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Fort Hays State University, Puerto Rico (CGT-FHSU-15) Custom Trip: May 18 – May 25, 2015

Puerto Rico Trip Update #1

May 18, 2015

Thirteen students and two professors from Fort Hays University arrived to the beautiful island of Puerto Rico safe and sound yesterday.  After an extremely long day of travel, the group collected their bags and loaded into our two vans to head to the “big yellow house” – our casa for the week!  The house is a four story tower with a lot of land and outside seating.  But the best part of the big yellow house by far is its proximity to the the beach.  The town we are staying in, Cerro Gordo, has a beautiful bay and sandy beach surrounded by some rocky tree covered hills.

The Fort Hays group didn’t hesitate to throw on their bathing suites and hit the waves as soon as we arrived for some end-of-the-day swimming.  After retuning to the house we chowed down on a hamburger barbecue along with some traditional Puerto Rican platanos fritos (or fried plantains).  The group was skeptical at first of the fried banana looking food – but were all very excited about it after giving it a try.  Next was a group orientation where we got to hear what goals everyone had for the trip and to go over what the week would look like.  Before coming to Puerto Rico, each student had written what they were looking forward to for the trip.  Here is what they said:

Tarah T: I am extremely excited to go to Puerto Rico and go to the beach and to go zip lining!

Elizabeth G: I am looking forward to working with the locals.  I love getting to know people, their stories, their history and their culture.

Stephanie G: I am completely excited to travel with this great group to Puerto Rico!  It is hard to say what I am most excited for because the adventure starts when we get together at the airport and come back safely to Kansas.  Overall it will be fun to help.

Naomi Q: I’ve never been overseas, so going to Puerto Rico will be an adventure I’ll never forget.  This will be a new and exciting experience for me!

Hope H: As someone who has never traveled outside the US before, I am excited to get to witness a different culture than my own.  It will be great to try new things and learn new things that I would not be able to do without going on this trip.

Paxton F: I hope to become more humble from helping the locals in their community.

Kaley N: I am looking forward to learning about a different culture, helping others and having fun on this trip!

Sabrina C: I am looking forward to the new experiences I will have on this trip; meeting new people and traveling to new places is exciting.

Hannah M: I’ve always loved the idea of being a world traveler but I’ve never left the country.  I am excited to see a new culture and to try things the I wouldn’t be able to do in Kansas.

Jesse C:  I’m excited for the trip because I get to hang out with my friends, learn a new culture and help all the people out.

Brett S: I am so very excited to experience Puerto Rico!

“The best journeys start by accident.”

Great first day!

May 19, 2015

Puerto Rico is an island filled with startling beauty and rich history. Today we were able to experience a journey through San Juan’s history. One of the many things I learned today is that I would have died if I were a Spanish solider. Between the obnoxious amount of stairs in the forts and having to wear three layers of clothing a heat stroke would have been my demise. Lunch was a delicious treat. I had a chicken leg with some kind of fragrant sauce and tostones.  I love tostones. Nothing is better on a long day than fried green plantains with ketchup. The smell of ocean carried on a refreshing breeze will forever be imprinted in my mind. The feeling of the ocean I doubt will ever become normal to all of us Kansas folks. The day concluded with a family dinner and much appreciated desert of brownies. – Carly McCracken


Puerto Rico Trip Update #2

May 20, 2015

Usually I lay in bed at 7 a.m.  not wanting to get up but being in Puerto Rico, knowing there is a day full of adventure and excitement, I can easily jump out of bed and get ready for the day. On our drive to the community, (were we are doing our service work),  I was so nervous because I didn’t know what to expect from the locals. However, there was nothing to be afraid of. These people were very friendly and fun to be around and made us feel at home.  We helped with the building process of two different houses today.  First we learned how to mix cement – which was hard and exhausting in the heat, then we helped carry over 30 bags of cement mix to the upstairs of a second unfinished house.  We ate an awesome lunch of fried chicken, beans and salad cooked for us by someone in the community and ate with the locals.  Then we drove back to the Big Yellow House. On our drive back I was very pleased with myself in being able to help people. Perhaps the best part of my day was going to the beach, however. We swam all the way to the buoys and below saw a huge starfish along with some  sea urchins and fish. Overall, today was an awesome day!!

Puerto Rico Trip Journal #3

May 21, 2015

Heading into the community today to do our service work was nice because we now knew where we were going and felt comfortable with the people there.  Our task for our service work today was moving an enormous pile of sand from where it was on the ground outside one of the houses we are working on, all the way across a wall, into the house and up the stairs to the second story.  We did this by creating an assembly line and passing small buckets filled with the sand.  The sun was hot today and within a few minuets we were all covered in sweat.  But we moved the whole pile!  We will use this tomorrow to finish the floor of a bedroom.  ​We ate lunch with the locals again – yummy meatballs today, and a few of us joined a game of basket ball.

Our next adventure of the day was zip lining across the canopy of the forest in the mountains!  It was beautiful and thrilling.  The road leading there was extremely windy however and we were glad to finally be out of the cars.  We ate breakfast for dinner around 8 and then decided we were exhausted.  Needed to get some sleep for our busy day tomorrow!

Puerto Rico Trip Journal #4

May 22, 2015

Today was our last day working with the community.  It was by far our longest and hardest working day so far.  We mixed cement for the “topping” of the upstairs level of the house we had been working on.  The process was to bring a bunch of sand upstairs with buckets, then measure it out in wheel barrows.  We would then add the cement and mix with water.  The mixing is the part that is very physical.  Once again a wonderful lunch was served – chicken and tostones (fried savory plantains).   We did this until about 3pm when we said goodbye.  A few of the younger guys from the town ended up coming back to the Big Yellow House with us to go to the beach.  This was our last night at the house and we went to our favorite beach spot and got tossed around in the waves.  Pizza was ordered for dinner and we made some yummy brownies for dessert.  We ran out of eggs so we used bananas in the brownies as a replacement and made a type of chocolate banana cake!

The last thing to end our long day was a leadership activity where we explored what types of leadership styles we have within our group.  This led into talking about our ending thoughts about our service work in the community.  The most talked about feelings were how happy people were to have met the community members and even more so about how close the group has become.  Many in the group commented that they did not know each other well before this trip and that now everyone is working so well together.

It was a very long day.  Tomorrow we will leave the Big Yellow House for our next destination!

May 23, 2015

Our day started saying our final good byes to the community.  We got to eat lunch with them and get a tour of all the construction projects Global Works has participated in and helped with over the years – it was a ton!!  We were even gifted some delicious coconut milk like popsicles which tasted great on a hot day.  We all said our farewells and exchanged contact information with the wonderful people we had worked with.  Many of us asked the community members to send us photos of the completed houses we had worked on when they get finished.

Then we hit the road to the East side of the island to a town called Fajardo.  We had a huge family-style dinner  in some famous roadside stands (the Luquillo Kioskos) where we got to try red snapper, pork chops, mofongo (a traditional Puerto Rican dish), fried steak and so much more.  After being fully stuffed – we headed to our nighttime kayak tour of the bio-luminecent bay.  WOW!!!!  As we paddled down a little canal and into the bay the water would sparkle with each stroke – it was mesmerizing.  After getting lost a few times on the drive back, we finally made it back to our hostel and time for bed!

Puerto Rico Trip Journal #5

May 24, 2015

Today after sleeping in just a little we had breakfast out. Then a short shopping excursion for traveling treats and fun food gifts for those left behind in the states! Everyone enjoyed exploring the shelves in the local super market.

We had an incredible afternoon on, and in, the Caribbean waters. After a nice relaxing boat ride out on the iconic blue sea, passing private islands and islands used for filming “Pirates of the Caribbean”, we swam out over an incredible reef. For many of us it was the first time snorkeling and experiencing natural reef life up close and personal. Our boat hosts had a nice simple lunch ready for us when we made it back through the currents. Then they treated us to an hour on a small beach island in the protected preserve. Be ready to see some awesome pictures when we return and download our pictures!

The evening ended with some take-out Chinese food for our hungry group and a final closing ceremony to end our trip.