Category Archives: Travel

Puerto Rico – Part Two

As I shared in my last post, the first day and a half we went sight-seeing in San Juan and Old San Juan.

On Monday morning, we drove to Guayama and arrived at the church that was hosting us for the week and moved all of our luggage into a room we were sharing with four other groups. The church had provided us with cots to sleep on – which I was pretty excited about because my air mattress almost always gets a hole in it! So we made our beds cots and went to a little strip mall down the street for lunch. There was a Taco Maker, which we were told was like Puerto Rico’s Taco Bell, so me and a few other girls went to try that while the others went to Subway. (It seems silly to me to go to a different country and not try their food, but anyways…) I’m glad I tried it, and it wasn’t bad, but I do prefer Taco Bell, haha.

Later in the day we found our crew assignments. World Changers divides up the youth and adults from each church and puts them together on what’s called a crew. Usually you have at least one person you know from your church on your crew. Each crew is assigned a house that they will be working on for the week (unless you are not doing construction, in which case you do community service type of work). My crew was called the “Dumpsters” and I was with the girl I am closest to in my youth group so that was exciting.

We met the rest of our crew and everyone seemed really nice. We were all already talking about things like school and college and getting to know each other better. We had three Puerto Ricans on our crew that were from either the host church or another local church to help us and to translate for us.

houseTuesday morning we started work. We drove out to the house we would be working on and the neighborhood was pretty poor. Our homeowner’s name was Fao (pronounced like “foul” without the “l”) and she was just the sweetest little old lady. Her house had burned down (except for the cement structure) so we would be building  and putting on a tin roof for her and scraping off the burnt paint on the inside. She shared with us that she normally takes a nap around noon, but one day her sister called her and woke her up to tell her someone they knew had died. She then heard a scratching noise and thought some people were trying to break into the back of the house. So she went to the front door to lock herself inside when a huge ball of flame erupted from the back room and that part of the roof caved in. If her sister hadn’t of called her and woke her up, she probably would be dead. It was truly a miracle.

before outside before

She cooked lunch for us everyday just out of the goodness of her heart. The church provided us with lunches, but she wanted to make us something other than sandwiches. I loved it because I love trying authentic food. The first day she made chicken with rice and beans, and plantain chips. The second day she made empanadillas, like the ones we had on the beach but better. :) The third day she made us rice with ribs and salad. The fourth day she made some kind of pasta dish with macaroni noodles and a red sauce. I’m not sure what the meat was, but it tasted good! I would’ve taken pictures, but I thought that might be weird or rude, so I don’t have any pictures of the food to share with you all.

In the seven years that I’ve been doing World Changers, I’ve always had a painting job, so it was exciting to finally have a roofing job! It was hard work, since we didn’t have any power tools, so we had to nail the roof down sheet by sheet, nail by nail. I got blisters on my thumbs from holding the nail and from the hammer, so it was kind of painful the rest of the week. But it was all worth it when we finished on Friday and Fao teared up and gave us all huge, long hugs.

working

We ended up finishing the roof a little bit earlier than expected so we were able to prime some of the inside walls, so in a way, I still had a painting job. :P

house 2Every night we had praise and worship and it was such a cool experience because they had it in English and in Spanish. One of the Puerto Rican girls kept laughing at us Americans every time we would try to sing the songs in Spanish. We were really terrible, haha, but it was a lot of fun and just an awesome experience. Kind of awesome to know that our God understands all of the languages, even if we don’t. :)

I was really sad to say goodbye to my crew which I had gotten pretty close to. I was also sad to say goodbye to Fao and to the city of Guayama. It was overall just a wonderful week and God is always teaching me new things. Definitely one of my better trips. <3

crew2

Puerto Rico – Part One

I arrived back from Puerto Rico yesterday night and while it is good to be back, I miss all the beautiful people that I met and the wonderful time that I had. :(

I went there with my youth group on a week-long mission trip with an organization called World Changers. We left two days early to allow for travel and to do a little bit of sight-seeing while we were there. We left St. Louis at 5:30 in the morning and caught a connecting flight in Orlando to San Juan. We arrived at our hotel and then went to a local Puerto Rican restaurant to eat. I ordered Mahi Mahi and fried plantain chips. I loved the Mahi Mahi, but the fried plantains were just okay. I think it was just the restaurant’s cooking of it because I had it later in the trip and really liked it. :)

Mahi mahi

The next day we went to the El Yunque National Rainforest and that was super neat! There were numerous spots along the drive into the rainforest that you could stop, so the first stop was at a waterfall.  It was really pretty and we climbed up on the rocks – though I was scared a few times I was going to slip and fall right in, LOL. :P


The next stop on the drive was to a lookout point, kind of like a lighthouse. On a clear day, you can see the Virgin Islands from there. Naturally is was cloudy, but it was still quite a view.

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Next to there was a trail that you could hike. It was 8/10 of a mile and we thought that would be enough to really see that rainforest but wouldn’t completely exhaust us… we were wrong, LOL. It took us 45 minutes to go one way down the trail but it was totally worth it. At the end was another large waterfall and it was just gorgeous.

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Since we were all hot and sweaty, we were ready to eat and just plop down. So the beach was the next place to hit. It was relatively close to the rainforest and it was awesome. I’m a beach kind of girl anyhow so the whole experience was awesome. They had music blaring ( I LOVED the Puerto Rican music!) and there was a ton of people and it was just like one big party, haha. We found a cute little food shop and I ordered a pollo empanadilla. I’m not really sure what the difference between an empanadilla and an empanada is, but it seemed like the same thing – and it was delicious! It had a lot of flavor and it was only $1, so it was even better. :)

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After eating, we found a spot on the beach and swam in the sea for a while. The water felt wonderful after being hot and sweaty all day. :) The boys got tired of the beach after about an hour (As a side note, I do not know any guys that like the beach – which I think is really bizarre. All my girlfriends love the beach!) so we washed off and changed. We stopped at a few beach shops before leaving and I bought a cute little green floral wrap.

It was only 3pm when we left so we had a lot of extra time than we had thought. We decided to go to Old San Juan to do some sight-seeing and shopping. It was a bit frustrating at first because we were driving a large 12 passenger van and couldn’t find a place to park so got stuck in the traffic of the small little streets. It took us about an hour and forty five minutes to get out of the traffic and find a place to park. I kept seeing all these cute little shops and all the bright colors and couldn’t actually get out and in it.

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However we finally got out and were able to do all the shopping. Ahh, I was in heaven! We probably shopped for three or four hours and I ended up spending all the money I had raised previously, haha, but it was great.

When we arrived back at the hotel, we showered and unpacked and then me and two other girls sat outside on these cute little couches by the pool. We could see a little gelato shop across the street and convinced our youth leader to let us go get some. I hadn’t had gelato since I was in Italy two years ago (I can’t believe that was so long ago!) so I was so happy to get some! It tasted just as delicious as I remembered it. :)

The next morning we went to the El Morro fort in Old San Juan and it was awesome. I love old forts and castles and that type of thing; since it was right on the sea, it was just gorgeous. There was a cemetery on the side that we looked through first. A door led from the cemetery to a small grassy area that dropped down to the rocks by the sea. I could have just stayed there forever. We then crossed the grassy field to the actual fort and explored it. At the end I bought a pirate-y looking map. :)

       
So that was our busy day and a half of sight-seeing before our actual mission trip, which I will talk about in the next post. :)