Houses in Puerto Rico
Our first two months in Puerto Rico we lived at a beautiful resort called Palmas Del Mar in Humacao. It had a golf course, tennis courts and a swimming pool. But most importantly, it had central air. When our time was up and we had to move it turned out that our new apartment would not be available for three more weeks so we found temporary housing. We decided to rent a traditional Puerto Rican house. One of the major differences from the apartment is that it does not have glass windows. It has horizontal metal flaps that you wind open or closed. (AKA storm window panels.) On the inside of the flaps are mosquito screens and on the other are metal bars. They help keep out pests, whatever the size. My first day here after putting everything away I laid for a moment on the bed and enjoyed the warm breeze that was blowing through the house. I could hear birds chirping, the neighbors’ salsa music playing softly in the distance and could smell fresh baked bread from the Bakery down the street. I closed my eyes and felt like I was outside in a hammock. It was a strange sensation, maybe not having glass windows was not as important as I thought.
However, now that a couple weeks have gone by, I can tell you the advantages and disadvantages to having windows in PR. First of all, windows are expensive and if you live near the ocean the salt air will damage the windows and every so often they will have to be replaced. If you have windows you will probably have air conditioning which means your electric bill will be high. Electricity is not cheap here. Those are two reasons a huge number of the population does not have windows. Besides, if you live in the mountainous area the temperature drops at night and you can sleep comfortably without a fan or air conditioner. However, we live on the coast and it stays hot here, even at night. Unfortunately, the breeze does not always blow and things can get pretty uncomfortable. For example, we were sitting in our room watching a documentary on the computer and beads of perspiration were rolling down my back, and I am not someone who sweats a lot. The warm salt air also blows in a lot of dust and the floors and countertops have to be cleaned regularly. The salt air corrodes appliances and even gets inside computers making for a short lifespan. Houses near the ocean have to be painted and repaired often, which I was not aware of before living here. Anyway, it has been a good experience and has given me some perspective on what it is like to live without the luxury of windows and air conditioning. It is not unbearable but at times it does get sticky. That is when a cold shower is nice. Oh, and earplugs at night are great for drowning out the chorus of coquis and other animals that serenade you before falling asleep.
Metal Storm Window
I’ve attached several pictures of traditional Puerto Rican dishes that we’ve enjoyed since moving here. One of the dishes is called mofongo. It consists of mashed, fried plantains mixed with garlic and your choice of meat or seafood. There is a dish called stuffed chicken (pechuga rellena) which is banana with chicken and bacon wrapped around it. For a quick lunch on the street you can buy brochettes (pinchos) of chicken or pork glazed with garlic and cilantro or spicy sauce. They also sell arepas which are small round fried pieces of dough that are opened and filled with seafood, pork or chicken. There is something called breadfruit (pana) which is boiled and mixed with sautéed garlic and caramelized onion. They have wonderful coffee and pastries here; I like a chain called “El Meson” which is kind of the Puerto Rican version of Subway. For a dollar you can get a great cup of coffee, nice and strong the way it should be. Their sandwiches are also delicious. Food costs about the same as in the US but the street vendors and casual beach restaurant prices are pretty reasonable.
Mofongo in a different plate
Sarah and the Mofongo
Churrasco and Tostones
“Can-can” or fried pork
Fried chicken breast
Miguel and I went to get our teeth cleaned the other day. We had a two hour wait to be seen which is not unusual. I was pleasantly surprised to see that their x-ray machine was pretty modern and it only took about 5 minutes to get that part of the visit over with. Unfortunately the rest of the visit wasn’t as smooth. They laid me down in the chair, not bothering with the usual sunglasses which was fine with me at the time. The dentist looked at my teeth and told me I was doing a good job which I was happy to hear and then he left me with his assistant so she could clean my teeth. I kind of wished I had the sunglasses then because water was flying everywhere. I had water running down my neck and all over my face. ’Maybe she thought she was supposed to give me a facial?’ I thought as the spray became more intense. Thankfully that only lasted a few minutes and she wiped me down and we were on to the scraping part. She pulled out a miniature ice pick and started attacking my gums. Wow, I can only say that I am glad I have a healthy mouth and that she finished quickly! I’ve never before had a dental visit like that one. Miguel said his experience was similar only that the dentist said he was sorry to inform him that he didn’t have any cavities. I guess he truly seemed sad about that so it was kind of funny.
To have a better idea of different houses, you can see the gallery below.