Puerto Rico Travelogue: Day Two

When we arrived at The Gallery Inn on Saturday, Dharma was the first to notice the many pictures of Barack and Michelle Obama visiting the hotel. When we asked the clerk about the pictures, all she told us was that the first family visited during the primary election campaign. Yesterday we befriended the maintenance man and he filled us in on the details. It turns out the Obamas rented out all twenty-two rooms during their visit, the place was crawling with Secret Service and the couple stayed two nights in the same room as my parents!

Yesterday, the main highlight was spending a few hours exploring the historic Castillo de San Felipe Del Morro. This fortress was built by Spain over 400 years ago to protect San Juan from seaborne invaders. The sheer size of the fortress is really overwhelming. I’m familiar with the many forts along the Great Lakes, but those are a couple hundred years more modern and much different in design.

Castillo de San Felipe del Morro was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983. It was also the the set location for the 1997 film, Amistad.

After a few hours at El Morro, we relaxed with some piragua and kite flying outside the fort. Afterward we headed back downtown to buy some hats and aloe (I may be a child of the Mediterranean, but I still managed to get sunburned!).

Morro 03
From Puerto Rico: Day Two

Similar to Jamaica and New Orleans, Puerto Rican food is amazing! It seems hard to find a bad meal (not that we’re looking!). I enjoyed bistec encebollado for lunch at El Patio (see my Yelp review). Unlike South American encebollado, this popular Puerto Rican dish is essentially steak and fried onions. If you ever have a chance to try the Puerto Rican bistec encebollado, I recommend enjoying it with a mixed fruit frappe!

For dinner we ate tapas on the patio at Toro Salao (see my Yelp review). Nothing quite beats a busy day in the sun like a good dinner outside, under moonlight. “Special” sangria certainly helps to keep the spirits high too!

I’m looking forward to more good food and adventures tomorrow!

– Devon Akmon

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Puerto Rico Travelogue: Day One

Greetings from sunny Puerto Rico! We arrived in the Old San Juan (Old City) late yesterday afternoon after a long day of flights and promptly headed to our sanctuary (otherwise known as the The Gallery Inn). The B&B we are staying at is really amazing. The brief description on the website aptly describes the location:

The Gallery Inn, a stunning twenty-two room boutique hotel, sits high aloft the Old City’s North Wall, commanding sensuous Atlantic Ocean breezes and gorgeous views to the South over the entire San Juan Bay and mountainous central regions of Puerto Rico.

Created within six interconnecting townhouses, the Inn’s 23,000 sprawling square feet have been home to artist Jan D’Esopo since 1961. Brick patios, antique arches, ausubo beams, and a multitude of sculptured fountains are among the Inn’s many charming architectural details. Nineteen glorious gardens and five active art studios are tucked away between twenty-two beautifully appointed guest rooms, all with Tempur-Pedic mattresses. Rooms are artistically scattered through seven juxtaposed levels resembling more of a historic museum than a hotel. Guests are encouraged to explore the fifty-two-room mansion to find their own nook of tranquility.

After checking in, we spent a couple of hours wandering the city and then made our way over to Cafe Puerto Rico for dinner (read my review on Yelp). In addition to good food and drink, our waiter was more than happy to inform us on how the US has successfully screwed up the Puerto Rican economy and imposed its imperialist ways upon the island. We all appreciated his candor and the pleasant F-bomb he dropped in his rant.

After dinner, we discovered Tabacadera Ramos, a kind gentleman, selling his amazing handmade cigars in the plaza across the street from the restaurant. The gents happily smoked cigars while walking the streets on the way back to The Galleria. Although we were pretty tired, we made time for a relaxing dip in the pool before bed. It was really quite amazing swimming in the small, funky pool with a gentle rain falling on our heads.

Well, we are now awake, well-rested and fed. Our second day is about to begin. I’ll leave you with some pictures of The Galleria:

Galleria 04
From Puerto Rico: Day One

– Devon Akmon

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Emerging Leaders

My five month professional development training with the Michigan Nonprofit Association’s Emerging Leaders program has come to an end. In general, I’ve found that professional development trainings are either hit or miss. Emerging Leaders was right on the spot.

There were several things that made this program a success. First, we had a great cohort. The group was diverse and represented many different areas from within the nonprofit sector. This afforded great discussions and a wealth of information sharing.

Second, the themes covered were very pertinent to our day-to-day work. Topics we explored included leadership of the self, staff and board; ethics; budgeting and accountability; diversity in the workplace; lobbying and advocacy; fund development; communications and marketing, human resources; and volunteer management. I found the last session, which focused on developing a professional development plan, to be highly useful. I suspect I will be spending some time in the coming weeks creating my own plan. This will include updating my resume, creating a personal portfolio, planning goals and relevant measures and, hopefully, developing additional pages on this site to feature my work.

Further, the three sections on leadership were very informative. Often, communication is a major barrier in life. These sections provided sound advice on working with different personality types, as well as strategies for developing an effective leadership style. I am hoping to put many new ideas into practice.

Lastly, I would be remiss to not comment on the organization of the program. MNA did an excellent job of finding qualified and engaging speakers. Further, the facilitation of the program was two thumbs up. I have already recommended this program to a few colleagues at work. I hope they consider applying.

As with most professional training programs, our cohort promised to keep in touch. I hope this new network follows through on that commitment. I think we have a lot to offer one another. The plan is for MNA to create a LinkedIn group for alumni. Hopefully this will be up soon.

– Devon Akmon

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