Morrill Spanish Club Tours Puerto Rico

Excerpt As published in the Nebraska Star-Herald Newpaper; July 2, 2014

By: Sara Beyer

Six members of the Morrill High School Spanish Club and their sponsor have returned from a whirlwind fiveday, four-night tour of Puerto Rico.

Traveling were recent graduates Megan Fish, Amanda Kaufman, Ana Rodriguez, and Athena Tarin; up-coming senior Traci Sinner; up-coming junior Erika Derr; and their sponsor Sara Beyer.

Flying from Denver Colo., to Charlotte, N.C., on June 10, the seven Nebraskans joined a group of 18 from Wood Memorial High of Oakland City, Ind., for the last leg of the flight to San Juan, Puerto Rico.

After arriving in Puerto Rico, a charter bus carried the combined group across the bridge connecting the capital city of San Juan to the historic island of Old San Juan.

First on the itinerary was a walking tour of Old San Juan, beginning with Fort San Cristobal, the oldest fort on the island, built to protect the city from invasions from the Atlantic Ocean.

Other landmarks they visited were Las Palomas Park, La Fortaleza, the Old San Juan Gate, La Rogativa, El Morro, El Totém and Quincentennial Plaza.

The group then traveled to Ponce, the second largest city of Puerto Rico. Like Morrill, Ponce’s symbol is the lion and was the location of the groups hotel.

The second day began with a bus ride to Cabo Rojo, at the southwestern tip of the island. Then a 15-minute hike down the promontory from the cape took visitors to the favorite beach of the Morrill students, Playa Sucia.

At nearby Boquerón, along the west coast, the Nebraska-Indiana group enjoyed their first typical meal, a hearty stew alongside red beans and rice, served in a variety of ways except mashed. Mashed beans are called “frijoles”; red beans are “habichuelas.”

Arriving at La Parguera and then the hotel complex Parador Villa Parguera, students were allowed free time in the swimming pool or the gardens under the beach’s palm trees.

In a KNEB News Extra interview on June 18, Ana Rodriguez recalled, “The most memorable part of the trip for me was overcoming my fear of water. In the bioluminescent bay we had to go under the boat (between the two hulls of the catamaran) to see the plankton light up on our bodies. “I was afraid, but I went, and I was really glad that I did.” Athena Tarin called this a “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” her favorite memory of the trip.

Day three’s first outing took students to an indoor market, where they divided into teams and competed in a digital scavenger hunt in Spanish. Using their cellphones, they photographed various fruits, interviewed vendors, filmed a team member sampling “tamarindo,” and discovered uses of an unfamiliar spiny fruit called “guanábana.” They sampled “coco,” the water in a green coconut. They compared the texture of “guineos niños” to regular bananas. They learned that “lechosa” is another name for the papaya. Many saw “penapén” (breadfruit) for the first time. Three teams of the six tied, those teams all won coupons.

A short walk from the market across Plaza de los Leones (Lions) then took the students to professional “salsa” lessons. Spanish IV students recognized the dance studio as the site of one of the episodes in the “Tú dirás” DVD which was part of Chapter 7 in their text.

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