island. As soon as we saw a sign that said Welcome to the Rainforest, something in me shifted—a tension I wasn’t even aware of released, and I started to cry. So I know, now, that hypnotherapy is working, because the rainforest is my mental safe place. Don’t laugh.

Que pasó, El Yunque?
We explored a visitor’s center built like a tree house and sat impatiently as a bossy, faux-friendly guide narrated a map that only had one road.

Then we took off up that road toward the mountainous cloud forest in the heart of El Yunque. I tried not to be the asshole who constantly talked about one rainforest expedition while on another. But: El Yunque was quite American with its well marked roads and trails, whereas Bako was wild and tricky to navigate. I remembered B staying behind at the cabin, fuming that Ryan had sprung a camping trip on her, as Ryan and I roamed red and white streams in the rain.

“Were you nervous when you got lost?” AK asked.

“A little. But I turned things over to Ryan more than I should have.”

“He wasn’t lost?”

“No, he was totally lost, but he was well traveled enough that it didn’t make him worry.”

Now I wasn’t so quick to cede control to another person, or to hang onto it in other situations. Now I was with someone who sought out active, exercise-y stuff for us to do on vacation. Now the forest was green instead of rainbow-hued, with the exception of some bushes with skinny red blooms and giant leaves with white undersides, spread out on the forest floor like exhausted ghosts.

Ghost leaf.

Note handrail behind us. The trail was practically wheelchair accessible.
We hiked a paved trail to La Mina Falls, which looked a lot like the waterfall in Eaton Canyon in terms of size and crowdedness. For a second we were all, “Meh.” Then AK decided to swim in her shorts and sports bra (so, it was warmer than Eaton Canyon at the very least). I had no swimsuit on, no sports bra or regular bra, no shoes that would take less than an hour or ten to dry and no real desire to swim.

But it was fun to watch AK swim, and I took a million pictures, like a proud parent.

Look, esposa, no hands!

2. little vieques ykleinra?

We headed back to PR-3, toward the ferry town of Fajardo, the launching point for trips to Culebra and Viques and their legendary beaches. We fought about our different takes on a New Yorker article and missed a turn.

Friends again, we pulled up to the Moonlight Bay Hostel, a low peach building on a small residential street. It had a barred porch, a big-pawed brown puppy running around, and a blaring TV. It had functional WiFi, and I checked my email for the first time in three days. Of course we’d gotten a friendly adoption contact two days ago, from a twenty-two-year-old white girl named Maddy, living in Georgia. I replied, apologized, sent her my phone number. It’s been fourteen hours and we haven’t heard anything.* Now we’re on a ferry boat to Vieques and I keep thinking what a great name that would be for a kid, boy or girl.

3. closed on tuesdays

The $2 ferry dropped us off midmorning. We made our way uphill through warm rain, and it was hard to know whether the drops on my skin were rain or sweat. Isabel Segunda was a country town, an island town. Old cars, bright houses like the ones we’d seen in Corozal, but more worn by weather and poverty. The phrase “jungle rot” came to mind.

Rush hour in Isabel Segunda.

The Seagate Hotel was at the top of a hill, across from the last fort of the Spanish Empire, built between 1845 and 1855. Now it housed an art gallery and a community radio station, as all forts should. The Seagate is white and stops just short of sprawling; it’s charming and rustic. Our room has a quilt, a fan, eclectic local art, a toilet paper holder made out of a twig, an aggressively friendly gray-and-peach cat who made herself at home on the bed. We named her Carla.

AK reads a National Geographic from 1993.
We chatted with owner Penny and her niece, who ran the hotel and the small herd of horses at the back of the property, then strolled into town. The power had gone out just before we got in; it came back on minutes after we checked in, but a good two thirds of the town stayed closed. Siesta culture—enviable but inconvenient. It also seemed that nothing was open on Tuesdays, as if this one day were an exception to all the town’s rules. We bought a few things at the health food store, which stocked Lara Bars and gluten-free cereal, but not a single fresh fruit or vegetable. At the “super”market, there were big gaps like missing teeth on the produce shelves. Lots of frying oil, though.

Anyone want a fruit salad made with pineapple and oranges and nothing else?
We ate lunch at Bieke’s Bistro, where I played with a wooden puzzle for an inordinately long time. We wandered and sweated, sweated and wandered through the nearly empty town. As it turned out, the beaches in Isabel Segunda weren’t very lounging-friendly. The only one with any significant sand was occupied by a homeless-ish man who’d built a hut from a bamboo mat and was doing something in the water with a giant rock.

Lord of the mosquitoes.
We landed at Al’s Mar Azul, a divey open-air bar plastered with old license plates and comic placards. It seemed to be the hangout for English-speaking locals of the beer-at-11-a.m. variety. They were a sun-damaged bunch. There was a shelf of equally weathered books, and I started reading a nineties mystery romance called Sugar Baby. I felt like each page made me a worse writer.

The younger of the ex-pats are behind me. The older ones are inside, using laptops and recovering from dental work.
I checked our adoption email on AK’s phone. Nothing. AK and I argued briefly about my adoption-related anxiety, which I thought was very much in check. She thought otherwise. I turned back to my beer and my bad book. We came together again after maybe fifteen minutes. She wanted a baby, she said, she just resented the stress of this process.

“Whereas I chase after it like a puppy and blame myself when things go wrong,” I said.

We made up. AK was a little drunk on rum punch. We finished with an early dinner at the nearly deserted Mr. Sushi and came home and hung out with Carla.

Carla knows how to relax.

*Yeah, I don’t think this one is happening either. Come on, serious birthmoms! We will be such rockin’ parents to your baby. And by “rockin’,” I mean “gently, in a chair.”

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