Ponce – Dia 8, 9, y 10

March 11th – we spent the majority of today traveling to Ponce, AKA La Perla del Sur, but we did stop a few times for food and other activities, like visiting the Carite Rainforest to swim at Charco Azul.

We headed to lunch at a “lechonera” after exploring there. It was a very meat-heavy restaurant, much to my vegetarian dismay and my carnivore comrades’ delight. There was also an incredible cafe there were all the coffee lovers indulged in some caffeine to power us through the rest of the day.

We arrived at our hotel in Ponce shortly after, where our day essentially ended.

March 12 – We began our day quite early today, leaving for breakfast at 6:40 am before heading to Escuela Leopoldo Drew at 7:15. There, we spent time with elementary students, interacting with kids of all different ages and helping the teachers if necessary. All of the Westtown students loved spending time with such positive, intelligent, and welcoming children, and we were certainly sad to leave!

After a quick lunch in the Plaza of Ponce, we left for the Cristo Pobre House, a house and mini-farm run by Juan de Dios designed to provide a home for those in need of one. We pulled weeds out from under tomato and papaya plants (there were a lot of them!) before leaving for dinner and then the hotel.

To end the day, we went to see Captain Marvel (highly recommend) in theaters before heading back to the hotel to prepare for the following day.

March 13th – we woke up early to drive to the Tanamá National Forest in Utuado for ziplining and other fun forest activities. We began by hiking to a fairly remote spot where a thousand-foot cave is located with a river running through it. We could only fit so many group members in the cave at a time, so some of us hung back and swam in the river while the other kayaked in the cave.

We had lunch before ziplining, which was a blast. There were four different lines that snaked down the mountain (which we eventually had to hike back up) that were quite long and allowed you to build up a significant amount of speed. While wonderful, the day was fairly exhausting, so it’s safe to say that we were all ready to board the guagua and rest once we finished.


Food Scapes Caribe pt 2 – Dia 7

We headed back to Luquillo today to continue our work with Carlos on his farm. Before the day’s work began, we did a bit of yoga to stretch and center ourselves.

Our work consisted of retrieving and organizing pots thrown into the rainforest by Hurricane Maria, planting platanos in the field, and planting cilantro and sunflowers in the greenhouse. We took a break for lunch (vegan sloppy joes) and card games before Carlos took us on some of the rainforest trails as a thank you for our work.

We then said goodbye to Carlos and left for the hotel to pack for our departure to Ponce tomorrow. Should be good!


La Perla y Food Scapes Caribe- Dia 5 y 6

March 8th – We left Fajardo relatively early today to arrive at La Perla, a small coastal community that sits outside the walls of San Juan, before it became too hot. We worked in the community garden and greenhouse, pulling weeds, creating compost, and painting railings.

We enjoyed a large lunch at a house of a kind La Perla community member’s before heading to a grocery store in Old San Juan to purchase sandwich-making materials. After gathering the necessary ingredients, we headed to a lovely park to construct said sandwiches, which we were planning on handing out to those in San Juan who needed dinner that evening.

Once we finished building and packaging the sandwiches, we set out in the guagua to find those who wanted them. We became increasingly popular as night set in, and we happily gave away at least half of the sandwiches. We left for dinner after about an hour and half before heading back to the hotel.

March 9th – Today we set out for Food Scapes Caribe Farm, where we would be spending the entire day. The farm, located in the mountains of Luquillo, is entirely organic and very environmentally friendly. Carlos, who owns and runs the farm, had us pulling weeds out from under plantano plants (watch out for red ants), repotting oregano, and clearing trails before we stopped for lunch.

We returned to work after our (completely vegan!!!) meal, finishing what we had started in the morning. We had some time before dinner after this second shift, so we played some games, of both the board and physical variety.

After dinner (again, entirely vegan) and games, we headed back to the hotel. We will be spending tomorrow there as well, and I believe we’re all looking forward to it!


Bici Caño – Dia 4

Today, we left Farjardo around 8 to arrive at Bici Caño around 9. Bici Caño is a non-profit that offers bike tours of the 8 barrios that surround the Caño Martín Peña to raise money for and awareness of the communities present. Once there, we selected our bikes and started off on our two-hour ride.

We traveled around the “monja” neighborhood, stopping every 10 or so minutes to discuss different attributes of the barrio, both current and historical. I think it is safe to say that the bike ride was particularly eye-opening for us Westtown students.

After we finished our ride, we ate a quick lunch before heading out to the beach, where we spent the remainder of the day.

picture: Maren Hapeman

We have a full day of service tomorrow, so look out for that post! See you all then.


El Yunque – Dia 3

We started our day relatively early today so we could arrive at El Yunque Tropical Rainforest (a National Park) to begin our volunteer work. We worked in two sites, Baño Grande and Baño Oro, doing both maintenance and hurricane clean up.

My group worked on the Baño Grande site first, scrubbing the stone surrounding the natural bath extensively.

Kavya and Zakiyah with their scrub brushes.

After we finished at our first site, we ate a quick lunch with an incredible view:

After lunch, my group headed to the Baño Oro site to remove some of the dirt and clay stuck that filled the natural bath there. It was fairly challenging work, but extremely rewarding.

To reward us for our hard work, we traveled to a gorgeous swimming hole along one of the rivers. We cooled off and washed our muddy clothes before returning to the guagua to head back to the hotel.

See you all tomorrow!


Santurce – Dia 2

Our second full day in Puerto Rico began with a quick breakfast at 7:30 before departing for Santurce in the “guagua” (Puerto Rican term for bus). Once we arrived, we exited the bus to search for street art, which wasn’t particularly hard to find: it’s everywhere!

After we had our fill of street art (if that’s even possible), we headed to La Placita, a farmers’ market packed wall-to-wall with monstrously large produce.

Lena selects a mango.

We hopped back on the bus to travel to Lote 23, a lunch spot filled with about 10 food trucks of varying cuisines.

After almuerzo, we took el Tren Urbano to la Universidad de Puerto Rico to visit their Museum of History, Art and Anthropology.

While we were there, we learned about the anthropologic history of the Tainos, the Native Americans that lived and thrived in Puerto Rico before Christopher Columbus arrived. We also had the privilege of view the world-famous painting “El Velorio” by Francisco Oller (in no way does my picture do it justice), as well as many other works.

We drove back to the inn after we finished in the gallery to rest for a day full of service tomorrow. Looking forward to it!



Hello! My name is Anabel Barnett, and I am one of the 14 students traveling to Puerto Rico for my senior project. Our 12-day trip is chock full of cultural and environmental explorations that intersect with service work. We’ve met as a group about fives times to get to know one another as well as prepare for the trip. I certainly feel ready to go, and that seems to be the collective sentiment as we inch closer to our departure on Sunday.

While there were a number of other school-sponsored trips that appealed to me in the selection process, none did so more than Puerto Rico. In my Spanish 5 class last year, I learned much of the history of Puerto Rico, particularly in regards to its relationship with the US, through which I gained important socio-historical context that frequently fails to appear in American history/social studies classrooms. This context, for me, is vital in grasping the present situation in Puerto Rico and the (mainland) US; it has helped me unpack the president’s response to the post-Maria crisis as well as the overall socio-political climate of our country. In traveling to Puerto Rico, I am seeking to expand my present understanding alongside my classmates, hopefully gleaning experiences, information, and ideas that can be brought back to campus to fuel discussion and action.

We fly out Sunday morning, so I will be in Fajardo the next time you’ll hear from me!