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Synergy School Puerto Rico 2023

February 17-18, 2023

On February 17th, Uma’s 14th birthday (yay Uma!), we had a very long travel day, starting with arriving at the airport at 4 am. We took two very long flights with an entertaining layover in Dallas, Texas. We arrived in Puerto Rico late at night and were greeted by our guides Lauren and Sadie who had pizza waiting for us. We got settled in our dorms for the night and were woken up by Ariel at 8 the next morning. On February 18th, we gathered for a breakfast consisting of pancakes, hashbrowns, sausages, yogurt, and fruit. We were graciously picked up by a bus to head to Old San Juan. We arrived at the historic city and started with a traditional Puerto Rican lunch at Jibaritos. We enjoyed consuming plantains, mofongo, rice, chicken, pork, beef, trifongo, and juices of pineapple, passionfruit, and lemon. We then visited many old forts that functioned during the war while enjoying bright, colorful houses on our way. We visited old churches and souvenir shops and purchased jewelry, food, and art while slowly melting from the tropical weather. Henry really enjoyed the pigeon park, befriending a pigeon that he later named Frederick. Finally, we saw La Casa Estrecho, which is 5 feet wide and 36 feet long! After a long day of touring, we came back to the Big Yellow House and adapted to not being able to have running water by playing basketball, volleyball, and football, and just hanging out. We took showers with jugs filled with water. We enjoyed the sunset and had a dinner of salad, pork, chicken, and rice. After lots of chatter, we had a community agreements meeting and previewed the next day. We are currently getting ready for bed and excited for a day of helping the community!

by Nola E., Zoe P., and Henry G.

February 19, 2023

We woke up early and went to do service work for the first time 20 minutes away in the community of Villa del Rio. We were introduced to William and Angel who were the main project workers and they showed us the basics of construction. We were told about Maria (Angel’s wife’s) delicious food and knew we had something to look forward to! Today we worked with cement. Some people shoveled gravel, some people shoveled sand, and some people opened cement dust bags. After a turn around the mixer, we shoveled cement into buckets. We formed an assembly line, and the buckets of cement were passed to be poured into the floor. It was hard work but it was rewarding. After we finished we piled into the big yellow bus, and went to Maria’s for a delicious lunch of chicken stew and rice. Since we were so productive working, after lunch we got to go straight to the beach. It was epic! The water was the perfect temperature and the weather was perfect. We went back to the house to a refreshing shower and yummy dinner. Afterwards we had kettle corn and watched a documentary about Puerto Rico. Let’s just say day three was a success!

by Sahra G, Kaylen T, Calla T

February 20, 2023

In the morning, we woke up at 8:20 am (Puerto Rican time). For breakfast, we had a variety of foods to eat. Some of which include mini pancakes, sausages, eggs, cereal, and yogurt. We packed our bags to get ready to do service at our worksite and arrived there around 10:00 am. We collaborated together to make an entire cement wall while being introduced to a stray dog named Kevin (shoutout to Kevin V.Y., Uma V.Y.’s beloved father).
We bussed over to Angel’s and Maria (Angel’s wife’s) house to eat a wonderful homemade lunch which consisted of chicken wings, rice and beans, and salad. (It was delicious.) After we finished the meal, Angel and William told us about their personal experiences with hurricane Maria and Fiona. We hobbled back to the bus, as we were all knackered from the ongoing day. We arrived back at the big yellow house and were faced with a tough decision to dwell on. We had to decide whether or not to continue on our journey to the beautiful beach just outside of San Juan or stay at the big yellow house and relax. Half of us went to the beach and half stayed home. The beach was beautiful and the water was warm. After returning from the beach the rest of us took showers. For dinner, we had grilled chicken, waffle fries, and salad (it was scrumptious on our tastebuds). We had an enriching salsa lesson with our teacher Yara (we devoured and left no atoms (shoutout to Adam McC., Margaret’s lovely father)). Then we went to bed to prepare for our upcoming early morning.

by Melisse N.L., Uma V.Y., Margaret McC, and  Cecile B.

February 21, 2022

We woke up at 6:20 am for breakfast which was hash browns and sausage which were small in size. We got on the bus for a long drive to the mountains, stopping briefly at a Walgreens where we met Ray, one of our leaders in the trip.

After a long drive in the mountains we got to Campo Sofia in Utuado. We met Mika, another leader we were working with. While Mika gave us a tour of Campo Sofia we collected clay for unknown reasons. We then sat around a bonfire and talked about our intentions for the trip. We went to Rio Limon and put the clay we collected on our bodies and faces for healing.

Later we washed off the clay in the river and swam to the petroglyphs, which are images engraved on rocks. The swim weaved through enormous rocks I’m the rainforest- heavenly! It was freezing. Mika told us about how the petroglyphs were there before the Taino people, she predicted maybe even Serbian. When we swam back we walked to another petroglyph which we were told was a symbol for infinity. For lunch we had homemade bean balls and spaghetti with a green papaya salad and hibiscus basil juice. We had a closing bonfire where we threw ceremonial tobacco into the fire.

After that we went home and had a conversation about respect and community.
We then ate a late pizza dinner and went to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow.

by Jasper C., Maggie O., Sorayah F.

February 22, 2023

We woke up at the crack of dawn, 6:20. We were exhausted but ready to go. We had a breakfast of the world’s greatest French toast sticks and some sausages. After that, we got in the bus for a 2.5 hour drive, which most of us slept through. It went relatively well except the bus’s air conditioning didn’t work so we had to switch buses. We arrived at the sustainable forestry reserve called Tropic Ventures at 10:45 and met 3T, Alfredo, Monique, and Niko. We were then put to work in groups shoveling clay and creating a boundary on the side of the road so that plants were able to grow there and landslides were better prevented. For example, some of the debris that was beneath clay was irremovable electrical wire which were torn down during hurricane Maria. After 3.5 hours of hard work we had a delicious lunch cooked by Monique which consisted of rice, vegetable stew, fresh orange juice, and greens. We then sat down and talked with 3T about the sustainable forest project, compost toilets, endangered species, hurricanes and global waste. As well, there were many animals around the property including 4 month old kittens; a crowd pleaser, including a tiny orange cat that Fletcher named Goober. This was followed by a bus ride home, many naps and games, and a toilet save by Randall. Dinner at 7 was chicken, rice, and salad followed by a conversation about service work and what it means and how to provide service to others. After that we played Uno and hit the hay!

by Audra S., Fletcher B., and Baxter F.

February 23, 2023
We woke up at around 6:20 AM. Way earlier than we were supposed to. When we woke up all the adults were asleep. We waited in the common area, talking and playing card games. When everyone was awake we got to eat breakfast, we eat pancakes, sausage, hash browns, eggs, French toast sticks, and yogurt. It was yummy. After eating breakfast and cleaning the common area. We started packing up and getting ready to go to work for the day.

We went to the bus in our work clothes. The bus ride was about 25 minutes. When we got there we all started to get inside the house where we were going to work inside. We got an explanation from William and Angel of how we where we’re going to work in the house and all the jobs the students were going to do. Angel also explained how this house was going to be for his son in the future. We had two job sections, people actually making the cement, and people moving the buckets to Noel (Willy’s son who was helping us work). He poured the cement into the roof and made the surface smooth while doing it. That kept happening for the whole time until it was done. When the work was all done we drink some coconut water from fresh coconuts found in the backyard, and we also started to bring the food to the roof. We ate spaghetti, pasta salad, salad, and rice.

After lunch, we headed back to the Big Yellow House. The bus ride back was about 25 minutes. When we got back we started changing to go to the volcanic rock face, then we went to the beach. We ended up at a place that had no waves and the water was clear and stayed for about an hour. While we were at the beach we threw the football around and swam in the water. After a while at the beach, we started to walk over to The Big Yellow House. We arrived and immediately started to clean up because we had William, Angel, Eggy, and Maria come over for dinner. After a long and stressful cleaning, we had all 4 of them over, eggy immediately started to get attention since everyone in the group liked Eggy, he was always funny and always brought good vibes. We got spaghetti, meatballs, and chicken for dinner. After dinner, we got a speech about how much we were helping out, and how it was super fun and helpful that we came out from SF to P.R. to do all this. During the speech, we all got bracelets, which symbolize the experience of working in Puerto Rico. After the speech, we all started talking to each other and got special treats: Ice cream! When they all left, we put on a movie ( The Minions) and everyone was watching it. After that it was pretty late, so we got in our rooms and started sleeping for another big day tomorrow.

by Adrian , Mykel, and Yobani G.

February 24, 2023

We woke up early in the morning to tidy up the house. It took awhile but eventually the job was done. For breakfast, we had French toast sticks and sausages. Then we had to pack up all of our luggage and put it on the bus. We were supposed to leave an hour before but we took too long to clean up. We finally left on our journey to the rainforest. It was an hour and a half drive then a 15 minute walk to a beautiful river. At the river we all swam and some of us skipped rocks. Soon after we headed back up to the bus, went to a local restaurant for a Puerto Rican lunch and souvenir shopping then drove to our hotels. Then we went to the beach and did our closing reflection circle. After the reflection circle we grabbed our stuff and headed to the bus for the ride to the kayaks. We had a briefing on how to turn and paddle and all that. We then traversed through the moonlight mangrove channels upstream. We ended up in a large bay where we saw various constellations and the bioluminescence in the water. After the kayak tour, we were exhausted so we ate dinner, packed our bags and headed to bed to prepare for an early departure. Can’t wait to see our families!

By: Rei, Dylan, Brody, and Marshall