Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Word of the Day

Ok, 2 words.

"Fip-pops": as in, Mommy's wearing fip-pops outside while we wash the van.
"eh-freaking": as in, we have to clean up eh-freaking before we take our naps.

Lily is saying 7-10 new words every day right now, and putting 2 and 3 words together. It's so fun; and then funny at times to hear words like fip-pops repeated 30 times through the course of the day!

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Recent funny & interesting pictures

1: Lily sitting on the stairs "nursing" her baby (that baby can get completely fed in about 15 sec! Amazing!); 2: a sweet shot of a lizard that I was on the outside of the kitchen window at night. 3: the colors of the sea, as we saw last Sat. Thus ends the pictures.

Pictures from the Mangrove Forest expedition

First pic: Fiddler crab beneath 3 neumataphores in the center of the picture. The crabs dig the holes that you can see elsewhere in the picture. 2nd: the "road" to the forest. 3rd: the hike, 4th: some of what we saw. Gotta love those carriers; we can take our whole family on foot - Lily in the KeltyKids, and Mariah in the Baby Bjorn (though she barely fits, and Lily wants to walk most of the time!)

Monday, January 23, 2006

More pictures to come...

There are too many people online right now, and the cable company allows too many people to access their lines at once, so our internet slows to a crawl after 10 p.m. I'll upload more pictures in the morning.

Pictures from Casa Cautano

In order from the top: bedroom; bathroom (lower left corner = picture of an old fashioned bidet); front of house; picture on wall (look at this picture closely - can you tell what it is?!); courtyard fountain. The courtyard fountain is marble, and was ordered from Italy by the founder of Guayama for the town square. But when it came he thought it was too small for the town square so he just kept it and put it in his personal courtyard. He ordered a different, larger one for the town square!

Puerto Rican houses

The first picture is of a very nice, but typical PR house. The second is of a house by the sugar mill. Notice the large yard, the verada, the sloped tin roof. Hidden behind the tree in the top center part of the roof is a small raised area of roof for ventilation.

Recent news and travels

We are back into our routine here. Ben’s work is going ok. Not great, not bad. He is still working long hours and probably will be for the rest of the time that we are here. Two interesting things from work: it became apparent that until we have our return tickets purchased (which hasn’t happened yet) we don’t know exactly when we’ll be coming home, and that it’s a definite possibility that he will be doing some travel to PR after our stay here is finished.

I have a couple of big projects I’d really like to get some time to work on (in addition to wishing for time to study and learn Spanish), but I usually end up spending my time doing housework (of which we have quite a bit more here – bigger house, house gets dirtier, house is harder to clean than at home) or trying to get other stuff done that we just need to do to live here. As for phone calls and arrangements (say, to get our air conditioning units cleaned, which really needs to be done), I always get the run-around, in part because I can’t speak Spanish, and in part because everything here just takes longer – no one knows, no one can give me a definite answer, and then when someone does know I have to ask a lot of questions to make sure they aren’t trying to take advantage of me!

Lily has a lot of energy all week long and training her is a non-stop job when she is awake. Her language is developing more, and that is fun. She talks all the time, and tells us in one or two word snippets some of what she is thinking. This weekend she has been reading and singing The Little Drummer Boy (a picture book with the words from the well known Christmas carol) with Ben. Something about the little boy, the drum, and the rum-pa-pum-pum really appeals to her!

Mariah has 4 teeth now – one on top and three on the bottom! She has not been sleeping well this week (until last night), maybe because of ear infections (which she had this past week) or teeth (1 just came through, 1 will come soon). She really likes to play with Lily. She’s always crawling along behind her and trying to play where Lily plays. She also seems to have a special need for “mommy time”.

Saturday we went to Guayama and near-by Aguirre on the southern part of the island. Guayama is the town where Ben works. Casa Cautano is in Guayama, an old house (just over 1oo years) preserved in amazing condition with the original furnishings. It was the home of the founder of Guayama, and his family lived there for 3 or 4 generations and then the house was given to the municipality. We'll post some pictures from the house later. There is an old sugar cane mill in Aguirre, and although it’s not in operation (I would have liked to see the processing operation), there were some interesting houses in Aguirre which used to be (and some still are) owned by mill employees. The style of architecture is different from a lot of what we see here. We’ll post a couple of pictures.

Near Aguirre is an estuary, and we took a short hike through a mangrove forest on the edge of the estuary. The road to the forest was a dirt path - literally - not often traveled and we were the only ones there at the time. Unlike the Florida mangrove forests where I think you need a boat, we could hike through this one. Maybe that was because this is the "dry" season? Two interesting sitings: fiddler crabs (which I used while I worked at Purdue, but had never seen in a natural environment) and neumatophores – special roots that mangroves poke out of the soil for gas exchange. This is necessary because the salinity of the soil doesn’t allow an adequate oxygen supply. We took the long way home and saw some great views of the ocean from the roadside (minus the decomposing skull – dog? – that was also on the roadside next to the great view of the ocean).

Sunday did not bring us much good news from local friends: an older lady is in a grave health situation, another friend had discouraging news from her recent surgery, another girl was missing because of side effects from chemo, and our best friends David and Karen (David has done some - really most - of the translating for us at church) are moving to MI in a couple of weeks (all this in a church of about 50 people). We are really going to miss David and Karen and their boys; our last couple months here will be more lonely without them. We are excited that they are going to MI, and we hope to be able to visit them when we get back to IN. Their kids are also Lily’s favorite playmates at church.

That's it for now - check out the recent pictures (above post) from our trip this weekend.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Happy Birthday Lily!

We had a little party today for Lily's second birthday. After singing "Happy Birthday" to her more times than we can count, we think she figured out that today was a special day! A highlight was Nonna's phone call this morning. She had gnocchi (potato puff pasta) with spaghetti sauce, peas, and bread for dinner, and chocolate pie for a birthday cake. She saw me bake the crust earlier in the day, and couldn't wait to eat the pie! I think we've read too many Richard Scarry books about people eating pie... In actuality, she only ate a couple of bites and was more enamored with putting the candles into her slice of pie. Thanks to everyone for the cards (paper and electronic) you sent. I can't believe she's two; but overall, she sure becomes more fun the older she gets!

More Birthday Pictures...

Lily sure enjoyed the candle fire on her pie; that was a definite highlight of the birthday bash. She also really enjoyed the FP cash register (1974 version) that we gave her. How much fun can a toddler have with 5 buttons, a crank with bell, an opening drawer, and a change slide? Alot, when you have a few of the right coins. We found it in amazing shape at a yard sale (hey, the new ones just aren't near as cool!), but after looking at what cash registers like this go for on E-bay, wondered if we should let her play with it!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Botanical Gardens

Here are the promised pictures from the Botanical Gardens that we visited in December. The 2nd picture is of starfruit on the tree, which grow abundantly around here. We also saw a beautiful brazil nut tree (not pictured). It was huge, with an excellent shape. There is also a USDA research station for tropical agriculture located on the grounds, but since we visited on Saturday, no one was there to give us any information about current activities.

3 Kings Day

Today is Epiphany, the day on the church calendar when it is thought that the wise men came to visit Christ. In PR, this is a large traditional holiday, and until recently, was Puerto Rican Christmas. Recently, Christmas, with all it's American materialism, has overshadowed this holiday, though from what we hear, most families will celebrate both holidays. Local tradition is that the children collect grass and put it in small shoeboxes beside their beds on the night before Epiphany. They're told that when the kings come to visit, their camels need something to eat, so they eat the grass in the shoebox and the kings leave behind presents for the children.

Welcome Home

We had an uneventful (PTL!) trip home. The flight timing was perfect. The girls were pretty tired, but aside from a little crying, we arrived home to PR (84 deg. F when we landed!) in one piece.

The is the second time I've arrived in PR. Ben and I commented to each other how much easier it is this time than when we came together in September. We understand the culture (or at least we understand that there are lots of things we don't understand, culturally speaking!). We can expect the unexpected and not go crazy. And when we got home, Lily knew we were home and was generally obedient to the ground rules we'd established previously. Potty training is so much easier on tile floors! She also seems to be catching on that we live in 'Rico (as she says), and that we have different friends here than we have in IN. One of her favorite conversations is to name someone (a friend or family member), and then say "soon" (as in will we see them soon?), and then often follow up with another comment. For example: Nonna? Soon? Christmas? or Davicito (a friend at church in PR)? Soon? 'Rico?

It was interesting to watch Mariah. She slept through the night the first night we arrived home (which she hadn't done the whole time we were in the US). She was happy, she wasn't nearly as clingy, and she ate well. Did she know she was home?

We had a wonderful time in IN. Thanks to everyone who hosted us! Lily especially had a blast, and is enjoying her new Christmas toys very much. She seemed kind of surprised to see them here, as though she assumed we left them behind after Christmas! We are enjoying all the Christmas cards that came forwarded from IN; they greeted us when we arrived home.