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San Juan, Puerto Rico

The best thing about the folks of San Juan, Puerto Rico is their accent: a lot of them sound like me. That is, they've got a New York accent. That changes everything. In fact, Puerto Rico is practically unique across the Caribbean for being an American territory with strong American connections but a culture and history rooted in the Spanish empire as well, and an island that reflects both.

Miguel took us across town in late morning. "Any earlier and the traffic will kill you," he explained. "It's bad and getting worse" We spent a good deal of time waiting to cross intersections anyway, gazing out at architecture that looked kind of like South Florida, but – amazingly – cleaner and better kept. But it was clear the island is struggling, ad we read it in the papers too: to call Puerto Rico's current situation as a 'slump' would be an understatement. That would explain the continued emigration to places like New York, where well over a million Puerto Ricans join the 3 million that stayed behind. "New York's Puerto Rican community is famous," Miguel explained, adding, "Know the other big center of Puerto Rican emigration? Orlando." And then with a smile and a strategic pause, " That's right: Mickey Mouse eats beans and rice" Continue reading "San Juan, Puerto Rico"

The Laughing Gulls: Little San Salvador

Laughing Gulls

Turns out, good branding matters, even in geography. Don't believe me? Ask someone currently trying to get by while living in Dildo (Newfoundland and Labrador), Crapo (Maryland), Boogertown (North Carolina), Hellhole (Idaho), or Drain (Oregon). There are others, of course. So it is that the little stretch of sand and sea once known as Little San Salvador has done much better with the relatively more evocative name of Half Moon Cay. That's what I was thinking when I awoke to find our boat rocking gently at anchor off the sandy crescent of Caribbean goodness on which were to spend the rest of the day playing and exploring. Continue reading "The Laughing Gulls: Little San Salvador"

Low, White Sand: the Turks and Caicos

I only knew two things about the Turks and Caicos islands before traveling: one, that due to serious concerns about corruption and transparency, the United Kingdom had come close to throwing them out of the British Commonwealth and revoked their right to self government in 2009; and two, that by Caribbean geography alone, it was darned likely I'd find an aquatic paradise of white sand beaches, transparent, turquoise water, and bright sun. On both accounts, I was correct. But I learned a bit more, as well. And mostly, I learned it from Ernest Hemingway. Here, pour yourself a drink before reading on:

Thomas Hudson took a sip of the ice-cold drink that tasted of the fresh green lime juice mixed with the tasteless coconut water that was still so much more full-bodied than any charged water, strong with the real Gordon’s gin that made it alive to his tongue and rewarding to swallow, and all of it tautened by the bitters that gave it color. It tastes as good as a drawing sail feels, he thought. It is a hell of a good drink.
Continue reading "Low, White Sand: the Turks and Caicos"

Solstice, Eleuthera

December, 1997, and the nights in Boston are so long they practically connect. It is a time of reflection and transition, because I am about to embark on an adventure that will last five years and alter the course of my life.

This is not about that trip. This is about the trip I took four week earlier, the trip I took because United Airways wouldn't refund my already paid ticket, or let me transfer it to anyone else before it expired while I was in Nicaragua. It's the story about the pre-adventure, the trial run, the test drive. It's about spending the shortest night of the year in the Caribbean, just because. Continue reading "Solstice, Eleuthera"

Pour me another Coconut Rum: Grand Cayman Island

An early morning flight south, waking before dawn, rocking in the white wooden rockers of the North Carolina airport. Then the blue blue Caribbean sea as we slide silently over Cuba. We installed ourselves at Seven Mile Beach: gorgeous sugary sand and a hundred shades of blue as water melts into sky. We were grateful to escape a Washington winter; we were grateful for a change of lifestyle, we were grateful for the break. Continue reading "Pour me another Coconut Rum: Grand Cayman Island"