Now that I have returned from the internet-less abyss, I figured I should post an update on my life over the past couple weeks. I took the bar exam in late July, which is broken down into two days. Day 1 is essays (12 – 30 minutes each). Day 2 is multiple choice (200 – 1.8 minutes each). The essays were harder, but I think I did well enough on both to pass. We’ll see in October (when results come out).
I just got back yesterday from Puerto Rico. One of the benefits of having a younger brother (15 years old) is that mom and dad still want to take us on our annual family vacations. Puerto Rico is technically a U.S. territory, but once you’re there it feels like a completely different country. Below I’ll break down talking points by subject:
Puerto Rico is a very green island. There are trees everywhere you look, and if you go to the right place, the views can be beautiful. Most of the beaches are public, and the popular ones are well taken care of. The water is warm and fairly clean, though more of both in the Caribbean than the Atlantic.
Being a U.S. territory, I expected Puerto Rico to look more like the United States than a third world country. But from what I could see, most of the locals are poor. The houses are small, single-story with bars on the windows (don’t know whether that’s pragmatic or for decorative purposes). The country has a problem with stray cats and dogs, and most of the animals you pass appear malnourished, including the cattle. It was sort of depressing. It does make you realize how lucky you are to live where you do and not in a situation like that.
Roads & Driving
Because of the poverty, I can understand why the road system is not as good as in the U.S. The truly major highways are actually nice to drive on, but others have dozens of stoplights that will slow you down. Also, maps can be deceiving; what looks like a major road (with a route number) is actually a skinny 2-lane road that winds up into the mountains. You’ll be lucky to average 30 miles per hour. So make sure you know what kind of road you’re taking before you take it. And make sure you have a good navigator, because the roads are not well labeled at all and can be very confusing. We got lost more than a few times.
What I cannot understand, however, are the drivers. Puerto Ricans are by far the worst drivers I have ever encountered, including New Yorkers. Speed limits are ignored, tailgating is the norm, and common courtesy? Ha! Forget about it. If you drive in Puerto Rico, be prepared to be tailgated constantly, cut off, honked at, and flown by on 2-lane roads where you’re already doing 10 mph over the speed limit. Not a fun time.
El Yunque Rainforest
Our day to the rainforest was one of the highlights of the trip. The road takes you 13 kilometers up into the mountainous forest, with stops along the way. You can hike down to El Minna falls and swim in the cool spring, though I’d recommend stopping at one of the more secluded pools above the main pool where everyone else goes. It was very refreshing after hiking. After that we drove up nearer to the top and hiked to Britton Tower. Unfortunately, it was foggy that day, but on a clear day the view would have been spectacular. The hikes were somewhat difficult. I’m not in the best shape, and I definitely felt that. But I think it was worth it.
For me, any vacation has to include some gambling. Casinos in Puerto Rico are all in the hotels. They are all relatively small (the largest was 20,000 square feet) and contain mostly slots with only a few table games. Most have roulette and black jack but you will have trouble finding a craps table (the Casino del Sol in the Marriot at San Juan had one). The casinos are nice, however, and everyone speaks English.
In fact, the language barrier was one thing we didn’t have much of a problem with the entire trip. Most Puerto Ricans we encountered had at least a passable knowledge of English, much better than any of our Spanish. Americans are real slouches at being multilingual compared to the rest of the world.
Overall, it was a nice vacation. The weather was clear, and not too hot; much better than Las Vegas or Florida in August. I left up $172.50 in the gambling department, which was great. I’d normally be happy to break even because I enjoy playing; I don’t go there to make a million bucks. I probably spend 5-6 hours over the course of the week.
I would recommend Puerto Rico to someone who is looking for something a little different. There is enough to do, but sometimes it is difficult to find. Feel free to post any questions you may have. Finally, I’ll close with a few funny moments, which prove just what a bunch of dumb American tourists we are.
1. Dad ordering two medium French fries from McDonalds: "Two papas regulares, please." Gotta love the Spanglish. I’m sure the employees had quite a laugh at our expense.
2. Mom pronouncing Conquistador Ave. as Con-kwi-stador Ave. while reading from a tourist brochure. The best part was that just kept reading as if nothing was wrong. I’m the most Spanish fluent in the family (which isn’t saying much) so I kept reminding them that ‘ll’ = y and ‘qui’ = ki not kwi, etc.
3. I should set this one up by staying that we went to a dog track last year. My sister, at the horse track, upon seeing the horses come out: "Oh, the horses have riders?" My response: "No, they all chase a carrot on a stick." *headdesk*
I won’t say that my brother and I never did or said anything stupid, but these are all that come to mind right now.