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Banco de Alimentos and Salvation Army

May 13, 2013

Puerto Rico – Friday, May 3

We were out in the car before 6:30am to get Taryn and Jared to their pick-up place for a caving adventure that Taryn had read about in a National Geographic adventure book quite a while ago. It was a little too extreme for me! And I wanted some more time in Old San Juan anyway, since it’s the oldest city on US territory. Even though Christopher Columbus landed in Puerto Rico first, it was Ponce do Leon who founded San Juan in 1521. Puerto Rico means “rich port.”

But first I wanted to take care of my last 2 Puerto Rico donations. A couple days ago, I had missed a turn I needed to take, and it led me quite a bit out of my way, but I ended up going through a congested part of San Juan I hadn’t seen before. Out of the corner of my eye, I had noticed a Salvation Army building, but it was after 5pm and there was no place to park anyway. But, it made me aware that it exists, so I decided to mail them a donation. And then I also wanted to donate to the food bank in San Juan, which was called the Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico. According to their website, they help about 450 different non-profit organizations; giving assistance to needy children, homeless people, elderly and disabled people, and those who have HIV/AIDS. They used to be known as the Caribbean Food Bank, but became associated with America’s Second Harvest program in 1996. So I mailed off a donation to them too.

Then I headed back to Old San Juan, and walked the path along the ocean outside of the city walls again. After getting a couple miles in there I walked uphill and came to a wonderful little museum near El Morro – the Museo de Las Americas. There were half a dozen galleries, and I really liked the one that had dioramas of some of the native South American tribes. They even had a shrunken head inside a glass case, along with the “how to” information. There was also a good folk art gallery, and a gallery of artwork made from local garbage which was surprisingly creative, and several other small galleries with religious and dance displays. They’re working on a new gallery with rum, coffee, and tobacco history and displays – I wish that one had been ready! They sell a lot of cigars here too, and some of the shops let people roll their own.

From there I headed back to El Morro for another short visit, and on my way back down the hill, I made a point of walking by the old San Jose Church, which is indeed the oldest US church in the New World (built in early 1500s), but it was under renovation and no one could go in. By the time I got back to the car, I had walked more than my 56 miles for the week.

Then it was time to head back to Casa del Caribe since Taryn and Jared were on their way back. We were all hungry, so we headed out for dinner at a Puerto Rican restaurant, and we all got a different kind of mofongo, which was a plantain dish made with either pork, chicken or shrimp. They really enjoyed their caving adventure, which involved zip-lining down to the cave area, rapeling into the cave, some underwater swims, and even jumping into some water in total darkness in the cave. They had to inch their way across a rock wall using carabiners, and I think I was happy to not know details until they were safely back! They said it was very professionally run – 3 certified guides for the 15 people, and it sounded like a pretty amazing trip. After dinner, it was time to head back to pack up for an early morning flight to the US Virgin Islands.

So, despite a slow start in Puerto Rico, and some language barriers, ultimately I was able to find 7 different donation places (El Morro National Park, American Legion, Cruz Roya, Habitat for Humanity, El Yunque Rainforest, Salvation Army and Banco de Alimentos) and even though I wasn’t able to actually visit all of them, I was happy to at least find different places for donations – I wasn’t sure if that was all going to work out, but it did!
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