Thursday, October 14, 2010

Traveling to Puerto Rico

At 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning, I was on my way to San Juan, Puerto Rico. It was long weekend at St. Ben's and so everyone was "off" for the weekend to enjoy some glorious last few days of summer! Usually, I go on a writer's retreat or stay home for some much needed R & R. This weekend, however, I was going on a site visit to observe our Benedictine Women's Service Corps placements in Humacao with the Benedictine Sisters of Puerto Rico.

It was exciting to be flying to the Caribbean. I had been telling everyone who asked what I was doing for the weekend that "I was going to Puerto Rico," and loved turning a few heads. No one expects that I would be going that far for four days of break. That made it all the more exciting!

So, when I landed in San Juan, I was eager to see Ashley and Daisy. When I opened the door leading out from baggage claim, intending to run and hug them, I was totally blinded because my glasses fogged up from the humidity. My breathing seemed impossible for a couple of minutes. I had been warned, but even so I was not prepared for such high humidity! It was unbelieveably good to hug both of them and be hugged back. They have been in Puerto Rico for six weeks and were eager to see someone from "home."

Puerto Rico is beautiful, of course, with lush greenery and gorgeous hillsides. The beaches, I hear, are grand. Since I was there to visit our young CSB grads, I had no vision of doing "touristy" things. We stopped, however, to eat at a lovely Italian restaurant on the way to Humacao, and later in the week, drove to a lechon grill in the mountains. At one of these famous places known for pig roasted on a spit, we enjoyed a delicious meal by a wayside stream and park. On Saturday, we had the chance to see EL Morro in Old San Juan where the Spanish fort has been standing for hundreds of years, serving as a strategic lookout in times of possible invasions. Even as recently as World War II, it was the place from which German submarines were spotted.

So, how are Ashley and Daisy doing? They love it and are having a wonderful time. Ashley is trying her hand at teaching English to kindergartners. She teaches them songs with both words and actions, along with teaching them about letters and numbers. Ashley has three groups of about 20 kindergartners each, and so Daisy helps her with one of the groups. Daisy's main focus, however, is computer lab assistance where she helps all classes with finding their way around the internet, printing, and learning the keyboard. Besides that, Daisy is the computer lab director's assistant.

Only with gratefulness and admiration can I look upon what these women are doing. They have taken on a huge challenge by changing their place of residence, changing their "jobs," changing from living in college dorms to a monastery with sisters, and essentially changing their entire style of living. They chose this major challenge in order to give a year of service in a place far away from home and in an entirely different culture. With deep faith and huge hearts, they have been in the process of adjusting to a new life. God has been gentle with them, giving them the strength to meet the challenges straight on and moving forward with great dignity and love.

Blessings and prayers to you---Ashley and Daisy--- for the new life you are bringing to the Benedictine Sisters of Humacao.

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