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Puerto Rico Hurricane Relief, Session 4 ~ 2022

July 30, 2022

Today was our travel day! Group members arrived from all around the USA in San Juan in two groups. Group 1 arrived at around 5:00pm and group 2 at around 8:30pm. From there, groups hopped in a travel bus for about an hour to end up at the Big Yellow House. From there, group 1 played basketball, volleyball, mafia,  and ate dinner while waiting for group 2. When group 2 arrived, we all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves. We went over house rules and the itinerary for the week. Tomorrow, we are heading to the Old San Juan for a historical tour, souvenir shopping, and later heading to the beach back near the Big Yellow House. We can’t wait for the adventures ahead!
Written By: David M., Major R., and Sadie M.K.

July 31, 2022

Today was our first official day in Puerto Rico! We started our day very early at 6:45 with a delicious buffet breakfast of eggs, sausages, french toast and juice, then boarded the bus at 8. We then arrived in the colorful streets of Old San Juan and took a beautiful tour with Alvin around the city. We visited several monuments including cathedrals, churches, and the governor’s mansion. Next, we went to the famous Castillo San Felipe del Morro, the biggest fort in the Western Hemisphere, and took some wonderful pictures of the ocean and surrounding monuments. After the tour we got a spectacular lunch at Jibaritos with some rice, beans, unique sodas, and some variations of plantains, including tostones and maduros (which Puerto Ricans call amarillos). Then we took a leisurely stroll about, visiting multiple souvenir shops where we explored many local vendors and artists. Following our souvenir shopping we got on the bus and headed back to the Big Yellow House. From there we took a 5 minute walk to our local beach. We relaxed and read on the beach as well and swam in the beautiful ocean! The water was the perfect temperature. We stayed at the beach for a few hours until it was time for dinner. The beach was pretty crowded because it was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so we enjoyed some neighboring reggaeton and bachata. We then walked back to the house around 6:30, where dinner was waiting for us. Dinner was very good and included potatoes, chicken, pork, and a salad. After dinner we all showered off and played several bonding games as well as created community guidelines for the group to follow. We then discussed the importance of tomorrow’s service and talked about what it will mean to us. At around ten we all headed to bed, excited for tomorrow’s service adventures!

Written By: Georgia T., Stella R., Major R., Cyrus Bouton D.

August 1, 2022

Today was our second day in Puerto Rico! We woke up around 8 am, and had a delicious breakfast of pancakes and eggs. We then got on the bus with our favorite bus driver Ruben! We arrived at our service destination at around 9:45. Our service leaders, Willy and Angel, explained the purpose of our work and what we were going to be doing. During the last hurricane, their houses were made out of wood. This meant they were easily destroyed. The hurricane resulted in many destroyed homes and a loss of electricity and water for over a year. The community of Villa de Rio (in Vega Alta) decided to reconstruct their homes to better prepare for something such as this, if it were to happen again. This is why our work was to re-enforce their roofs with concrete, instead of wood which they used to be made of.

Today’s work was to enforce a roof that is going to be used by one of Angel’s neighbors. This included making concrete out of cement, rocks, and sand. We then proceeded to carry the concrete to the roof of the house we were building. Some of us shoveled sand and rocks, which were poured into the concrete mixer. The others shoveled the wet concrete into buckets while the rest carried the buckets to the roofs and poured them. We worked for about two hours, and then had a nice big lunch at Maria’s casa. It consisted of rice, chicken, and salad.

After having a break from work, we headed back to the site to finish building the concrete roof of the house. After about 30 mins, we got on the bus and headed to the Big Yellow House. From there, we got our bathing suits and went to the beach, where most of us went in the ocean. After a couple of hours, we headed home for dinner, which was chicken fingers, rice, pork, and salad. Then, the leaders called us together to play games and strengthen the bond between the group. Finally, we were given some downtime to listen to music, play some sports, or relax until we were called in our rooms for the night. We are so excited to go back tomorrow and continue our work on the roof of the house.

Written By: Will, Julia, David, Lucy

August 2, 2022

Today was a wonderful morning. We were awoken by Randall (our guy). We ate French toast sticks, sausages, and yogurt. We got on the bus with our boy, Ruben (an OG) who is a reverse master with the bus, so we could head to the work site. Once we got to the work site, we put that grind in, and we finished the roof as a cohesive unit. Working with the concrete had us all drenched in sweat, however, we enjoyed helping out the community, and meeting the locals, including William and Angel, the main 2 bosses, Antonia (Angel’s son), and Maria, the amazing chef, Angle’s wife! And, special guest Ruben (or bus driver), joined us on the work site!!
After work, we headed to Angel’s house (The Big Boss) for some scrumdidlydishes lunch, which consisted of some gas wings, seasoned rice, bean salad, and a normal salad. Just to emphasize how scrumdidlydishes the wings were, they had Jake literally curling his toes. Then, we headed back to The Big Yellow House, and proceeded to the beach. The beach was a blast and beauty at its finest. After the beach, we wound down with an interesting film about the culture and economic state of Puerto Rico. Even though the film was intriguing, personally, we could not stand to sit in the room because it felt like a sauna. This finally led us to writing this blog post, which is lowkey fire.

Written By: Colin, Jake, Bea, Keira

August 3, 2022

Today in Puerto Rico, we started our day with a nice breakfast of waffles and tangy orange juice. Then we headed off to the second work site, which was Antonio’s house. We spread cement, placed large cinder blocks, and shoveled out a giant trench around the perimeter of the site. When we finished we were greeted with yet another incredible lunch from Maria. Today the lunch was spaghetti and meatballs with a side of rice and salad. After lunch we headed back to the Yellow House to get ready for the beach. It was a slightly less sunny day at the beach but still very nice. We watched as two men brought their horses into the water and proceeded to go swimming with them. After the beach we came back and got prepared for a salsa lesson. We were taught the basics of classic salsa dancing and everyone had a chance to dance. Soon after that we started moving towards dinner. Willie, Antonio, María, and their families arrived to join us for dinner. We had a wonderful dinner of chicken, pork, rice, and beans, which was quickly followed by many games with their kids and long goodbyes. By then it was pretty late so people started heading towards their rooms to get ready for the early start the next morning toward Luquillo where we’ll spend our final 2 nights together.

Written By: Reilly D, Maya F, Cyrus B, Donovan, Verónica T

August 4, 2022

Day 6 in Puerto Rico started off with a typical breakfast of pancakes that were on the drier side, but were easily fixed with copious amounts of syrup. The gang packed up their stuff from the Big Yellow House and headed on the road to la Reserva Natural del Corredor Ecológico del Noreste. After a quick stop for snacks, we arrived at the site and got to work. The work involved clearing trails and cleaning up the house of the old land manager. The site is protected by the government. After stopping for a group lunch, we received a brief history lesson from some of the local workers about their stance on Puerto Rican independence, or the lack thereof. We left the worksite to head to our new home, Casa Coral. We settled in, and went for a swim in the river just beyond the yard of la Casa. After this, the whole group engaged in a team bonding competition where we saw who could build the largest structure using only popsicle sticks and rubber bands. The team that won had a whopping 50.5 inches. That’s a lot of inches. After this, we ordered pizza and feasted, demolishing any remaining slices from a total of 8 pizzas. After chilling for a little, we had a banger karaoke night including some Doja Cat, Taylor Swift, Bill Withers, and more. The WHOLE group was going wild. The boys closed the show with Hey Soul Sister, a true showstopper.

Written By: Julian Camera, Alex Duncan, Bell

August 5, 2022

On our last day, we enjoyed to the max! We started our day off with some delicious cheese and egg burritos and waffles, brought to us by the program director, Talia. They were delish! Then we hopped in the bus and drove into the beautiful, protected area of El Yunque and walked down the Angelito path toward a swimming area in a river. It was magical! The water was a little cold, but we all basked on the rocks and enjoyed splashing in the water for an hour or so before hiking back out. Our next destination was the Kioskos back in Luquillo for some lunch, final souvenirs shopping, and more swimming at the beach. We ate a wonderfully Puerto Rican last lunch together and then split up as some of us finished shopping, others went swimming and eventually all met back at the beach. It turned out that part of the beach was a coral reef!! We used goggles to swim around and look at the extraordinary fish and nature once again blew our collective mind.
After some sorbet on the beach we headed back home for a quick dinner catered to where the boys were staying at Casa Coral. It was a typical rice, habichuelas, and chicken or beef dinner. We ate quickly to make it in time for our tour of the bioluminescent bay!! We arrived in Fajardo where the bay was, and immediately were greeted by a strong fishy smell! The smell didn’t leave the entire time we were there, but we got used to it. We were instructed to put on life jackets, taught how to use the paddle and then we got in the tandem kayaks. We paddled in a relatively narrow canal toward the lagoon in the dark guided by 2 amazing guides. It was so fun to get to paddle through the mangroves at night. With a lot of bumper cars and at least one pair tipping their kayak, we finally made it to the lagoon where we put our kayaks side by side and got a little listen about the bioluminescent micro-organisms. We all wished they had given us more information about them, but we had a quick lesson and then they brought out a huge tarp that we all went under so that we could see them light up better since the moon was very bright. It was amazing!! Like stars in the water!!
We reluctantly headed back in our tandem kayaks, and settled into our final night if the trip. Back at the bus, our bus driver cranked the reggaeton and we had a little dance party. At home, we reflected on the trip and also some of us were rewarded souvenirs for our especially hard work on the worksites. No tears were shed, but it was a special time closing up this amazing chapter of a week!! After an extremely prolonged goodbye, the girls went back to their hostel to pack up and now many of us plan to probably pull an all nighter since we’ll be awoken at 3am for the airport! What a week it has been, well never forget it!

-Collectively written