Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Lifestyle Changes

Our Water is Really Different

I'm really not trying to show an unflushed toilet. About two weeks ago all of the water in our apartment as well as the water at the office several miles away started coming out of the tap quite brown. We were drinking bottled water most of the time before that because the tap water tasted like chlorine, but now we aren't using it in cooking or anything.

This is what the toilet water looks like all of the time. It leaves brown scum on the side of the toilet bowl and the sink. 

A glass of tap water. Ahh, refreshing! 
This towel was white before I washed it. Our washing machine is nearly new, but I think the  water stained it. Luckily, it didn't stain John's white shirts. A t shirt that I walked in got stained and I have a few stains on some other white shirts I wear with skirts.
  Our Decor is Very Different

The First Presidency watches us eat dinner every night.

I made some curtains out of sheets to block some the morning son that beats in. 

The white tile floors let me know exactly how much hair is falling out of my head. 

Our little mini water heater is electric. We turn it on a half hour before we take a shower and turn it off when we are done. Electricity is very expensive here. 

Our little kitchen is pretty nice, but it doesn't have a dishwasher or oven. 

Puerto Rican Shopping

This post doesn't have anything to do with the mission. The office elders and Elder Eakle have gone to the DMV, and I really don't have anything else to do. Plus, it's lunch time, but I need to stay here in case a package comes. 

I have been quite perplexed about stores and shopping here. Most of the businesses are just small storefronts that line the streets and have some parking in front of them or people just park on the sidewalks. All different kinds of business are on streets from barbershops to funeral homes to ferreterias (hardware stores). There are also a lot of bars mixed in there. They all have iron grates in the front, and I have a hard time telling if they are open or not.  To be honest, I haven't attempted to go in a small, local business like this. 

A typical business street around where we live. Residential and business areas are pretty much just mixed together. 

In recent years (I think), a lot of big box, chain stores like Walmart and Home Depot have come to Puerto Rico. They are SOOOO crowded! I'm not sure if it's because there are fewer of these stores per person here or if people just like to shop more. 

All of the shopping centers have a security person who sits up in a tower to keep an eye on the parking lot. 

We have been eating out a lot. I'm not quite sure why. We haven't had any Puerto Rican food yet. We've mostly had fast food. There are so many fast food restaurants everywhere. But there isn't an In N Out Burger or Chick Fil A. There might be a business opportunity there. 

There are many, many Chinese restaurants, but I haven't seen any Asian people. One of the sisters here said that someone in her ward hunts Iguana (Chicken of the Tree) and sells them to Chinese restaurants. I'm not sure if I'll be going to any local Chinese restaurants. 

A typical Chinese restaurant. There seems to be one on every street. 
A lot of US chain restaurants like Olive Garden, Sizzler, Chilis, Applebees's, Macaroni Grill and others are operating here. I think they have just shown up in recent years. These two just opened after we got here. 

A Famous Daves and Olive Garden just opened up a few miles away from us. This was taken before business hours, but they are always packed. 

Every street has a Panaderia. I think they are really popular because many of the apartments and houses don't have ovens. If they do, it's really too hot to bake anything here. 

The panaderia on the street where we live.

There are also BBQ places on every street. We haven't been there yet. I wonder if they serve "chicken of the tree" like the Chinese restaurants. 
This restaurant is across the street from our apartment complex. 
 Last night we went out to dinner at the Cheesecake Factory at Plaza Las Americas. It has a Sears, JC Penney, and a Macy's. There was also a PF Chang's there. I didn't go in the mall, but it looked pretty fancy compared to anything else here. I read on the internet that it is the most profitable mall per square foot in the world. Also, a Walmart, Sears, and JCP here are the highest grossing stores for those businesses. 

I tried to show the crowded parking lot. It took us about 20 minutes to find a parking place. Every day is like Black Friday or some other crazy shopping day.

Another option for eating is a sidewalk vendor. Everyday all over the place people set up grills and sell something on the streets. I think a lot of them are selling empenadas. We haven't tried that yet either. They usual set up a tarp on poles and put a few lawn chairs under it and people hang out there and eat. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Farewell Dinner for the Cards

Elder and Sister Card from Wyoming served six months on Antigua and six months on Tortola as Member Leadership Support Missionaries. They flew in to Puerto Rico on Monday and that night President and Sister Boucher hosted a farewell dinner for them. The other senior couple, the Wentzels, the nurse, Sister Heidenreich, the assistants and the office elders attended.
Elder Eakle,  Sister Wentzel, and Brother Wentzel in the mission home living room. We call Brother Wentzel Ramon because his middle name is Raymond and no one here can say his first name, Guy. 
Elder Eakle, Elder Card, Sister Card, and Sister Eakle. After dinner, the Cards shared some experiences from their mission and their testimonies with us. On Tortola, Elder Card helped the young men build a sailboat that they would take out. Many of the Tortola youth really hadn't been on boats or in the water much even though Tortola is the sailing capital of the world (but just for the wealthy).
Elder Bennett, the Wentzels, Sister Heidenreich, and Elder Castenada. He is an AP from SLC. I think he really enjoys being able to have an IPhone. 
President and Sister Boucher getting dessert ready with Elder Bennett. They have a really nice gourmet kitchen there. She has to host a lot of meals and prepare meals for zone conferences, too. Our dinner was during zone conference week. She must be exhausted. We had yummy Cafe Rio type salads. 
Elder Eakle in the celestial-looking living room of the mission home. They should change those 80s light fixtures to crystal chandeliers to complete the effect. The mission home has some really pretty paintings of local Puerto Rico scenes that add some color. 
The elders working off their dinner by doing the dishes. 
An informal "priesthood meeting" was going on in the living room while we sisters were helping Sister Boucher make sandwiches for the zone conference tomorrow. She was working on dessert when we left at 10. I don't think she gets much sleep. She's a very nice lady and is working really hard. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Visiting the MIssionaries and Checking Out Their Apartments

On Tuesday, we visited the apartments of the missionaries in the San Juan Zone. These apartments are much closer together so it didn't take as long as on Friday. Also, they are in better condition and weren't missing as many supplies. I decided to take pictures of the missionaries that we visited in case any of their parents come across this blog.
Sisters Rivera, Torrealva, Graham, and Domingue in Fajardo. Elder Helm says Sister Graham and I look like twins.

The view from the Fajardo sisters' apartment. Across the street is the church. 

Outside the Fajardo elders' apartment.

Elders Astle, Amaro, Scott, and Grigg in Luquillo. 

A big iguana in a tree outside the Rio Grande elders' apartment. It has a striped tail and is on the main branch on the right just past the V. When we first saw it, it was much closer. It's the biggest one I've seen. 

Elder Colindres and Astorga in Rio Grande.

Elder Bennett (finance) on the left and Elder Helm (secretary) in front with Elders Armstrong, Hayes, Hernandez, and Quezada in Carolina.  
Elders Anderson and Horner in Trujillo Alto.

Sisters Diego and Gassaway in Trujillo Alto. They have a very hot apartment with no A/C in the bedroom (most don't, but this one is hotter and the room is very small), but they just smile and say it's okay. 

Outside the Bayamon elders' apartment. These are the elders assigned to the ward we attend. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Housing Coordinators

One of our office responsibilities is housing. Sister Boucher has asked us to visit the 65 apartments on the island and assess their condition and see if there are any supplies that are missing. We have been working on this the past week. This is what our day was like on Friday:

We got an early start on what we knew would be a long day. After doing some office work, we left the house by 9 am with Elder Bennett and Elder Helm to do inspections on the west side of the island. We took the president’new Highlander so we could fit all of our supplies in the back and not be as crowded as we would be in a Cruze. He’s off visiting the islands so we decided we would ask forgiveness rather than permission. Like the days before, our goal was to get an overall feel for the apartments, see if the missionaries were missing any supplies, check that no major appliances were broken. As I’m writing this, a lot of the apartments are starting to blur together. I tried to write good notes on my inspection sheets for Sister Boucher, so hopefully I can piece things together when I put my report together for her.

Our first stop was Arecibo, a coastal town on the northwest side of the island. We visited both sisters and elders. The elders’ apartment was fairly neat, but the apartment itself needed painting. Their sink was leaking and they needed another fan. The sisters’ apartment was in a small complex that looked like a housing project, but the apartment was quite nice inside—one of the best we had seen. These two sisters were so fun. One was from the Sacramento area and the other was from San Diego, but had Puerto Rican heritage. They followed us to Walmart so we could buy them another fan. We also bought one for them to give to the elders and several more to have for the rest of our visits that day.

The Sisters' Apartment Complex in Arecibo

We then headed south towards Lares in the foothills of the mountains. It’s not as remote as Utuado, but was still lush and really pretty. The elders lived in a small house behind the owner’s home. The owner was an older man who must have been an avid gardener. He had beautiful plants everywhere. Most of the yards here don’t look like much effort has been put into them. The elders were frying plantains for lunch when we showed up. Someone had given them a giant bunch. Their apartment was okay, but they were just missing a smoke/Co2 Detector.

The View Across the Street from the Elders' Apt. in Lares
Some of the owner's beautiful plants.

The next place we visited was San Sebastian and the apartment of four sisters. It was in the top floor of a house that backed to a jungle. They kept the apartment really nice, but it was just old and run down. Because they lived so close to what seemed to be a rain forest, the apartment was really musty. They needed two more fans so we gave them those. 
The back porch and backyard of the San Sebastian sisters' apartment.

We went back north to the coast to Isabela. The sisters live on a very nice residential street. This was a house the mission had just started renting. It actually had a real normal sized kitchen! It was decorated red and white, but it was still more than just two or three broken cupboards like most of the rest of the apartments. The sisters needed smoke/CO2 detectors, cleaning supplies and a mixing bowl. We had a red bowl in the car so it fit in perfectly with the kitchen. We also had some cleaning supplies for them.

The Isabela sisters in front of their very nice house.

The Isabela sisters' kitchen--one of the nicest we've seen despite the strange decor.
We had a pretty long drive west to Rincon which is known as the surfing city in Puerto Rico. I was expecting something really SoCal like but it was really run down. We stopped for some milkshakes and headed to the sisters’ apartment. They lived in a little apartment complex about a hundred yards from the beach that is also used for vacationers. Strangely, the house next door was extremely dilapidated and you could smell cat from the street. The only problem these sisters had was that they are supposed to use the one washing machine for the whole complex and it is always being used by the owner because she washes all the sheets and towels for all the vacationers. We walked down to the beach and it was only about 6 feet wide and the waves were crashing right on the shore so obviously this isn’t where any surfing is done. So far, I have been pretty disappointed with the beaches.

Our next stop was Aguadilla also on the west coast. They had a leak in their roof, too, but they said they were working with the owners to get it repaired. We headed next to Cabo Rojo down in the southwest corner of the island. This apartment had some problems. The paint was peeling terribly on both the walls and the ceilings. Only one burner on their stove works and the stove belongs to the mission so we need to get that fixed. Also, their washing machine was given to the sisters so they are having to wash their clothes by hand. We will need to talk to president about how we purchase major appliances like washers. The Cabo Rojo sisters needed fans but we had run out, but we were able to give them some bowls. Their refrigerator was leaking water.

One of the Cabo Rojo bedrooms.
 We headed east to San German a little farther inland. The sisters here really lucked out. They had a really nice big apartment and the walls were actually painted a pretty turquoise and orange color. The apartment looked great and they had 3 A/Cs. The missionaries can only use A/C at night, though. The San German elders didn’t have it quite as nice. They did have one A/C unit in one very small bedroom—just big enough for two sets of bunk beds. So the four of them were squished into about an 8 by 8 room. They had another large bedroom where they hung their laundry, but it didn’t have the A/C. I have found that in most of the apartments there is usually an extra bedroom where the missionaries hang out their laundry.

The Utuado Elders who we visited the day before.

The Utuado apt with a leaking roof. They had pots all around to catch the drips. They also didn't have a washing machine. It was a beautiful town, but not much of an apartment.

One of the apartments. They all look the same it seems--white walls, plastic Lifetime tables, folding chairs, bunk beds.

The view from one of the apartments we visited. 
Our last two stops were in Yauco and Guayanilla as we headed east. These were the elders we had picked up hitchhiking a few days before. 
The elders in Guayanilla.

By now it was 10:00 at night, but we wanted to deliver the items to the Ponce and Juana Diaz sisters since we would be driving right by these towns. Unfortunately, I forgot to by the things the first time we went to Walmart. Somewhere along the way we had stopped and bought six fans at Walmart, some cleaning supplies and 11 smoke detectors at Home Depot. So at 10:30 we went into what we would think would be a somewhat less crowded than the Black Friday-like crowds we had earlier in the day. Unfortunately, it was exactly the same. It was unbelievable.  We bought an iron, ironing board, cover, utensils, knives, fans, cleaning supplies and curtain rods. We dropped these off after 11 on the doorstep of the sisters.
Walmart at 11 pm. I've never seen one so crowded.
 We got home at 1:30. What a day!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Homes in Puerto Rico

In Bayamon and the suburbs of San Juan, the residents live in either a high rise apartment building, a 3 to 4 story apartment building in a large complex, or in a single family home. The single family homes are always very close together. They usually consist of a living room, small kitchen, bathroom, and two very small bedrooms. Some of the houses have a second story with the same layout. Most of the missionaries live in a second floor apartment in a single family home.

This is what a typical apartment complex in Bayamon looks like.

This is a similar apartment complex in Arecibo where some sisters live. It was one of the nicest missionary apartments that we have seen.

This is an apartment in Old San Juan that we moved some sisters out of last week. It was built in the 1500s and was definitely not a typical missionary apartment. It was very nice and rent was over $1000/mo. Our typical budget is $500 for a 4 missionary apartment. The ocean was on the other side of the plaza across the street.
This is an interesting staircase in the Old San Juan apartment building. There were about 10 apartments in the building.

I thought the houses up on the mountain in Lares were interesting. This is a view from across the street from where some elders live in a small apartment. I really liked this area of the island.

This is a house in a really nice neighborhood in Toa Baja. I thought the elders living here had a pretty fancy place until I saw that their apartment was only the one fourth of the building on the left. The apartment is only about 10 feet wide.
I can't remember where this is, but it is a view from some elders' apartment.
And last, but not least...Ricky Martin's house in Dorado. A member in the Metro Ward lives in the same resort neighborhood, but his house is just a regular house by USA standards.