Thursday, January 29, 2009

A mi hogar

Today I go home! Adios to the warm tropics. Hola to the cold. It was a good trip and as much as I liked it, I'm ready to go home. :) I have more pictures to post of my apartment, car, backyard, etc. I'll get to that over the next few days.

Thanks for reading! I'll pick this blog up again the next time I go to Puerto Rico (scheduled for Sept. 2009.)

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Mi Última Noche (my last night)

Today was my last day at UMET for this trip! I had a wonderful time. My hosts and I presented our results to the Chancellor and then we went out to dinner. The dinner was held at the Alcázar resturant. The pictures show this huge, wonderful dessert that the wife of the Chancellor ordered ... she shared it with me and it was SO good! It's called Dalí; it's large pastry that is filled with guava custard, served with nuts and icecream and guava paste. The guava custard is similar to a sweet potato cheesecake. The guava paste is similar to caramel. I had ordered "torte chocolate (pronounced TOR-tay cho-co-LA-tay) but I was so full from eating her dessert that I had to take mine to go! I have photos of me in my daily office at UMET, the dessert, and the restaurant.

I'm packing now. It's time to prepare to get back to the cold weather, but the additional warmth that comes from being with friends and family!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

San Sebastián y Lares

Today we had a wonderful adventure. The day started out in an interesting way ... I was driving to the campus and I made a wrong turn. Yes, I was lost! Once I knew that I was going the wrong way, I tried to correct it. But alas, there was apparently yet another turn that I should have taken. So, I tried not to panic, and after driving along and trying to find a good place to stop, I ended up at a gas station. But I was really lost. If you've been to Puerto Rico, I was supposed to be going to Cupey. But I made a wrong turn toward Carolina, and ended up in Barbosa. It's not close to the campus! I called my host and tried to explain where I was .... she wasn't able to tell from my description, so she told me to get out of the car (actually it's a van, nicknamed "the bus" ... you'll see a picture of it further down, it has pictures of trees and fruit on it because it is the property of the School of Environmental Affairs) and tell the person inside "Puedas ayudarme?" which means "Can you help me?" and then she said to give them my cell phone and she would talk with the person inside in Spanish. Well ... the adventure was really beginning, because you had to be buzzed into the door ... buzzed in to the store section of the gas station! Hmmmm ... then I had to talk to the person from behind the glass windows and put my cell phone through the security drawer. Okaaayyy. Sigh. The good news is that my host was able to find out where I was and guide me back to campus safely. Now that was between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m. (Think "24"!)
Between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., the three of us, two of my hosts and I, were on our way to San Sebastián, a town on the western side of the island, to see Jessica's mom. Jessica was one of my students in Maryland who was from Puerto Rico and passed away a few years ago. I've maintained contact with her over the years and try to visit when I can. Her family fixed us a wonderful lunch of rice, white beans, chicken and potatoes, and vegetables. It was delicious!!! The new thing for me was that even though 90% of the conversation was in Spanish, I understood a good portion of it. That doesn't mean that I could always join the conversation; I interjected a few words here and there. It was wonderful to see her again and to spend some time with her. She is a very loving person! I am grateful to my hosts for taking me for this visit.
Following the trip to San Sebastián, we went to the town of Lares to visit a famous icecream parlor. In Spanish, an icecream parlor is a Heladería. They are famous for having delicious icecream, but very interesting flavors. Some of the flavors are zanahoria (carrot), aguacate (avacado), ajo (garlic), and more! I had maíz (corn) and it was delicious!! Really! It tasted like a sweet corn pudding. You can get it topped with cinnamon! Ummm. I'm thinking about it now! I went into the Heladería with one host while the other stayed in "the bus" and placed his order via cell phone. It was fun because it was like three kids had gotten permission to get icecream! There are photos of the various flavors of the icecream in the sidebar.

Yes, my Maíz (corn) icecream is very yellow!

Following the icecream stop, we went to Barceloneta which is in the middle of the island. UMET is working on a project in that area and my campus will be a partner. It was a nice site visit!

Tomorrow, I have a presentation and then it will be time to prepare to head home!

About Heladería de Lares:
About Lares:,_Puerto_Rico
About San Sebastián:án,_Puerto_Rico

Monday, January 26, 2009

Conferencia: estudiantes, profesores y comiunidad

Conferencia: estudiantes, profesores y comiunidad ... Conference: students, professors, and community. I am priviledged to be in Puerto Rico during a time of discussion about globalization and culture. The conference is presented by "La Escuela de Ciencias Sociales, Humunidades y Comunicaciones de la Universidad Metropolitana" (The School of Social Sciences, Humanities, and Communications.)

Today I went to a very interesting talk on media in the Arab World. UMET's Dept. of Communications is celebrating new concentrations. The seminar series talks about the role of communications in social change and polital action. In Spanish, it is "El rol de las communicaciones en el cambio social y la acción política." The talk was titled "El mundo arabe: Cultura, sociedad e instituciones" ... The Arab World: Culture, Society, and Institions.

One of the main themes is that we don't take enough time to get to know one another ... we make assumptions about people from other cultures without getting to know them, we make generalizations about people without understanding their unique/diverse qualities, and we are often influenced by single forms of media without taking time to diversify our sources. This is a conversation that should continue.
This afternoon I spent some more time with students in the lab, talked with my collaborator, had a planning meeting, and discussed cultures with my colleague. Once again, another great day.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Muchos lugares

Host and colleague in Palmas del Mar

One of the kioskos (kiosks) in Luquillo (near Fajardo)

On the patio at the home of my host.

At the clock in Caguas, across from “Dulce Nombre de Jesús”

Host and colleague at the coffee stand in Caguas.

Muchos lugares ... many places. This afternoon, my host took my colleague and I to many places to show various parts of the island. One of the places included his birthplace, Caguas (,,_Puerto_Rico ... there is a picture of a cathedral in the middle of this website ... “Dulce Nombre de Jesús” (Sweet Name of Jesus) that is across from the plaza that is shown in my pictures.) You will see me near one of the clocks in the plaza, and my colleagues at a coffee stand. We also went to places on the eastern side of the island: Palmas del Mar in Humacao, Luquillo, and then a wonderful outdoor dinner at his home in San Juan. The photos are taken in these places. When we were on the east side of the island, we could see the island of Vieques which is known for its bioluminescent bay (,_Puerto_Rico). You will see various pictures of my host and my colleague, and some of me with other guests of my host and his wife. They are wonderfully hospitable and really made me feel special. It was a great day!

Mi cancion para esta dia

Mi cancion para esta dia ... my song for this day. It is Sunday again, and I had planned to go to see the mother of one of my students who passed away a few years ago; she lives on the other side of the island, and it doesn't look like I am going to make it today. So I woke up thinking about how much God loves us. I have a song on my ipod called "Tomame en tus brazos" which means "Take me in your arms." It's a song to God; the words are (my loose English translations are included):

Tomame en tus brazos
Tomame las manos
Camina aquí a mi lado
No me dejes porfavor

(Take me in your arms
Take me in your hands
Walk here by my side
Please don't leave me)

Toma mi destino
Toma mi camino
En ti estoy confiado
Siempre mirame Señor

(Take my destiny
Take my walk
In you I am trusting
Always, you watch me Lord)

Es que yo sin ti, yo no se lo que es vivir
Es que yo sin ti nisiquiera se existir

(It is that I without you, I don't know what it is to live
It is that I without you, don't want to exist)

Te necesito, te necesito
Como el cielo necesita el sol para brillar
Y la tierra necesita Luna y mar

(I need you, I need you
Like the sky needs the sun to be bright
And the earth needs moon and sea)

Te necesito, te necesito
Cada día mas y mas, quiero estar donde tu estas
No te dejare jamás, te necesito

(I need you, I need you
Every day more and more, I want to be where you are
I will never leave you, I need you.)

(Sung by Marcos Witt and Luis Pedraza)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Piñones y Fajardo

Today was a day full of rich culture. My host of the day was a teacher that I met at a conference in Utah last Fall. We happened to be sitting at the same table for lunch and as we were talking about Puerto Rico, she volunteered to host me when I came to town. It turns out that she is an alum of the department that I am working with at UMET. This afternoon, she took me to a "rustic" place in Puerto Rico called Piñones. Piñones is a place where many of the descendants of African slaves reside. More information can be found here:

We ordered and at Bacalaoitos which is a form of fried fish. I also ordered an alcapurria which is a fried food that is made of a plantain mixture stuffed with a kind of meat ... mine had fish. It looks like a big corndog ... the plantain mixture itself looks like cornbread batter. The ladies who are cooking take a spoonful of the plantain mixture and put it onto a large leaf. Then they stuff it with the meat of choice, it is covered with more mixture and shaped by the leaf to make a rounded long roll. They are removed from the leaf to be fried and served hot. I was so full from my bacalaoito that I had to take my alcapurria with me. The lunch was good and spicy, but it is greasy, so I decided to take it easy with the alcapurria in my bag for dinner. (When I got home and took it out of my bag, I ate a little piece of it and then made a salad!)After lunch, we went across the street to the beach for a little while ... this was good because I hadn't had a chance to go to the beach at all since I've been here.

Then we traveled to the east side of the island to one of the best-known beautiful places, Fajardo. Fajardo has one of the best hotels, El Conquistidor. It is huge and is known for it's beautiful views. My host and I settled by one of the poolside areas to talk about language and culture. I actually ordered my bottle of water in Spanish and it sounded decent!

I learned so much today. I definitely have a deeper appreciation for the culture and diversity of Puerto Rico.

Friday, January 23, 2009


Trabajando - working. Today, I was working with students for most of the morning and I had meetings in the afternoon. I gave a talk yesterday and today I had a "Coffee Hour" which was similar to "drop-in office hours."
So I worked with students on their statements of purpose, their goals and objectives, and other issues related to graduate school. We talked about toxicology, psychology, oceanography, microbiology, and environmental chemistry! After the office hours, I had lunch with some students from Puerto Rico's Inter-American University who took some time off to come to see me. One of them had come to visit UMBC during his sophomore year and now that he's in his senior year, he wanted to talk about the options more seriously. He was very kind ... he had come to campus yesterday, but I was double-booked so I missed him and he came back today. He is in the photo. I had other meetings this afternoon regarding my presentation to the Chancellor which is coming up next week. I 've accomplished quite a bit, but I still have lots to do. Today, we also had big programs at both UMBC and College Park so I was excited about those events. All in all it was a full day!

Thursday, January 22, 2009


¿Ayudo? This literally means "I help?" I was struggling with my keys outside of the gate today and a gentleman asked "¿Ayudo?" I realized that he was asking me if I needed help, so I said "No, gracias." I'm learning some of the shortened ways of saying things here ... little by little. In the same way that we may not say, "Can I assist you?" or "Do you need help?" , we might just say "Need help?"
Today, I gave a seminar titled "Taller para Escuela Graduada" which means "Workshop for Graduate School." It was in the ChEMTox lab:, and yes, the talk was in English!
The photos are from that seminar.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Estoy Cansada

Today I am home early, recovering from a bit of laryngitis so my communication for most of the day was via text messaging. It cleared up a bit yesterday, but I had meetings today and nearly lost my voice again. I enjoyed my lunch meeting today. Here are pictures of me with my hosts. We ate on campus, at one of the outdoor tables. I'm eating rice and beans with plantains (arroz y habichueles con amarillos.) We had tropical rains this afternoon; I'm glad that I was able to come home before the downpour.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Viejo San Juan, Inauguration

Yesterday, I started my day by doing laundry so that I could have some clean clothes for the week. I was invited to a reception for a visiting Fulbright Scholar from the American University in Cairo, Egypt.

The photos show my morning laundry/ironing, my host and his wife, the group with the guest, and some views as I looked up to the sky from the interior patio of the home in Old San Juan.

Since it is Inauguration Day, I went to work, but came home early and was able to watch the event on TV. You'll see that I was watching both CNN and! Note that the online feed on CNN is a bit behind the TV coverage.