I’m back, with this amazing rainbow picture from my back porch in PR. A part of me hopes you noticed that I said I’d be gone a week, but it was two. Call it “Island Time,” and after my stay in Puerto Rico, I’ve gained a whole new perspective on it.
According to “Wictionary,” the internet dictionary that’s replaced the big heavy red book on the shelf, “island time” represents a lack of accountability, and is a somewhat derogatory slang for the tendency of islanders to be notedly “leisurely, not rigorous about scheduling, and often tardy.” Perhaps you’ve experienced it in some sort of minor vacation frustration, when things didn’t happen quickly and efficiently; though I think most observe, and even enjoy it, as a benign aspect of the tropical allure. Once back on the mainland, we get back to our own fast pace, the swing of things, and “real life.”
It’s definitely true. Things move slower. I had a lot of things to take care of while I was in Puerto Rico, and when the truck guy said he would fix the gear shaft on Tuesday, and didn’t actually get it done until the following Monday, it forced some pivoting. But this was the same guy who’d come a few days before and fixed my car on the spot without even charging me. Having been treated such, it was hard to be annoyed when he said each day he would be back that afternoon and wasn’t. In the end, he charged me just 80 bucks to replace a whole gear shaft.
Another aspect of “Island Time” people notice is a shorter work day. It’s not uncommon to see more labor intensive work end early with the hot afternoon sun; and this might suggest a lazy quality to the superficially observing leisurely traveller. But a visit to a mountain farm of a homebuilder named Don Luis, who had done some work on my property, shed more light. My mom, kids, and I were invited, an hour trip through windy hilly roads up to his land. It’s the same trip he and his son, Jaison, make each day down to their renovation projects in town by the beach. Up where they live, they have built most of the houses on their street, and many of his grown kids and family members live in them. Their farm has over 500 animals – horses, goats, peacocks, chickens, all the tropical flora you could imagine and so much more – that Don Luis, together with his kids and grandkids, must feed each morning, and again when they get back home. So when the heat of the day comes, and the vacationers from NY see Don Luis finish packing up his tools down in town, they probably don’t realize what’s next on his list for the day, or that he’s heading back up to the farm where he’ll spend quality (yet totally un-lazy) hours with his kids and grandkids tending to the earth and the animals.
Somehow, though he speaks almost no English, and I speak almost no Spanish, Don Luis was able to teach me that there is a lot more to “Island Time” than sitting back and cracking a beer. As we sat in his home, tripping over our broken spanglish, drinking farm-made rum “moonshine,” and chewing on branches of home grown sugar cane, he waved around at all of it, his beautiful and gracious wife, Sonia, their family all around them, their beautiful home in the mountains, their farm, and their land. And with the declaration “muy importante,” Don Luis taught me that “Island Time” is so much more.
This past Friday afternoon around 4:45pm, I closed my computer after my first week back in “real life.” But before I got up from my desk, I stopped, observed a raciness in my veins and a tightness in my chest, all resulting from my intense work week. And yet, as I sit here typing, I can’t even recall what the stress was that made all that cortisol flow. If it was that real you’d think I’d at least remember. It all makes me wonder. … Is it Don Luis who is actually the one who’s living the “real life?”
… Perhaps “Island Time” is the best kept secret of Puerto Rico.