[Puerto Rico] Toro Verde Zip-line Adventure

Zip-lining Puerto Rico Toro Verde

Haven’t we all, at some point, wished we could fly? I know that was always my super power of choice when I was a little kid, you know, like Peter Pan and stuff. Still, with age, I have developed a sometimes irrational fear of heights. I even get the jiggles if I get too close to the bars of a balcony, even if it’s not that high.

This month, I got to channel my inner child and fearless Girl Scout spirit while zip-lining at Toro Verde in Puerto Rico. Toro Verde is an adventure park in the middle of the mountains (Orocovis, to be exact). I actually did not know that there are more miles of zip-line cables in this adventure park than any other park in the world!

Puerto Rico Toro Verde

If you are visiting Puerto Rico, Toro Verde is a must. Not only do you get to experience some thrill, but there is also so much beauty to take in and delicious food to eat along the way (more on that soon!).

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I recommend you keep an eye out for flash deals that regularly come up for the adventure packages. Either way, the money you pay is worth it. I did the regular zip-line tour ending with “La Bestia” (The Beast).

Last (and only) time I did zip-lining was in Costa Rica in 2004. I don’t recall it having been challenging. This time for me, the first cables were the hardest (although they are technically the easiest). I was nervous and afraid, what if my long hair got stuck on the cable?! What if I accidentally put my fingers in the wrong spot and they got chopped off by the equipment?! These were my fears. My mother’s fears were more along the lines of “What if I fall?!” – I guess that made more sense. I honestly did not even fear the heights on the first few because I was so focused on looking at the cable that I did not even look down.

Zip-lining Puerto Rico Toro Verde

Then, it was time for la bestia (cue for roar). The beast is the highest and second longest cable in the world. I believe the tour guide mentioned that the longest one is in South Africa, but don’t quote me on that.

Zip-lining Puerto Rico Toro Verde

You get all prepped up and told you will be laying face down and flying all the way to the other side for like a minute and a half. It seemed scary, but once I was in the harness waiting my turn, all I felt was peace. It was SO weird to feel calm and steady when I was diving across unknown heights in the middle of the mountains. I did not have to worry about any cables because I was going to be lying down so I was like, poof, no worries here!

They pushed me and so I started flying. What a freaking fabulous feeling. I was a bird. Like, as much as a bird as a human can be. I felt the wind on my face as I was zipping around and I was able to take in all the beautiful sights around me. There was a little river, I saw some birds flying near by, it was all wonderful. All I could think was how amazing it felt to be so close with nature and fly. I also thought, damn, I wish I had a GoPro strapped up on my helmet!

Zip-lining Puerto Rico Toro Verde

Seriously, if you are ever in Puerto Rico, experience the beast. It’s breath-taking and I would even consider it a therapy session. I had forgotten the thrilling sensation of facing your fears and the adrenaline rush that comes with it. Big thanks to our tour guides (pictured above) they really took us through this adventure and always made sure we were comfortable, safe and having fun!

Puerto Rico Toro Verde

P.S. Zip-lining: When you learn the value of fanny packs.

Porque yo escribo en inglés…

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Nunca he escrito en español en este blog. Es más, dado a algunos cambios en mi trabajo, no recuerdo la última vez que escribí algo completamente en español más largo que un simple “post”.

Es interesante ver como poco a poco las cosas van cambiando tan lentamente que no te das cuenta hasta que te detienes a mirar atrás. Me gustaría decir que hablo español todos los días y me parece que todavía es así. A pesar de tener un novio gringo (no se preocupen, se lo digo de cariño), vivir en los Estados Unidos y trabajar en una oficina donde casi ni el 1% habla español, todavía encuentro la manera de ejercitar mi lengua materna que llevo en la sangre.

Siempre me ha gustado escribir, en español y en inglés, dependiendo del tiempo o la inspiración. Pero cuando comencé este blog elegí el inglés porque hay mucha gente especial en mi vida que no podría entender mis escritos en español y pues la verdad del caso es que con el inglés llego a más gente. Con esa excusa, por más cierta que sea, he ido poco a poco elevando el inglés más allá del español. Es un poco triste y a veces me da vergüenza, pero ha sido un poco necesario.

Por ejemplo, he pensado hacer una mini serie de escritos en español como dos veces al mes para resaltar lo bueno de Puerto Rico. Parte de lo que me apasiona sobre esa opción es compartir lo bueno que tenemos con personas que no conocen mucho a Puerto Rico. ¿Qué pasa? Ninguna de las personas a mi alrededor me va a entender.

Así termino yo escribiendo en inglés, pensando como rayos explicar lo que es un mofongo o buscando la palabra ideal para traducir patria. Termino envuelta en un “spanglish” que suena ridículo porque poco a poco se me hace más difícil encontrar palabritas en español y es mucho más rápido decirlas en inglés, porque el puertorriqueño siempre me va a entender si hablo español con palabras en inglés, pero el americano no me va a comprender cuando en medio de una oración me tiro la palabra colcha (ha pasado).

Mi inglés se ha vuelto mucho más profesional por necesidad, de eso depende mi cheque y oye, no lo resiento. Me siento orgullosa de poder decir que mi inglés es mejor que el de muchas personas que solamente hablan inglés (por más triste que suene y por más imperfecto que sea mi propio inglés). Cuando se trata del español, por más que lo tenga en la sangre, es como hacer ejercicios. Hacer el aguaje con varias conversaciones por teléfono no es suficiente. Hay que mantenerlo vivo con ganas.

Por eso es que al fin y al cabo, terminé escribiendo este post. Aunque solo me entiendan ustedes, también lo hago por mí. Porque no solo pienso en la medalla de español que me gané en mi graduación cogiendo polvo ahí en mi closet en Puerto Rico, pero también pienso en todos mis compatriotas que también andan por aquí lejitos conmigo. Pónganse a ver películas en español o a leer noticias en español de vez en cuando pa’ ejercitarse. Ya saben, no hay cosa que más moleste que un “status” de Facebook mal escrito y sin ningún tipo de aportación a esta sociedad que tanto necesita.

*Photo by Cristina Nogueras ©

Wordless Wednesday: Adoquines

IMG_2011Catching the colors of Old San Juan while capturing that warm light of a late afternoon. Old city of wonders, with la Fortaleza creeping its blue on the back.

Photo by Cristina Nogueras

Un Poquito de Sazón

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Puerto Rican food is amazing.

I grew up eating rice and beans with almost every single meal. All my meals were full of flavor and color (although I probably did not add green into the mix until I was older). I grew up expecting some sort of plantain as a side and wondered how people could ever eat anything else. Nothing said comfort like the smell of delicious food coming from my kitchen, whether it was my mom’s doing, my grandma’s creation, or a whole family effort for a special occasion.

I love all sorts of food, serve me a plate of pasta and I’m sold. Put a sushi boat in front of me and watch it sink into my belly. Living in New York City, you get spoiled with food. You are able to tour the whole world, one plate at a time and that, my friends, is the dream.

Still, Puerto Rican food is at my core. It’s the bite that makes me feel at home even when I’m a thousand miles away, that’s where the inspiration for this piece came from. I have a brand new kitchen (which I’m loving, by the way) and I wanted to bring in a little bit of home into the mix. I looked at some cool prints from Etsy but then I realized I could easily do this myself. So I bought a frame, made a list, printed it out and done.

Here’s a little bit of background into what each of these mean…

Sofrito – This is the essence behind pretty much every single Puerto Rican plate. I’ve always thought about sofrito as that weird green paste that my grandma made. Mix some garlic, peppers, onnions and God knows what else and you get sofrito!

Adobo – People make fun of Puerto Ricans because apparently we use a lot of adobo (as seen on this Vine, which I actually love). But hey, adobo is awesome so no shame there. This special seasoning is used on anything from chicken to scrambled eggs. It’s better than your average salt and pepper, but that’s just my humble opinion.

Mamposteao – If rice and beans is not a wonder on its own, this takes it to the next level. Take your average rice and beans, mix it with your choice of anything from onions to sweet plantains, do some magic and you’ve got yourself a nice mix.

Pegao – Pegao is that crunchy, almost burned rice that’s stuck to the bottom of the pan when you’re making rice. Not exactly what the dentist ordered, but oh my, it’s good. Some people may see it as a mistake to burn the rice, but in my house people actually fight for that special bottom.

Sazón – What helps make yellow rice yellow? Sazón. This special seasoning brings a lot of flavor to the plate. It’s also used for non-food references when you want to state that something needs that extra little something, or sazón.

Bacalaito – Bacalaitos are hard to describe, my first attempt sounded too gross, but trust me, they are awesome. Thanks to Wikipedia, I can now better describe them as salt cod pancake like fritters. Think less pancake and more fried, way more fried. Still a little gross, but give it a try.

Pastelón – Imagine a lasagna but instead of pasta, you use sweet plantains and then you add all that ground beef in between (no salsa). This is, of course, served with rice and beans. Again, not so sexy when I write it, but so delicious.

So, one thing is clear. I’m definitely not fit for writing a Puerto Rican cuisine dictionary but I can attempt to make words look pretty in a piece of paper. To strangers, it looks exotic and that’s cool, right? To me, it looks like home and that’s all I need.

Beyond the lens

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I rarely post a picture of Puerto Rico in black and white because I feel like my little island is always screaming colors and igniting positive emotions. Still, I really like this edit of one of the shots I took during my recent trip home. It keeps things real, even if it’s a filter. Even paradise can seem black and white sometimes and even the most picturesque views can hide struggles beyond what your lens can capture. Brighter and more colorful days are in store for my island, that’s just the way it has to be. Even in this somber look, my island still looks beautiful.

 

(Photo and edits by Cristina Nogueras)

 

 

Las Canarias

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I don’t want to stress about anything today. Not only is it Friday (yey) but I feel like I’ve been surrounded by so much stress lately, that it is my responsibility to chill out, just like the little bug on this flower.

Growing up in Puerto Rico I loved this flower, “canaria”, how I’ve always known it. Its bright yellow always brought out the best of its surroundings. I loved to play with them, I would put them in my hair and got so excited every time my grandma had some in her garden.

It’s funny because if you ask me what my favorite flower is, I wouldn’t say the “canaria”. I would most likely choose sunflowers or tulips, but still, this little yellow flower makes me so happy in a way that it’s so simple, some might find silly.

I was pissed that the little bug made it into my picture and I did not notice it until later when I could not retake it. But you know what? Good for you, little bug. You stay there and chill in that awesome flower.

So there it goes, that was me, not stressing out about things and trying not to dig too deep into my thoughts for a moment.

It’s Friday, let’s all chill and be happy.

Wordless Wednesday: Lost Feather

IMG_1136A feather in the ground looks broken, lost and pointless. Showcase it against an amazing background and watch it come to life. How humans can live without nature is beyond me. Concrete jungles are fun and exciting, I get it, but I can’t stay away from these colors for too long. My mind and soul crave green, even if it’s a walk through the park. You know you may have been living in a city for too long when you get excited about a little pretty feather.

It’s called enchanted island for a reason

Just in case I don’t give you enough reasons to visit Puerto Rico on a regular basis, this video by Javier Letour should do it. It’s sweet torture for me right now, facing this bitter New York winter and counting the days until I can return to my one true home. Enjoy!

Wordless Wednesday: Adoquines

IMG_1344He patiently waits while I capture all the corners of the streets of Old San Juan, guarding my camera bag like a good sport, happily contemplating the beauty of this island we now get to explore together.

 

[Old San Juan] Castillo San Felipe del Morro

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I was listening to Ricky Martin’s new album on Spotify today (you know, as you do on your average Wednesday) and although I wasn’t quite blown away by the album, a special track really hit the spot. “Isla Bella” (which you can listen to here) is a song for all of those Puerto Ricans (like me) who are currently living away from the island but miss it sorely and attribute who they are to their roots.

I love New York, I do, but when you are from a place like Puerto Rico, it’s really hard to compare. There’s a reason why we love to brag about it, it’s really paradise and I am beyond proud to call Puerto Rico by true home.

Anyways, let’s not get too nostalgic over here, I shall be back soon enough.

Why not take this chance to share some more pictures from my last trip to Old San Juan? Go ahead, you say? Thank you.

All these pictures are from el Castillo San Felipe del Morro in Old San Juan, more commonly know as just “El Morro”.

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