As Caleb, our facilitator was telling our groups to come up with a special chant. Mitzy, Sydney, John, Mia, Aaron, Diana and I remembered our crazy taxi driver. Eric our champrone kept saying Jeever… meaning did you ever ??? and it clicked to us all. Eric started our chant by saying “Jeever….” and we all chanted “ sassafraz a shuttle driver ERRRR”. My time at Cuba was AMAZING. I’m going to start with our last night in Cuba and we had all gone to the beach. In all honesty it was my first time at an actual beach. We all enjoyed our last day going swimming, playing games and taking pictures. The day was coming to an end and Caleb asked all thirty of us to form a circle and sit. Caleb said “wow it’s been such an amazing two weeks with you all and I want to take the time and go around and say what we were all grateful for.” We started with Hannah, Hannah was grateful for being given the chance to travel to Cuba and had made so many unbreakable bonds with everyone. Everyone went in the circle and I was the last one. Man oh man I was grateful for every single thing. I had gotten to understand Gratitude for every single thing I was given and just allowed to do. I was understanding everything. Some Cubans lived off rations and even the rations wasn’t enough, there wasn’t enough money for supplies, shortages EVERYWHERE, salaries are very low, not enough water, electricity and the government controls their use of things like the internet and etc. I was grateful that I didn’t have to go through any of that. My gratitude was over the roof and I was usually wasn’t grateful for things. I was in a way you can say uncaring but Cuba changed my perspective on everything. Cuba taught me Gratitude and it just made me realize I have everything so easily and I take everything for granted.
We visited four different cities. We stayed in Havana, Trinidad, and Vinales. We stood in Casa Particulares. Casa Particular is a phrase used to signify private home stays. So we basically stayed in family homes were they had extra rooms and only stayed for breakfast and to sleep. Their families would make us an amazing breakfast for us and then we would meet our cohorts and explore the city. The first city we visited was Trinidad, trinidad we didn’t go to many places, it was more of a waking around understanding the culture. Trinidad was very pretty. All the houses were very vibrant with colors like yellow blue and etc.
In Trinidad we also heard a lot of people’s stories and their lifestyle. They would say stuff how they worried everyday about their water supply or electricity because they never know when they don’t have any more. Some said how it was hard to have food because either they had no more or no stores nearby and the walk was too far. Trinidad was a short stay but I loved it there. Everyone is so sweet and they love telling stories. I’m just grateful that I can get up and walk to my kitchen, opened my fridge and pick from a variety of food. I’m grateful that if I need to go to the store, I can get into my car and drive like two miles. I’m grateful I have water,electricity and all theses amenities.
The next city is Havana. In Havana we did so many fun trips. Let’s start with my favorite. We went to the La Plaza De Revolucion, where we see an outline of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos
We also visited old Havana. It was different seeing all theses beautiful buildings and learning things that I didn’t know. Sadly we couldn’t enter Old Havana but it was nice to see. After seeing Old Havana we got to ride the cars. We had like 12 cars to take us all for a ride around the city. It was the most AMAZING thing ever because we got to see the city better. After the ride we got dropped off at Havana’s college and say the Alma Mater. Next we went to La Cabana which is a fortress. La Cabana de San Carlos. We got to see a little show. It was hard to hear but I believe it was during a war they had. We got to see how they started and fired the canon and how it felt. Aylin,( one of my friends that I made on the trip) and I got scared because it was a big BOOM and the floor shook extra hard. After that we went to the top to see the view. Once I saw the view everything hit me and I started crying. I started crying because all the stories and all the things they told us hit me that night. I take everything for granted and the Cubans were not. Yes they had poverty and had hard times but always seem to have a smile and give joy to others. When I started crying other seen and started crying. My cohort was amazing we all joined and hugged each other. That night ended with a little bit of shopping. At the fortress they had like little vendors selling things that they had. I had bought bracelets for my family and a dress for my niece.
The next day we went to a street soccer court. We meet with the group facilitator of that court and he had brought some of his players to play a game. The players got here and they greeted us by saying, “ Acere, Que bola” and we replied back with “ Que bola, acere !”. We were taught some slang words, so we basically said hey dudes whats up. We got in teams, while others went and sat to watch us play. The games went on for maybe an hour and a half. After playing the game Caleb out “It’s time to go please say thank you and goodbye, we have one last special visit tonight”. We all said bye and departed to the bus.
After we all headed to the bus we went to go visit Fusterlandia. Fusterlandia is an public-art installations by local artist José Fuster, with colorful, whimsical mosaics. It was so beautiful. It was so cool to visit such a place. One crazy fact is that we were told Fuster wasn’t home and the whole time we passed by him the twenty times. He was upstairs playing chess himself and we all saw him on countless occasions. We spent about two hours there and Caleb once again said we had to go because we had a reservation somewhere. We quickly took our last pictures and headed back to the bus.
We finally spent our last night at a beautiful restaurant. The food was so amazing it was wonderful. Our last night in havana. Next destination Vinales, in vinales we went to countless like Indian cave, Cayo jutias (beach), Visit family coffee business and Tobacco fields and many hikes to places. I won’t go into much detail about all these places but one each was different in so many ways. I was able to visit my first beach and it was beautiful the water was clear and no huge waves. The cave was beautiful and relaxing. The coffee beans smelled good and we were able to buy some. The Tobacco field was interesting ( and no we didn’t buy any) and cool to see how they did everything. The city vinales was amazing in overall aspects. Our last night in cuba we learned to salsa dance and even though I never got it, I will never forget this experience.
All in all cuba was an amazing experience, Cuba taught me Gratitude and it just made me realize I have everything so easily and I take everything for granted. I was able to understand how I should be grateful for everything that is given to me because they are not granted everything easily. I was given the opportunity to travel, travel to cuba with no expenses. I was given the chance to create amazing new bonds. I was given the opportunity to have so many amenities without having to struggle. Cubans are not granted everything, Cubans live in poverty. But what everyone needs to know is yes they live in such poverty but its not only that they live day by day and push out the darkness to see the light everyday. They always have jokes and are smiling. The are grateful for everything the do have even if it’s not enough. As this was a breathtaking experience, I was able to bring a huge amount of gratitude back.