What do these four have in common: student travel, Puerto Rico, Minecraft, and Hurricane Maria? Meet Cory and you’ll instantly be able to connect these four. Eight years ago, one high school Spanish trip to Puerto Rico changed Cory Scheviak’s life. Consequently, this experience transformed the lives of many in Puerto Rico.
In the icy and frigid temperatures of Sweden, Cory Scheviak innovates and expands his online tropical world in the popular game of Minecraft. Cory works full time at Mojang’s Swedish headquarters. The game company hired him given his terrific skills in java, but mostly because of “Tropicraft.” Minecraft is the most sold video game of all time (176 million copies sold!!!), and Corey is one of a handful of people designing the features for it.
Tropicraft is one of the longest-running mods of Minecraft. It’s a dimension-adding mod full of palm trees, native islanders, iguanas, tribes, clear blue oceans, volcanoes, etc. Tropicraft was inspired by a trip he took to Puerto Rico in 2011. That year, a group of students from Leesville Road H.S. in North Carolina visited the island on a 7-day tour. While there, they met locals daily, hiked forest trails in Utuado and Rio Grande, danced salsa, walked through old city cobbled stone streets, learned fascinating legends, and ate local food everywhere they went.
Inspired upon returning home, he created Tropicraft as a restful paradise escape. The mod became quite popular. Since then, he’s returned to Puerto Rico on numerous occasions. After hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, Cory helped raise funds to support the rebuilding efforts. He created a simple fundraiser within the Minecraft community called Love Tropics.
The original goal was to raise $3,000. However, over the first weekend, Cory and his community raised $10,000 within his online world. “Love Tropics” became an incredible tool to bring people together and make a difference. After their fundraiser, Cory and his friend Matt visited Puerto Rico and witnessed the destruction and serious needs left by the hurricane. They saw many houses with blue tarp-roofs still destroyed. It was then when Cory and Matt came to a realization. “We immediately knew that Love Tropics was not a one time thing, it was something we could use to continue to give back because there were people that needed it,” explained Cory.
Since the first Love Tropics fundraiser, Cory and his community have raised over $35,000 as they continue to help the island. Most of their efforts benefit Team Rubicon, a veteran-led disaster response organization within the online world. This team is on the grounds in Puerto Rico helping communities rebuild. Team Rubicon has completed over 400 roofs since 2018 and their progress continues to grow today. The future of Love Tropics will focus on combating climate change and helping the residents of the island cope with the effects of climate change.
Recently, Minecraft posted a Youtube video introducing Cory and his inspiring story. The video reached 160,000 views in just the first month. At Vamonos, our motto is “student travel changes lives.” This particular high school Spanish trip in 2011 positively affected many Puerto Rican lives. Vamonos is honored to partner with Cory in all of his recovery efforts on behalf of Puerto Rico. We continue to support his efforts and look forward to welcoming him again in June of 2019. Gracias Cory!
To Learn More:
For more information about Tropicraft and how to donate to Love Tropics visit: https://lovetropics.com or @welovetropics on Twitter.
For the full story about Cory, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Dear Hamilton-Puerto Rico fans,
As you may have heard, yesterday the Hamilton Team and the Miranda family decided to move the Hamilton Musical to one of the best theaters in our island, the Centro de Bellas Artes in San Juan. Please read the official press release from the Hamilton team at the end of this email to find out more details about the move.
The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon is coming to Puerto Rico as part of the Hamilton Musical events with special guest including Lin-Manuel Miranda
This special show will be aired live on NBC on January 15, 2019 and will include an airing of a special Hamilton performance.
Perfectly put by Jimmy Fallon himself, “it’s going to be a celebration of the light, the life, the spirit of Puerto Rico and it’s people and it’s culture. Puerto Rico is back and open for business!”
For more information about our January Hamilton package tours, please visit www.vamonostours.com/hamilton
Puerto Rico is able to transform into every tourist’s ideal location at any time of the year. One of the greatest times of the year to visit the island is during the holiday season. Accompanied by a breezy 75-85°F weather, no place has a longer and more diverse holiday season than we do in Puerto Rico. Check out these facts:
A THREE MONTH SEASON
Before Thanksgiving, the decorations start to go up! That is the general rule of Puerto Rico’s holiday decor. Some businesses are widely known for having Christmas decorations all year round and Christmas trees displayed throughout in preparation for the next season to come.
The holiday season ends in January. This month starts off with the Three Kings Day and ends with the Octavitas, the eight days after the Three Kings Day. Visitors extending their stay enjoy the massive cultural and musical events associated with Las Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián which takes place in mid-January.
In cold weather, bundling up and going house to house and singing Christmas Carols is a tradition for some. The Puerto Rican version of this is a parranda. These parrandas occur throughout Christmas and in particular on Nochebuena, also known as Christmas Eve. Latino versions of Christmas carols can last until sunrise with live music, food, and traditional Spanish Christmas songs.
The holiday menu in Puerto Rico includes the staple of arroz con gandules, which is rice and green pigeon peas. This is accompanied with pernil,which is roasted pork, and pasteles, which are our version of tamales made up of green bananas, usually filled with pork. For dessert, there are guava pastries and flan, a custard dessert.
Hot cocoa and apple cider are the winter classics to combat the cold weather. In Puerto Rico we consume coquito, a coconut drink served cold and topped with cinnamon sticks. This drink is iconic to Puerto Rico and around the globe many have tried to replicate the “perfect coquito recipe”.
Christmas is widely celebrated on the island, but Hanukkah is also celebrated and cherished in the Puerto Rican Jewish community. For example, there are traditional Puerto Rican Hanukkah dishes such as Fish with Mojo Isleño, which is usually a snapper seasoned with a specialty sauce of onions, garlic, peppers, and red wine vinegar.
Learn more about Puerto Rico and check out some of our tours by visiting https://www.vamonostours.com/destination/puerto-rico/ .
America’s hottest historical musical is coming to Puerto Rico!
Lin-Manuel Miranda will reprise his starring role as Alexander Hamilton for 24 performances from January 8-27, 2019 in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Vamonos is honored to offer a 4-day Hamilton tour package featuring history, culture, entertainment, and adventure. This special package offers Hamilton orchestra quality seating, 3 nights in the luxurious La Concha Resort, 6 meals, airport and hotel transportation, guided tours and filtered water daily.
Alexander Hamilton’s Caribbean roots will come alive in Puerto Rico as it intermingles with our culture, people, and history.
The highlights of the tour include:
- HAMILTON orchestra quality seating
- VIP history-filled sailing trip
- Afro-Caribbean heritage experience
- Tropical rainforest excursion
- Old San Juan walking tour
- Bomba & salsa workshop
- Visit local art studio
- Spanish paella night
- University of Puerto Rico visit
- Santurce farmers’ market and street murals
- La Perla iconic neighborhood
- and much more…
This package has been approved by the Puerto Rico Tourism Company and HAMILTON. We are honored to be one of the trusted companies to sell this expertly guided tour package.
Our spaces are very limited, book your package right away: vamonostours.com/hamilton
After a recent class trip to Costa Rica, group leader JJ Epperson of Gibson Southern High School in Indiana wrote a great blog post for why you should travel with your students. If you are considering a school trip with your students, this blog is a must read. It will encourage you and have you fired up to plan that next class trip!
Why You Should Travel With Your Students
By Esther Riddle
Do you want your service-learning visit to be a memorable one? We have found that when travelers PREPARE activities ON THEIR OWN, the visit goes much smoother and is far more successful.
If your group is willing to serve for one full day or for several days and can supply some materials, we’d love to create a full service-learning project. However, not every group has that much time in their itinerary. Plus, not every local school and/or facility that we visit needs a specific type of service such as painting, gardening, cleaning, or stocking shelves.
Often times, what goes a long way in the minds and hearts of both students and those that they are serving is quality PEOPLE to PEOPLE time and exchange of ideas. Challenge students to connect with 2-3 people individually and think about what they could say to encourage or invest in their lives.
The students that we tend to serve are from underprivileged low-income communities. Many of them have never traveled abroad. However, that doesn’t stop them from being curious and from wanting to expand their knowledge of the world and of different cultures.
Here are 10 great service suggestions for teachers and students:
- POWER POINT PRESENTATION – Encourage students to put together a power point presentation about their school, their country, culture, or about a favorite sport. They may also want to bring out how they celebrate holidays, what they do on weekends, their favorite foods, etc. Let them be creative!
- ICE BREAKER GAMES – Come with an “ice breaker” game so students can get to know each other! You can find many ideas for these online.
- SHORT PLAY– Come prepared to act out a short play. Once again, give your students the liberty to get creative.
- SONGS / DANCE – Share a song or dance with those that you are visiting. It could be in their language or yours…or both!
- PEN PALS – When visiting, encourage the students to swap their contact information or social media pages so they can build lasting friendships.
- BOOKS – Each of your students can donate and read an age appropriate book to a student they visit. Have them write their well wishes in the flyleaf!
- HOBBIES – Encourage your students to introduce themselves and talk about their hobbies. They are welcome to bring along pictures!
- CRAFTING – If you’d like, bring along supplies to do a craft together. Be sure the activity is age appropriate and the supplies will be allowed on the plane.
- LOCAL TREATS – Have your students bring along a treat that is special to their hometown or state to share. For example, hot pepper jam is unique to Lancaster County, PA. It’s something that not too many of the kids there have sampled to be sure!
- SPORTS – Participate in local sports and recreational activities with students such as playing soccer, volleyball, jump rope, playing cards, etc. Introduce locals to a sport they’ve probably never played before.
Back in February, Medford High School had a chance to take a trip to Spain to practice their Spanish. Find out all about their experience by reading the article. The link is below.
MHS Students Explore Madrid and Barcelona by Sebastian Tringale MHS Class of 2018
Yesterday Puerto Rico experienced an island wide power outage due to an excavator accidentally cutting through a main power line. Some residents in 5 municipalities along with several hospitals have already had their power restored and the rest should see their electricity return within the next 24 hours. The company responsible for yesterday’s outage was also the same company responsible for the power outage that effected several residents last week. The company has since been terminated.
Most hotels and hospitals have massive generators that can power their operations so that service is not interrupted. All the hotels and hospitals we use had powerful generators up and running within a few short minutes so none of our groups were interrupted in their tours. In the mean time workers are trying to restore power to all hospitals first and then all hotels, followed by the rest of the island.
Meet Puerto Rico has issued an info-graphic update on the progress of the tourist industry in Puerto Rico. Click here to view the latest progress. You can also visit Status.pr/home to see the latest updates on water and electricity restoration.
Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) reclassified Zika in Puerto Rico from a category 1 (outbreak) to category 2 (low possibility of transmission). In response, the CDC removed their specific travel notice for Puerto Rico. For more information you can visit the CDC and WHO websites. The CDC still recommends that pregnant women and couples trying to have children should still avoid travel to Puerto Rico and travelers should still use bug repellent.