Sunday, April 20, 2014

Part One: Destination Puerto Rico-An Epic Class Trip

After what seemed like countless months of waiting the the sixth and seventh grade Spanish Language immersion class trip to Puerto Rico finally began at four oh-my-god-it's-too-damn-early in the morning last Monday morning. All told, twenty-two kids, along with at least one parent for each kid, boarded the bus for the ride to Charlotte, North Carolina to catch the flight to San Juan. To get to this point the group had to go through a series of arduous fund raising events that challenged the patience and sanity of many parents and teachers involved. While the parents were groggy and listless. mainly wandering around like zombies moaning the word "coffee" the kids were little wads of limitless energy. Through mutual support and diligence we the parents avoided killing any of the little monsters before the trip even began.     

Once we arrived at the Charlotte International Airport our fears of the TSA checkpoint proved largely unfounded. None in our group was felt up or forced to go through a strip search. If you want my opinion as to why the normally overenthusiastic airport security let us pass unmolested ask yourself the question would any sane person want to deal with over twenty energetic sixth and seventh graders before the sun was even above the horizon? By the time the entire group was seated on the plane I had drank three cups of coffee and had reached semi-consciousness. Thankfully the children all had a media outlet to keep them occupied for the three and a half hour flight. Despite being a US Airways flight we were only delayed from leaving by fifteen minutes.     

Warm trade winds and a beautiful sunny day greeted us upon arrival in San Juan. Every parent and teacher was on high alert  as we walked from the terminal to our bus. The reason why? Those kids had spent several hours cooped up in a narrow metal tube. Herding cats would have been a breeze compared to keeping them in check.

Our first stop was lunch at a roadside place so close to the beach I could hear the surf. We had our first serving of rice and beans, roasted chicken on a stick, and a local passion fruit drink. It was all genuine Puerto Rican food and tasted unbelievably good. Cocoy's Place was something straight out of  Jimmy Buffett song, it was rustic and lacked all the fake atmosphere of Applebees or any other cutey American chain. The picture below was my meal before I cleaned the container enough for it to be reused.

After lunch we had a long bus ride ahead of us that would literally take us across the island. Before the beginning of the journey though we had a quick stop at the beach allowing everyone to unwind a little. Even though I had only been on the island for a couple of hours I was already in love with Puerto Rico.

Added this map to give some idea of where we were going. Ignore the "hotel" arrow and look just over to the right a little to see the San Juan Airport.

To call a town pleasant is in some way a backhanded insult. But not in this case, Ponce had all the charm of many small towns in South Carolina before the cancerous spread of strip malls and national chain stores that have turned us into a haze of mediocre sameness with only the level of traffic congestion to set us apart. The picture above is of the old Ponce fire house, there is story associated with it that while incredible is well within the scope of reality given American arrogance, but I will save that for next time. I will stop at this point for the time being, as much as it will embarrass me there are pictures in existence showing me and my lovely spouse, Dragonwife, learning to salsa. I hope I can get a copy of them in a few days to continue with this epic journey. Coming pictures will show our visit to a rain forest, a lesson in marine biology, a truly awesome Puerto Rican village, and parts of Old San Juan.


Pixel Peeper said...

What a great idea for a Spanish immersion class to take a class trip to Puerto Rico!

Your lunch looks delicious. Looking forward to pictures of salsa dancing!

Cirze said...

Love the story and pics!

Did I mention previously that I had a contract job for three months in San Juan working for the Army at Ft. Buchanan?

Beautiful place.

Fond memories.


Beach Bum said...

Pixel: Yeah, the effort by the teachers and parents, very much including my wife, at fundraising to blunt the costs for the trip was herculean. When we left I was nervous about the actual and simple "vacation value" of it since so much would depend on the attitudes of the kids and other parents. It turned out everyone was generally very easy going and supportive of one another.

Cirze: I already want to go back and stay. Especially the fishing village that I will highlight in a couple of days.

Bryan Daum said...


A very pleasant photo tour. thanks.

Portland, Oregon