NewToPuertoRico.com

The ins and outs of living in Puerto Rico

July 10, 2016
by Jay-Webmaster
4 Comments

Why you should enroll your children in a local school

Image Source: pr.gov

Image Source: pr.gov

Hello everyone,

In this post I want to give you some personal accounts and explain to you why you should enroll your children in a local school here in Puerto Rico. Although I must admit that I am a bit biased and would prefer private over public schools, there are a few select schools that I would enroll my own children.

*Full disclosure* I home-school my children but it is primarily because I cannot afford private schooling in the area and because they are not equipped to deal with kids with Celiac Disease, among other things. I will go into that and more in another post, but the gist of it is that if I could/would enroll my children in a local school, it would be a private (or one of a few select public) school. For those of you who are moving here with the armed forces, my answer is no, I would not enroll my children in either the Buchanan or Ramey schools, I am VERY familiar with those schools and their programs, and yes they are good in some ways, but I do not recommend them.

So why is that? Why do I recommend a local, mainly private school? Well, the main reason is the language. I cannot stress this enough, it would be a disservice to your children if they do not take the opportunity while they are here in Puerto Rico to learn Spanish. You think it is not all about learning Spanish? Think again. I see it over and over again, employers passing on some other very qualified potential employees graduated from prestigious schools and colleges with really good GPAs, instead they hire the other applicant who may or may not have graduated with the best GPA and from the best school, but he/she speaks Spanish. I see it all the time, and I am seeing it even more now. There are actually state government officials coming from the US for the sole purpose of recruiting bilingual teachers, police officers, and many other positions, getting paid higher wages than their English-only speaking counterparts.

I was on clasificadosonline.com today looking for part time jobs. I was surprised that there was an ad for a lawn mowing and gardening job that required employees to be bilingual! And this was no fluke, over and over again I saw just about every job out there requiring fluency in both English and Spanish! So, trust me, if you are here for a short amount of time or you are planning on staying here long term, I HIGHLY recommend that you immerse your children in a Spanish speaking school.

I generally (not always) recommend private over public, there are many very good private schools which are affordable for most families. Be careful with the “Bilingual” schools though because normally the kids in those schools know enough English to speak only English to your children on top of the fact that most subjects will be taught in English and therefore making it very difficult for you child to learn Spanish. However, those schools may be a good bridge between English and Spanish.

What about Buchanan or Ramey? Well, although my personal experience has been limited to the elementary level, I have seen kids that knew no English at all at Pre-K to knowing no Spanish at all by the end of First grade, Honest. It is because once you reach first grade, Spanish it literally forbidden from all classrooms. All the kids that knew no English learned English, but no kid learned Spanish. However, there is a Spanish class in middle and high school, but it is only one class and trust me it is not enough. I met so many people that took 4 years of Spanish and learned nothing more than “Hola” and “Me llamo John”. I have also met many kids that went from Kinder through 12th grade at those schools and learn so little Spanish that they had to go to College in the US. Not to mention, there are so many things I disagree with their system that I won’t get into here, maybe a different post, but there are a lot. Having said that, there are some exceptions, not all is bad and not all kids end up knowing only one language, I do know one girl that is bilingual and graduated from Buchanan, she however spent 6th through 9th grade in a local public school.

Your children will get a good education from just about any local private school. Even though I do have friends that went to public schools, they admitted that they felt somewhat lost once they got to college and they needed to adjust, but for me and many others who went to private schools, the transition to college was pretty seamless. If you are afraid that your child is too old to be immersed in a Spanish speaking school, there are programs that help with that so that your child can learn Spanish at a different pace until he/she is up to speed.

So please, trust me on this. Learning Spanish is imperative, and if you are here for the short or long term, take the opportunity to learn it. Your children will be much better off being bilingual. Enroll your children in a local school here in Puerto Rico and immerse them in the local language and culture. Kids here are very accepting of others and they will meet new friends and do just as well here as anywhere else.

Take Care.

 

May 24, 2016
by Jay-Webmaster
0 comments

Family and Dog Park in San Juan

Luis Muñoz Marín Park

A great family and dog park in San Juan

Always bring bags to clean up after your dog! But, if you forget, they have these stations scattered around the park!

Always bring bags to clean up after your dog! But, if you forget, they have these stations scattered around the park!

In case you didn’t know, Puerto Rico is not the most dog friendly place in the world. There are very few dog parks here, and in most other parks dogs are not allowed, even on a leash. However, the Luis Muñoz Marín Park in San Juan just got remodeled and it is now arguably the best family and dog park in San Juan.

This is not to say that the park is the best there is anywhere, or that it is all that great either, I mean, it’s nice, and possibly the best I’ve been to here in San Juan, but it does have its drawbacks. But, the truth is that this park is MUCH better than it used to be, the city invested millions of dollars in it and it is a park that so many people liked so much that the reservations for birthdays are booked 6 months out! BTW, the cost to rest a gazebo for a day ranges from $50 to $250 depending on the size and people you want to invite.

As of this writing, the Luis Muñoz Marín park is not finished. They are still remodeling some gazebos and play areas, but it now has 3 small areas where the dogs can be off-leash (they can be on a leash anywhere in the park), it has a spider-y looking thing to climb on, some playgrounds for little kids, paved paths for running or riding a bike, and a water-sprinkler area to cool off! They are also still in the process of remodeling a small funicular type thing that will take you from one end of the park to the other.

I was actually most impressed with the brand new bathrooms! They are nice! You see, last time I came here this park was a sad joke, and believe it or not, the bathrooms were in such bad shape that they were CLOSED! I couldn’t believe it! But now we have brand new and nice bathrooms!

So, like I mentioned above, there are some drawbacks and I will talk about them here.

-You have to pay to get in. The cost is $3 per adult and $2 per child, dogs are free.

-People without dogs are allowed in the off-leash dog area. This really annoyed me. I went there with my dogs and I had to deal with 50 or so kids and their parents wanting to take pictures and hold my dogs while I was there. Here I was trying to play with my dogs, have them run free and play with other dogs and I had to deal with people who were allowed to get into the dog area wanting to take selfies and other pictures with my dogs. It’s ok if it were a few, but I think 50 people in a matter of an hour or so was a very conservative estimate.

There are 3 small areas where dogs can be off-leash, one has a small area to cool off and some fun things, the other 2 are small round areas mostly used for dog training.

-They don’t open on Mondays and Tuesdays. Those days are the ones that I would be most likely to go, but the park is only open from Wednesdays to Sundays.

-The playgrounds available are for kids under 5 years of age OR older than 8, if you have a 6 or 7 year old, he/she would not be able to go on the spider-y thing (it’s for kids 8 or older) and the other things in the playgrounds are for kids under 5, which will be too “baby” for a 6 or 7 year old.

This is lots of fun to climb but it is for kids 8 and over.

– Another drawback is that parking is limited. Given the excitement of this newly remodeled park, the park gets really full, and there is limited parking spaces, so if you’re late you’ll have to park somewhere outside the park and have them shuttle you to the park.

 

Even with these drawbacks I like to come here with my family. I try to come over during the weekdays and as soon as they open, which is 10 AM, that way there are less people and only a few dogs, which leaves plenty of space for the dogs to run and play. There are also some areas for the kids to just run ans play in the large grassy areas, there is even a life-size chess board, some sort of life-size board game which we played with a random dice app on my phone, and also a large tic-tac-toe. It is a fun time. Once it gets really hot you can cool off in the sprinklers area before heading home. I like it and I will return. I recommend this park.

 

Click here for the location of the Luis Muñoz Marín Park.

Coordinates are (18.4110728, -66.0723755)

Now for a couple more pictures.

I used a dice app on my phone and played this game with the kids, it was fun!

I used a dice app on my phone and played this game with the kids, it was fun!

These sprinklers are particularly fun for the kids, especially on hot days.

These sprinklers are particularly fun for the kids, especially on hot days.

If you have lived in San Juan for a while and you have dogs, you will quickly see that the Luis Muñoz Marin Park is the best family and dog park in San Juan. Have Fun!

February 28, 2016
by Jay-Webmaster
2 Comments

Why you should consider Puerto Rico for your college education

Image source: upr.edu

Image source: upr.edu

If you are considering going to college, this post will argue why you should consider Puerto Rico for your college education.

So why should you consider Puerto Rico for your college education?

Colleges and Universities in Puerto Rico as just as good as anywhere else in the U.S. or other places in the world. We have highly competent teachers and programs. Many of the graduates from different colleges and universities in Puerto Rico become highly sought after and productive professionals in their respective fields. Best of all,

IT IS MUCH CHEAPER TO STUDY IN PUERTO RICO THAN IN THE U.S. (generally speaking)

Unless you have a really good scholarship or you won’t have the expenses of room and board, you will be saving lots of money by going to Puerto Rico for college!

I quickly ran the numbers at the University of Puerto Rico’s (UPR) online Net Price Calculator, and the total YEARLY estimated tuition and fees cost for an OUT-OF-STATE student, is $4,032! That’s for the YEAR! To be fair, UPR is the state university and it is much cheaper than the private universities. So, What can you expect from a private university? A quick search at Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico, a very reputable private university, has a cost of $200 per credit hour in their undergraduate Architecture program, which is their most expensive undergraduate program. So even the private universities, which are considered very expensive here, are still more affordable than many of the state schools in the U.S.

I did go to college in the U.S. of course as an out of state student, and I am paying for it now, and I will continue paying for it for many many MANY years to come. My student loan payments are by far my biggest financial nightmare, totaling about half my paycheck and more than some of my friend’s mortgages. At my place of employment, I am only one of 2 employees who has student loans and we are the only ones who went to college in the U.S. The rest of the employees do not have the student loans to worry about and of course they went to college in Puerto Rico.

I am currently enrolled in a Master’s degree online program in one of the local private universities, and the total cost for the Master’s degree is $11,000! However, I was lucky enough to get a really good scholarship and my total cost of attendance for the entire Master’s degree program will be $5,250! This is not too bad! Still more expensive than what a Master’s at UPR would cost, but when I was searching around for online schools, $5,000 would only get me ONE SEMESTER in another state university or even international university.

My Master’s degree will be just as good as any other, except that I paid a lot less for it.

There is a caveat, at least for the university I chose for my Master’s, the classes will be in Spanish, and most of the UPR and other local universities will have classes in Spanish. Even though the books will likely be in English, the class may be in Spanish. Having said that, all of my friends have told me that if there is an English-only speaking student, the professors will switch their class to English in the majority of the cases, particularly on the classes with a few students, not the auditorium-size classes. Also, UPR has many protests and issues that are an honest nuisance, some people would rather pay more than deal with that, but are you willing to pay THAT MUCH MORE for it? The local private universities are very good, smaller class sizes and less “issues” if you don’t want to deal with the constant protests at UPR.

So, if you can get a quality education and pay a lot less than in other places, why not consider that option? If you don’t speak any Spanish I know there are in fact some programs in English, for example the Inter-American University (Metro Campus) has a nursing program that is completely in English. I am sure that like that one, there are others, you just have to search around.

Consider Puerto Rico for your college studies, it will be a lot less to pay back once you are done.

December 22, 2015
by Jay-Webmaster
27 Comments

How Amazon Prime Works in Puerto Rico

Amazon Prime

Image logo from Amazon.com

This post is to inform you of those differences and give you details of how Amazon Prime works in Puerto Rico. In short, Amazon Prime in Puerto Rico is not bad, but not as good as the U.S.

So it is the peak shopping time for the holidays, you may or may not have shopped online and you are either glad you did or wish you had bought your gifts online after spending a  half hour trying to get parking spot at the Plaza Las Americas mall. If you don’t want to pay so much for shipping you realize that Amazon Prime is an option for you. Amazon Prime does work in Puerto Rico, you get the Amazon streaming videos and music as well as the free shipping. However there are a few differences between the shipping options Amazon Prime has for Puerto Rico when compared to the U.S. Some of what I will describe may be subjective and may be specific to my case, although I doubt it, however most of it will be factual with links to the official source.

So, Amazon Prime, other than the $99 price tag there’s really not too much to dislike about it. Free 2-day shipping? Online streaming of movies, shows and music? I say YES! If you are like me, you order your fair share of via Amazon, in order to save some money on items that would otherwise cost too much.

So, you sign up for Amazon Prime, most of the items do ship to Puerto Rico and you still get the free shipping, however, it isn’t the free 2-day shipping they advertise in the U.S. How Amazon Prime works in Puerto Rico is that you get free 3-7 day shipping via what they call “Parcel Pool” which is via USPS (you can get expedited shipping for an extra shipping fee). This however is not always the case, on occasion you will get your shipment via UPS 2-day day shipping! However there’s a caveat. In most cases, and I’m talking in almost ALL cases, the reason why you will get free UPS 2-day shipping is because Amazon took so long to fulfill your order that shipping the items via “Parcel Pool” would take longer than their estimated delivery time. This is something I HATE about Amazon Prime, they take FOREVER to fulfill an order and ship it to Puerto Rico! Sometimes it takes 2 weeks for them to ship! When it is a rather time sensitive item I have called them in the past to ask them why they are taking so long, miraculously they make it happen and they force shipment within a day of my calls. So I actually get most of my orders via UPS 2-day air but that’s not to say I get it quickly after placing the order, I actually receive my order in 10-14 days after placing the order.

This never happens when I buy and ship items to my friends and family in the U.S. In fact, just a few weeks ago, I ordered some items to be shipped to Puerto Rico, then a week later I ordered a few things to be shipped to different states in the U.S. Guess what, the orders shipped and were delivered BEFORE my orders were even shipped to Puerto Rico! And this happens time and time again. For some reason, when I order from Amazon Prime, the orders take AT LEAST a week to be shipped. I have better luck NOT ordering from Amazon Prime because it ships faster. However there are very few occasions (and I mean very few) when things do ship at a reasonable time. And in case you were wondering, yes, I do choose the option of “ship items as fast as possible even if it is on separate deliveries” option. It actually feels like that option gets ignored because only once I’ve received my order in separate shipments and that was because I called and inquired about why my order hadn’t shipped 2 weeks after I placed it.

So, in conclusion, if you are wondering how Amazon Prime works in Puerto Rico, the video and music streaming works well and just like you would expect, the shipping is not as good. In fact it’s actually rather annoying. Having said that, I would much rather shop on Amazon and save several dollars on the items and on shipping for most occasions, if I need something immediately I may just spend the extra money and buy it locally.

Click here for Amazon’s policy and limitations on shipping to Puerto Rico.

Click here for Amazon Prime’s free shipping policy to Puerto Rico.

Now that you know how Amazon Prime works in Puerto Rico you may be able to better make decisions on what to buy online via Amazon Prime and what to buy locally, maybe allow more time for time sensitive items.

Hope this was helpful!

December 21, 2015
by Jay-Webmaster
4 Comments

Spending Christmas in Puerto Rico

One of the favorite times of the year to many people is Christmas time for many different reasons, but spending Christmas in Puerto Rico is particularly special in its own way. Of course, this is a time to be with family members and if your family members are not in Puerto Rico then there is a key aspect of Christmas that will be missing if you are here and your family is there. But just about everything else is quite amazing, in fact, there has been numerous international publications based on reader reviews, public opinions and other studies which rand Puerto Rico as one of the top-5 places in the world to spend Christmas! As of this writing, USA Today’s 10best.com has Puerto Rico as the second best place in the world to spend the Christmas holidays behind Prague, Czech Republic. That’s not bad!

So what’s so special about Christmas in Puerto Rico? Why am I happy to be spending Christmas in Puerto Rico?

Well, there are many reasons, I will mention a few of them here.

Ok, so first of all, it is warm, there is NO SNOW!

I know I know! The snow is part of the Christmas charm, and to a certain aspect I do miss snow during Christmas myself. However 2 years ago I went to visit friends and family during the holidays in the northern U.S. States and I quickly remembered one of the main reasons why I like Puerto Rico so much! Granted, Minnesota and North Dakota are VERY cold and in no way representative of all of the U.S. States in terms of temperatures, but when the warmest day had a temperature of 15ºF (-9.4ºC) and the coldest being -29ºF (-34ºC) before calculating the wind-chill temperature, it gets to be a bit much. I appreciate the warm Christmas now, I can go outside and enjoy the spectacular weather and go places with friends and family here in Puerto Rico, I didn’t particularly enjoy spending 2 weeks stuck inside because the weather was so incredibly cold, the roads were slippery, I had forgotten how to drive in snow. Here in Puerto Rico, especially in the lower elevations, you can expect temperatures in the low to mid 80s during the day and low 70s to upper 60s during the night, depending on the location.

Christmas in Puerto Rico

Image source: Pinterest.com

The FOOD!

Oh the food in Puerto Rico during the holidays is SO GOOD! Some of the more traditional food items for dinner or lunch are Pernil (pork shoulder), Arroz con Gandules (rice with pigeon peas), Morcilla (blood sausage), and Yucca or Masa (made from plaintains) Pasteles. As far as desserts, you can expect Tembleque (coconut dessert), arroz con dulce (sweet rice), and flan. And of course, when it comes to drinks, you cannot have a proper Christmas party without Coquito! Coquito is similar to Eggnog but with a few differences in the ingredients, particularly the coconut.

I promise you, this food is AMAZING! Of course, in my particular and personal situation I will not be able to enjoy most of these foods for the rest of my life due to Celiac disease and milk allergy (I also prefer not to eat meat but that part is a choice). However, YOU can and should try these delicious foods!!!

Christmas food in Puerto Rico

Image Source: Pinterest.com

The traditional Puerto Rican Christmas Music and Parrandas.

So of course we listen to the traditional Christmas music played in the US, in most cases we translate it into Spanish, but we still listen to those songs. However, we have our very own set of Christmas songs which are very lively and happy songs! We don’t have the Carolers most people in the U.S. know and love, instead we have “Parrandas”, which are known for being upbeat and causing people to start dancing. When I was a kid, my family would get together with friends and go out all night and do Parrandas all night. This was done by getting a few friends together with a few instruments such as the wooden sticks, güiro, bongos, tambourines, maracas and a guitar, then going to another friend’s house and start playing music and singing to them in front of their house until they either woke up (if it was late) or simply opened the door and let us in. Once they let us in their homes they would serve us food and drinks, play other songs and then join us to another friend’s house and do the same thing! We would hit about 5 houses in one night, which would take the entire night. It’s not done as much anymore since most residential areas are gated so we would have to call before going to their houses, instead, now people would get together in one house and play and sing the traditional Puerto Rican Christmas songs while everyone is together, spending the night in one place.

Image showing a Parranda (top) vs Carolers (bottom) Image source: endi.com

Image showing a Parranda (top) vs Carolers (bottom)
Image source: endi.com

 

We get 2 days of presents!

Not only do we celebrate the typical Christmas on the 25th of December, but we also have the Three Kinds Day on January 6th! So our Christmas holiday is longer than in the U.S. and we also get 2 days of presents! =) I remember getting a bicycle from the Three Kings one year, I immediately took it outside and started riding my new bicycle in the neighborhood! Again, outside, warm weather, January 6th! This means that our Christmas season lasts until then.

Normally kids would leave some milk and cookies for Santa (I never did, but I do now since my wife is from the U.S.), but just about every kid here would take a shoe box and fill it with grass from their front lawn or backyard, and have 3 glasses with water and maybe a tupperware with water. The 3 glasses with water are for the 3 kings, the grass and tupperware with water are for the camels the 3 kings travel with.

Three Kings

Image source: Pinterest.com

 

So there it is! Spending Christmas in Puerto Rico can and is a special treat. I encourage each and every one of you to get a taste of the local culture and customs. If you are already living here and will be spending Christmas in Puerto Rico, go out with local friends and experience a little of the local culture! I’ll leave you with a couple of videos I found on YouTube, one is of people in the stairs of the Coliseo de Puerto Rico as they wait for the rain to stop so they can get out, they decide to start singing Christmas music! The other video is of a group of Puerto Ricans playing music Parranda style at a parking lot in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

¡Feliz Navidad!