Puerto Rico #6: “Life-Changing Experiences”

Isabelle Schwartz ’24 and Lauren Sobczak ’24share a final reflection from their last day in Puerto Rico, visiting El Yunque National Forest.

Isabelle Schwartz ’24:

Although the rain fell hard on this spirited group during our hikes in El Yunque National Forest, we shined brighter than ever before. We started off with a beautiful scenic drive to El Yunque, with our guide Barbara leading the way. We passed the expansive Caroline Beach, and the town that had been mentioned throughout the trip: Loiza. The bus started to darken as we entered the forest, the trees creating a canopy, blocking the mid morning sun. During our first stop, we saw a previous man made swimming hole, and one of the first concrete buildings in the area. We ascended an (allegedly) 98 foot tower and were all taken aback by the sweeping view of the forest. As we’ve been practicing over the trip, I took a mental picture, a pledge to never forget this image.

On the way back to the bus, we saw ylang ylang, the base for many perfumes like Chanel No. 5. It was really interesting to see this fragrance not in its physical form. We also learned about Pioneer Trees, silver on one side, green on the other, the first ones to bloom after hurricane Maria. Hearing the effects of the hurricane and how the people of Puerto Rico preserved and moved on through immense dedication was inspiring to me and made me think of what I can do in my own community with all the privilege that I hold. Among other stops, we hiked down to a swimming hole, and was informed by Barbara about the swiftly moving current. Our final stop to the visitor center was educational and made us think about all of the symbolism in the architecture of the building area and its relation to our experience in the forest.

After a quick stop to refocillate at the hotel, we were met with a salubrious meal. I got the crispy fish tacos, and parcha, a group favorite choice of drink. Following a great dinner, we gathered at a park where we shared our reflections on the trip and found closure in our goodbyes. One thing that stood out to me was what Juli, one of our Envoys leaders said. She told us that however we may try to replicate it, this trip was a once in a lifetime experience. The fleeting nature of moments and cherishing them when they occur struck me really deeply when I heard this sentence. Even now, this moment, writing my blog post for this spring break CSGC trip in my hotel room at the Ivy, will never happen again. Knowing it was our last day together was bittersweet, but I think we made the most of it.

Lauren Sobczak ’24:

This morning I woke up and went on my daily walk on the beach led by Mrs. Koyama. Today was particularly rainy, which kept a few people in their cozy beds. Kathrine, Koai and I embraced the rain by walking through the water and dancing with the sand on our toes. We stopped at a local smoothie shop, and enjoyed the soggy morning with a tropical smoothie. After we met up with our previous tour guide Barbara, we began the beautiful bus ride to El Yunque. While taking in the beautiful beaches, palm trees, and reserves, Barbara kept us engaged by preparing us for the hike with information regarding the only tropical U.S. National Park. Along the way she updated us on the present issue of Global Warming. The road we were currently driving on was going to be re-routed due to the water overtaking the shore.

While hiking through the rainforest, I could feel the wind on my face, and rain pouring over my skin. The birds brought a calm feeling over me; with their diverse song. As I took in nature, the assembly of green stuck with me. The varying shades of green reminded me of a painting, so I pained it in my head, and made a mental picture; which deprecated the picture in my phone. In the background I could hear the pleasant sound of Coqui, as the waterfalls poured onto the rock seated below. At the community center I had met a park ranger, who was eager to answer my questions and implored me to teach my group the answers to my curiosities. After a peaceful hike filled with heavy showers, we went to a local restaurant and conversed about the impact our trip to Puerto Rico has had on us. We made post cards that act as a time capsule; in hopes that when we stumble across this reflection the life-changing experiences will pour over, as the rain poured over us today.


For more pictures from the Puerto Rico trip click here.