Polonia Ensemble is participating in
First Edition of the Puerto Rico International Festival of
Cultures. Festival will be held in several cities and towns in beautiful land of Puerto Rico. It is co-organized by the Puerto Rico Tourism Department and Guamanique Folkdance Ensemble.
December 5 & 6, 2007
It was early December and Polonia Song and Folk Dance Ensemble was leaving for the tropical island of Puerto Rico. Some of the group members left in the morning, and the rest in the afternoon. During a seemingly quick flight I noticed there was a drastic change in the outside climate. As we left, clouds filled the entire sky and snow covered the whole ground, but closer to our arrival all that could be seen out the window was ocean and beautiful beaches on tropical islands.
After landing we were greeted by an organizer of the International dance festival we had been invited to. Then on the way to our hotel we shared a ride with a Russian dance group from New York. Though many of us were tired from our early flight we were excited in the journey we were at the time embarking. We asked the organizer what time we were going to be at our hotel and he had told us that we shouldn’t expect more than a two-hour ride. Since there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the main highway we had to take a different route. We enjoyed beautiful scenery across the mountainous island and amazing ocean views. After four hours of breathtaking sites we finally arrived.
We arrived at the resort complex and it was a ten-minute ride to our room, which was worth every bit. Our hotel room had a balcony, which oversaw the beautiful Caribbean Sea in the city of Cabos Rojos. Arriving with a setting sun we took a walk on the beach, breathed in the fresh air, then watched as the stars and neighboring village started to light up the night sky. The rest of the group had come and we were all ready to go to sleep.
The following morning we awoke to breakfast and even though we had a short sleep we had to leave for a performance at ten in the morning. The audience was going to be junior and senior high school students so naturally, since the audience was closer to our age, it excited us. Puerto Rico, Russia, Panama, and Poland, the four nations that were presented and very much applauded at the performance. Even though it was such an early performance many of the audience members came after the dances and told us how well we did and we were happy to hear it.
The ride to our next destination consisted of many Polish and Panamanian songs accompanied by their band of drums, bajakallas, and an accordian. Then this was followed by English, Panamanian and of course Polish Happy Birthdays for our dancer Christopher Ptaszek who was celebrating his birthday the following day. We arrived at a Senior Citizen home where local Puerto Ricans were eager to see all the cultures show themselves off and then gave us a thunderous applause of a farewell.
The evening was filled with a surprising boat trip. When the boat had arrived at its destination little lights were visible moving around in the water. We were informed that these were microorganisms, which illuminated a glow when there was movement near them, to scare away predators. A couple brave souls took a dive in the water. When they swam around, it appeared as though their entire bodies were glowing from this spectacular ocean wonder. Everyone that had been at the trip was truly amazed. When we arrived to our current home right on the beach everyone was wondering what other new adventures we would run into. Then with a few shooting stars that gleamed across our bright sky we went to sleep wishing of a safe trip and a tour of a lifetime.
December 7 , 2007
As the beautiful Puerto Rican sun was rising, the light hit my eyes and I awoke to a tropical paradise. As my feet touched the sand and I started working towards the Caribbean Sea and thanked god I wasn’t in five inches of snow. The rest of the group joined me and we spent half the day, swimming, tanning and most importantly looking at beautiful girls in bikinis. After our day at the beach we had lunch and then prepared for the nights performance. We boarded the bus at 1:30, what started out, as a trip to the nations capital would soon become a very eventful night.
Our adventure into the night began with our bus ride to San Juan. As I stared out my window I couldn’t believe how beautiful this country was. We took the scenic route to our destination and it was one I would never forget. The beautiful scenery of the sea and various mountains made the three-hour bus ride seem very short. Unfortunately, the sky began to turn dark grey and we could tell the rain would come soon. Yet, we all held out hope for a successful rain free performance in San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico.
As we arrived in San Juan, I quickly noticed that we were in a very good neighborhood. The surrounding area could rival Miami and Los Angeles with its upscale stores, hotels and restaurants. There was a Gucci, Dolce & Gabanna and Louis Vuitton store. The area was filled with American tourists, and I soon began a conversation with a family from Illinois.
After we arrived, our friendly Puerto Rican hosts provided us with a meal before our performance. It is worthy to note, that the host Puerto Rican group did everything it could to make sure we had a successful, fun and productive festival.
The scenery of the performance was magnificent. We were basically performing at a “town square” that was situated right next to the ocean. The crowd was gathering and ready to greet the many groups. “Polonia” was waiting in the changing room while the first Puerto Rican group began dancing. As we could see, Puerto Rican dancing emphasized energy and color. Every dancer was smiling and full of life. After watching the dance, I wanted to get up and start dancing. Then all of a sudden, it started to rain like I have never seen before and everyone began running for cover. Unfortunately, the organizers decided to cancel the rest of the performances because of the weather. After the rain stopped, the Russian group decided to have their own improvised concert on the sidewalk.
Because our concert ended abruptly, we were given the chance of site seeing the old town. We visited the famous fort, cemetery and various important monuments and sculptures in the old town. San Juan is a special because it combines the beautiful architecture of the past with the bustle and nightlife of a modern city. We left San Juan at around 1 am with everyone in awe of such a great experience. I decided that I would definitely have to make a return trip to Puerto Rico, particularly San Juan. We arrived at our resort at around 4 am with everyone tired and ready for a good night of sleep.
Kamil Czubacki and Jonathan Krysinski
December 8 , 2007
Our last full day in Puerto Rico has finally arrived. My friends and I were looking forward to a relaxing day at the beach before our final performance that night. During the day we hung out around the beach with our new found friends the Panamanians. We conversed about life, love and most importantly sports. I soon discovered that sports were an international language. To top of the morning we all joined in and played a little beach volleyball before getting ready to go to the performance. As I was putting together my costumes I was mentally preparing myself for the biggest performance on this trip.
The bus ride to our final performance was the shortest one we had to take. We arrived at our destinations and we were greeted by the festivals coordinator. We put away our costumes and our director guided us toward the church that was near the festival. The church was closed so instead we all prayed by the doors and thank god we had such a successful trip. A man and women were staring at us as we prayed and I thought to myself, who could this be? As we finished praying I was the first one to be introduced to the mystery couple, I shook his hand and he introduced himself as the mayor of the city.
The mayor was a very nice man, he was very excited that we were there and he told me that we were the best thing that has ever happened to this city. We were very flattered and thanked him for his kindness. My guy friends and I then told him that we were a little hungry and asked him where we could grab some food, since it was Sunday and everything was closed. At first I thought he would just point us to a food stand, instead he led us there, sat us down and then the true Puerto Rican culture began. One after another plates of food were delivered to us, the mayor wanted us to try every single piece of food they had. We were so overwhelmed with the kindness we were receiving. When we tried to pay for it he refused. I have never been to a more welcoming country then Puerto Rico.
Minutes later the festival began and I waited for our turn to perform. First up were the Russians, amazing dancers and even better looking women. The next group to perform was the Panamanians, they had their own style and their music was colorful and festive. After the Panamanians, it was our turn to perform. As soon as we made our way to the stage the cheering began. We performed four dances and the crowd loved every single one. In my opinion we received the biggest applause. The Puerto Ricans were the final group to perform; their dances were so joyful and entertaining. The finale was the final performance of the night, all the groups joined on stage and it soon became a party. The coordinator and mayor thanked all the groups and we then marched to the town square for their traditional holiday light show. As we arrived at the square it seemed like everyone in the town was there, it was such a joyful and heartfelt experience. The light show took about ten minutes, as the mayor was saying his goodbyes, I knew I was never going to forget this moment; we then made our way to our bus and headed home.