Dec. 9, 2012

I miss my beloved grandson, Sam, but I know he’s well and happy. He’s learning to ski!

Dreams last night: a guy brings winter clothes and blankets and distributes them to townsfolk. Puerto Rico: getting there; orphans. Two orphans born to an Evangelical couple are adopted out; later, they are kidnapped by some other Evangelical group and raised in that religion.

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Flew into San Juan, Puerto Rico yesterday from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I was glad to get off the island of Hispaniola.

My experiences in Haiti were: these people live what I consider very tough lives, but do they wander around complaining? No! I, with my easy life, couldn’t do it. I began to waste away even during the month I was there. It was both physical (skin break outs) and mental (depression, inactivity). 1% of Haitians own 50% of the wealth. 80% are Catholic; 4% Protestant; 100% Vodou (I have been spelling it wrong).

The Haitians, while happy and busy, are a captive population. Not only are they too poor to leave the country (they’d never come back if they could!), but they are too poor to eat well. That makes anyone docile and easy to control.

Our guesthouse caretaker, Wilson, kept fish and fish bones in the cabinet above the stove all the time, unrefrigerated. He used these to give some flavor to the average Haitians’ (i.e., the poor people’s) constant diet of rice and beans.

The Dominican Republic was much better for me than Haiti. Paula is going to become (and already is) a very influential figure in my life. Her acceptance of others and her humility are amazing; a good teacher for me.

I also loved Paula’s little pueblo-like neighborhood. The population of the DR is the same as Haiti’s (10 million), but the DR occupies 2/3 of Hispaniola.

The Dominicans love to dance, and they will set up a dancing area anywhere there’s loud music, like outside a gas station. They’ll go just beyond the business area and start dancing!

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I’ve wanted to come to Puerto Rico since I met Alexis and Clara in Ventura, California fifteen years ago. They were wild Puerto Rican sisters from New York. And PR is great so far. Someone in our little working class neighborhood blares loud (salsa?) music from a radio a few times a day for the whole neighborhood to hear. I remember this same thing community music thing happening in Costa Rica.

Last night young kids were letting off really loud fireworks all over San Turce, the San Juan neighborhood where my host, Sabrina, lives. They had some super intense, booming fireworks, but did anyone complain? Not that I heard. The kids were right outside our house for a while, letting off these bombs, but no one yelled at them (like they would in the U.S.). Great.

It’s nice for a change to be where they speak more English and sell American stuff (peppermint tea in bags, saltines: good for travelers’ diarrhea!). Yet PR is not American; it’s very Puerto Rican. (Big surprise…not!) In all the stores, etc., people are speaking Spanish when I go in. They study English all through school so most younger people know English.

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Nomadic people have been moving through sedentary societies for millennia. The settlers don’t notice them because the nomads usually move through and conduct their business (eg., trade) quietly, quickly and inconspicuously. Travellers’ lives are only unusual to people who have never noticed the nomads in their midst and have never gotten to know them.

Leaving DR, entering PR: super easy customs and immigration — nothing like entering other part of the US. Homeland Security is only a “thing” in our country.

Birds sing all night long here in this quiet little part of San Juan. Dogs bark; chickens crow. The doors stay open all the time (except when no one’s home). December and the weather’s lovely, in the 80s with cool, comfortable nights. And very breezy. Just beautiful.

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Facts and Figures (2011 / 2012):

Puerto Rico = area 3,515 sq. mi., pop. 3,706,690, pop. density 1,082 per sq. mi. (2nd in the US*), GDP** (nominal): per capita = $26,588.

Haiti = area 10,714 sq. mi., pop. c. 10 miliion, pop. density 8,267 per sq. mi., GDP (nominal): per capita = $738.

Dominican Republic = area 18,704 sq. mi., pop. c. 10 million, pop. density 501.5 per sq. mi., GDP (nominal): per capita = $5,638.

Jamaica = area 4,244 sq. mi., pop. 2,889,187, pop. density 656 per sq. mi., GDP (nominal): per capita= $5,402.

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*Population density of US states

HIGHEST (from most density to less density): Washington D.C., New Jersey, Rhode Island, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Massachusetts, Guam, Connecticut, Maryland, Delaware, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, , Ohio, California…

LOWEST (from least density to more density): Alaska, Wyoming, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Idaho, Nebraska…

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**Gross domestic product (GDP) is the market value of all officially recognized final goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time. GDP per capita is often considered an indicator of a country’s standard of living;[2][3] GDP per capita is not a measure of personal income (See Standard of living and GDP). Under economic theory, GDP per capita exactly equals the gross domestic income (GDI) per capita (See Gross domestic income).

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