Horses, chicken wars and Charlie the Shaman.

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My spring break in the tropical and exotic island of Puerto Rico wasn’t about getting crazy ‘spring break style’ only. It was much more than that.

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It has allowed me, to visit a new world entirely and experience and new culture. A culture that is colorful and festive. It has also enabled me to be in a rainforest and climb down slippery rock in inadequate shoes to touch the fresh stream of water descending down rocks. As we climbed an old tower one step at a time, the landscape and view was truly something to behold. Kilometers and kilometers of emerald green stretched out around us, the witness of the sand and the turquoise infinity of the Caribbean sea. We then walked 3 miles in the humidity of the forest eagerly looking around to see if we could see a monkey stopping once in while for a photo-shoot !

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We finally arrived to the waterfall and although it was beautiful I was mildly disappointed to see it packed with people. I wish it could be a sort of secluded waterfall that you’d accidentally stumble upon. It was nevertheless really impressive and trying to swim towards the water falling was nearly impossible. But I managed to do it and it cost me … a huge bruise on my knee.

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On our way back, the driver stopped at a ‘pueblosito’ a small village where we had lobster empanada (heaven !) and pina coladas and were treated to an amazing beach. We were akin to aliens landing in a foreign land never having seen a beach before but this was not a regular beach. This was utterly breathtaking and as we were taking pictures, the drivers friend, a middle age man came up to one friend of mine and told her in the little English he knew: Puerto Rico is much mine as it is yours.

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In some way, it restored my faith in human kindness as we have witnessed firsthand the sheer kindness of random people our path happened to cross. Little did I know that I would be on the receiving end of much more kindness that.

Our last day in San Juan came to an end and we took the ferry to the island of Vieques. The owner of the house we had rented came to pick us up. She was an American woman who now lives in a farm with partner and friends and when I asked her why did she choose to move to Vieques, she told me that she hadn’t been there for a long time. In fact, she had come on vacation 2 years ago, went back to the US, packed her things and moved to the Island of Vieques. Coming from a country where all people want is to leave to Europe of better the United States, I must admit I was a bit confused. When I asked why? She answered me: what’s not to love here. Her statement proved to be anything but wrong.

 

I fell in love with the little island and it’s little town Isabel 2 with its one street packed with restaurants, little bars, convenient stores and the few horses that roam freely around the island. Yes, we ran into a lot of horse grazing here and there. I even woke up one time with a beautiful horse outside my bedroom window. Well the always excited roosters did all the waking because chicken and roosters too were here and there and sometimes there are wars, yes wars between the chickens and well … cats.

 

Our days in Vieques were a mixture of pure laziness and relaxation with a dash of adventure. We got lost a couple of times, tried in vain to show the directions to taxi drivers, been to beaches one more beautiful that the other and just laying there for hours listening to my skin sizzle under the sun. We also tried new foods and really weird fruit, tried dancing salsa but failing at that. We also went snorkeling and saw beautiful coral reef, colorful fish, a barracuda and even sea turtles. I managed to get stung by something and although my forearm did get numb for a few hours, I tried to ignore the pain away and it did work ! The next morning my arm was all up and going. None of what we did, the people we met, the beaches we went to would have happened without the solid help of Betty Boop our big, reliable … red Jeep. It was perhaps the best investment we had made in Vieques because although the scenery was really nice, it was an island after all and it was rather difficult to move around. So to you my dearest Betty Boop I say thank you and I will greatly miss you.

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Our last day in Vieques was rather sad because we had to leave this great place but thank god we had one last night in Vieques before returning to the cold of DC. We decided to treat ourselves to a last day at the beach so we grabbed our gear: flip flops, tower, sunscreen, bottle of water, camera and a book and we headed to the little beach in front of our house. We were surprised to meet a pirate-looking man with a disheveled appearance, but a kind face there. My initial weariness turned into curiosity as the man was drawing weird shapes the sand with two sticks and chanting to the sear. He turned out to be Charlie the shaman. Born in New York, Charlie moved to Vieques 20 something years ago and is a proud Hawaiian shaman. When we asked what he was doing, he told us he was trying to balance the elements to help body borders catch the waves in particularly furious waters. We then sat down with him and he talked to us about his practices. Charlie the shaman turned out to be an educated and eloquent speaker and his out of the box ideas weirdly made sense to me.

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