I’m out… For now

My last day in Puerto Rico was filled with mixed emotions, one being of pain from my obnoxious sunburn. I doubt many other people in Berks County have a sunburn in early March though, so I’ll count myself lucky on that one. I couldn’t be prouder of the great things that were accomplished this week, but it hurt to see it come to an end. I’ve definitely found my passion and every experience like this only solidified that realization more and more.

We spent our day at an old school that was given to Caras in the Puente Blanco Community. The school was destroyed during Maria, but once it is usable again, it will be the location of after-school programs for Caras along with being their new headquarters.

We began by assembling bicycles that were donated, which was going seemingly well. Thirty bikes were donated and within two hours they were completely assembled. Well… almost completely assembled. We had to improvise with some tools that were needed, which later turned out to not be the greatest idea. At the time, everything seemed flawless.

After we had our thirty beautiful yellow bikes together we began to apply base coats of paint to the exterior of the school. If anyone needs someone to paint trim for a reasonable price, I’m kind of fabulous at it. After going non-stop all week (even our beach day was busy!) it was so therapeutic to do something as meticulous as painting trim.

A few hours later and it was time to go to our last lunch at the Puente Blanco Community Center. The women who work there were so gracious to cook for so many people several days this week. Their food and the iguanas on the way to the center will definitely be missed.

When we got back to the school it was time to paint more trim! I definitely think that that could be my version of yoga. Unfortunately there’s only so much trim in the world, so after I finished we needed to put air in our spectacular bicycles and store them. I had waited all day to test drive one and my moment finally came! Unfortunately, the tool that we didn’t have was not one that could be swapped with a clever alternative, making all of the handlebars not completely tight. By that I mean they were basically useless. After Michael and Luis both had unsuccessful attempts to ride, I assured them both that my craftsmanship couldn’t be matched and that they clearly didn’t know how to ride a bike. Aaaaaand then I crashed. The handlebars twisted one way, the seat twisted the other, and I had a seriously injured ego. And the timing of it all was just too perfect that there was nothing to do but laugh.

I still firmly believe that I’m a superior bicycle assembler, but only with the right tools. Luckily their crash dummy was able to laugh at her own stupidity.

Once all of the bikes, tools, and paints were stored, we said goodbye to our last day of service here in Puerto Rico. This program was my third global service learning project, and like the others, it has made me understand myself and the world around me so much better. Working out in the wetland and being outside so much made me realize just how much I miss exploring the world around me back when time and responsibilities weren’t things I had to worry about.

The people that I’ve been able to meet here truly make this island special. Ive traveled far and wide, but I have never felt so welcomed as I did from everyone that I came in contact with here (except for maybe the guy that yelled “hey gringas we love you!”) The experiences and relationships I have gained are irreplaceable and I can only hope that they all flourish, just as I hope our newly planted mangroves do.

Although my flight home leaves in a few hours, my time in Puerto Rico is far from over. Let’s see what happens next.

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