Introduction and May 6 | May 7 | May
8 | May 9 | May 10
| May 11 | May 12-13 and Conclusion
| Other Journeys |
| Introduction and May 6 | May 7 | May 8 | May 9 | May 10 | May 11 | May 12-13 and Conclusion | Other Journeys |
I awoke fairly early, and seeing everyone else fast asleep I decided to go for a walk so as to explore and not disturb them. I dressed quickly and left the hotel looking for somewhere to have breakfast. Things were very quiet this Sunday morning, Mother's Day, 2002. There was a giant Carnival cruise line ship docked right next to our hotel, but no one seemed to be on the streets. I took off down the waterfront and walked quite some way before cutting back 90 degrees up into Old San Juan. Then, when I seemed to be at the peak of the hill I walked down its spine until nearing the end of that sector of town, and then turning back down towards the waterfront. In all of this, I found not a single place to have breakfast. I gave up and actually had an overpriced breakfast in our expensive hotel. I stopped at the front desk and asked about a rental car. They did a brief survey of cars and got me a very reasonably priced car from Charlie Rental Car of Puerto Rico. They sent a shuttle over to get me and within minutes I was signing for a plain, white, four-door sedan and on my way back to the hotel. I even found a parking place close to the hotel.
By the time I got up to the room they were up and ready for action. Carlos was staying behind in order to fulfill his Mother's Day obligations. We piled into the car and went on our day trip exploration of Puerto Rico. We had asked a lot of questions and decided on a number of places we wanted to visit: the ceremonial grounds of the indigenous people, the rural back country, the panoramas available in the mountains, and of course some beautiful beaches. We had a plan to do it all in one day. Now, all we had to do was implement that plan.
We drove along the north coast following a large highway into what quickly became a beautiful lush countryside, a type of terrain we had yet to experience in Puerto Rico. Anthony was, as usual, hungry, so we looked for a place to have a late breakfast that was not typical American fast food. We found a place called "Burger City" which did not conform to its name, and seemed to be a more indigenous version of fast food. I saw they had plantains and rice and beans, so that was a beginning. I had some water while Anthony and Jackie all had some real food. I love being out of the city, because we were finally in a situation where a more "real" culture could leak through, as locals and others came through the establishment while they finished cooking Anthony's food. It was good, but it wasn't fast.
We piled back into the car and headed off west again, until we reached the highway where we were to turn south and go into the mountains. Our goal was to go to the indigenous celebration grounds at Utuado, a place I had heard so much about. As we climbed into the mountains we saw them as their own reward, beautiful and stark, covered with lush vegetation and beautiful trees, both deciduous and tropical. The road became progressively smaller until we were on a simple two lane road winding our way up towards Utuado.
When we arrived at Utuado we were disappointed to find that the installation was closed for Sunday, Mother's Day. We decided to at least explore the beautiful countryside. The roads were intensely winding at extreme angles, winding along ridges amidst a frolic of greenery.
Jackie had located some small roads indicated on the map as "panoramico" and we decided that sounded good. As we were on our way we passed by a small watering hole (bar) that had a spectacular view of a huge valley from its cliffside location. We pulled in and found what seems to be in every small bar in Puerto Rico, a pool table. We ordered some beers and started to play, taking time between shots to look out over the valley. I beat Anthony, and then I beat Jackie, although he is clearly the better player than I am. It was during this game someone else entered the bar, a man named Willy. He had a beer and then offered to play the winner. When I won I encouraged him to play Jackie instead. They had a fine competitive game and I honestly can't remember whether Willy or Jackie won. Willy was ready for another game, but we sensed it was time to move on. We piled back in the car and headed down into the valley, looking for the panoramic route that would take us up the mountains on the other side of the valley and eventually down to the ocean again.
| WILLIE AND JACKIE PLAY AND POSE |
To say the route we found was 'panoramic' would be an understatement. The narrow roads went up and down steeply, and then would plop us down on a remarkable vantage point over the terrain spreading out below us. We slowly made our way along the mountains and over the valleys, until finally we began making our way down towards the ocean.
The terrain seemed to change as soon as we crossed the ridge of the mountains, become drier and less lush, with more grass and less dense vegetation. As we continued to descend we noticed that it became more and more dry, with a few cactus growing here and there.
We rejoined a major highway and made our way west until we arrive at our exit, a road that would take us to what we were told is an impressive collection of beautiful beaches. As we made our way along the tiny road towards the beaches we saw numerous and beautiful coves and rocky points, and even a few wonderful beaches. But, we were told to continue on until we reached a place called Playa de las Ballenas, Whale beach.
We knew we had arrived when all of a sudden we were driving along one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. We stopped the car and set a time to meet back at the car and went off exploring. I walked down the beach and admired the lovely vistas. I took some time to sit on an old log and try and determine whether the tide was going in or out. It was coming in, I decided after a long time of watching. I waded a bit, but Jackie noted that a very strong undertow did indicate some dangerous swimming. The beach was very clean and had an excellent array of shells. Perhaps you have seen my shell collection? I keep them on beaches all over the world [Joke courtesy of Jim Wade].
The beach was enchanting, and made me think about time. Things have been the same on that beach for a long, long time. Likewise I had thoughts about space. Looking off the coast, south into the Caribbean, as towering clouds came scudding in from a huge distance, I was again reminded about how huge the world is, not to mention the universe, and how small we really are. Here I was, in Puerto Rico, trying to promote international debating, and it is all such a tiny part of the life of the world. I love the way communing with nature makes we feel small and short lived.
Our time was up and we met back at the car. Both Jackie and Anthony were hungry, so we headed into a small town looking for a local place to eat (not plastic fast food along the main highway), and soon found a small shop that obviously was not a chain or franchise. I ordered lasagna, and realized that there really is a sort of Puerto Rican lasagna. It has lots of meat and not very much tomato sauce, but is spicy without the sauce. I loved it.
As we drove away towards the highway and a return to San Juan, the sun began to set and the passengers began to nod off. Every debate coach should make sure to be very skilled at driving long distances while everyone else in the vehicle is asleep. We encountered a lot of traffic as people returned home at the end of Mother's Day, but it only slowed us down a little, and we never really got into a real traffic jam.
By the time we arrived back at the hotel Anthony and Jackie were rested and I was tired. Carlos met us at the hotel, and we decided that it might be better to stay up all night (and sleep on the plane) rather than go to sleep only to have to get up at 3 AM to catch our 6 AM flight. We decided that we would leave after the "night out" was over and Carlos could drive us to the airport and drop us there.
So, Anthony, Carlos, and Jackie went out to play some pool and I read a bit and then nodded off to sleep. I was tired because I drove home from the other end of the island, but I don't mind. I like driving. You really see the scenery.
The boys coming in at about 3:30 AM awakened me. We started throwing things into bags and were soon on our way downstairs. I checked out of the hotel and we all piled into Carlos' swank silver SUV. It was absurdly early, and I kept thinking about how early we had been to the airport both times on this trip. I had actually been at LaGuardia at 4:30 AM for our flight to Puerto Rico, and here I was about to arrive at the San Juan airport at about 4:45 AM. That is a new record for being at the airport (except when one has been there all night) in my rather long debate career.
Nothing was open, then Spirit Airlines opened first to let us check in. Soon thereafter the McDonald's opened and I discovered that they did not have Egg McMuffin, but instead had a local sandwich called a McCriollo. I soon learned that this traditional Puerto Rican sandwich is ham and cheese.
The trip home was a nightmare so I shall not dwell on it. Needless to say, we flew to Fort Lauderdale, had to wait there to take off because of LaGuardia traffic, took off from Fort Lauderdale, then had to return to Fort Lauderdale because we had bags that did not match people on board, then we got off at Fort Lauderdale and waited while rainstorms delayed LaGuardia. Finally in the air on our way to NYC, we then circled the city for another hour until we got permission to land.
Upon landing I rushed to get my car, and had to walk all over in the rain to find it, discovered my window had been left open by one of my passengers (I'll make them sit on the wet spot), and then drove into a huge traffic jam to pick them up from the arrival area.
We finally got everything into my VW bug and made our way slowly out of NYC during rush hour. It kept raining hard. It rained hard all the way home to Vermont. Once again, I got to use my skill as a driver while others slept. But, I liked it because I felt safe.
Luis, Gonzalo, and Cristian, congratulations on your title, and making Chile the first Latin American country to have two awesome debate schools. Hey Gonzalo, be careful of politics!
Francisco, Francisco, and Jose from ETEA/Cordoba, thanks for your fine debating and for sharing a camera so well. Nice matching suits on day 2!
Madelaine Ruiz, Universidad Nuestra Senora de La Paz, Bolivia, thank you so much for your excellent questions, your judging, and the gift of the Bolivian lapel pin. I hope to work with you in the future.
Patricia and Gabriela, from Bolivia, keep being true to yourself and keep on learning and you will succeed.
Stephan and Pamela, Diego Portales, thanks for being so friendly and so welcoming, and for helping me with my Spanish. I know I will see great things from you in the future.
Benito Escobar, you are the real 21st century debate professional. With great priorities and a flair for style and presentation, your efforts to promote debate through the Hispanic world will succeed.
Antonio and Jesus from Compostela, you are amazing speakers and debaters, and I hope to work with you some time soon. Let's stay in touch.
Carlos Navia, I admire your serious and professional approach to debate. You represent an impressive Spanish debate community with distinction.
Eva and Anabella, Universidad Americana de Nicaragua, I appreciate your friendship and cooperation. I look forward to bringing debaters to Nicaragua in the future, and to welcome you and your students to America whenever I can.
Victoria and Mayling, you are fantastic debaters with immense abilities, and I urge you to use those powers for the good of all in your country and in the world. See you in Managua or Vermont!
Frank and Felix, Interamericana, I really appreciated your dedication and your support. Great job by Felix, just like last year, and Frank will get even better.
Pedro Perez, you made my trip so much easier and more convenient. Be yourself and speak your mind. I love your spirit of Puerto Rico libre!
Maria Rosso, for making this all possible. You were the most important person in this entire effort. Everyone knows that. Thank you for being my friend.
Profs. Zeno and Murray, my new colleagues and friends. Now we have to plan to further our cooperative relationships.
I want to recognize President Fernos of Interamericana and all of his administration, who worked so hard on this project.
A new, talented, and resilient debate community is growing in the Hispanic world. The beautiful language of Cervantes is now being used in the great debate traditions of humanity, and offering a new and important voice.
As each of our nations becomes more engaged with each other, and as the USA recognizes that its Hispanic citizens and residents should join the debate, these efforts can and should grow and flourish.
We need to continue working towards that goal, and I hope the third Torneo Hispanoamericano de Debate and other events will pave the way for this.