Tuesday was yet another busy day filled with music, new experiences and fun.
In the morning, we woke up to the pitter-patter of rain in San Juan. Our host families graciously drove us through the rain and the heavy traffic so that we could once again meet at El Cumbre, the home church of Lisa Rosado Rivera.The morning wouldn’t have been complete without a delicious taza de cafe con leche, so some of ventured into a nearby gas station to get our morning cup of joe before boarding the bus and heading on our way.
Today we had the chance to visit Ponce, a city on the south side of the island. We drove up and over the beautiful mountains, escaping the clouds that covered San Juan. Our first stop was the Caribbean School.
The Caribbean School is a K-12 English school of approximately 600 students, with lots of unique features and opportunities. They offer about a gazillion AP classes, and have multiple cultural fairs and events throughout the year. The school was hit hard by the recent earthquakes, and today marked the second day of normality since December; classes happening in classrooms instead of tents, and students attending five days a week instead of three.
We performed in their outdoor gym to a large audience of high schoolers and teachers, and our singing was accompanied by the unrelenting bell of a man trying to sell ice cream. After performing, we had a chance to meet and talk to many of the students, and then we crossed campus to the cafeteria for the most delicious school lunch I’ve ever eaten. We could choose between meatloaf and chicken, mashed potatoes and rice, habichuelas, and a salad bar. Not to mention the bagged chocolate milk, which was an exciting treat for those of us accustomed to cartons.
The headmaster of the school spoke to us, with a reminder that even though the Caribbean School has been able to get back on their feet, many schools and families don’t have the resources to do so, and that even though the news has stopped talking about Puerto Rico, things are still bad for many. She asked us to be ambassadors, emphasizing the importance of raising awareness of the situation in Puerto Rico.
After changing into our casual wear and snagging some vending machine cookies, we headed to La Universidad de Puerto Rico, Ponce.
We arrived on campus and headed towards the auditorium. We spent the next hour and a half sharing music with two local choirs, one consisting of 7th through 12th graders, the other from the university. Both were incredible, and their performances re-energized those of us who had been napping on the bus. To conclude the program, we performed a shorter selection of our most energetic songs.
After all three choirs had shared their music, we had time for a workshop. We taught the other two choirs the words and body percussion for “Bhombela” a call and response song from Africa, and they concluded our time by teaching us “Las Plenas” a traditional Puerto Rican song complete with nine tamborines and dance moves. Some of us were able to move our hips in the ways we needed to, and others had a harder time….. When we left, they passed out momentos, each member of the choir receiving either a Puerto Rico lanyard or a bracelet. We had an incredible time at the university making new friends and sharing music together.
We finished the day with a quick supper on the way back to San Juan. We are looking forward to another exciting day tomorrow; we will be signing at another school in the morning and visiting El Yunque, the rainforest. Thanks for following along!
Eating a delicious lunch!