The first weekend in October, my mom and grandma visited me in Puerto Rico! We spent Thursday evening near our hotel in Isla Verde, eating dinner and walking to the beach.
Friday was a full day of sight seeing in Old San Juan. We started off by eating Mallorca and Quesitos (two typical pastries of Puerto Rico). Next we visited the Paseo de La Princesa, and had a good view of the fort and ocean. From there we caught the trolley up to La Fortuleza (the fort), and spent some time learning its history and exploring the six different levels! We stopped for lunch in a small, local restaurant, and from there we visited the Cathedral, the old convent, and Pigeon Park.
On the trolley!
At the fort!
On Saturday morning my mom and I swam in the ocean for a bit, and then we headed to the rain forest called El Yunque. We walked on some of the trails – it was very green and beautiful! From there we followed the shoreline down to Humacao. My mom and grandma quickly met all of the Sisters and got situated in their rooms (my mom upstairs and my grandma downstairs, in the back, where S. Rufina lives). Next, my mom and I headed over to Ivan and Cesar’s house for a delicious dinner of Filipino egg rolls, a roast with potatoes, rice, iced tea, and rolls. I am really glad she had the opportunity to meet Ivan and Cesar – they sing and play instruments in the choir with some of the Sisters. They are also two of the kindest people ever, and they have “rescued” us from the Monastery a few times :) They live across from the beach in Humacao (about a 15 minute drive from the Monastery), in the beautiful old house that Ivan grew up in! When we got back to the Monastery, we played a few rounds of Rumi-cube in the library, but we made sure we were all in our rooms before the alarm was set at 10pm sharp!
Sunday we spent touring Humacao. In the morning we drove to Palmas del Mar, which is the huge resort and community located on the ocean. It was a beautiful day and the flowers, trees, houses, golf courses, yacht club, and water looked pristine. We made sure we were home by 11am so that we could make it to prayer and lunch! After lunch we visited Colegio San Benito – S. Esther gave us a very complete tour. We were able to see everything from the classrooms I teach in to the third floor where the other three nuns live! Next I showed them the track where I run and play soccer, and then we returned to the monastery. It was extremely hot and humid (like normal), and I think they were both feeling the effects… We spent the rest of the evening on the patio playing cards, Rumi-cube, and looking through my pictures. S. Rufina and my grandma played together on a team for a little bit, and S. María brought us coffee and candy. They were all extremely accommodating and made sure my visitors had everything they needed (at all times!!)
Las Palmas del Mar
I am really happy that my mom and grandma could see and experience the places where I spend the majority of my time – school, Monastery, track, and Old San Juan! It was so nice to relax and spend time with them! I think they will have a better idea of how it feels to live in this community, what it’s like to walk through the town I live in, and how much the heat takes out of you! I feel so lucky that I was able to share some of my life down here with them!
It was sad to say goodbye to them again, but I was really happy to have Sarah back. It would be nearly impossible to survive here by myself. Although my mom and grandma got a small dose of life at the Monastery, there are only three other people in this world (Sarah, the volunteers from last year, and hopefully two more next year) who can truly understand how it feels to be a recent college graduate living in a Monastery and volunteering as a teacher, with absolutely no experience, aside from the previous three months. Nobody else would understand why laughing uncontrollably at inappropriate times (prayer) happens without explanation...
Usually prayer is a very relaxing time and space where I can forget about lesson plans, job applications, being homesick, etc. However, sometimes after a day of letting frustrations, happiness, sadness, excitement, and stress build-up, it is released in the form of laughter, during prayer. Thinking depressing thoughts, pinching myself, and disguising laughter by fake coughing fits doesn’t even help, and as painful as this situation is, it’s nice having one other person in this world sitting next to me who understand exactly why laughter is being released at that moment.
Like I said, prayer is a great time to unwind (sometimes it takes some laughing first) but the place I feel most relaxed and able to connect with God is when I am outside. We actually spend a lot more time inside here that I thought we would. It’s either too stinkin’ hot to be outside, we’re in school, or it’s dark. That being said, the time I do spend outside is when I feel happiest and most at peace. Now that I’ve befriended Luna, I think I will try to do more lesson-planning and reflection outside, where my mind is clearer.
Well, this ended up being a compilation of thoughts. I’ll try to update you sooner next time!