Wednesday, August 27, 2008

John McCain & Daddy Yankee

video

I hope you're sitting down for this, because this might potentially give your system a bit of a jolt... Yes, Daddy Yankee officially endorses John McCain for the presidency. Why? Well, he certainly didn't say much but did mention how he agrees with McCain's stance on immigration. By the way, in case you don't know who Daddy Yankee is, he's a huge reggaeton star who hails from... you guessed it, Puerto Rico! He's is also the singer who has taught many non-Spanish speakers how to say the word. gasolina (gasoline, in English), which is from one of his earliest hits.

Just simply take a look at this video and you'll notice how awkward McCain looks when he began to introduce his special guest. I couldn't help but chuckle when he mentioned that Daddy Yankee has been married for 15 years and that he embodies a great American success story. Can you just smell the sense of desperation which McCain is living with? Of course, reaching out to the Latino community is extremely crucial, as it is a rapidly growing segment of the U.S population. So, Daddy Yankee's endorsement might influence some young Latino voters. Anyhow, who would have thought that Daddy Yankee was such a huge fan of McCain? I'd say McCain needs to start listening to a bit more of reggaeton though. Hearing him say "gasolina" made me cringe just a bit.

(Video Source: www.necn.com)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Congrats to Keeth Smart!

"This guy looks so familiar," I thought to myself as I was staring into the TV screen. Then, I heard the reporter say: "you graduated from Brooklyn Tech." Aha! Bingo! I went to high school with this guy! So, who is Keeth Smart? He's isn't just an Olympic athlete who recently won a silver medal in fencing, he's actually a very impressive world class fencer.
Keeth probably doesn't remember me at all, but I am so happy for him. It was just so random how I found a high school classmate of mine, not on Facebook, but during a TV interview for his participation in the Olympics! How amazing is that? Whether or not you get to win a medal, going to the Olympics is something every athlete should be proud of. Of course, medaling is icing on the cake. Congrats Keeth! Your perserverence, hard work and dedication has paid off!

(Photo Credit: NBC4 Beijing Olympics)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Puerto Rico's Top 5 Must See and Do

We had some visitors in town for the past few days, and it was fun showing them around the island. So, I just came up with the idea of compiling a list of my top 5 things to see and do in Puerto Rico. I'll start from the bottom and work my way up...

Fifth Place: El Yunque Rainforest. It's located about 45 minutes or so from San Juan and is definitely worth a visit, especially if you've never been to a rainforest before. There are quite a few hiking trails, some which lead you to pretty waterfalls. Just a word of caution, most people either join tour groups (for those who choose not to rent a car) or explore on their own. The latter is probably the best option. Although there are, supposedly, park rangers who can provide guided tours, I don't believe they're reliable. Oh, if you drive, admission to the park is absolutely free!

Fourth Place: Museo Castillo Serrallés, and Ponce. This beautiful attraction is located in the southern city of Ponce, which is about an hour drive from San Juan. It was home to the Serrallés family, founders of the distillery which brought us the Don Q rum. You must join a tour in order to see the interior of the museum. If you have the time, I would highly suggest you to just go ahead and join the tour! The tour guide will explain to you the history of the house, which is both interesting and fascinating. Afterwards, be sure to go visit Ponce's town center, where you'll find Parque de Las Bombas. One last thing, you must try the ice cream at King's Cream!

Third Place: Viejo San Juan. It's safe to say that you've never been to Puerto Rico if you've never been to Viejo San Juan. Despite the presence of Payless Shoes and McDonald's, it's still a great place to enjoy Spanish colonial architecture in all its glory. There are many art galleries, museums and historic places to see. The most famous include El Morro and the San Cristóbal Fort. On certain days, when the cruiseships come to shore, you'll find Viejo San Juan filled with tourists. Unfortunately, some buildings are in desperate need of repair, but it's still a really charming place to explore. I love the narrow, cobblestone streets because it just transports you back into a completely different era... of the horse and buggy!

Second Place: Playa Flamingo, Culebra Island. This is absolutely my favorite beach in Puerto Rico. White-sandy beaches and clear blue water, it's heaven on earth! Culebra is a tiny island which lies to the East, and takes about an hour and a half by ferry from Fajardo. Culebra is such a wonderful little gem. Rustic, uncommercialized and laid-back, it is the perfect place to get away from it all. Just a word of advice, if possible, do avoid going on weekends. This is when it gets really crowded on the ferries, and it's also quite difficult to get tickets. Do try to plan ahead if you can. If you have the time, try to spend at least a night here.

First Place: Sun Bay Beach, Vieques. Before I go any further about this fantastic beach, I must say I'm completely biased on this one. I won't go into details, but this is a really special place for me. This is a great beach to swim, as there aren't normally too many waves. Like Culebra, I would recommend coming here during the week. There are more ferries going to Vieques, but it's still quite difficult to get tickets during the weekend. This is especially true during the summer. The ferries going to Vieques also leave from Fajardo. Kayaking in the bioluminescent bay, I've been told, is a lot of fun. However, if you're looking for an active nightlife scene, neither Vieques nor Culebra would probably be for you. What I love most about the beaches in both islands is the tranquility.

(Photo credits: Culebra, www.gotopuertorico.org, Vieques, wikipedia.org)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Obesity in Puerto Rico

Did you know that roughly 65% of the population of Puerto Rico is obese? According to a recent study I read in the local paper (note: it's in Spanish) an estimated 97% of those living in the Island of Echantment will encounter weight-related health problems by 2025. Eating fast food, having a sedentary lifestyle, and owning a car, among many other factors, makes it quite difficult to be healthy. In the battle of the bulges, the U.S is probably the first country which comes to mind, but Puerto Rico is actually much worse. In fact, having an obesity rate of 30.6% makes the U.S look skinny.

If you've ever visited Puerto Rico, you'll easily recognize this problem of obesity. Unfortunately, I don't think people realize the consequences of being heavy. Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and respiratory problems, are just some of the life-threatening illnesses which may result from being obese. Obviously, adopting a healthy lifestyle does require a lot of effort and discipline. Sadly, hardly anyone ever walks here. Moreover, many people prefer to undergo gastric bypass surgery. Recently, the local government passed a law which actually requires health insurance companies to cover this procedure. Isn't it sad when people choose to go under the knife, instead of just eating less and excercising more?

Many things in life are easier said than done, I agree. However, one would think, each and everyone of us is responsible for our own health. Sadly, the truth of the matter is, obesity has become a serious public health issue throughout the world. Childhood obesity is especially of utmost concern. Roughly 30% of children and adolescents living in Puerto Rico suffer from weight problems. I suppose it would help if they have role models to look up to, not to mention spending more time off the couch. Watching the Olympics every night has left me inspired, especially seeing Michael Phelps work his magic. I sure hope that many others are inspired by him and start being more active!

(Photo Credit: Carla D. Martínez/El Nuevo Día)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Let the Games Begin!

Since this past Monday, the local papers have been intensely covering the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing, which officially kicks off after tomorrow's opening ceremonies. Although Puerto Rico is a Commonwealth of the U.S, it does have its very own delegation. The Island of Echantment was first recognized by the International Olympic Committee in 1948 and has won six bronze medals since then. Interestingly, all six were won in one single category... boxing! This year's delegation is at a mere 22 athletes, which would make it the smallest in the past 56 years. The previous Olympic Games in Athens, the delegation comprised of 43 athletes. So, what is the cause of this dramatic drop? Personally, I think Puerto Rico is too heavily focused on baseball, basketball and boxing. Yes, the three B's. On the other hand, some blame the intense competition in the international arena.

In my opinion, there's nothing better than watching athletes from all over the world compete in the olympic games. It's the commarderie and the spirit amongst the athletes which makes it interesting for all to see. I am also curious as to how the events will unfold during this year's games, as it is a symbol of China's desire to be considered as one of the superpowers of the world. Just watching the skirmishes during olympic torch relay made me wonder if the games were to take place at all. The whole issue of Tibet, human rights, and politics. Anyhow, I won't get into that. Regardless of all the controversies and issues surrounding this year's Olympic Games, I have no doubt in my mind that this will be one for the history books.


(Images obtained from the Official Website of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympic Games)

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Destination: Salinas, Puerto Rico

After several days of rain, the sun was back in full force today. It has been a while since our last road trip, so we decided it was time to go out for another adventure. This time, I chose Salinas
because I was in the mood for some seafood. For those of you who have never been to Salinas, it is in the southern part of Puerto Rico and it's a little less than an hour away from San Juan. It's a small, rugged little town known for its seafood restaurants.

This is my second time in Salinas. The last time I was there was on New Years' Day 2007. It was a ghost town, nothing was open but I always wanted to go back and try some of its seafood. All the restaurants and food vendors are a stone's throw away from the beach. We ate at a place that wasn't too bad. The paella we ordered wasn't the best, but the empanadillas we ordered were fantastic! Empanadillas are fried turnovers. We ordered two, one filled with lobster and the other with squid.

There are a lot of seafood restaurants throughout the island, but I would have to say that Puerto Rican cuisine is primarily focused on meat. It was a bit far traveling to Salinas just for seafood but I enjoyed every minute of it. I like discovering and exploring the little towns, with its pretty plazas and churches. It's as if you've stepped back into the past. What I liked about Salinas is how uncommercialized it is. You'll see a lot of small shacks selling empanadillas. It comes as no surprise why many boricuas come from all parts of the island to kick back and enjoy some good food.