We packed up and began our trek from northeast Puerto Rico to Ponce in the southeast, the island’s second-largest city. We split up to have lunch at different cafes and buffets before meeting Melina, the local tour guide. Melina has lived her whole life in Ponce. She was eager to show us around and teach us about the religious, commercial, and artistic history of Ponce – including the ways this city has survived and rebuilt after earthquakes, hurricanes, and fires. The fire station is central to this city’s history, as are individual musical talents such as Juan Moreno Campos.
Having worked up an appetite with so much walking and learning, we headed to a mofongo cooking class, where we learned how to make this local dish. Everyone cheered as faculty members Roberto Padua and Lexa Lopez competed for Master Chef! Melina and our cooking instructor remarked how engaged and knowledgeable Franklin students are, saying they had never had such an impressive student group!
We went back to our fabulous hotel to enjoy dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe with a rooftop infinity pool. Then, we headed out for the nighttime adventure. We took a boat ride out to Bahia Bioluminiscente, one of only five bioluminescence bays in the world. Once there, we swam in the magically shining water, watching as the algae glowed on our arms and legs. The stars twinkled overhead, and the algae sparkled around us! While it was a late night, it was worth it.