Sunday June 24, 2018
Bienvenidos a Cuba! We are excited to welcome the first Cuba Cultural Odyssey group to La Habana! Students were greeted by our local guide, Atila, and international staff, Amanda and Jenny, at the airport today. At Hotel Vedado, students were given a chance to rest and relax after a day of travel. We made our way to Los Naranjos for dinner, where students sampled local cuisine, like arroz moro and frituras de malanga. After a short orientation to the program, students went to bed in anticipation of our packed schedule tomorrow.
We look forward to meeting Andrea tonight and welcoming her to Cuba!
Monday June 25, 2018
We started the day with GLA Orientation to the Cuba Program. We spent the morning doing team building activities and discussing the community agreements that will remain important to us as we live and work together for the coming days. Our guide, Atila, walked us through Callejon Hamel, a social art project that celebrates Afro-Cuban culture. We learned about Santeria and other religions in Cuba that have African roots. Afterwards we stopped by the famous Plaza de la Revolucion, where we saw the emblematic Che portrait.
Our afternoon lunch stop was accompanied by a long and powerful thunderstorm, which we enjoyed on the terrace while sipping our espressos. Lunch was followed by a Salsa dance class, where we learned some basic steps and how to dance ‘Cuban style.’ A leadership activity in the evening brought together themes for the day, and leave us wondering what more we will discover in the next couple weeks!
Tuesday June 26, 2018
The day started off very early for the group as we embarked on the journey to Cien Fuegos. The bus ride through the countryside and coast was full both of historical explanations of the buildings and discussions about the Cuban way of living and then the American- with Atila guiding us through. I also got to bond with many of my peers with a roadtrip game. After lunch, we got the chance to tour the city and really take in the beauty of the most modern colonial city in Cuba. The state of the buildings was striking as usual, as the poor condition reminds you how historical they really are.
I got to feel the pride in the beauty and see people live and breathe in the streets, and through the people selling souvenirs and the condition I also got to experience that call to action to make it come to life- as the people want to be. Today I learned to ask more questions, and be more considerate of all sides of a story before I fight for what I think should be improvement and change. The people of Cuba get to face this same dilemma. Im learning a lot from the individual and nationwide perspectives of this struggle and I hope to be able to apply this to my struggles facing my own nation in the future. I hope we can all learn this through sharing experiences, respect, and passions. We ended the long day with a game of catch and a talks in the pool, and it was the perfect end to a day for many of us was highly personally reflective, and started too early.
Wednesday June 27, 2018
On day 4 the group got the opportunity to visit Playa Larga where they got the unique opportunity to visit the museum of the bay of pigs invasion and visit Cueva de Los Peces. The museum gave students the opportunity to learn the history of the bay of pigs from the Cuban perspective and see both sides of the story. After the learning experience they visited Cueva de Los Peces which was a beautiful natural pool filled with colorful fish and clear water. After getting the chance to take pictures they checked into the hotel at Playa Larga.
The students got beach and pool time which was very enjoyable as students were able to bond with one another and become closer. After having a comfortable family style dinner with delicious food to finish off the day they returned to the hotel and did mentor groups. The day was filled with fun activities and gave students the chance to experience Playa Larga, a city outside of the busy Havana.
Thursday June 28, 2018
We started off today in Playa Larga with our counselors having to switch rooms due to an invasion of frogs. After that, we ate breakfast and left Playa Larga for Havana which was a 3 hour bus ride. Whem we got to Havana, we went straight to Muraleando where we did our first community service project of the program. Muraleando used to be an area where locals would dump their trash.
In 2011, neighborhood members decided that they were going to renovate the area to become a center of arts in Havana. When we arrived, there were two jobs that our team had to do. One was to weed plants and the other was to build a walkway and cover a water pipe juat with dirt and any items you could find. Thank goodness that I didnt have to weed. My group worked extremely well together as we did a grear job at making the walkway and finding a way to direct water to a better drainage point. After our community service, we had a great lunch and then toured the rest of Muraleando. We then listened to a great Cuban band play music. Some of us went up to dance and we all had a great time.
Later we went to the AfroCuban museum in Guanabacoa. This museum focused on the different forms of Santeria. We learned alot about the culture and traditions of the religion. After the museum we checked into the hotel and then left again for dinner. At dinner we had some great musicians sing for us and the food was absolutely delicious. We ended the day by going to a cannonfire salute ceremony which symbolized the curfew of Havanans after the English invasion. Overall, it was a great day and I cannot wait for the days to come.
-Written by Liam
Friday June 29, 2018
Waking up at 5:40 in the morning is always fun. We rushed down the stairs in hopes of beating the morning mob for breakfast in preparation to tour the city. In old Habana we saw a city that was alive with people and motion. We toured an old building that now operates as an old people’s home and a children’s day care. It is completely free of charge for the residents and users of the facility and is a beautiful example of people looking out for people. We toured the main square that was made into a parking lot and restored back to its former glory. In this square we saw pigeons that somebody thought was a good idea to purposely release.
We learned about a craft school that people join and learn to do construction related crafts and help restore the city. One of the main things they are currently working on is the dome on the old capital building that we got to tour as well. It was a grand building and a piece of art.
Lunch was a fun time. A band came in and had me play the maracas which was a good laugh. the rest of the day was spent relaxing and talking at the hotel. I’m proud to be here and excited to have this experience. I hope that I can bring home some life leasons that will help me and my amazing peers help ourselves and others after this trip is through.
Saturday June 30, 2018
Today, I woke up at 6:50, got ready and headed to breakfast. After we ate, we all headed to our room to finish packing for Viñales, then we loaded into the bus. We rode the bus for an hour and a half,until we reached a rest stop, and met our tour guide for the day, and we talked about the deforestation and reforestation in Cuba. We then loaded into the bus again, and went to a house that was hosted by the French before they deserted the area. The most interesting thing that I learned from the house was the treatment of the slaves, which was surprisingly reasonable, for one reason or another.
We left that area, to go to a paper making place, and got some souvenirs, and learned about how they made paper from recycled paper, and how they removed the ink. Now, this was the time of the day that I’m sure the majority of us were waiting for: the river. Once we arrived we all jumped into the considerably cold water, and saw the locals jump off from the top of a boulder, and we followed.
We weren’t allowed to dive head first, due to not knowing what could be in the water. It was still fun nonetheless, and once we got off we got back in the bus, and headed to lunch. The performers were very talented, and we had a lot of fun eating great food. After we were all way too full, we wished the guide bye bye, and went to Viñales. Once we got to the hotel, we rested for two hours, until we went to dinner. Overall today was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about Cuban culture and history.
Monday July 2, 2018
Today we had breakfast at seven as usual (too early for all of us). Afterwards, we went back to the farm for service time. My group readied plots; we weeded when we were done with that.
Then, we went to the zipline place, and, in the name of flexibility (the line was still being prepared) we had to go to the cavern first. We toured the cavern, and learning about the many rock formations was very intriguing. THEN we went ziplining. It was super fun!
After, we had lunch before going back to the hotel. We had dinner and wished Jenny a happy birthday with a fabulous cake! WHOAH!
-Written by Daniel
Today we visited Cayo Levisa which is beautiful white sand beach. We drove there for an hour on the bus and for about half an hour on a boat ride. Most of us started by going snorkelling and seeing the beautiful view, then we played a game of beach volleyball.
We had a delicious lunch at a buffet next to our spot. After swimming for a while, some of us got tired and relaxed or took pictures to end the day.
At night, we met for the last time in mentor groups, and talked about what we would take away from this trip. We are excited for our last day tomorrow, and sad to say goodbye to each other and Cuba.
Wednesday July 4, 2018
Our last day began with a high energy dance performance in Habana. A talented group of women demonstrated their percussion and dance skills for students in their unique studio while students took pictures. Students received a surprise at lunch with a special 4th of July menu that included pizza, burgers and ice cream. Staff enjoyed seeing their faces light up for a break from rice and beans!
The afternoon included a last stroll through old Havana and a lecture on education in Cuba. A powerful thunderstorm interrupted our plans, but allowed for some bonding while we waited the rain out. An amazing dinner at La Guardia capped off a day of exploration and connection. Students were greeted by a surprise salsa band back at the hotel, where they danced, laughed and said their good byes.
Cuba staff so appreciated the opportunity to get to know each of the students and to be a part of such a great group. We hope the best for all of the students and wish them mucho suerte on the next part of their journeys! We’ll miss you!