Friday, January 25, 2013

[Life] 23°08′N 082°23′W: Havana, Cuba

{Note - the last bunch of pictures are missing. I thought I had all my albums uploaded to Google but apparently not. I'll update with the last pics once I get home!}

From January 23-25, 2003, the Semester at Sea ship was docked in Havana, Cuba. We spent one full day at sea prior to arriving - during this time we attended our Cuba "bootcamp" - an entire day of Core where we learned all about Cuba. We also killed some time playing Spades (this would become a tradition), having a salsa dance party the night before we docked, and settling into our rooms.

Wednesday, January 22, 2003
"Our first interport speaker spoke about the history of Cuba. The next speaker spoke on the more recent history of Cuba, including the embargo. The third speaker talked about the effects of the embargo on the Cuban people."

I feel super fortunate for having gotten the opportunity to go to Cuba. At the time, the only way in for Americans was on an educational visa, which is what we entered the country on. It was recommended that we not get the Cuban stamp in our passport because of the issues it could cause every time we reentered the US. A document was given to each of us, should we choose to get the stamp, that would explain why we had been in Cuba.

Not long after (2005 I believe) all visa access to Cuba by Americans was revoked, and students could no longer go on an educational visa. Since, travel has been opened a bit to Cuba for US citizens, provided they travel with a travel group or company that has the proper visas.

Cuba: Day 1

Thursday, January 23, 2003
"Bright and early with Rhiannon (my roommate) this morning! Up at 5:30 to watch the ship pull into Havana, Cuba. The sunrise started red and purple, growing into a rainbow of colors. A gorgeous sunrise over a smoke filled horizon."

Sarah, Rhiannon, and I awaiting sunrise

"We got our passports and took our first steps into Cuba."

"We headed to the welcome reception at the University of Havana. We got to choose between 3 lectures - I chose one on US-Cuban relations. After, we had some lunch, and then my friends and I went to watch a salsa band that had appeared on stage. A Cuban guy came up and asked me to dance, and I quickly learned that Cubans salsa a little differently than the Spaniards."

 "After the band was done, we went with some University students to a little bar at the top of the Ambos Mundos hotel, where Ernest Hemingway used to stay. It was a semi-open patio on a gorgeous day, and there was a trio of musicians playing. We ordered the drink that Cuba's known for - the mojito. It's sugar, lemon juice, and mint leaves smashed together, then you add water and top it off with rum. It turns cloudy and kind of gross looking - and doesn't taste much better than it looks."

"On the bus ride to a baseball game later, a friend was telling me how he had been approached earlier in the day by a man with strings for shoes and was offering to give my friend anything in trade for his shoes."

Cuba: Day 2

Friday, January 24, 2003
"Started the day on a Hemingway in Cuba trip. We went back to Ambos Mundos to see the room he stayed in, went out to the country to see his house, then had lunch in a small coastal town where he used to fish. The roads in Cuba are interesting. There are lots of people hitchhiking all along them. All kinds of vehicles share the road - horse-drawn carriages, coco taxis (small taxis shaped like coconuts), bikes, 18-wheeler buses, cars, everything."

"We were pretty stoked last night when we heard that we'd get to attend a 'meeting' with Fidel Castro the next evening. It was also attended by students from the University of Havana. Since the entire thing was in Spanish, we had an ear phone where they broadcast the translation. Talk about long winded. Castro spoke for 4 hours, without sitting, and only took 1 sip of water. After the speech, we were shuttled to a hall for a party."

"As soon as the music started, the Cubans were immediately on the floor dancing. No matter how much they're lacking in food, housing, or anything else, when the music plays, they dance like nothing in the world matters but the dance. We can never really understand what it's like to live the way they do, but we can also never understand what music and dance is to them."

Cuba: Day 3

Saturday, January 25, 2003
"Today we took a horse drawn carriage ride through Havana. We went through old and new Havana and saw Marti's house, the capitol, the cigar factories, and the Bacardi factory among others."

"On our way to an internet cafe, we met a Cuban guy named Alesandro, a 25-year-old cook who had been studying English for 2 years. He knew the ship was docked and there were Americans in Havana, and approached us with a proposition: he'd show us around if we'd spend time with him so he could practice his English. He took us to 'La Julia', the restaurant where we worked, and I had the most amazing chicken I've ever had."

"Alessandro took us to a bar to get daiquiris - much like mojitos but frozen and without the mint. We parted ways not long after and spent the afternoon shopping at the local market. That evening, before the ship took off, we popped into a salsa club, had a Cuba Libre, and was on ship in time to sit on the back deck and hear the cannon go off in Old Havana at 9pm."

1 comment:

  1. That is so neat that you visited Cuba! Not many Americans can say that. That is pretty funny that Castro rambled on for 4 hours :)

    The Tiny Heart
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