My first year in Puerto Rico is complete. As I look back on the year, I smile at what I consider my “highlights.” These moments weren’t always the big events of the year, but they are the times I remember most fondly.
Here’s a synopsis of my “Top Ten” from Year One:
10. Girls’ weekend at the El San Juan Resort and our trip to the nightclub there, Brava
All five girls went on this trip. We stayed at the luxurious El San Juan Resort, where we enjoyed getting dressed up to go to dinner, then changing and getting dressed up again to go to Brava for the night. We were silly and happy and truly enjoyed ourselves. The next morning, we made no rush to leave; we relaxed by the beautiful pool until mid-afternoon, then came home.
9. The San Blas Half Marathon
Running in this elite race in the mountains of Coamo was such an absolutely cool experience. There was so much support and such a feeling of camaraderie running the race. Because of the difficulty of the course, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment as I crossed the finish line. And despite my slow finish time, I managed to win a cash prize for my time because there were so few women running in my age category! (Read the blog entry)
8. Iguana in my house!
The fear of a lurking iguana and the process involved in chasing it out the front door is definitely something I never expected to experience and will never forget. (Read the blog entry)
7. The staff Christmas party
The last day before I flew home for Christmas, all of the teachers gathered for a party. It was day full of good food, great company, and dancing. Our celebration began around noon, and went on until almost midnight. I have great memories from that day/night.
6. A “date” day with Rachel in Ponce
One Saturday in March, Rachel was in need of some cheering up. She and I went together to Ponce to visit the larger mall there. We spent a few hours shopping, then had a “date night dinner” at Macaroni Grill (where our waitress sadly gave up trying to speak Spanish to us before our main course arrived). We traveled from there to Santa Isabel, where we did some more shopping at good ol’ Marshalls, then saw a movie at the theater there. The whole day was full of laughter, great conversation, and good memories. Maybe we didn’t see or do anything monumental, but it’s one of my favorite memories from this year.
5. Mandy and Nick’s visit in January
I spent a fantastic week with my friends Mandy and Nick when they came in January. The week was relaxed, yet enjoyable. We enjoyed Guayama and Guavate, spent Saturday hiking and rappelling in the rainforest (one of my favorite things to do here), and on Sunday we ventured into Old San Juan and experienced the hectic celebration of the San Sebastian Street Festival. Monday morning and taking them to the airport came all too soon. (Rappelling Adventure; San Sebastian Street Festival)
4. Watching the sun rise over Old San Juan from the rooftop hot tub of Da House
At the beginning of September, Kelsey’s brother and Danielle’s boyfriend both came to visit, and all of us spent a night at Da House in Old San Juan. After a failed attempt to go to a club, we passed our night in the hot tub on the roof of our hotel, enjoying the moonlight. Three of us—Chamron, Keith, and I—made it to stay awake and watch the sun rise over the San Cristobal fort. It’s a memory I’ll always cherish. (Read the blog entry)
3. Three days in the rainforest with my sister
The last few days before I came back to the states, my sister Liz and I spent 3 days hiking in the rainforest. The first day we spent in El Yunque proper, hiking to the highest point in the national forest. The second and third days we spent at an eco-lodge called Casa Cabuy, where we found the perfect mix between relaxation and exploration. There’s no one else I would have wanted to spend those three days with, and the time was perfect. (Hiking El Yunque; Casa Cabuy)
2. Exploring the cliffs at Playa Sucia for the first time with Rachel
In November, I went to Playa Sucia, in Cabo Rojo, for my first time. Rachel and I spent an hour exploring the cliffs by the light house there after everyone else turned back. We found a natural bridge, a hole peeking down into a grotto, and a small “cave.” My adventurer’s spirit was in high gear; we both delighted in our discoveries. (Read the blog entry)
1. Thanksgiving break with Rachel and Kelsey in Rincon
At the beginning of Thanksgiving break, Rachel and Kelsey and I spent 3 days on the west coast of the island. We went to Crashboat beach, got stuck in a horse parade on our way to our hotel, got lost trying to find waterfalls in the mountains, got rained on at the beach more than once, saw every landmark in the city of Rincon, rode horses on the beach, and had a great time with each other. (Read the blog entry)
And my favorite memory from the year… (Is this cheating? I guess I couldn’t leave it at just 10): Countless sleepovers at Rachel’s apartment
My weekends at Rachel’s consisted of weekend afternoons spent sitting on the futon, laughing about ridiculous things, eating, watching movies, playing cards, and sometimes doing school work. We made pad thai. We had a Christmas movie marathon and drank hot chocolate, trying to get into the Christmas spirit amidst the tropical atmosphere. We played rummy and Phase 10. We had breakfast at noon, lunch at 4pm, and dinner at 7 before I would leave to go home.
Those were fun days. Relaxing, joyful, happy days. What it comes down to is that these memories are defined by the people I spent them with. That’s why my favorite memory is not of seeing something wonderful, or doing something epic. My favorite memory is of spending time with a good friend. It’s something I could do anywhere—but it happened to occur in Puerto Rico.