We flew out of San Juan, had a layover in DC, spent a few nights at a couchsurf in Oakland, and are now in Eureka at a couchsurf looking for an apartment and a job for Casper. That is all for now.
Author Archives: newtliest
This drunk guys keeps showing up at our barred front door in the evening offering exotic local fruit to us for a dollar. We are friendly people and he always speaks a little English. We give him the dollar and he hands us the fruit through the bars. Then I get online and look at photos of Carribbean fruit to figure out what we are now the proud owners of.
This is not how I expected to explore the tastes of Puerto Rico, but I’m not complaining.
I’m still waiting for the jobos to ripen, but I sliced up the breadfruit last night. It has a fascinating, spongy texture and a beautiful pattern expands out from the core. I boiled some; it tasted like boiled platanos but not as sweet. Apparently you can use it like potatoes in soup. It almost tasted like squash, too. I baked some as well, though our convection oven only goes up to 250. Casper really liked it baked. It kind of tasted like potatoes.
I finally visited the Ponce Museum of Art yesterday! It is said to be one of the best in the Carribbean. It wasn’t as big as I was expecting and had more classic than modern art, but I still found a piece that moved me to tears. This is not a new thing for me. I usually get dew-eyed in art museums. Once, at SAM, I came around a corner and a huge landscape took me and my tear ducts by surprise and I sat in front of it for quite a while.
Yesterday the one that got me was a piece by Emilio Sanchez, whom, to my surprise, Wikipedia has very little to say about. (Maybe his sparse page will be what gets me to start contributing to Wikipedia like I’ve always wanted to…) I, sadly, can’t find an image of the painting that got me – Untitled (Windows) from 1980. The art museum here just received their collection of his work last year and it wasn’t supposed to go up until April but for whatever reason it was there when I went yesterday.
We have a house! It is three bedrooms & an actual house instead of an apartment. So much space! Since it was just sitting empty, he was able to give it to us for the price we expected to get a tiny, crummy apartment. We cleaned up a year’s worth of dust. The smallest bedroom is now my studio, the medium one Casper’s space and the big one our bedroom.
Roberto told us we could use anything that we found in the house. This ended up including a full mattress which we are sleeping on now and two smaller mattresses that we made into a couch. Other items that came with the house: silverware, a bowl, a cup, a convection oven, a frying pan, a pot & a table.
On the downside, the house did not have water turned on when we moved in and we just found out two days ago that it would be both expensive and a hassle to make that happen. So we are hauling water from Roberto’s to drink, cook, clean and flush the toilet with. So far we have been showering at his place, too, but might get a camping shower (or make our own? suggestions?). We are looking into buying a big drum of water that we can store in the garage instead of hauling water.
Other downsides include the lack of a fridge (we were going to buy one but are now reconsidering) and a stove (we are using a single hot plate that Roberto loaned us at the moment).
There is a pack of five or seven dogs who live directly behind us and a very sweet dog who lives across the street. We also have seen three lizards, the smallest about two inches long, frequenting the bars that cover the front of the house. Having gone by the name of Newt for eight years of my life, I am very fond of them and talk to them every day.
Today we had internet installed which is really, really important to us. It has been about five days since we last got online; this is unheard of for us! Only one person can get online at a time (no router) but so far that is working out. The internet provides us with at least half of our daily entertainment. It offers me a great deal of comfort, not to mention my main form of communication. It also gives us the mental stimulation that both of us require. We both have quick, active minds that need lots of external fuel – ideas, writing, images, music – to keep contentedly busy.
We have been tired and grumpy the past few days as we grow accustomed to this new life. Not having things like an easy shower and toilet get to us even when everything else is falling into place. Roberto continues to help us get settled. And we continue to put into action the things we intend to accomplish here: I have played my ukulele every single day since arriving in Puerto Rico and have painted or drawn almost every day; Casper has his space assembled and has located both the Masonic lodge and Episcopal churches in town.
Though we haven’t named the house yet, everyday it becomes more our new home.
We are in Ponce, one of the largest cities in Puerto Rico. It is on the southern coast about two hours from San Juan. We flew into San Juan last Tuesday night & stayed at the International Hostel.
Wednesday we explored San Juan a bit – the masonic lodge and the beach – and Thursday we walked all around Old San Juan.
That night, a host from Air Bnb in Ponce named Roberto offered to come get us in San Juan for the price of gas. We hadn’t found another way to get to Ponce so were very grateful. He picked us up late at night and we got into Ponce in the wee hours of Friday.
We spent a day and a half calling apartments (which included me failing at Spanish a few times) and exploring downtown Ponce. We had shared our plans with Roberto and he ended up offering us his uncle’s empty house a block away for the price we were looking for. Saturday morning he showed us the place and we moved in!
Every night & early morning, these little cuties fill the air with their chirps. I haven’t seen one yet. They are “a very important aspect of Puerto Rican culture & [have] become an unofficial territorial symbol of Puerto Rico,” according to Wikipedia.
Less than a month ago, we didn’t know where we were headed next. We had our eye on Vera Cruz but Casper’s passport was not going to be ready in time.
Yesterday we bundled up in warm clothes at 3am and Jess drove us to the Minneapolis Airport. A six hour layover in Philadelphia (we planned to get out but ended up napping on the floor of the terminal instead) & then a five hour flight south. It was dark so we didn’t see any of the ocean.
The first thing I did when we got to the hostel is take off clothes – out of pants and a t-shirt and into shorts and a tank top. And then we slept.
Now I’m sitting on the back porch/balcony of the hostel listening to bird song & feeling the trade winds on my skin. Plans for today include me getting to the beach, Casper getting to the cathedral for Ash Wednesday, & finding transporting to Guanica for tomorrow. It’s dreamy.
“Hitch hiking is dangerous! You musn’t! Do your realize there are SEX OFFENDERS out there???!!!”
I started dreaming about hitch hiking when I was 12. I did it for the first time when I was 17 but only because we were bored. A few years later I hitch hiked up and down Vancouver Island for two weeks with my friend Katherine. And of course last summer Casper and I got dozens of rides over four months when it was our only transport through southern Oregon and nothing California.
We ditched one ride because of bad vibes. One ride, out of dozens. He hadn’t slept and was probably on something. We grabbed our packs from the bed of his pick up while he was inside paying at a gas station. As we walked toward 101 to start hitching again, a lovely librarian picked us up and gave us a ride right into the heart of San Francisco.
People keep saying DON’T HITCH HIKE IT IS DANGEROUS. And then they say DON’T PICK UP HITCH HIKERS IT IS DANGEROUS.
This isn’t the world I want to live in, folks! I have been the driver cruising passed hitchers and I have been the person on the corner with her thumb in the air. Trust your gut, regardless of which position you are in. We are all humans, all sharing this planet. The likelihood of you dying in a car crash is way bloody higher than a hitch hiker you feel good about hurting or robbing you.
The process of getting Casper’s passport has yet to be completed but my toes are itching for foreign soil so we’ve made a decision: Puerto Rico!
We are flying out of Minneapolis the first week or two of February – no passport required. From there, our plans are similar to those we had for Vera Cruz: apartment, projects, fresh food. Plus: history, churches, beaches. I can’t believe we are going to be in the Caribbean in less than a month! It’ll be a first for both of us.
It is literally 7 degrees below zero here in Wisconsin right now so Puerto Rico sounds even more inviting. Saul, a good friend of my sister’s, has been visiting from Texas for the past month. He is taking a break from his Master’s program to travel – he’s been here for a month and will leave for a month in Denmark on Wednesday!
Jess is the only one who has a lot going on in her daily life so me, Casper and Saul have been enjoying lots of laid back time combined with busy running around here and there as we accompany her on her life. The four of us plus Jess’ big dog Oso ride around in her little Toyota Corolla quite a bit; it’s crowded/cozy and always feels a little comical.
Jess and I grew up with the phrase “herd of turtles” to describe a group of people shuffling along in a determined but silly way (my grandpa used to say it when my mom was a kid). With four of us eating, playing, living together, we are often a herd of turtles. We stop at the library and all get out. A few minutes later, Jess is making the rounds through the aisles gathering us up again because it is time to go. Then to the grocery store where we do the same. We have a dumpster we frequent and it is similar there: Jess and Saul (and Oso if he is with us) stay in the car while Casper and I walk quickly to the dumpster, extract our goods, and hurry back to the car where the trunk has been popped. We slam the trunk shut, stuff ourselves into the backseat, and off we go like a herd of turtles.
It has been wonderful. For all of us, though each in different ways. Jess is already sad
about the time a month from now when it will just be her and Oso again.
Other exciting news includes the fact that my wisdom teeth are not impacted! Casper and I were planning to dart out on a plane to Seattle before heading to the Caribbean because I have dental insurance within Washington state and my wisdom teeth have been making themselves known. But no need! I found a very affordable dentist here in Wisconsin who did a quick exam and panoramic x-ray to determine that my wisdom teeth are not in fact impacted. He still recommended getting them out as they can easily get cavities and swollen (thus the previous pain I’d been having), but I’m in favor of keeping my body intact when possible.
Casper is an Oregon boy and always felt a little superior to California in all its radical, liberal, hippie glory. And there is a sense that you could get lost there – forever – never getting out of your Cali bubble.
But, shit. I miss it. And Joni’s word’s just make it clearer: California might just win me over for good one day.
If you have followed this blog for more than a few months, you know how frequently our plans change. Mexico when Casper’s passport is ready, but until then? Oakland? Austin? Asheville? Seattle to get my wisdom tooth out? And even once we have the passport…Vancouver for Casper’s initiation? Manitoba to see his maternal extended family? And Jess is saying Mexico really is more dangerous than it used to be so maybe somewhere farther south?
It is sometimes hard on the heart to have plans this open. It can be embarrassing to say, yet again, “Oh, that old plan? We’ve moved on.” The plans we make give us direction, but the constantly changing part of them keeps us tuned into what our hearts want and where the universe is directing us.
It is hard to find structure for life when place is up in the air and each day is totally open. What would you do if you had the time and space? It’s a harder question to answer than you might think. And it brings you in touch – fast – with whether you have a deep, clear purpose/path.
We are in Wisconsin. We arrived 7am Saturday morning in Minneapolis, went to a party where the majority of my now-grown-up childhood friends were at, and when we tried to leave with Jess and her dog but the roads were too dangerous. A typical midwest welcome!
I find the snow heart-wrenchingly beautiful, especially in the valley Jess and I grew up in. It is chock full of memories for me and the landscape feels like home. Every season is beautiful! Casper and I were here in June 2011, I was here this spring and now we are here for the winter:
We spent Thanksgiving hitch hiking through Northern California. The night before we got a hotel room in Eureka. We were trying to get to Eugene but called it a night in Canyonville, after a trucker dropped us off at a truck stop near the casino. We made it to Roseburg the next day via a local bus and took Greyhound from there – Casper to Eugene and me to Portland.
It has been 15 days since we left Humboldt County. In those two short weeks we have seen a lot of extended family – me in Olympia, Seattle and Walla Walla and Casper in Eugene – and we are exhausted from the combination of transition, travel and visiting.
My parents reside in Walla Walla and I came home with them the weekend after Thanksgiving. Casper joined us a week later via Amtrak from Eugene.
That was four days ago. Tonight we board an Amtrak train headed east. Saturday morning my sister will pick us up in Minneapolis and yet another life begins. We will descend into yet another world.
And that is what we do, you know: we place ourselves over and over in new worlds. We watch and listen a lot; don’t speak as much as you might think.
And right now we’re thinking that we want to do more of that.
My mom will join us out in Wisconsin for Christmas, and a good friend of Jess’ (who we met when we visited her in Texas last year) is coming right after Christmas. She is house-sitting a little house in the same valley where we grew up and our own self-built house still stands.
Sisters are magical; I expect great beauty and growth for all present in the next three weeks. Also there will be a lot of really good food and my sister’s beautiful laugh which is contagious, particularly for me.
After Wisconsin – January? February? – Casper and I are flying to Mexico City! “Another white dash,” I think when I contemplate our latest leap of faith into a new world – and “once more with feeling”. Pack the bags. Reconsider your few belongings: what is now superfluous that last week was essential? what new items have taken top priority? We leave behind the ripped sleeping bag that was our only blanket this summer and trade out Casper’s threadbare backpack for a big duffel bag. I get to pack dresses, my paints and brushes, more than one pair of shoes. Every item we use regularly is re-examined for its worth in our new situation. Every possession is chosen.
In Mexico, we plan to live in Xalapa. We know what we want to do with our time and just need the space to do it so cheap rent and foreign culture beckon us. We are excited, though this morning our minds and hearts are caught up in the present transitions of leaving Walla and arriving in Wisconsin and the dreamy travel-time of Amtrak in between.
Oh, and I’m making solstice cards and I want you to want one. Send me your address in the next week or so for best results. <3
…is full of beautiful people and small dogs.
…smells like piss (or worse) <i>everywhere</i>.
…has ultimately been very kind to us.
We’ve been here – what? A week? Something like that. It’s been really wonderful. It’s the first big city we’ve been to while traveling by thumb and it has treated us well. We happened to be out of money while here, too, and so the plethora of downtown meals made our lives much, much easier.
A few weeks ago we got a ride into the city on our way south so we only spent a few hours here. We then spent a week and a half south of Santa Cruz – absolutely dreamy! – and then came back up to San Fran for a real visit.
We spent a day on Haight Street – great anarchist infoshop and we counted double-digits of head shops! – and today were in Castro for the first time. Golden Gate Park has been wonderful, too. We’ve been to four different libraries and traveled on three of four kinds of transit.
Tomorrow morning, we are hoofing it over to the Golden Gate Bridge to hitch hike north. We remember fondly our days in Garberville and are greatly looking forward to a shower/swim. We’re ready for warmth, too, as even the nicer days in Santa Cruz and San Francisco have been windy because of the ocean.
We have a few different ideas of what to do once the weather gets too cold to live in our tent. These ideas include Washington, Oregon, Wisconsin, Texas, Louisiana and Vera Cruz!
I’ve been off gluten for about six months now. It isn’t hard because I get so freaking sick when I eat even a little. I used to eat pasta and bread all the time; I figure my body was just a mess from that so I never saw direct correlation between my symptoms and those foods. I mean, for the past ten years or so I’ve been in chronic pain of some sort – unexplained body ache, headaches, stomach pain, digestion issues, etc not to mention my mental health which has been less than stable.
I used to eat Mentos all the time. They are that chewy mint candy? I needed change the other day so bought a pack at a gas station even though I hadn’t had them in literally years. As soon as I swallowed the first one, my throat felt tight and then I started feeling my mind get really anxious. I know anxious and this just descended upon me.
I checked the ingredients: second on the list is some sort of wheat glucose thing!!! My stomach hurt like hell – the weird kind of stomach aches I’ve had for a long time but couldn’t figure out the cause of!
And a week ago a waiter forgot to check if there was wheat in the soup and there was (but very, very little – less than the Mentos, I think). I woke up the next morning and started sobbing. I felt so desparately sad and crazy and out of myself. These aren’t symptoms I’m unfamiliar with from other mental health experiences, but this came out of nowhere.
It’s pretty bizarre how quickly gluten it effects me. And it turns my stomach/digestion into a war zone for at least a week afterwards.
The cleaner I get my body, the more I see how gluten hurts it. I smell bread and donuts and the pain associated with those gluten-y foods makes me not even tempted – plus I’ve learned to enjoy smells without the promise of consumption.
I’m still learning a lot about this. I don’t know if I have celiac or just an intolerance or what all. I can get a test done but to do it I have to eat gluten and right now it’s just not worth it. Some weird things have gluten – like Mentos and apparently some kinds of vanilla extract. I’m still determining whether the gluten in oats bothers me – most people say it doesn’t affect them like wheat gluten but others say it does – and the same is true for distilled liquors.
Also? I am finally seeing cause and effect in my body. For so long – all of my teen years – what I ate and did never seemed to have a direct effect on how I felt. My body pain, sense of self, mental state and emotions were all so inconsistent. Even when things weren’t chaotic, they still didn’t seem to follow a pattern. Seeing a pattern, seeing improvement – it has made me excited about feeling better, whereas in the past it all seemed like an unreasonable doom to even attempt to feel good.
Man oh man. When did I last write? We are outside of San Fran…or, I suppose, San Jose to be more exact…a town (suburb?) called Gilroy. It was the farthest south the San Fran transit could take us. And we’re hoping we’ll have more luck hitching out of here than in the middle of a big city.
We were in Arcata for a week. We slept outside and it was cold and foggy. Then we hitched south – decided to spend a few days in Garberville, then Laytonville, and then I got freaked out by the heat so we headed back up to Arcata.
This time around we were planning on staying in Eureka since we had already “done” Arcata. But Eureka is called Eu-Tweak-a (hey, I don’t make up the nicknames) for a reason. So we went back over to Arcata (they’re like 15 miles apart). We found a fantastic couchsurf. The house we stayed in (or on their lawn, actually, is called the Campus Center for Appropriate Technology and it’s all about living simply/lightly/well with the earth. At least, that’s my take on it.
While there, many other couch surfers came through. That was really wonderful. We met, I think, five other people using the couch surfing website. One was a lovely girl named Anna, an Aquarius who I ended up having quite a bit in common with. When we arrived, two French guys were staying there and spending their days playing dijeradoo by the natural market. We never did determine whether they were hitching with that dij or if it belonged to the house. I have never heard of a travel dij…but I can believe it.
On the second to last night of our stay, two Canadian bicyclists arrived. They pitched their tents near ours and then departed the same morning as we did. In fact, they passed us later that day in Myer’s Flat and none of us would be surprised if we end up running into them again somewhere along the line! They are from Vancouver Island (and possibly Montreal, I think) and have been biking for several weeks from there all the way to Sonora, Mexico!
The housemates at CCAT were phenomonal, too. Three students live there each semester and every interested student is allowed to stay for two semesters. We arrived just as they were planning the upcoming semester together. It was awesome to see people working in meetings and checklists to get such a large program running. It is an organization (possibly a non-profit) and the residents of the house trade running the place for living there.
On Friday while we were there, we walked with Stephanie (Pisces housemate) and Anna the other couchsurfer to a nearby CSA garden. A handful of other people were there, too, and we all worked for four or five hours on harvesting. Then, since Stephanie had been cooking while we worked, we all sat down to a fresh, local meal. It was beautiful and nourishing and lovely. The Cancer who runs the place has great energy and a lovely laugh – compounded by a great willingness to laugh, from what I could see.
A roommate of ours from Vashon, Cosmo, happened to be headed down the coast with his parents on their way to his brother’s graduation in San Jose. Tuesday morning early we left CCAT, caught a bus to Eureka and met up with these folks. They had their pup, Creole, with them, too, so Cosmo and me and Casper and the pup all crowded into the back. The seats were down and we had pillows and there was much pup-petting and conversing and general loveliness.
We’d heard of the Lost Coast and Cosmo’s stepdad was headed just that way. Beautiful! Man, I love the ocean! This just furthered by desire to get the hell to San Luis Obispo so we can be on the beach and live like that for a while.
The ocean pulls me. Tugs me. Moves me in a way that I love to move. I’m not alone. Listen to Dar Williams’ “The Ocean” and Ani Difranco’s “Swim”. The great gravitational push and pull of the moon drags our bodies of water from side to side and I’ll be damned if I can’t *feel* it tugging me, too.