¡Hola from Puerto Rico!

Well, we aren’t in Puerto Rico any more, but we were a few weeks ago! Matt was invited to a conference in San Juan, so it was the perfect opportunity for a fall getaway. After all, you shouldn’t turn down a partially payed for vacation, right?

We left on October 23 and got back on the 27th. When we arrived at the airport in San Juan mid-afternoon we hopped a shuttle over to the rental car place so we could get started adventuring right away! We drove about an hour east to one of the island’s main natural attractions: El Yunque, the only rainforest in the United States. We didn’t have a really long time to spend there, so first we stopped in at the visitors’ center to change into better adventuring clothes then headed to a hiking trail recommended by my guidebook. There were lots of good photos to be had along the way.

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These silver dollar-sized snails were everywhere! This one was particularly photogenic.

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There was a hummingbird nest right beside the trail. The first time we passed it the hummingbird flew away before I could get a picture.

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But on the way back she was sitting very still!

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There were several people swimming and playing in the pool at the waterfall, but I got a few tourist-free shots.

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And one of us. Yay!

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It was getting dark when we left the rainforest, so we decided to look for somewhere to eat supper. After driving around for quite some time we happened upon a restaurant recommended by my guidebook. It turned out to be my favorite place that we ate while we were there. I got a vegetarian plate that included rice and beans, mofongo (a Puerto Rican specialty made of mashed plantains, olive oil, and garlic – a lot like mashed potatoes), green plantain salad (tasted like potato salad), and French fries just in case I didn’t like the other things I ordered!

The next day we drove west of San Juan to the Arecibo Observatory, the biggest radio satellite of its kind in the world. We went to the museum and also had a video and tour guide.

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Just a short drive from the observatory on Puerto Rican back roads is the Rio Camuy Cave Park. We toured Clara Cave. While waiting for the shuttle to take our group into the sinkhole, we were entertained by several lizards.

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My pictures from inside the cave didn’t really turn out, but here’s one of the outside.

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And from the inside looking out.

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Also, us in front of the giant stalactite!

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After the cave tour Matt had to be back in San Juan for the beginning of his conference.

On Thursday Matt had conference stuff all day, so I decided to go to the beach.

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It was only about a ten minute walk from our hotel. I even took a free picnic lunch composed of items I confiscated from our complimentary breakfast. But it wasn’t that much fun to hang out at the beach by myself, so after swimming around for about an hour I went back to the hotel. That night we went out to eat with the other members of a committee that Matt’s on; they were all about our age.

The next day I went on a snorkeling tour. The tour company came to pick up everyone in San Juan in the morning and shuttled us to the marina. We were worried that we might get rained on since it had stormed all night, but by the time we got to the first snorkeling spot the weather had cleared up.

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The first spot was shallow and I spent most of the time trying to avoid seaweed and jellyfish. Happily, it wasn’t long before we had lunch and headed to the next spot – a coral reef.

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I wished I had a good underwater camera. There were so many fish! It was like swimming in an aquarium. We spent over an hour swimming there before we went back to the marina and then to San Juan.

On Saturday morning we split a taxi with one of Matt’s friends and went to Old San Juan. We ended up getting there a little too early and nothing was open yet! The first place we went was the fort El Morro. Its lighthouse is still used today.

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After that we caught the trolley over to Fort San Cristóbal. Here’s a view out one of its narrow windows.

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There was a great view of Old San Juan from the top of the fort.

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And when we ventured down to the lower level, we met a friend.

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After walking around the city for a bit we ate lunch at a tapas restaurant and then it was time to head to the airport. So ended our whirlwind tour of Puerto Rico! The rest of my photos will be up on flickr in the near future. *Update – the photos are now available!*

I’m blogging!

I know, I can’t believe it either! But I thought you might like to know what we’re up to half way around the world. Who knows, maybe I’ll even keep it up when we get back…

So if you’ve completely missed the memo, Matt and I are in Berlin. We got here yesterday around 11:30am after three uneventful flights. We’re seven hours ahead of you here(if you’re in central time). We are renting an apartment which I will post pictures of tomorrow, because it’s dark right now, and I don’t like to see pictures of peoples’ houses in the dark. It’s a nice apartment with one bedroom, one bath, a kitchen, a living room, and lots of Ikea furniture. Speaking of Ikea, we went there today. Berlin has FOUR, as it turns out, and I would obviously be amiss if I let this opportunity pass me by!

Actually, the main purpose of our visit was to buy a shower curtain. I like everything about the apartment except the shower, which I currently hate with a passion. Apparently the European thing to do is the place the shower head on the wall in the very center of the shower, pointed at the curtain. Maybe most Europeans are taller than I am, because when I stand there the water is pointed directly at my face. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal since I could just angle it as far as it would go toward the back of the shower, but, secured though it was with three different bottles, the shower curtain would not stop blowing in and by the time I was done I may as well have taken a bath in the middle of the room.

So we bought a curtain from Ikea that clearly stated it was weighted at the bottom so as to stay where it belongs, however, it was as fatally attracted to me as the first. I’ll be sure to let you know if this situation improves, since I’m sure you are as concerned about it as I am.

We haven’t done anything terribly exciting yet, although we have taken the metro, U bahn, and S bahn several times. We have tickets that work for all of them, but don’t ask me which one is which. We’ve taken it most to Alexanderplatz, which is just a few minutes away and has lots of shopping and eating places. We went there today to find Matt a raincoat, because it is freezing here! Highs in the 50’s and lows in the 30’s. I hope it warms up soon, because I took all the long sleeve shirts out of my suitcase to get it under fifty pounds…

Today we also went to a grocery that’s within walking distance of our apartment. We must have hit it really lucky, because this grocery is the Bio Markt, and is pretty much the European version of Whole Foods (my favorite grocery store on the planet). I could not believe how many varieties of vegetarian hotdogs they had.

I don’t know what we’ll be doing tomorrow, or any other day, for that matter. But to tide you over I do have a few pictures (but not of Berlin). We have a garden in our backyard in Knoxville, and the day we left I was able to pick something from it for the first time:

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I then proceeded to have them for breakfast.

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ACDA, Day 1

March is a good time to pay attention to my blog again, right?

If you’ve been following my tweets, you’ve probably noticed that I’m in Oklahoma City right now at the American Choral Directors Association convention. Matt and I left Martin at 4:00 this morning with Dr. Simmons to drive to the Nashville airport. We met our three other travelling buddies there and flew out at 8:35. We had a short layover in Dallas, and made it to OK City around 1:00. Since then we’ve been to our first reading session, looked around the exhibit hall, and attended a VERY long, VERY good concert. On the way to said concert was when Matt and I sat on the shuttle behind André Thomas who, if you don’t know, is a very well-known composer and friend of Dr. Fred Spano. After we got off the bus we got to meet him, and Matt took a group picture! We’re heading back to the convention center at 9:30 tomorrow, but as I’ve currently been awake for more than 21 hours, that’s all for today.