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Puerto Rico GAP Session Two: November 29- December 23, 2020

Week One Update-

Greetings form sunny, warm Puerto Rico! On the first day we all arrived. I arrived first, followed by Brogan, Ashton, and Andy. We then met up with Chloe, Eric, and April. We got to the Big Yellow House and had introductions, before we all walked to the beach so we could walk around and take in the view.

On the second day, we drove to a beach a bit further from the house. We had orientation on the beach to talk about how comfortable we were and whether or not we wanted to do some of the things on the list, or if we wanted to add anything. I had to leave early to complete some course work, so after climbing some of the volcanic rock on the edge of the ocean, I jumped in the car to go to class. When they came back Andy sat on the chair diagonal from me and put his foot on the table. He got one spike from a Sea Urchin stuck under his toenail (he’s fine though!). Right after that, we took a walking tour of old San Juan, which Andy took very well. We got history lessons about the history of Puerto Rico, and had some of the best fish tacos any of us ever had!

On the night of the second day, we all wrote down on pieces of paper what we wanted and didn’t want on the trip, (food, comfortability, etc). We met Maria, William, and Angel at the construction site in the community of Villa Del Rio. Maria and Angel owned the house we were doing construction in, and William was the boss. Andy and Ashton got to work destroying the walls and floor, while Brogan and I took all the rubble away using wheelbarrows to fill up some potholes in the street. After a physical first day, we took a mile long hike to a waterfall.

The second day of construction felt easier. We got lucky and humidity went from 90% to 76%, and the heat was in the low 70’s opposed to the previous day’s 88. After the construction we stopped at Walmart, where we stocked up on supplies and drinks for the beach. We had a short hike to the beach before we all jumped in the water. I climbed up another volcanic rock that was overlooking the ocean, where I found a tree sitting on top. After going back to the house, we prepared for the next day. We woke up and drove to the construction site where we put in the wiring and wood for the floor.

On Friday, we drove to the snorkeling area before jumping on a large boat.  We saw a couple of jellyfish, pufferfish, yellowtails, etc. before jumping back on the boat. We went to the second spot where we swam around a reef, there were a lot of fish and also a sea turtle. Swimming back to the boat, we were all pretty tired from swimming that day and had some punch before driving back.  Everything has been awesome so far!


Week Two/Three Update-

After a hard week of work in Villa Del Rio we spent the weekend rock climbing with a fascinating climbing instructor named Eli who had his fair share of stories to enlighten us with during our visit (including his climbing experience with Alex Honnold among many more). During our first day of climbing we all learned the climbing essentials from Eli and began tackling the first section on the 80 foot out door wall. During one of the first climbs of the day I narrowly avoided a small avalanche of rocks but despite that small scare the rest of the day was danger free and full of fun climbs up the rock face.

Our second day of rock climbing was as eventful as the first as we all challenged ourselves with more difficult climbs. Despite this added difficulty many of us were able to traverse far up the wall. Through my personal experience I felt a lot more comfortable climbing up the wall on the second day which allowed me to climb with more relative ease. After many hours climbing we were all exhausted and headed back to the Big Yellow House to a tasty dinner of barbecue chicken.

On Monday we were back working at the worksite in Villa Del Rio. As there was a lot of work to be completed, we got the opportunity to work longer into the afternoon. Due to our efforts, Willy treated us all with a tasty drink.

After work on Tuesday we all went on a fun hike to a man made waterfall that was once part of a hydraulic plant. In tune with many of our adventurous personalities we found a small cave under the falls and enjoyed bobbing our heads in and out of the water torrent. On our return, Quinn, Andy, and I floated back down the river while navigating iguanas, rocks, and other obstacles in our way. Another fabulous day in Puerto Rico!

Wednesday brought a change of scenery as we all went up into the mountains to tropic ventures (a place where we will be staying later in the trip). The location was absolutely incredible as it had sweeping views of the coastline in the distance as well as the surrounding area. Yet, as Thrity (a long time volunteer at the place) told us the fast winds from Hurricane Maria led to the destruction of many of the trees in the area which explains the amazing views we were able to experience. The work for the day consisted of us cleaning out a destroyed building as well as the transport of large beams of wood to a work station where it could properly be sorted. The presence of the local dog, negra, and her energetic, loving energy added to the excitement of the day.

Thursday proved to be a hectic but fun day nonetheless. Today at Villa del Rio we finally were able to lay down the cement in the upstairs room after all of our preparation. In order to better facilitate the process we formed a line that started with someone shoveling wet cement into buckets which were then passed up to the room where it was eventually flattened out. Even though our job sounded easy, we were all exhausted after all the cement had been laid down after being in the hot sun the whole day. Our activity that afternoon was led by Alvin (the person who showed us around old San Juan at the beginning of the trip) who showed us many cool spots on the northern part of the island. Some of the highlights included seeing the Cristopher Columbus monument (which is surprisingly the tallest free standing monument in the Western Hemisphere) and a bunch of carvings along the coastline. This past week was an absolute blast!