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Monday, May 30, 2016

Stranger Danger?

One of the greatest things about traveling are the constant new experiences you have and people you meet.  When we started cruising we were not antisocial rather very reserved.  New and unfamiliar situations were to be avoided at all costs.  Hey we were WASP's.  The problem with that is you miss out on a lot. Little by little we learned to escape our comfort zone and jump into new situations and cultures.  Things that would seem sketchy or potentially dangerous back in our past lives became new adventures.  Wandering around areas where we aren't sure where we are going or even speak the language are done more comfortably now. This is not to say we go blindly into every situation or country. There are several places where cruisers have recently been attacked a couple fatally.  We trust our instincts and if it doesn't feel right we leave. There is also a wide net of information regarding safety and security at we pay close attention to and bypass some lovely spots because of safety concerns.  We have never felt a need to be armed beyond my cutlass and we seldom are at shore late at night and we lock the boat and our dinghy.  In dealing with strangers we have lost the "stranger danger" mentality and instead look forward to who we might meet.   We have learned that being the first to say good morning (or appropriate time of day) always brings a warm response.  An attempt to order or communicate in the native language will bring smiles and appreciation, well except for the French Coast Guard.  Listening and not talking or complaining sits you apart from most Americans as well.  We have met some unique and wonderful people both on and off the water.  We always wave at a passing boat, be it dinghy or mega yacht, we even wave to powerboats, it's the Texas thing to do.  We have made some fast and great friends out on the water, but it's the ones on land who take you by surprise. 

This past weekend we took the ferry from the Isla de Culebra where we are anchored to the big island of Puerto Rico  Culebra is part of Puerto Rico and also referred to as being part of the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Other cruisers had told us how to catch the Pubilico ( bus/ van) to go to Walmart and  West Marine so we had an agenda for our adventure. I need to stop and inform you that the official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, (which we speak only slightly better than French) not English and yes it's part of the USA, but most Puerto Ricans do speak some English.  We got off the ferry in the town of Fajardo to a mass of people and announcements in a language we do not speak.  After wandering around for a while looking for signs of the Pubilico we asked a cab driver if they would take us to Walmart (we had been warned most don't know West Marine).  They said no they were not available and told us to wait on the corner for the bus it will be by, eventually, we are on Puerto Rican time.  A little while later a guy in a brown van came by and asked if we needed a ride. I asked him if this was a bus, he said yes and would be back to get us.  After 30 minutes of waiting for him we figured this was not going to happen.  While waiting however we met a guy from the Bronx in NYC who's son was also getting no where on line trying to but ferry tickets so they could all go to the beach.  He and Jo talked about grandchildren I think while I looked for our mystery bus driver.  I later joined the conservation and trough the course of it I discovered he is a professor at Fordham University and he found out about my past academic career.  Like most people we meet from the upper 48 he was fascinated that we lived on a sailboat, just the two of us.  He had mentioned he went to Western Illinois University and was amazed I knew where that was.  We had a pleasant conversation while we waited for the Pubilico and he and his family for ferry tickets.  I don't know if when ever got on the ferry to go to the beach or not as we decided to walk up towards a busy street in search of a bus.  As we walked along it was not an area that inspired security but no one seemed threatening.  We passed a bar with several Puerto Rican men out front drinking beer.  Hey it's 5'clock somewhere right! We went on to a corner and looked lost as we waited.  One of the old men came up to us and asked us if we needed help in English much better an my nonexistent Spanish.  We explained what we were trying to do and he said he would help us get a bus.  Sure enough there was one down the street (we would never recognized it as such) and he waved it down.  He told the driver where we wanted to go but the driver wasn't going that way or was off duty or something that meant he wasn't going to be our ride.  While this was going on, a woman with two small children stopped in the street and asked if we needed a taxi. I said yes thinking she would call us one not that she would be the taxi but what the heck. At this point the old man who had been helping us went up to her and told her not to take advantage of us.  She shuffled her kids around, the baby started crying, we climbed in and off we went after we thanked our helper.  She spoke excellent English at a rate that equaled Jo's sister (very fast).  It was only when she spoke to her daughter in Spanish that the rate went into turbo drive.  She wove back and forth through back streets talking about her country, children's school, family business, etc. we had no idea where we were but had faith we would get where we were going.  Indeed, we got to Walmart and got suggestions on where to eat lunch and when we need to leave to get back to the ferry in time.  She gave us her card and said to call if we needed a ride.  I asked her how much for the ride and she said $10 or $5; I gave her $20 and agreed that would cover our ride back too and asked her to pick us up at 13:30 at Walmart. More than the Pubilico would have been but well worth it.  Oh yes I forgot to mention the family business, well besides owning several tow trucks they also worked as a collection agency and repossess cars. She was out tracking down delinquent cars to be repossessed when she stopped to be our taxi driver.   Yes, Janet Evanovich fans, we had met the Puerto Rican Stephanie Plum!

So be open to new experiences. Sometimes it's not stranger danger, sometimes it's stranger fascinating. 

One Love-One Blood from your Lizards on Ice.