A Geekcorps Vacation

I work in international development, specifically in creating economic prosperity, using information and communication technologies. I spend my work days spreading the Internet, and to a lesser extent, cellular phones, far and wide.

The noble goal comes back to bite me on the ass every so often, usually when I am on vacation. As it’s my job to be online, to create accessibility, to expand the connectivity of the world’s people, I have no excuse to be offline. To get off-grid and be absolutely inaccessible for a day or a week.

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A Puerto Rican Christmas Gift

How was your Christmas morning? That orgy of American consumerism unparalleled by time or place else. Did you get all the presents you wanted? All the things?

I hope you were with friends and family, people who matter to you. Did you feel their warmth, their love? Could you find it in the stuff exchanged or in the moment shared?

For my family, we’ve slowly moved from the things to the people. From the stuff to the moment. Starting years ago, and slowly germinating over the many Christmases in between, we’ve now dropped the shop for the trip.

I have my Dad’s death to thank for this

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The Curse of the Caribbean: Cars

Puerto Rico is a beautiful tropical island. A green paradise warmed by the sun and cooled by the sea. And yet this island of perfection has the same cancer, the same degradation of the Caymans: Cars.

Yes, in a place that should be governed by the speed of walking, which should be a car-free delight, is awash in a sea of automobiles. American, Japanese, German, Puerto Rican vehicles mimic the mainland USA in their style, size, and ubiquity.

And, unfortunately, in their pollution.

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Why So Many Ambulances?

Ambulances. I see ambulances. Here, there, everywhere, ambulances. And not on calls, rushing to give aid. No, just driving down the road, waiting patiently in traffic.

No one gives them mind. No one notices, thinks them out of place, even when they sit there, in traffic with their lights on. Ambulances.

Could there be that many emergencies? That man people in need of quick medical transport? I don’t think so, not on this island of only 3 million people.

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Beautiful Beach Blanket Bingo

What could be better than one of the most beautiful beaches in the world; Balneario Sun Bay, Vieques, Puerto Rico? What could be better than being on Sun Bay at Christmas time, soaking up the suns rays with a cold beer and a good book?

How about sharing that beach blanket of perfection with two clock-stopping hot beauties?

Yes, I found my own version of Puerto Rican Gold – two gorgeous women that are willing to tolerate my presence in this tropical paradise.

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Flat Tire Fixing Freak

When you think of Puerto Rico, do you think of flat car tires? I didn’t think so, but so far today, I think I should have.

Out for my morning run around Old San Juan, what do I find at Paseo la Princesa but a tourist with a flat car tire? Worse, one who seems not to have a clue how to change it.

While he is on the phone telling the car rental agency he’s missing the tire iron, I reach into his trunk and find it instantly. Then, as he’s jacking up the car after I loosened the lug nuts, the car rolls back on the jack. Tourist-boy hadn’t put on the parking brake.

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A Bummer of a Bacardi Tour

Reading up for our Puerto Rican vacation, one place Mom and I agreed on going first was the Bacardi Rum factory tour. Not for the free booze mind you, though that was not an insignificant allure, but to learn the history of rum and the process by which its made.

Today, we made the trek to the factory, starting with a catamaran ferry ride across San Juan harbour and including the now customary flat tire change. Once at the factory, we enjoyed a free rum drink while awaiting the tour, introducing Mom to tasty mojitos.

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An Intergalactic Busy Signal

Driving the twisting back roads of Puerto Rico towards the famous Observatorio de Arecibo radio antenna, the world’s largest radio/radar transceiver antenna, I couldn’t help but to have flashbacks to the movie Contact. Specifically the scenes where it was shrouded in tropical rains, a hidden techno-wonder, that suggested man’s mastery of radio waves, of physics itself.

Arriving at the visitors’ center, I was greatly disappointed to realize that Warner Brother’s post-film largess was spent on a museum that not only didn’t mention much of Arecibo’s successes or technology, it didn’t even have convenient access to view the actual antenna.

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Old San Juan Taxi Mafia

How much do you think it is for a taxi in Old San Juan. How much might it be to go the two miles from Plaza de Armas to Puerta de la Tierra? According to the door of a Puerto Rican taxi it is $1.75 for the first mile, $2 per mile there after. But then you didn’t ask the driver.

According to the San Juan Taxi Mafia, any ride in Old San Juan, no matter the distance, is $10 at flagfall, increasing if you bring along luggage, no matter if the driver touches it or not.

To leave Old San Juan for any other destination in San Juan City, its $15 with the price jumping in $5 increments as you pass invisible zone boundaries. That means a trip to a center-city museum or a cool guayabera store is around $20 each way just for transportation.

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Puerto Rican Gold

What might you say to a sunny day in December? A sunny day you spend relaxing on a beautiful beach? A beach, warm, sunny, tropical, which is also still America? You might say “Florida” or “Hawaii” but would you say “Puerto Rico”?

I know I am saying “Puerto Rico” right about now. It’s the start of my Christmas vacation and I’m on Puerta de Tierra, a beautiful beach in Old San Juan the same afternoon I left cold, wet Washington DC.

Better yet, Mom is headed this way too. She’s joining me for two weeks of fun, sand, and sun on this interesting “Free Associated State”. Yes, Puerto Rico is part of the United Sates, everyone is a citizen and you do not need a passport. But like Washington DC, they do not have voting representation in Congress.

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