The Variety Show

I have many things to talk about today, hence the title.  First, I did get my drivers license this week.  I have a friend here who is quite knowledgeable about, well, just about everything.  She’s the one who guided my husband and then me through picking up our cars and getting them licensed here, and now I’m licenced too!  She found out about the DMV in Carolina–there you can bypass the general (Disneyland-like) lines, if you know the secret.  She had my husband in and out of there in 10 minutes 😳!  So we went there again–it took me 14 minutes, but only because there was one person ahead of me.  That got me out in time to be back home to receive my shipment of all my tack and riding equipment.  What a valuable friend to have!

So, my shipment arrived right on time, and all the boxes are intact.  They are, however, still sitting in my garage because I do not yet have a locker at the barn.  I’m still waiting for a former boarder to decide if I can buy hers or if I need to go to Home Depot and get a new one.  Of course I’d rather buy one that’s empty and already there, since buying a new one would entail finding and hiring someone to build it for me.  It feels like I’ve been borrowing everything forever, and I’ll be relieved to use my own tack again.

The mare is doing well and continues to fill out quite nicely.  She needs a bit more top line, though, which I’m certain will build over the next few months.  My groom, Victor, has been taking good care of her.  You’ll recall my description of her when she arrived at the barn–she also had a terrible fungal infection on her legs and the backs of her pasterns.  Large patches of her hair was missing and would just fall out when touched and washed, and when the fungus was softened and rubbed gently during a bath it would come off and her skin would bleed.  This spread up her legs to the inside of her thighs and even over her whole belly and flanks.  Poor girl!  It took a gallon of Betadine, two containers of Furazone and a lot of coconut oil, but today it’s all gone, and she’s looking all shiny and pretty.

I have to say, I am so NOT accustomed to having a groom.  I have always done everything myself.  I arrive to the barn an hour ahead of my lesson to groom and tack up.  Then after, I untack, clean/bathe, and groom again.  Then I clean the stall, make lunch, feed, and make sure everything’s put away before I leave.  I miss doing all that.  So, I do what I can, trying not to offend Victor.  He knows what he’s doing, and I don’t want him to think I believe otherwise.  But I do want things done the way I want with my horses.  Sometimes he lets me know what he wants to have, a certain product for example, and sometimes I just show up with what I want him to use or feed.  We’re working it out, despite the language barrier.  He is a good groom, and truly he cares for the horses in his charge.

Yes, there is a language barrier.  By and large, people here do speak English.  But there is a fair contingent who do not.  Some because they never learned, and some because they aren’t from Puerto Rico.  Victor is one of the latter group.  Let me just say here that my trainer has quite a sense of humor.  I know this because he assigned me to the ONLY groom in the barn that does not speak English.  AND he’s from the Dominican Republic, which means that his Spanish is a little different from Puerto Rican Spanish.  AND he speaks even faster than the Puerto Ricans.  Sometimes even my trainer has to tell him to slow down!

Now, I am learning Spanish, but not in the traditional way.  Google Translate has become my go-to tool.  It’s quite useful, and has helped me immensely in communicating with people.   Every day on my way to the barn, I memorize words and sentences I need to use.  It is, though, a double-edged sword.  Because of Google Translate, I’m sure Victor thinks I understand way more Spanish than I actually do, because every now and then he rattles off something to me and I am left standing before him with a blank stare on my face and a “no intiendo” on my lips.  I’ll have to thank my trainer one of these days…

On to another topic:  plantains.  I have loved plantain chips for many years now, and now I’m in the land of plantains.  I have actually made my own roasted plantain chips, and they were quite good.  Tostones, however are quite another story.  Tostones are thick slices of fried plantains. They are a common side dish here, fried twice in oil or.  They are tasty and very dense, kind of like potatoes.  Mofongo is a Puerto Rican staple, also made with plantains.  They are mashed and formed into a cup, which is then deep fried, and then stuffed with all manner of fillings.  Again, it’s like you took mashed potatoes and prepared them the same way.  Plantains are even more dense than potatoes, so in theory they don’t absorb much of the oil, but that always varies with the preparation and the oil temperature.  Nevertheless, my attempts at making tostones have all been epic fails.

I have achieved great success with other things, though:  my banana bread, and my sourdough bread.  I have been making banana bread since I was a child, and have many variations in my recipe box.  I have perfected it over the years, and it’s a hit here as well.  Sourdough bread is something you absolutely cannot find here.  My husband, my sister-in-law and her husband, the chef at the restaurant here all love it.  But it’s just not made or brought here.  So I decided to make it myself!  Perhaps this is an opportunity for me, if only on a small scale?

Well good night, this post is long enough.  More variety next time.



The Beast

Well, my truck (aka The Beast) arrived in the port of San Juan last Friday, and we went to pick it up today.    Sounds easy, right?  It’s quite the adventure.

First, you go to the port with all your documents in hand.  There, you find out what tax is applied to bring the vehicle here.  It doesn’t matter what the approved value of the vehicle is in the States, or even what the PR official recorded value is, it is all subject to change and you don’t find out how much it is until you get there and they tell you “this is what you have to pay.”  So you pay it.  But you don’t get the vehicle.  More on this subject later.

Then you go to the Hacienda, one of the government buildings in San Juan, where you show that you paid the tax, and they give you more documents to take back to the port, whereupon you can take possession of the car.

Next, you must go get a smog test, and take that certificate to the office where you pay for the vehicle registration and insurance.  You may also exchange your drivers license for a PR license, but only if the person is there to take your picture.  That person was not there today.  So, you relinquish your license in return for a photocopy of it, which you must keep with you for identification purposes, and return within 20 days (when the photographer is there) to get your official PR drivers license.

We started out this morning at 9am, and finished around 1:30pm, which is actually quite impressive.  My husband had already been through all this with the first car we shipped here, and we had an assistant who had helped him, so we were well versed in the required steps.  I still have to return to get my new license, and I’m just a bit leery or trying to pass off a mere photocopy as official identification, but it is what it is.

Now, regarding the tax.  My truck is a 2004, with over 130,000 miles on it.  It is valued at $6600, even by PR standards.  We estimated paying $800-$900 tax.  Upon arrival at the port, we were told that we would have to pay $1900 tax, because they placed a value of $12,000 on it.  Really??  We should turn around and sell it as quickly as possible!  🤔

Running around to all the necessary offices and navigating traffic is exhausting, but it’s done, at least until I go back to get my new license (which will seem like a cakewalk).

But anyway, I am SO happy to finally have it here.   One car for two people who go in different directions every day has been challenging.  It’s like my second home, after all.  My. husband says I’m like a turtle because I carry so much stuff in it all the time.   It arrived in good condition, and really not as filthy as I expected.  One thing, however–someone, somewhere is enjoying my trailer hitch. 😒