With reaching the half-way point here in San Juan, the one thing that has been a constant since arriving in Puerto Rico has been learning. And not just the stereotypical type that comes from reading an online journal article. It’s the kind of real-world, important things that I’ve learned so far. So for my turn at the writing the blog post, I want to share some of the things that living in Santurce, un barrio in San Juan, a place in Puerto Rico, has taught me.
1. Do not be deceived by the small geographic scope of Puerto Rico. She is mighty. For our cultural excursion this week, we visited El Yunque, a rainforest that is a part of our National Forest system. It exclaims all of its glory in the mountains only 45 minutes away from our hostel. In a short hike, I learned what a passionfruit tree looks like. I experienced swinging from a rope swing into a river for the first time. And I got to stand right next to La Coca Falls, a breath-taking waterfall. Plus, our tour guides taught us about the different frog species on the island! I have yet to see one despite hearing their cute croaks each night.
2. If you ever buy cod to prepare for a meal, wash it off with clean water and dry it using a paper towel first. If you don’t, you’re likely to have an extremely salty meal despite having added little-to-no salt to your dish.
3. The relationships you make with people who live where you are just temporarily living are worth cherishing. I got to go with one of the friends I’ve made here to her second-favorite coffee shop in San Juan (her favorite closed too early) while she studied for a test. I “sampled” some hazelnut gelato to keep myself busy.
4. Sometimes we all need a little push. I was planning on spending my evening in when some of the other people in my group wanted to check out Calle Loiza, a street near the coast filled with restaurants and thrift stores and everything in between. I decided to go with them, and we stumbled upon a live performance by a semi-popular band in Puerto Rico. Los Rivera Destino. They were having so much fun on stage that I couldn’t resist having fun in the audience. We made our way to the front and jumped up and down along with the band. It is one of my best memories from the trip so far.
5. If you buy fresh red meat, cook it immediately. Leaving it in the refrigerator even for a couple of days can lead to taking it out and discovering that it smells off and it has, in fact, gone bad.
6. The Duke Libraries website is not just for those midterm-season grinds. Never thought I’d be out here on the internet as an advocate for it. But here I am. Now don’t misunderstand me. The word “fun” doesn’t immediately zoom into my thoughts when I think of research. But I’ve been researching how Louisiana used federal grant money after Hurricane Katrina and writing a report on their initiatives for my supervisor. And for my second big project, I’ve started researching indices that measure a community’s vulnerability. Library.duke.edu is now one of my most visited url’s. And I’m really thankful it’s there, because Google just doesn’t get the job done. Not when your research impacts a non-profit’s goals of helping communities.