Complaints from our rainforest bed and breakfast

Living in the El Yunque rainforest is wonderful.

The sounds of the coquis or the call of the Puerto Rican screech owl (straight out of a Tarzan movie soundtrack) make every evening relaxing and special. We are so high in the rainforest that these wild sounds are the only ones to break the perfect silence.

There are some, not so wonderful, things that we have to put up with living so high in the rainforest. We have a nice library of books. Including those expensive computer reference books as well as novels and many, many, books about carpentry, masonry, wiring your house, decorating, building a septic tank--the books we need for all the work we do here renovating the inn. I like to sit down and enjoy reading a novel but living in the rainforest sometimes the words are missing. Not all the words, just a few select ones that the termites found the most tasty. Once or twice a year the termites up here swarm and when they do they dive into everything including our books and boring in one side and out the other eating a word or two out of every page--only the words they find interesting. There is no defense for them as we are the visitors in their rainforest home.

We also have a CD collection and a DVD collection. iTunes saved our CD collection. After about a year the aluminum that is sandwiched in the mylar of the CD's develops a corrosion that looks like worm tracks and the CD is unusable. I thought CDs were supposed to be industructable compared to vinyl records but not up here. We added every CD that was still good to our iTunes database and we keep that 500 gig hardrive backed up to another hard drive (no point in burning the data to CDs or DVDs to back it up as those back ups will just fail with the same problem).

Technology has just recently come to our rescue for the DVDs too. There is a wonderful device called a media gate (made in Korea) which we use to watch our movies and TV shows. It has S-video as well as a USB port and an Ether net port. We load all our movies and TV shows into its hard disk (either Divex or MP4) and it plays them like magic. It even comes with a little remote and the sound out is a fiber optic cable that connects to our speakers. The only problem is the time it takes to convert DVD's to Divex that we can save on the hard drive. Of course buying huge hard drives to store all the movies is expensive too but not as expensive as buying DVD's and finding out a year later that they are corroded and unplayable.

The new products from the iTunes store are nice too. We have a little microwave dish pointed at the antennas which are on the peak of El Yunque (and only a mile or so from our house). This dish feeds to our network giving us internet access better than a T1 line which we send out to WIFI for the whole property.

I am describing all this technical stuff because it is kind of ironic. The high tech devices like CD's and DVD's don't work up here but the even more high tech devices like WIFI and our media gate player work great. We do a few things differently with our electronics though. We leave computers and WIFI nodes etc on all the time so that the internal heat keeps the high humidity from corroding the circuits. We also have pretty good UPS systems to protect us from the occasional losses of power during a tropical storm. I built it using a large sine wave converter (from a ship) and marine batteries.

In one of the next blogs I will describe our attempts to get even more off the grid.