The Immigration officer looked at our passports, asked us our names and then put the passports into a scanner. He tapped a few keys on the keyboard, handed us our passports and said “Welcome Home.” Those words jolted me because we were not home; we were in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and our last “foreign” port of call. It didn’t look like home, it didn’t feel like home and I didn’t want it to be home. Don’t rob me of three days of my vacation! But, in a sense, it was home, the familiar bureaucratic signs saying the familiar bureaucratic phrases in the familiar bureaucratic type face. The same flag and the same uniform, the only difference was, on the signs, Spanish was first but English soon followed. The immigration officer didn’t even use Spanish first.
On the left hand corner of my phone it said “ATT ●●●◌◌ LTE” not something Like “AFRILINK●◌◌◌◌ E.” I had turned off roaming. My wallet had only dollars. In a sense we were home, but more in the halfway house home. (Although living in Alaska Fort Lauderdale could that purpose equally well.)
On shore we teamed up with some others to fill a van and take a tour outside the confines of old San Juan. We needed to get a little out of walking distance because there were three cruise ships in town, the other two so huge that it looked like they had two condos buildings on the deck, side by side, with an mall and a multi-story water slide running down the middle. Sitka hasn’t seen such ships yet. They hold thousands. It looks like most people have balcony rooms although only half of them see the sea; the others look inward to a courtyard. The good thing was they both were leaving by 3:30 and we were staying until 11. When the rising tide of tourists started to ebb we had some time to enjoy old town San Juan.
It was foreign but familiar. I’m used to foreign and familiar, foreign and familiar have a certain language, or I should say several certain languages, Albanian and Serbian. I kept referring to old town as “stari grad” or tried to buy a coke with “du coka ju lutem” freely mixing Serbian with Albanian (something, by the way, I would never do in either country.) I try to say thank you? “Havala Vam, oh, I’m sorry falimendarit. I didn’t have this problem at other stops. I was confused. Perhaps I do need to get home.
We had a wonderful day in San Juan with temps in the high 70s and low 80s. There will be more posts from San Juan.