Rather than waking up to the drone, hackneyed roar of snow plows in Maine, we were carried out of bed by the soothing lullabies of the restless co’ qui frogs and the pungent aroma of juicy, apple-filled empanadas. “Can I extend my trip?” I remember inquiring to myself that morning.
Every year in February my school offers a volunteer trip to Puerto Rico with a few of our professors where we dwell for a week in a rainforest reservation called “Las Casas de la Selva”—the houses of the rainforest. The project’s mission, essentially, was to discover how we can live in and utilize nature, while still sustaining it and at the same time having fun! Thus, departing from Maine’s frosty weather, we became Mother Nature’s emissaries as quickly as the temperature rose from 0o to 105oF.
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The first day of the service project started just like we were informed it would. We rolled out of bed and began the process of strapping on all of our immaculate clothes which were temporary of course — a few days later my clothes would look as though they had been dragged half way across the island.
That afternoon, we decided to reconstruct and tweak our friend Norman’s small home—which, sadly, due to a rat party, was falling apart. Surprisingly he called upon an aspiring architect’s skills (such as mine) to construct his new door. Thus, with the help of my mathematician/physics teacher, we designed and constructed an excellent, round-top door.
Being a busy day, we also met with a dance specialist for a well needed lesson. The boys lined parallel to the girls and we chose our partner. Although I’m Dominican I had to wipe the cobwebs off my shoes and dance a style which I hadn’t danced in years: salsa. My partner and I were one of the few to learn the dance completely. Nonetheless, everyone was stepping and gliding across the floor gracefully — you couldn’t discern whether we were Hispanic or American!
Better yet, we culturally assimilated further as my friend and I taught the group how to ‘Dougie’ and ‘Jerk’ and at the same time, the Puerto Rican dance instructor laughed at the silly American dances.
“Dinner time” yelled the cook who peeked at our dance lesson. But while everyone scrambled to go eat, I stayed behind to contemplate the curious rainforest. During the day the colors were the most vibrant I have ever seen. You could hear the occasional bird chirping or the tree swaying but for the most part it was fairly quiet. Time there seems to move slower, or rather it just passes completely differently from that of home. At home time is structured and chopped up into small pieces, everyone is in a hurry to go places and meet deadlines. In the forest, time is serene. It felt as though there was no time, we simply let the sun dictate what time it was. My eyes couldn’t possibly take in the myriad beauty around me and so I tried to take as many pictures as I could. The sights during the day were unbelievable but the sounds at night were far more alluring. Standing there I could hear the frogs all around me along with the crickets and the faint chit-chat of a gregarious group of students eating. That night in my bunk I was sung to sleep by the frogs incessantly asking the eternal question: “co’qui?”
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