San Francisco Day School Puerto Rico 2016
The group arrived late last night, the plane landing in humid Puerto Rico around 9:40PM. It was a long but smooth travel day from San Fran to Atlanta and on to our final destination – Puerto Rico! Upon arrival in San Juan, we exited the airport doors and the immediate sensation was the hot, sticky air. It was amazing and the warmth felt great, but it was also a huge change to where we were coming from.
We were greeted outside by our four Global Works leaders and some surprise guests! Carolina’s family who lives in San Juan greeted us at the airport with platters of delicious welcome food – sandwiches, Spanish tortilla, and pastries. We already had family in Puerto Rico!
We took a 30 minuet bus ride to our new home in a small town called Cerro Gordo and a place called the Big Yellow House! It is literally that – a five story, huge, yellow house a block from the beach. Everyone was a mix of exhausted and excited. We ate some of the delicious food brought to us and got into our bunks to get enough sleep for the next full day.
May 27, 2016
We woke for a delicious breakfast of cereal, fresh fruits, yogurt, bread, juice, even some Nutella! The day was already hot at 7:30AM and after filling up, we all covered ourselves in sunscreen and then bug spray (mandatory each day). Many of us were very nervous about the bugs, but so far we have barely really seen ANY mosquitoes!
The plan for the day was to tour Old San Juan. We met up with our tour guide, Alvin, a Puerto Rican with perfect English, and toured around the forts and walls of the old city – the the oldest, intact, colonial city in the entire western hemisphere and one of the most visited sites in North America!
Although the heat made us feel tired, seeing a huge iguana caught everyone’s attention and looking at the views of the vast blue Atlantic ocean from the walls of El Morro was unforgettable.
After our tour, everyone was starving. We took the bus to a beautiful outdoor restaurant called Los Raices. Here they served typical Puerto Rican food and we had options of steak, fried pork chops, chicken, plantains (tostones), rice and beans and more. It was a much needed and very tasty meal!
After lunch all anyone could think about was diving into the ocean. So we had a quick bathing suit change and waltzed down to the water. The Cerro Gordo beach looks like a scene out of a movie. A perfect cove surrounded by green palm trees and bright blue water. The entire group jumped right in and played like it was the first time at a beach!
Dinner was an amazing BBQ prepared by our Global Works guides (Scott, Luke, Luiz and Ari). We had burgers, chicken, veggie burgers, rice and beans and salad followed by some amazing brownies that a few of the students expertly prepared!
The last activity of the night was to have an orientation about the trip. We learned about the rules and also about the amazing things we would be doing for the next week. We were told some wise words of Chris Corrigan who started this trip many years ago -“that is is not any ONE of our trip, it is OUR trip” and so to always be acting in a way that will make this trip the best it can be for everyone.
We split into our three groups who will be traveling together and learned about tomorrow’s plans. One group will stay at the Big Yellow House and start service work in a nearby community. Another group will be heading to the rainforest to a place called Tropic Ventures to learn about sustainability and the environment. And the last group will be taking a very early ferry ride to the island of Vieques where they will learn about the history of the island and stay in beautiful property called “La Finca”. We will all come back together in 6 days to share our stories and reflect of what an adventure we are about to have!
May 28, 2016
~ GROUP B “Holsty Wolsty and the DeLucs”
A group of 8th graders leaves just as the sun peeps over the horizon. As the sun creeps further along its journey across the sky, we were making a journey of our own through winding jungle roads to the hospitable community of Villa del Rio.
The locals welcomed us with open arms and big smiles. The leader of Global Works in the community, Jonny, guided us down the road to the site where we would be working. The particular site we were working at was to be a future bathroom for a family of six in the community who needed help with their home.
Doing all by hand, the fatigued teenagers shoveled away their time mixing cement, and an assembly line slowly formed as unspoken language guided the buckets of cement to the area where the floor of the soon to be bathroom will be. During this time, new friendships and bonds were made with the locals, whom we just met, and our fellow classmates and teachers, whom we have known for up to nine years.
After the work period, the 8th graders had a genuine Puerto Rican meal of rice, fried chicken, beans, and tostones (fried plantains). We returned to the yellow house, quickly changes and headed down to the beach. After a significant amount of time at the beach, we returned to the house, and ate a huge taco dinner. The sun finished its journey and we returned to bed to await a full day tomorrow.
-Henry & Nathan
May 29, 2016
~ GROUP B
After a morning of hard work and sweat, we had finished more than half of the floor. After the work was done, we all trekked up to the community center to eat lunch and play a high stakes basketball game. The losing team had to stick their heads in the wet cement. Just kidding, we would never ruin the beautiful floor that we made!
We all conked out on the car ride home, swaying to the beat of Puerto Rican jazz. We made a brief attempt to get a card game started, but after falling short, a couple of us threw on our concrete ridden shoes and went on a ridiculously beautiful run/walk/climb adventure. We hopped over the volcanic rock and explored awe-inspiring coves with such clear blue water it felt like we were on a postcard. Despite sweating out half the liquids in our bodies, it was definitely one of the best experiences of our lives.
The day wrapped after a delicious pasta feast, a quick meditative break and reflection. After all that, we all reluctantly took our phones back and called our parents. Admit it, that last part surprised you. YES. They have freed your children from addiction. We also got to have homemade sundaes with lots of chocolate, candy and ice cream. We are still working on that obsession. So other than life changing experiences, being exposed to a whole new culture, eating great food and securing lifelong bonds with our classmates, nothing much is going on here in PR.
-Elliot & Marlowe
May 30, 2016
~ Group C “14 Kids and Counting”
Hey guys, it’s Lizzy, one of the fourteen children in the Ewing, Landis, Czosnyka group. I’m here to give you a recap of our group’s crazy adventures: Our group got up at 5:15 on Saturday, ate a quick breakfast, and climbed into a bus that would take us to Vieques, a small island off of San Juan’s coast.
When we arrived in Vieques, we walked a very short 1.3 miles to a local museum, where we met Robert Rabin, a political activist in Vieques. Robert told us about the U.S Military presence in Vieques, and even though we didn’t all agree with his opinions, we learned a lot. After, we were fortunate enough to record a segment for Radio Vieques and see the studio. Then, we hurried to the grocery store to grab our ingredients for Iron Chef Vieques, our group’s own competitive cooking challenge. After our time in the grocery store we went to La Finca, our little paradise where we would be staying. La Finca has everything you could ask for in a vacation house: hammocks, nice people, breath taking views, and a pool! After taking in La Finca and eating a delicious lunch prepared by our hosts, Scott and Bill, we headed to the pool. It was refreshing on the hot day that it was, and we had fun playing pool games and bonding as a family. However, our friendly relationships would turn sour when we went head-to-head in Iron Chef Vieques. It was a well fought battle, with the dessert team coming out victorious with their banana filled chocolate cake, the steak quesadilla appetizer and mustard marinated grouper a close second and third. That night, we were delighted to hear that we would be sleeping-in the next morning, a nice change from our normal 5 AM wake ups.
That next morning, we had a delicious breakfast, and read in hammocks. During lunch, we played a game called Poopy Pants, the objective to make other players smile or show teeth while you said “poopy” without showing your teeth. Mr. Ewing had us nearly peeing our pants from laughter and it was the funniest moment on the trip. Our group name (14 Kids and Counting) also originated at this lunch. It happened after a group member called Ms. Landis and Mr. Ewing “mom” and “dad”, we decided to deem them our parents, Ms. Czonyka as the “cool aunt”, and Luke as the “Bro Uncle” or “Bruncle”. Playing off of the Duggar family, we called our group 14 Kids and Counting, because we were more like a family than a group. Unfortunately, Mother Nature reared her ugly head and a storm started to delay our trip to the beach. However, we decided to brave the weather and travel to the beach anyway. Even though it was raining, we had an amazing time at the beach snorkeling and doing feet first jumps off the 5’11” dock. We ate a delicious dinner at a local restaurant and waited for our Bio Bay tour to come. 2 ½ hours later, we sadly had to give up on our tour as our reservation had gotten mixed-up and went back to La Finca, pretty disappointed. However, our group vowed vengeance on Abe’s tours (the tour company who got our reservation mixed up) and packed for another early travel day back to the Big Yellow House.
After somehow surviving a 5 AM wake up, we sadly had to depart from our home at La Finca. We travelled back to San Juan with more roosters, and slept the entire car ride back to the Big Yellow House, with Reggae tone playing in the background. After a quick rest at the house, we got our work gear on and headed to the community. We ate a delicious traditional Puerto Rican meal and met with Jonny and Brian, two brothers who oriented us with the community and the work we would be doing. They took us to the house where we would be laying down the rest of the concrete floor and then we headed back to the Big Yellow House. That night, Bruncle Luke, (the best person ever) told us that we would be able to go on a Bio Bay tour after all in Fajardo!!! All of us went to bed that night grateful to Bruncle Luke, who worked so hard to get us that tour.
The next morning, we returned to the community and picked up where we started. The work was grueling and strenuous, but it was all worth it when we met Tito, whose daughter would be using the room we worked on for her and her young son. Having a direct impact in the community was satisfying and motivated us to work harder. Four batches of concrete later, we had the floor finished and we headed to the community center for another amazing lunch and a competitive game of basketball. It was very sad to leave our friends at the community: Felipe, who taught us to “shake it shake it don’t break it”, Ishmael, who was one of the hardest working people I’d ever seen, and Edgar, Brian and Jonny, who made the work look easy and lead us by example. After quick showers, we climbed back into our vans and went on a family outing to our long awaited Bio Bay Tour. The tour was great! We had so much fun gliding our hands in the water and watching small sparkles pop up in the water.
Our family has bonded over some of the funniest things, and I have enjoyed every second of it. So until next time, I will leave you with the words of Derek, “SCRAM!!”
May 31, 2016
~ GROUP A
Today was an epic day! We woke up to a beautiful morning at La Finca Caribe on the beautiful island of Vieques. Vieques is a tiny island off the coast of Puerto Rico with a very long and volatile history. We had the opportunity to learn about this history directly from the source when we went to visit an ancient fort on the top of a hill overlooking the entire island. There we learned about the plight of the Viequenses who fought to get the US Military to stop practice bombing on the Eastern and Western parts of the island. We learned about the non-violent direct action taken by many thousands of people, including Bob Rabin- the Albert Einstein looking guy who was a driving force in standing up to the capitalist-imperialist oppressors. In 2003, after a long struggle and without firing a single shot, these people were able to drive out the US Navy from their tiny little island. We pretty much learned that we are doomed- especially in light of our current political landscape- perpetual war, here we come!
This was the final day of SFDS’s epic Puerto Rico trip. The whole class had been split up into three groups for the majority of the trip and today we rejoined each other to celebrate out last evening and share our stories. One group woke in the Big Yellow House and enjoyed some beach time, another group returned from and adventure in the rainforest and the last group took the ferry back from the island of Vieques.
The students were a roar of excitement and giggles as they all embraced their peers from the other groups and exchanged stories. The task of the day was to clean the house and get ready for our final evening’s “despedida” or good-bye party.
We invited all the members of the community of Villa Del Rio where we did our service work to join us for the celebration. A DJ came to play some lively Latin tunes. We had a huge BBQ and cleaned out all of the refrigerators. The highlight of the evening was a salsa competition between couples from the three groups. The members of the community were the ones to judge the competition and it was amazing to see how talented the couples were after only ONE salsa lesson!
It was a wonderful last evening with high energy. We well all exhausted at the end though and eager to get packed and to bed as our wake up time for departure day will be 3:30AM! Goodnight!