Puerto Rico – sand, salsa, and strangers


The view from my hostel balcony is plaza colon – in historic old San Juan. Leaving my hometown and coming to Puerto Rico, I imagined dancing salsa all night and long sandy beaches during the day. Thanks to the unpredictable awesomeness of strangers, what I experienced was so much more…dare I say spicy?

-A wildly mumbling hobo snatched my shoes and reusable water bottle while I was lying on the beach reading, screamed “Mine!” repeatedly, then gave me back my shoes after I politely asked for them but refused to return the water bottle. Crazy hobo – if you are reading this, then thank you! The reusable water bottle was a gift from a former employer “bio-rad” and now the last remnants of office stresses have literally been torn away. Ahhhhh….and yes, from then on I went to the beach with fellow travelers.
-Island-born personal trainer/waiter/aspiring photographer did a 3-hr photo shoot of me and a girl staying at the hostel, complete with light reflectors and all…while the locals stared and wondered either what glamorous business we were involved in or what the hell we were doing vogueing on all their doorsteps. In my book anyone who has lived in many places and learned many talents is an inspiration.

-The salsa dancers who frequent the tiny sweat-filled live music venue of the Nuyorican cafe began as strangers the first night as I stood awkwardly by myself near the floor after my friend from the hostel had left (after only 15 minutes no less). Then a super friendly local saw the sparkly dance shoes, surmised I was there to dance and not gawk, and a visiting salsa DJ befriended me. By the last night I greeted the door man by name, he declined to charge me cover, (though stopping the next tourists for $ of course). After practically staying until closing I walked out with the kind adieus or at least smiles of half the club. Total salsa time? 8 hrs over the course of 3 nights!
-The predictably strange hostel goers were a fascinating bunch. It is a fun challenge to throw yourself into closed quarters and forced intimacy with such a group. Slovakian-Panamanians, Germans, Americans, Swedes. Travelers, students, couchsurfers, people who had chosen off the beaten track for their life. I pride myself that not all my friends in San Francisco are fellow techie yuppie types, but this brings a whole new meaning to the word diversity. Trust builds rapidly or exists immediately, where those who lock their suitcases on day 1 have all their clothes and electronics strewn about the room on day 2.

I wandered the cobblestoned streets and historic fortresses, saw the beautiful beaches, but these are the details I remember most vividly.

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