An ordinary day in Puerto Rico

Today was an ordinary sort of day in Puerto Rico. Every day is completely different from every other but today was an ordinary sort of day. I woke up and walked to the post office where I found a key inside my PO Box. I do not know if they only do this in Puerto Rico or if they do this in other places but there was a key inside my box today and I thought it was lost in part because I thought the person who put my music books in that little box all folded around like that (or not, as the packaging had come undone, and it was quite clear that they were books) was probably the sort of person who might put a key in the wrong box. There was some kind of package in one of the bigger boxes for me today and I did not know that they put keys inside your box to help you retrieve items of yours in bigger ones. Of course having sheet music books bent around doesn’t really matter because you can straighten them out as much as you need to when you put them on the music stand but it made sense that someone who would fold up books and put it in a box because it technically fit when everything else sent to me I get picked up with slips left in my box.

I just wondered who would be up to this kind of mischief and it seems benign even though it could be true that some of my worst enemies have worked at the post office (on the mainland). Today there was a package of maybe one of the first vegan jerkys I ever tasted, called Pleather, and it was good and made me want to taste all the vegan jerky there is. I got lots of great groceries on Amazon and the post office is way closer than the grocery store so it’s a convenient way to shop especially since certain items are so much cheaper than you can find here. One of my cans of tikka masala had the tamper lid popped and I need to ask them to send me a new one.

It is fascinating thinking about where I will spend my time when the time I have left here is up but I wouldn’t mind going to India. Our housekeeper who comes in once or twice a week and is cool told me today how quiet it was getting around here and I agree and kind of like it. My housemate and I have been talking a lot about history, philosophy, sociology, Marcus Aurelius, Hegel, the future, and things like that, and today while we were walking down the street we continued the earlier conversation on birthrate and fertility rate. He mentioned that Puerto Rico has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world, 1.26 children per mother, which is just above South Korea, Hong Kong, and Singapore, followed by Japan (1.3), Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, and Germany (1.4).

We stopped at the ATM and then I was like ooh I am going to get ice cream at this ice cream shop and somehow I asked for piña y coca instead of piña y coco and I felt silly and then one of the girls behind the counter said piña colada in English and I made sure to pronounce *batida* because last time I tried to pronounce it they gave me a barquilla which I needed but still it is awkward. He was going to meet me at the first park across the street because he didn’t want ice cream. I walked over there and I commented about how you never see anyone go on public dates in Puerto Rico like in Mexico and Guatemala where you at least see people hanging out in ways that appear romantic but I have not seen a single person I have been able to decipher as having that experience.

He wanted to go to the store across the street where I never know what to say to this girl who I saw close the shop last night while I was walking by and it was very peaceful. I will try to say something and she will be like oh we don’t have it that way is that okay almost like she’s scared or something but no it’s me that’s scared and it’s always weird because even if I got a package of potato chips I’d be afraid she’d be like oh we don’t have it with the packages already open, is that okay? I feel like it is always going to be something no matter what I try to buy in there and I can never do anything right. Yesterday I heard someone say ‘lo que desea’ as I approached the counter to buy something or other and today I get about the only thing I get there which is bottles of Coke since I am afraid to even ask for potato chips as previously mentioned.

Today he tells me he is ordering something or other, what was it, but it was clearly not an empanada and I tell him, oh, what did you say, I thought you were getting an empanada. He said that he is and he thinks this other thing that is probably as different from an empanada as a tostada or a gordita is more or less the same thing as an empanada and I asked him what he got in it and he said ‘just chicken’ which is kind of funny because what is ‘just chicken’ in Latin America like can you imagine ordering a taco with ‘just chicken’, no, you order it with pollo asado or some such thing but you never get just chicken and yet the nuances are as lost on some folks as the distinction between downtown LA and downtown LA. I ask her for a Coke, hoping I used the correct Spanish but she always makes a subtle startling movement and is like oh no the way you want it isn’t available or something like that so today she took it out of the fridge behind the counter and gave it to me with the same sort of oh no is that okay thing warning that it is ‘caliente’ but why would Coke be hot and besides it was only room temperature so I was like ‘está bien’ to try to reassure her it was fine and I could just put it in the refrigerator.

Then while he was waiting for his ‘just chicken’ empanada I start telling him that I translated the first chapter of the book I got at the mall, a short ‘young adult’ novel by a Puerto Rican writer, and I don’t know if it has been translated into English, but I wanted to translate it into English. I found software that worked really well for me as far as keeping me on task and that let me do easy line by line translations and produce a text file that I could then work through to capture a literary translation of the text as a whole which was cool and I’d never done it before but it only took about an hour to feel like I’d translated the chapter in a satisfying way and then maybe 40 minutes to go over the text which is sort of like editing too and I feel like this service could help writers who are working on drafts of manuscripts see how they might improve their own writing for the final book. I worked out that based on the rate that I feel good charging (which is 7 cents lower than I imagined charging) I would have made $313 translating that chapter and then I realized that I have finally achieved the mark of an educated person which is to always make money by playing. I just have no idea how I could get this translation to her if it would be useful to her. I’m going to finish translating the book. It’s fun. I am happy with the translation and I feel like no one else could have translated it the same way. It didn’t feel like time working, it felt like time playing, and having a conversation with the author and the text.

As I was walking out I dropped my now empty smoothie cup and made a little circle. There were some people standing around and taking pictures by the colourful mural of the old fisherman with the actual Puerto Rican flag boat in front of it and if you look closely on top of it all is a sign for the funeral services businesses that inconspicuously surround where I am living though you can find a million other amazing views including views of the ocean and colourful houses on hillsides if you want to just let those buildings blend into the background. As I walked by I said that it was like an advertisement for the funeral services business and then when I walked up to my room I saw some people hanging out in front of that building for the first time ever seeming like they were having fun. It’s a family business so I guess they must be friends of the family. And so ends another ordinary day in Puerto Rico.

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