Saturday, May 14, 2016

One last adventure!

On our final day, we headed to Basilia's for breakfast.  After eating, we boarded our tour bus for the caves at Camuy.

Traveling to Camuy took a while, as the caves were further west on the island.  When we arrived, there was a small gift shop.  While we waited for our tour to start, we looked around and bought some souvenirs.  When it was our turn to go on the tour, we were seated on a cart that drives you to the entrance of the caves.  It took a while for the cart to start, because they needed to replace a part.  It was kind of funny.

After the cart started, it drove us to the cave entrance.  There were a lot of trees and the scenery was really beautiful.  Part of the way to the cave, we stopped and were given headphones and a device that plays a recording that guides you through the tour.  We put on our headphones and started listening.  Shortly after, we arrived at the cave entrance.

The tour recording gave us a lot of information about the history of the caves and the things we were seeing.  The caves existed even during the time of the dinosaurs!  We got off of our cart and walked into the cave.  While much of the cave was dark, there were lights in several places to help you see.  We walked along a path with a tour guide leading the way.  Right from the start, we could see many columns, stalactites and stalagmites.  It was a really cool sight.

As we walked along, there was a huge ceiling at the top of the cave.  The recorded voice stated that it was 50 feet high.  Additionally, it told us that the original inhabitants of the island believed that caves were sacred, and performed religious ceremonies there.  There was a rock formation near the top of the cave that resembled the face of a Taino native, and it's said that he looks upon you was you walk through the cave!

After a short walk, we made it to an open, outdoor area.  There was a high rock formation reaching 17 stories!  Fresh water dropped down the formations, which the guide said was pure and drinkable.  Some of us filled our water bottles with it!  On the rock walls, there were interesting plants growing, everywhere.  At the bottom, there was a river that flowed beneath another cave opening.

We took some pictures and headed back into the cave.  We walked by rock formation known as 'The Witch', because it looked like a witches face.  The recorded guide started to explain about the bats that lived in the cave, as we were walking near where they lived.  We continued to walk and take pictures, and after a short while, the tour was over.  We exited the cave and made it back to our cart.  The cart took us back to the tour entrance and we boarded our bus.

The bus took us to a local, authentic restaurant for lunch.  There was rice, pork and tamales.  Everyone ordered, ate, and rested up.  We got back on our bus and headed for the Arecibo Observatory.

The drive to the Observatory was short, but interesting.  There were neat hills, houses and farms.  We arrived at the observatory and waited on the bus while our tour guide worked on getting us another guide for the observatory.  Our bus, eventually, pulled into the observatory gates and parked.

There was a high path up to the observatory.  We walked up to the top of a hill where the observatory entrance was located.  At the entrance, an observatory guide greeted us and took us inside.
Inside, their was a computer connected to a giant sphere.  The guide used the computer to change the sphere to look like different planets.  He asked the students questions about the planets and explained what the observatory was for.  The Arecibo Observatory collects a lot of different data and information about our universe.  In addition to studying celestial objects, scientists use the observatory check for intelligent life!

The guide showed us a model of the observatory, as well as parts of meteorites.  Information on a wall explained when and where each meteorite fell.  After the guide showed us around, inside, he took us outside to see the giant, observatory dish.

When we walked outside, we could see the entire dish.  It was huge!  Three large towers held up the upper part of the structure, while the metal dish below weighed 300 tons.  Not only was it fascinating to look at, but it was surrounded by beautiful scenery.  The guide gave the students more information about the dish and asked the students questions.  Everyone listened and took pictures.  

After the tour was over, we exited the facility.  We got back on our bus and headed for our hotel.

Back at the hotel, the students had a short time to get ready for some writing and presentations.  The students wrote thank-you cards for our donors, wrote some reflections in their journals, and completed a tour survey.  Afterward, a few more groups gave their final presentations.  They did a really nice job!

When the presentations were finished, we changed into our swim clothes and headed to pool.  We spent one last hour at the hotel pool before changing to go eat.  Thanks to Mrs. Martinez, who sent us glow balloons and glow sticks, we had our own Bioluminescent Bay!

We walked to the sandwich shop we ate at on our very first night and had dinner, called Piu Bello.  After we ate, we headed back to the hotel to finish up our packing and to get some rest for our journey home!

This was our last night in Puerto Rico.  It has been an amazing experience that none of us will forget.  We look forward to seeing our families tomorrow and telling them all about it!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Surprise in Ponce!

This morning, we got up to head back to Basilia's for breakfast.  After eating, we made our way to the tour bus to head to the city of Ponce.

Ponce is a little more than an hour's drive from San Juan.  On the way, we saw beautiful landscapes with mountains and trees.  Everyone was taking pictures and videos because the scenery was so amazing!

When we arrived at Ponce, we exited our bus near the main plaza.  Immediately, we were greeted by the parents of our very own Mrs. Morales!  They are incredibly nice!  Jean-Paul and Alyssa greeted them with roses and everyone hugged. Jean Paul's father and all of his brothers were students of Sra. Morales as were all 12 of Alyssa's brothers and sisters!!

The first location we went to was the first fire station in all of Puerto Rico.  It's been turned into a museum, dedicated to the memory of many of the heroes of the Ponce fire department.  There were very old fire trucks and pictures of former fire fighters.  A tour guide told us about a story of the heroes of Ponce, who aided in stopping a fire at a local high school almost 100 years ago.  We all took pictures and looked around the museum.

Afterward, we walked around the plaza area and looked at an old cathedral.  Inside, there was beautiful architecture and stained glass windows.  We took some pictures and walked back to where we started.

Mrs. Morales' parents took us to an ice cream shop and bought us some delicious dessert!  Everyone agreed it was really good and thanked them.  They gave the teachers some souvenirs from Ponce and took pictures with the students.  They even bought waters for the students after they finished their ice cream!  It was a really good time. Mrs. Morales's dad sent a message to her and we sang Happy Birthday to him because tomorrow is his birthday!!!

They left after some good-bye's and everyone spent some time shopping.  There was a souvenir shop with really good prices near the plaza.  The teachers also walked to a local museum of the history of Ponce.  There was information on how the island was formed, the people that moved here and famous people of Ponce.  After an hour, everyone returned to the plaza to board our bus.

We traveled to the La Guancha boardwalk for some more sight-seeing.  The board walk and little souvenir shops and restaurants.  The scenery was really pretty.  There were all kinds of really nice boats on the water.  Some of the students purchased souvenirs and took pictures.  Others fed the pelicans and tarpon fish in the area.  For a dollar, you could buy a bag of sardines.  If you threw one up, a pelican would swoop down and catch it!  The tarpon were so big, they looked like sharks.  When you fed a sardine to them, they would fight for it in a frenzy!  After 45 minutes, we boarded our bus to go to dinner.  

The bus took as to an authentic Puerto Rican restaurant in Cayey called Lechonera El Mojito.  We ate lechon (roasted pork), roasted chicken and turkey, arroz con gandules, platanos amarillos, pastelitos and more. It was a Puerto Rican feast!!

On the way, there was more beautiful scenery, and even a house that was shaped like a UFO.  

We ended our day in the hotel with our first round of getting suitcases ready. We have one more day in Puerto Rico. We are making the most of every minute here!!