Saturday, November 17, 2012

Change of air

Earlier this year, while we were in Puerto Rico during my Whiting Teaching Fellowship leave, I found out that the American Studies Association would be having its first-ever conference here on the island. Confident that I would get my work on Ramón Emeterio Betances accepted at the conference, whose title is "Dimensions of Empire and Resistance: Past, Present and Future," I booked the flights, registered for the conference, and rented a studio in Condado, right in front of the beach, at a fraction of the cost of the conference hotel.

(Betances is considered the "father" of the Puerto Rican independence movement because he masterminded the only major revolt against Spain in 1868 and foresaw the rise of the United States as an empire in this region.)

Alas, my paper was turned down but, since I was all paid up and this is the second most important conference in my field, here I am. Thankfully, this provides a much-needed break from what has been and still is a very challenging semester. Though I'm not much for traveling these days, I can appreciate the ability to do school work while listening to the waves crash against the beach and while sitting here in a T-shirt and shorts, something I won't be able to at home until mid-2013.

In February, as you may remember, we lived in an Isla Verde studio (also at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room) from where we'd walk about a mile each day to the nearest Starbucks. Those walks not only provided great exercise, which did a lot to counteract the caloric influence of the rich Puerto Rican food (and of my favorite fritters), but I found them to be quite romantic. Here, the Starbucks is a two-minute walk away, which is a lot more convenient, but there's not much romance in that. (This Starbucks does have a cute place to leash dogs, which I've never seen before!)

We arrived late Wednesday and then on Thursday we met up with a couple of friends, who were very kind to take us around Oregon in 2008 when I traveled up there to turn in my dissertation. We became their tour guides for a day after my husband planned a wonderful route and, after renting a car, we all went to visit the beautiful areas of Piñones, Loíza, El Yunque (below), and Luquillo Beach.

At El Yunque National Forest, we went up 92 steps to the Yokahú Tower for a bird's-eye view of the east end of the island's northern coast, and then we stopped at La Coca, one of the many waterfalls in the rain forest. From there, we continued on to the beautiful Luquillo Beach.

We stopped for lunch at the famous Luquillo kiosks, choosing a perfect one where the food was quite typical and delicious.

Thursday felt like the first day off I've had since the semester started and it was a welcome feeling. Yesterday, I worked for most of the day but, in the evening, we met up again with our friends and ate at Pikayo, my favorite restaurant in the whole world. It's quite upscale so it's not the kind of place we can go more than once a year, if that often, but the last time we went it was many years ago with my dad, so I thought he would want me to introduce these friends to that experience. It is such a pleasure to be with people who are eager to know more about the culture and who are so appreciative of the natural beauties and the complexities of my Isla.

Today, it's more work and conference panels, but we're making the most of the ocean breeze that comes through the open windows and of the yellowest sun and bluest sky imaginable.