Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Part Two: Destination Puerto Rico - An Epic Class Trip

After a little post-trip research it's going to be impossible to relate all the incredible things that I missed in the all too short a visit I had in the city of Ponce. Such is the understandable case when the main objective is to provide a broad view of Puerto Rico itself. However, I have discovered that Ponce is considered the "museum city" for its many quality museums. But as you can guess with only four days to see as much of the island as possible even one visit to a museum was not practical with what was already planned.

One of the tastes of Ponce history I can relate has to do with the fire crew that literally saved the city from annihilation. Way back in 1899, a few years after the United States had taken control of the island, the US army established a munitions depot on the lot now occupied by Ponce High School. United States officials and army types told the locals that under no circumstances were they ever to approach the facility. Truthfully, our tour guide did not state a reason as to why the Americans were being so hardcore but you had to figure that they probably feared some type of insurrection. That being the case a fire started in the depot and it was the local firefighters who ignoring the standing orders, successfully fought the fire, and saved the city. Again the tour guide did not mention what, if anything, was said my the army officials at that time.  

As a gesture of gratitude for saving everyone the city built these distinctive red and black cottages for the firefighters and their families. I am told that the descendants of those brave men still own these houses.

During our time in Ponce we stayed at the Hotel Melia which is the oldest continuously operating hotel on the island.

It might be hard to tell with the group scattered about the lobby but the place oozed old world charm and class.

One of our group activities was a visit to a dance studio where two extremely talented Puerto Rican salsa dancers attempted to teach us how to properly move to some contiguous Latin rhythms. Yes, except for a short break to take a few pictures, I was very much in the group trying to learn the steps. I cannot emphasis enough how extraordinary it was that I even attempted to dance for a few minutes. Without going into some seriously embarrassing stories I simply cannot dance and have been compared to zombie in the last stages of decomposition the few times I have tried. Yes, there are pictures of me dancing the salsa but as of yet I have not been able to get a copy of them. One small statement before I move on, I sincerely apologize to the people of Puerto Rico for what could probably be considered an insult to their culture for my terrible and senseless gyrations in that studio.        

On the other hand, my daughter and several of the kids in our group were quite good.

Once our lessons were over the instructors took to the floor to show how the professional and truly talented do the salsa.

Early the next morning we were driven over to a local orphanage to do some service learning by helping to clean up and organize as well as allowing the kids to interact. If there was any part of the trip that slightly disappointed me it was that I felt we could have done far more at the orphanage. There are far more pictures here I could post but they include some of the kids from the orphanage and we were told not to share them over social media.

I did see something quite unusual during that morning of service work, it was my daughter pushing a mop.

It might be wrong to put too much emphasis on our visit but it was great to see the kids from two very different worlds play together. Despite the good feelings our schedule eventually forced us to leave and begin traveling to our next stop. If it ever became possible, I'd personally like to do a longer service learning trip.

The scenery during our travels could take your breathe away. Along the southern coast of Puerto Rico the openness and relative isolation made the hustle and bustle of crowded San Juan feel light years away.  

Our next stop was the village of La Parguera. If I died and went to heaven I don't know if it could compare to that small piece of paradise on the Caribbean Sea. Just as I soon as I stepped off the bus I did not want to leave. I mean this in the very best way but it was a Jimmy Buffett song come to life. I will stop here for now and post more pictures for this unbelievable segment of the trip in a couple of days. 


Pixel Peeper said...

Wow...it sounds like you packed in a lot of activity during your short trip.

The red and black cottages for the fire fighters look cool. So does your hotel!

It's funny about dancing - I learned how to waltz, salsa, tango, etc. - but I'm a total klutz in any gym class involving movement from left to right (like Zumba, for example). I stopped doing that for fear of slapping the person next to me.

LOL at your daughter pushing a mop. Any chance you can get her to do it at home? :-p

And that last picture...I think I'm ready for a vacation!

Rose L said...

I would sure enjoy all the museums and architecture.

Beach Bum said...

Pixel: It is no exaggeration that during every waking moment it was a constant go, go, go.

Rose: It was a near constant sensory overload.

Pearl said...

The city reminded me of New Orleans, but the countryside? Pure Caribbean.

My parents lived in the Caribbean for about six years, right after they "retired". (It's in quotation marks because when they returned to the U.S. they started a business.) I loved visiting them while they were there, even if they did live out of a marina (trailer park on the water) -- I fully expected to see a pteradactyl or something come swooping out of the sky...


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

A lovely read! It's so much more enjoyable for me to read about travels than to actually do it!

Life As I Know It Now said...

Ah, BB, you can dance. You just dance with words instead :)

Nice vacation and pics!