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Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief, Session 3 ~ 2022

July 20-21, 2022

We arrived at the airport and went to the sandwich el Meson. We waited for the rest of our group to arrive to get on the bus to the Big Yellow House. We had good pasta dinner. We had a quick orientation and then because we were tired from our travel day we went to bed.

This morning we had fresh eggs, sausages, and French toast for breakfast. Then we got on the bus to head to old San Juan. We toured many different landmarks throughout the city. The ones that stood out to us were Casa Blanca, one of the narrowest apartments in the Western Hemisphere. Then we went to an old church that was built in the place of where a miracle happened where a man survived a 60ft fall. We went into the 3rd oldest church in the Western Hemisphere for a tour. Right after arriving to a fort it started to pour down raining. Then we went a larger fort named El Morro and  we got to explore the different levels of the fort. Following our tour we had an awesome lunch and sang happy birthday to William E. and took a video and pictures!

After lunch we walked down the streets to San Juan into multiples shops. The group grabbed ice cream and got on the bus and returned to the BYH. We got changed and headed to the beach and buried Will B. in the sand while playing around. When returning to the house we showered. While waiting on the showered we had a large game of knockout on the basketball court. Afterwards we all got ready for a good chicken tenders, potatoes, and salad dinner. We had a group meeting and then chilled before going to bed.

Best regards,
Zeke B., Will E., Quincy P., Liam G.

July 22, 2022

We woke up and had a delicious breakfast of pancakes with syrup at our home for the week, the Big Yellow House. We hopped on the bus to head to our first day at the worksite, where we met Willy, one of the community leaders. We heard all about the community we are working in and learned how it’s made up of a small group of extended families. Willy and some of the other community leaders taught us how to make concrete. A couple of us broke out our Spanish skills and translated for Willy as he gave us instructions. Some of us tied wire to the rebar and other of us shoveled rocks and sand into wheelbarrows in order to use to make the concrete. We met seven year old Abraham (and his dog) who is the son of the owner of the house we worked at, and he allowed us to use his water gun to cool off from the hot Puerto Rican sun! We made an assembly line to start pouring the concrete for the floor of the children’s bedroom. After getting a ton of work done, we all walked up the hill to Maria’s house. Maria was already waiting for us with chicken, rice, beans and salad that she had made just for us. We even got to taste some of the fresh bananas from right outside Maria’s house.

After the work day we went to the beach to cool off in the ocean, came back to Big Yellow House and some guys watched soapbox racing, and everyone played knockout (Dee got out on the first round). We had dinner which included more chicken and rice. Once we were full, our whole group gathered to watch a documentary on Puerto Rico’s history, culture, and struggles that they face. Then we wrote this blog.

Peace out ~ Will B., Sam G, Wesley, Zach

July 23, 2022
We woke up at 7:30, a little later than planned, but eventually got out of bed and ate at 8:00. We had some delicious French toast with eggs before a short bus ride to our work site to continue our work from yesterday, building homes for the community. During our construction work, we formed a chain from the cement mixer and from picking up the gravel and dust, and we were proud to see that we were getting more and more efficient. We then transferred the concrete down the line and poured it with buckets for a few hours. Even faster than expected, we actually finished the flooring early. We were having fun but deeply needed a water break ha ha LOLOLOL. So we made sure to stay hydrated as we worked on our construction site and we finished our job. We exceeded our expectations at the worksite so by the time we got to Maria’s for lunch, we were definitely ready to eat. We had lunch at Maria’s and Quincy ate 23 chicken wings, man can eat! The food was very delicious. After we ate lunch we headed back to the worksite. Our new task was to move piles of bricks, which at first looked like it would take us hours, but the time flew by and we finished way faster than that! On the bus ride back, we all joked around and sang along to music. After the bus ride home we walked back to the house and groups left for the beach for a few hours to cool off in the water after a full day of work. Back at the house, we soaked in the wildlife of Puerto Rico: there was a baby iguana that was found in the bathroom and we caught him and we named him Jose. He was the most beautiful boy and we miss him greatly. We enjoyed a takeout pizza dinner that was very delicious. To finish off the night, we all got into small groups for karaoke. We practiced our songs (some of them were hilarious) and groups even choreographed dance moves. After that, there was an open mic and then a big dance party, before lights out.

Signing out-

Max, Casey, Aiden, Kai, Noa

July 24, 2022

We woke up bright and early and enjoyed some delicious waffles. Then we got on the bus to head to Tropic Ventures to work on our environmental service project. We arrived after our bus ride and started learning more about what Tropic Ventures is doing to protect the environment and clean up after the hurricane. We pruned trees and cleared paths to allow for more exotic vegetation to grow. We also got to work with and learn about different endangered species of trees that can only be found on the island of Puerto Rico. Due to us being high in the mountains, there were rain showers that caused us to take some breaks, but in the end we were able to complete our work.

After hours of hard work we enjoyed some delicious vegetarian tacos with ingredients that were grown on the property. At the site we encountered many animals such as dogs, chickens, lizards and snails that we got to take some picture with. When we finished lunch, we learned a lot about our biosphere and the planet we live on from the Tropics Ventures Project Director named 3T.

After returning to the Big Yellow House we rested up before enjoying a Puerto Rican classic: chicken and rice for dinner! Soon our Salsa instructor Yara arrived to teach us the fundamentals of Salsa. As ridiculous as we all looked, we had a great time and learned a few moves that we will be taking back home with us. We ended the night with a few rounds of cards before heading to bed.

Hasta Luego,
Janelle M., Logan F., Keely F.

July 25, 2022

We started the morning with French toast sticks, one of our favorite breakfasts here in Puerto Rico. We boarded the bus for our last day day of community service in Via Del Rio. After arriving at the worksite, the amazing Willy needed help starting the journey to repaving his driveway. We leveled and cleared out the ground to prep for laying down the rebar that needed to be tied together. We were excited to hear that our work would be setting up for a future group to work on paving the rest of the road. We learned how to safely work with a leaf blower and jackhammer with the help and assistance of Willy and Angel. Then 8 of us ventured far to Ana’s home (the project that we worked on service day 1 and 2). There we carried bricks up the hill and around the other side of the house to create a pile closer to the side of the home being worked on.

We hiked down a hill and up 2 hills over to Maria’s house for lunch where she served buttered spaghetti meatballs salad and rice. We are already devastated about losing Maria’s amazing cooking when our time here ends! Afterward, we hiked back down the 2 hills and up the big hill to Willy’s house to wrap up the project and head back to the Big Yellow House. After a quick and organized cleanup, we got changed and headed to the beach for a good ol’ swim. We invited over members of the community from Via Del Rio and had a great dinner and closing ceremony. Many tears were shed as we thanked each other and remembered our hard work from the last days. We packed up our bags and prepared for our early departure in the morning and headed to bed at 10:45pm ready for a change of scenery tomorrow as we head toward the rainforest.

-Davin S., Sophia V., Carina C., Meredith P.

July 27, 2022
Breakfast was not French toast today! We finished packing and said goodbye to the Big Yellow House. We loaded all our stuff into the bus and headed to Puerto Rico’s rainforest, El Yunque. We hiked through the beautiful trees and vines to get to a river. We swam in the crystal blue deep lagoon and soaked in the leafy trees above us. After cooling off, we hiked back up to the bus to head toward the kioskos in Luquillo. We had a lovely lunch all together with the ocean right behind us and then we swam in the ocean. The water was so so so pretty, with turquoise blue waves crashing into the sand. Some of us went shopping too and had time to pick up souvenirs. We hopped back on the bus to continue our adventure at our new hostels in Luquillo.

Pretty soon, we loaded back up onto the bus and drove all the way to the eastern most corner of Puerto Rico. We arrived at our destination and walked through the water to get to our kayaks. We all looked awesome in our life jackets! We paddled downstream through the mangrove to get to the bioluminescence. We swirled our hands in the water and saw the microorganisms light up and sparkle. When it was time to paddle back, we supported each other even though we were paddling against the current this time. We played music on the bus ride back and showered before meeting altogether at Casa Coral. We reflected on our time here in Puerto Rico, and even though we got our phones back, we made sure to spend lots of time together and exchanged contact information to keep in touch.

By Helene, Veronica, and Maggie