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I have to say that people here are not gratuitously rude the way they can be stateside. Maybe about 1 case in 50 for acting in a professional capacity but not speaking Spanish fluently. Now compare that with someone doing ANYthing most elsewhere in the US and not speaking English well. It's practically an invitation for abuse or calls to the INS.

Also, sometimes the relative flexibility is beneficial. When we moved, we transferred ALL our money by check, not realizing checks coming into the island take two weeks to clear rather than two days. We bounced a couple checks before we realized it. When we explained the situation to the bank, they graciously removed all but one fee. Back stateside in a large bank, it would have been many more fees (usually one for every time the check is presented, which is usually every couple days), fees on top of the fees, and a shrug about company policy from the bank.

motomataru posted on the thread Electric bills... on the Puerto Rico forum

I heard solar packages were generally $25,000, which not coincidently was the amount of a PR government subsidy. Installations had a "season" before the subsidies ran out. I'm not sure the subsidies are still available -- the best way to find out would be to talk to an installer. I did try to find out if the utility would buy back excess, but saw nothing on the website. My guess is not.

motomataru posted on the thread Expat blog gatherings in Puerto Rico on the Puerto Rico forum

dolt201 wrote:

I'd be all for a get together. Personally I don't care if I am technically an XPat or not, I would like to make new friends, feel a sense of community and if possible meet some folks who play acoustic music.

What do you play?

Every year around the holidays I pull out the old guitar and make a nostalgia pass through my book of English carols.

We had Liberty at the old house. It was fine up until about two years ago, when the Internet started dropping, sometimes so frequently we couldn't get a connect. Then we had months of technicians visiting, replacing cabling, modems, etc. They thought the main problem was high signal strength blowing out the modem, so kept adding attenuators. But at least they'd come after you insisted that there was a problem despite what their system was telling them. The Liberty techies were MUCH better than the contractors, who don't know much more than cabling a new system. Finally, a Liberty tech realized there was a problem with the little piece that splits from the line on the street. So we had about a week of non-dropping Internet before we moved. In all, I found Liberty responsive, but it took two years to get a tech that would bother to stay and troubleshoot until the problem was solved.

We have Claro now and so far no problems other than their sales people calling to upgrade us, sometimes five times a day. We have the bottom tier Internet, so the upload is horrible, but that wouldn't be a problem unless you upload videos to youtube and such. We had to go wireless to the router -- I prefer Ethernet -- because Claro refused to put in a new phone outlet by my desk.

motomataru created a new thread on the Puerto Rico forum

Restaurant Picks / Pans

OK, my 2012 household profit/loss report says we eat out WAY too much. But as long as we're doing it, I may as well relate some experiences.

My Ma visited over the holidays, and we went to Juana Diaz to see the Three Kings Museum (passed on the parade this year). When we asked, the very enthusiastic staff person directed us to Jannelly's Kitchen. Standard Criollo cooking, but done exceptionally well. Plus, unusually, the decor was as smart as you would see in a trendy part of San Juan or Chicago. As one would expect from the Anglicized name of the place, the one monoglot in our party had no problem not speaking Spanish. I had an excellent crab stew; no one was displeased with their order. The place is on the main route (14?) where it bypasses the plaza.

We also went to the "boardwalk" (malecon) of Naguabo, a shadow of its apparent once glory (because of Roosevelt Roads?). I picked out Makitos, the nicest place I saw. A mistake, it turned out, as it was expensive with poor food and clueless service. Perhaps by no coincidence there were a fair number of tourists there? The outdoor balcony overlooking the bay was nice this time of year. On the other hand, I'm not sure where else one would eat. There are a few kiosko-ish places which I imagine could go either way, as always.

Someone mentioned a good pub? I've yet to find a Newkie on this island. Old Harbor's brews are great, but not available anywhere I shop.

Best for the New Year, all,

motomataru posted on the thread anyone else a magnet for overcharges? on the Puerto Rico forum

Very strange. Tips (la propina) work the same as continental US: they're typically not automatically added unless it's a large party. Were they cover charges? I've never gone anywhere here fancy enough to charge them... Maybe post a scan of those portions of the receipts?

motomataru posted on the thread Should I move back home? on the Puerto Rico forum

Hey Miguel,

Three years ago, we did just what you're contemplating, though it was I, the husband, who spoke no Spanish. Even with contacts, it took over a year for my wife to find a permanent job, half the salary, not really what she was doing in the US. We still live with my in-laws (though that's been great -- they're not unbearably intrusive and child care is never a problem anymore!).

There seems to be almost no resources for adults to learn Spanish, unlike where we came from in the US that had many TESOL resources. UPR Rios Piedras seemed to me to be a summer program for visiting college students. UPR Humacao seems to have a program, but I never drove out to check it out (electronic methods generally inadequate for such tasks). Pan American Language Institute had no group program but could accomodate me for $2000 per group of private sessions -- not doable when we had no employment. I've basically learned the little I know on the street and on the job. I've met fellow ex-pats here that after 20 years speak even less -- something that astounds me, but on the other hand I still remember how big an obstacle the embarrasment of murdering the language in public was for me the first 18 months or so. Now I just murder away!

For the children, there are little biligual academies all over the place -- we're on our third one since we got here. Our daughter who was six had significant adjustment to socializing in Spanish, but she's ended up learning it -- though her courses in Spanish are still a challenge; she's simply not at the level students her grade are at. The daughter who was three was too young to be traumatized, but now faces challenges in both languages, mixing the sounds and rules as she attempts to learn both simultaneously. We're working with a speech therapist for the Spanish part now. I think for her original language of English, ironically, she will always have a Puerto Rican accent, being influenced more now by her classmates than her parents. I have to correct her past tenses all the time now.

As for living "en el campo," it would definitely depend on the particular location. Our barrio was a sleepy hamlet surrounded by cane fields when the house was built. Now we're surrounded by warehouses, tire shops, bars, and an open air concert venue. I'm convinced there's no such thing as zoning here (outside the gated communities), so you never know when your neighbor will turn his back yard into an ad-hoc auto body shop (that's going UP our mountain). The gated communities at least provide some buffer, but I climbed to the top of our mountain the other day and could STILL hear the damn karaoke clearly.

I also recommend visiting a prospective neighborhood during morning rush on a school day. The road placements are generally at hazard, driven by easements across private land. In our case, there's been so much development on the one main road that it can take an hour to drive the one mile to the entrance to our barrio.

As for the out of doors, our personal experience has been that we don't hang out there as much as we did in the US. I think the intense sun, humidity, and mosquitoes are to blame -- the same factors that drove the first Spaniards out of the interior. Maybe way up in the mountains (I was impressed with Barranquitas) or on the coast with the Atlantic sea breeze.

Even with all the challenges, I have to say we've met our goal of having bicultural children is being well met. Best on your decision.

motomataru posted on the thread A one-way ticket to Puerto Rico. on the Puerto Rico forum

If you're LDS, you could try to build things through that. I had an ex-pat LDS family as clients last tax season, but unfortunately cannot remember their name or the name of the business he's established with his brother here.

EDIT: and actually I've seen some cost of living maps which shows that PR is more costly than Manhattan, primarily due to lack of public services.

I think there's a lot Gregg left off his list! I'd summarize it this way:

1. PR is an island. This quite naturally worsens the spread between economic opportunity and prices. This has an impact on social and civic institutions.

2. Outside of San Juan and gated developments, communities are tight--positive for those born there, not so much for outsiders moving in. I think a lot of what I have seen I would have seen in "small town America." On the other hand, preference for island-born replaces the racial hatreds of the US: one of my wife's main motivations for wanting to move back here.

3. PR developed differently from the US from its colonial and slavery heritages. I think in PR there's generally greater disregard for laws that don't have someone present to enforce them and less respect for personal property. Also PR lacks the frontier heritage which demanded of US residents the making of friends out of complete strangers.

Thinking about the experiences related in this thread, I conclude that any ex-pat planning to live "in the barrio" needs to have a connection there. Marriage is probably the best one (as in my and Gary's cases). Churches and other affinity groups (for me it is amateur musicians) could work, too.

motomataru posted on the thread Buying property in Puerto Rico on the Puerto Rico forum

Last month we paid an electrian $1000 to REPAIR our meter. Seemed a little steep to me, especially considering that he did not find the two-inch hole in the pipe on the roofline that's letting water pour in.

It took a couple days, too, because he had to acquire authorization to open up the meter.

Hey, there's actually a good Internet resource for this sort of thing! Kinda rare here...

Seems like there is an option or two for you. Besides The Palmas Academy, Eastern Bilingual School and The Next Generation Academy. I strongly suggest scoping out possibilities in person beforehand, if at all possible.

Here we start registering toward the end of the preceding year. Actually, our public school is already registering the new class of Kindergarteners.

Humacao's a nice town. I worked there last year. It compares to a large US town -- shopping malls, close to the coast, Las Palmas (the old military base turned resort). Many English speakers there because of Las Palmas.

Speaking English is considered a path to success in PR (and it's probably true). Hence there are dozens of small private academys that offer instruction in English, both church-based and otherwise. The advantage is that your child is forced to learn Spanish in order to socialize, but will not lag academically.

That's the route we took with our elder child (age six at the time). She hated it at first, but now two years later is basically fluent in Spanish. The younger one ended up in Headstart (as it took us over a year to find work). She did not show any problem getting dropping into an all-Spanish environment, but does sometimes claim a preference for English. She's now in public school (still too young for our private school) which, despite a shocking lack of resources, has a strong neighborhood community.

The other thing with the little academies is that you have a selection of approaches. The first school we attended basically borrowed home-schooling curriculum. The next one is self-paced.

I'll see what I can find out from my old coworkers.

motomataru posted on the thread Island Gardening on the Puerto Rico forum

veechy wrote:


I am curious.. how long did it take your kailan to grow?

I can't remember exactly, but in general things sprout quickly (compared to stuff planted in Spring in Illinois).

motomataru posted on the thread Opening a bank account in Puerto Rico on the Puerto Rico forum

The ONE thing that caught us by surprise is that there's a NINE day hold on checks from US banks. Nothing like having no access to all your money for a week-and-a-half...

So we've maintained our US account along with the PR one and use internet transfers to move cash about.

Another thing is that interest is higher than in the US. Again, it caught us by surprise when we bought a car. On the flip side, you actually get something from your interest-bearing bank accounts.

PR is much more cash-oriented than the US; hence the greater demand for it. Our PR bank's ATMs (ATH here) usually run out of cash during the weekend. You can usually get by with a Visa credit card, but have identification, phone number, and/or driver's license number.

motomataru posted on the thread Moving to Puerto Rico.... on the Puerto Rico forum

Rosa del Monte has a branch in Chicago that we used. Still a little distant for you guys...

Another consideration for your stuff; unless you will have A/C in PR (a big if considering how expensive electric is right now -- we have friends paying $600/mo), think about how high heat/humidity will affect your possessions. Alot of our stuff quickly turned green with Illinois mold and we had to toss it anyway. Leather, melamine(!), unfinished wood, cordura nylon were particularly susceptible. The books for some reason have held up well.

And I just ran into a guy from Michigan the other day. His father pastored a Hispanic church in Grand Rapids for 32 years...

That other stand captures traffic to/from the public medical clinic across from the coliseo. I didn't even realize they sold tacos. But now there's the new police station next to the clinic.

I'll give you guys a try sometime. I'm with eggyny: I'm always on the lookout for some decent Mexican food. I can make some decent carne en su jugo (had a Jaliscan roommate), but can't quite bring off other dishes...

Oh, and regarding Noche Burger, it's not worth it. Smells great, but they're just cheap Gordito burgers. We don't know why that place is so popular.

motomataru posted on the thread Moving to San Juan in September on the Puerto Rico forum

Hey Chuck,

You've gotten quite a bit of good feedback. I have a couple additional observations to add.

chucknevers wrote:

1) Is San Juan bearable in July and August?

I lived most of my life in DC and Chicago, both (former?) swamps. It's hot here, but with even the interior awash in sea winds, you DON'T get the 99.9% humidity you get in those cities.

chucknevers wrote:

2) I'm a stuffy New Englander.  How does the cultural scene in San Juan compare to New York and Boston?

Simply put, it doesn't -- the comments regarding Island & food variety apply here as well. You may need to adjust tastes/expectations. Or better yet pick up cuatro and become a participant -- the Island is much more appreciative of amateur creativity than the US. I've found it positively liberating.

chucknevers wrote:

6) What are the negatives in terms of the attitudes?  Is there an anti-gringo veneer, is there an overlay of disrespect for property rights, are people generally more trusting than suspicious (or vice versa)?

You know, this is not an easy question to answer, because Puerto Rico is a poly-cultural and multi-segmented society. In general people here are cheerful (PR ranks near top in international happiness rankings) and expressive. In my eighteen months here, I've only had a couple experiences I could call negative, but even there I would have to allow the people involved were probably more frustrated by my poor professional Spanish. I mean, there are a few inconsiderate and rude people here, too, but they're a world-wide phenonemon.

Hope this helps. Good luck with your life change!

motomataru posted on the thread PR more expensive than NY? on the Puerto Rico forum

Oh, sorry. The links are maps of summarized economic survey data for Puerto Rico and New York, respectively. The maps show yellow areas where living (and transportation) expenses are below a certain threshhold percentage of median household income and blue areas where they are above. In summary, although NY is more expensive, the better economic opportunities and commuting infrastructure more than compensate.

It was interesting to me because often people look at the lower total expenses in PR without considering the even lower income opportunities. It's expenses RELATIVE to income that one should consider.