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Woodland School Puerto Rico 2019

April 5, 2019

Today, we went to San Juan. We were all pretty tired in the morning after arriving late last night to the airport. We noticed right away how humid it was. We woke up and has breakfast at Casa Coral, our hostel in Luquillo on the east side of the island. Then we took an hour bus ride over to San Juan for an informative but sweaty tour from Alvin, a Global Works homie. We took group pictures here and there, including underneath the umbrella street, and in front of the 3rd skinniest house in the world! We learned about the colonial history of San Juan and Puerto Rico, like how they got their names. Originally their names were switched! We checked out the Museo de la Americas as well as the church containing Ponce de Leon’s remains! We looked around an old fort of San Juan with a great view of the ocean. ¡La agua era bonita!

After a delicious lunch we went souvenir shopping for a bit. Ms. Cheung found a small plaque with the quote “A casa lechón le llega su noche buena,” which roughly translates to a metaphor saying “You get what you deserve.” Soon thereafter, we got ice cream and boarded the bus that would take us back to Casa Coral.

After an hour or so of playing and swimming at the beach, we began packing for Bio Bay. Bio Bay, we were told, would be all of us heading out on a boat to a lake containing fluorescent bacteria that lit up in the water when disturbed. But when we arrived, we found out we were only half right; while we were still going to the fluorescent lake, instead of taking one big boat, we would be night kayaking!! When traveling single file in the kayaks down the center of a mangrove canal, we encountered some difficulties. One of the challenges was avoiding collisions with the overarching beaches that created a tunnel above the canal. Though, we later found out the best way not to crash was to regulate our speed and communicate with the other kayaks. In the end, when we finally reached the bioluminescent lake, some would say the experience was worth it, while others would disagree.

Looking at the big picture, there were many new exciting events that we had taken part in. Even with all of these there is still an event we forgot to mention; Lena’s birthday!! We sang happy birthday on the bus we got on leaving the airport, and throughout the day she was showered with excitement and presents. It all cake to a satisfying close when, at dinner, she was presented with a lemon cake and classic Puerto Rican pastries called “Mallorcas.” This was along with a Puerto Rican cookbook (Lena loves to cook) from Ms. Cheung and a card signed by all of us. Happy birthday again, Lena! 🙂

Written by Tristyn and Natasha

April 6, 2019
This morning we were awoken at 8:05, but most of us were still drowsy, so we slept until 8:10AM at Casa Coral in Luquillo. It was leas chaotic than most mornings, and the boys got to breakfast before the girls (I was really proud about this). We had been previously notified that today would be our first work day at the community of Villas Del Río. After breakfast everyone quickly grabbed their bags which we packed last night and this morning. Why? Well, we were heading of to a different hostel after our service work. We headed to the bus, bags in hand, ready for a 1.5 hour trip across the island heading west. Once we boarded the bus, we were stopped by our stellar leaders because some of our stuff was left inside the hostel.
During the bus ride the majority of us were playing blackjack, but others were sleeping. Also, I don’t know when exactly this occurred, but supposedly Ms. Teri instigated a “3 questions” rule. The rule is that any given student can only ask three questions to the teachers and leaders throughout the day. This makes us more thoughtful about our questions!
We finally arrived at the community a bit unsure of what was to come, but excited to help. Natasha helped translate the community leader’s words which were all, and I mean ALL, in Spanish. The owner of the of the house we were to work on spoke quite fluently in English and was kind and expressed gratefulness (I even got a handshake from his son). From there we geared up in some rubber boots and gloves and learned to mix cement. At first we didn’t have the best of teamwork, and we started to collaborate and everything was running smoothly! During snack breaks small groups (A and B) gathered into the house which we were generously invited into, and  I went onto the couch to pet the dog. Vanessa, the family’s mom, was also kind and even played some music for us.
For the day’s work, we first created a line and passed full buckets of sand and rocks, and the teachers carried bags of cement. Then we put the sand in the center and evenly spread rocks. We mixed the two using shovels and pushed the mixture outwards to create a wall. Finally we added the cement powder and water and mixed it together just as we mixed the sand and rocks…..
Wait, did you really think that’s the end??
…Once the mixture is cement, we have to quickly shovel it into buckets which the community members carried into the wooden frames. We did this process twice to finally fill the wooden frame. Just before we headed back to the bus the family thanked us, we thanked them, and we took a group picture.
Lunch was at Angel’s house, his wife Maria cooked a delicious meal of rice and beans, chicken stew, and veggies. After lunch we loaded onto the bus for our final destination of the day, Big Yellow House! After a quick dip in the ocean we settled into rooms, enjoyed the ocean breeze, and fell asleep excited for another adventurous day!!

Written by Deshan and Oscar

April 7, 2019

Today we had a day of exploration and fun. First we woke up at 8AM and got dressed. When we entered the kitchen, we were delighted to find pancakes for breakfast! We ate quickly and hopped on the bus to start our day of fun. Soon after, we arrived at the Luquillo “kioskos” and split up to either go jump in the ocean or shop. At the beach, we enjoyed splashing in the warm and turquoise ocean water. A lot of us body surfed the waves. About half an hour later we took a short walk down the kiosk line to meet the rest of the group at a restaurant for a local lunch. Everyone really loved the limonada (lemonade)!

Although we were having a great time, the bus arrived and it was time to travel down the road to the incredible El Yunque Rainforest. As soon as we arrived, I knew the hidden secrets of the rainforest awaited us, beckoning our group toward its excitement.

We all did a silent solo hike down to the river, listening to the biodiversity as we were trekking by the lush foliage of the rainforest around us. It was so beautiful! We even met some interesting local individuals on the way down! We went down the trail and discovered a river. As soon as I got there, I hopped into the river along with the others. We saw tons of little fish and even snails. We came across a mini cascada (waterfall) that felt like jets from a hot tub when you sat near it. After about an hour we changed into our clothes and headed back up the trail to the bus. A group of us even chose to do another silent hike on the way up! Most of us slept on the bus while others talked amongst each other. The bus ride was around an hour long. As we came back to Big Yellow House, we got a choice to either stay or head to the beach. Most of us decided to stay because we had already swam a couple of hours before. Some of us showered and relaxed in common spaces while others played volleyball with Mr. Thompson.

The sun was setting, and it was almost time to eat dinner. Some of us played blackjack while other rested. It was around 7:30PM and all of us could smell pizza? In fact, yes! Pizza was on its way into our bellies. We all rushed to get the pizza. Afterwards it was around 8:30PM and Alia told us we were going to play a game. We were all wiped but excited to see what Alia and Annie had in store. We were told we were going to play a game of “Celebrity.” It’s a game where we had to write the names of famous people, fictional characters, or historical figures on 5 pieces of paper. Then the names went on a hat. The game is similar to charades. There were levels; one was using as many words as needed to describe the name, two was using only one word, and three was using just actions (no words). Time flew by as we were all having fun. It was now 9:45 and we went over the plan for the next day. We all went to bed excited for what is to come tomorrow. 🙂

Written by Jenna and Ashna T.

April 8, 2019

We woke up at around 7:30, which was early for us but late for those who went on a morning stroll/run. Walking into the kitchen we gazed at the golden waffles that sat in front of us. Soon after finishing breakfast we loaded onto the school bus to get to our new worksite in Santa Rosa. After getting situated on the bus we started our attendance count off, speaking only in Spanish. We tried to beat our old record of 13 seconds (we are a group of 26 students). We broke into small clusters throughout the bus playing cards, sleeping, and chatting.

Arriving at the work site we found out we were going to make lots of cement to fill up support columns for a house (this house was destroyed in Hurricane Maria). Dividing and conquering we filled the column molds with 9 batches of concrete in less than two hours. We walked a few houses down the street and ate a delicious lunch made by Maria (who made us lunch el sabado and is Angel’s wife). While eating lunch we told each other our spirit objects. We chatted, cooled off, and had tasty popsicles before returning to the worksite. We both had an interesting conversation with Angel about his life in Puerto Rico, and the differences between our lives.

We powered through the next hour and made a few more batches of concrete to fill the support columns. We drove home to the. If Yellow House once again and had the option to go swim at the beach or stay back and play volleyball. We saw a bunch of GIANT iguanas while playing volleyball  :0

For dinner we had a more authentic and traditional Puerto Rican dish called mofongo. We enjoyed the dish while socializing with our classmates and watching the sunset. Soon after we started playing cards again (we really love cards). Then our leaders called us together and we started to play a team game. We were each given a Jolly Rancher and were given a prompt based on which color we took. To end the evening, we watched the Puerto Rico episode of “Anthony Bourdain Parts Unknown” with popcorn. Yum!

Written by Katie and Audrey

April 10, 2019

Okay we woke up at 8AM, as usual, and were greeted by a filling breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and sausage. That was a great start to the day as we would need lots of help for our last day of work in Villa Del Río. Today’s construction site/house was a bit smaller than the previous one, and it was nice not to have to walk up a huge hill. Many things happened today that usually don’t, one of which was it was a rainy day and the site was almost completely shady. The rain was really nice and refreshing but it was a little soggy when we got on the bus. The day was exhausting, but it was great to get back to the Big Yellow House, our home away from home, to shower. We also had time to start planning the Despedida, or goodbye party, to which we invited the people whose houses we worked on throughout the week, as well as people we just met along the way.

Getting back to some thoughts on service work, it’s always super tiring and sweaty, but I think I can speak for everyone when I say that the feeling of having helped people is always rewarding. When I go back home, I’ll definitely have a new urge to help out when and wherever I can. While I might not go back to building homes at home, I know that I’ll want to help with other smaller things more than I have before. Lastly, I’m also really impressed and proud of my grade for always being willing and excited to help out, whether it be with service work or simply picking up trash around the hostal. This trip has definitely given us a new perspective and mindset on helping people and I’d say it was a huge success!

(Written by Vivian, but mostly ideas from Sabeena. She helped too.)

🙂