So today was the last full day in Cuba. We all traveled back into Habana to our own homestays. On the way, we stopped for a bathroom break and to admire the view. The first thing everyone noticed was the giant bull wearing a saddle just chilling in the sun. It was really quite a magnificent creature, with clean fur, and white horns. Some of us were so infatuated with it that we failed to notice the living statue on the bench in front of it. When we finally noticed we were three feet in the air, surprised when it moved towards us.
When we finally arrived in Habana, we went straight to lunch. They saved the best for last. With appetizers of butternut squash soup, bean soup, bread, and butter, everything was delicious. Though the choices of food was limited to ropa de vieja and eggplant parmesan both were so delicious the lack of option didn’t elicit many complaints.
Pedro is an absolute sweetheart. He gave us all a gift that “had not only monetary value but sentimental value as well.” He gave us all 3 pesos with Che Guevara’s face on it.
Then we went to Ernest Hemmingway’s apartment in the city. It was a typical apartment with a bunch of artifacts probably brought in rather than already existing there. Artifacts such as newspaper clipping, a bust of Hemmingway’s face, and a ginormous picture of Hemmingway and Fidel Castro were most likely not put there by Hemmingway himself.
Then we went to the market. Many of the shops sold similar items: figurines, jewelry, touristy knickknacks, art, leathers, and clothes. The shops were small and many almost cramped together. However, the energy was intense. Once we were done shopping, we finally went back to our homestays, dropped out heavy bags, took a short breather, and once again headed out to dinner.
The restaurant was not ready for us when we arrived, so we went for a walk along the shore wall. It smelled strongly of sewage and the sea, but the view was beautiful. We met the kids from the first day again that night, taking pictures and talking to our hearts content. Once were sick of the sea, no matter how good the photos came out, we headed back.
It was a buffet style restaurant and after we ate, the live music started. We danced until 11. Then it was time for gifts. First, Annie thanked and presented the drivers with hats and bags, then Fiona presented Pedro with his gift, and finally Lily gave Nadye her well-deserved thanks and present.
Returning to our homestays, I’m sure everyone passed out or at least rested their bodies as they thought abut the day.
Annie, Fiona & Lily
Zach Kreider, Abby Kreider, Olivia Cruz,
Today the group started off eating breakfast at the hotel. After eating, we gathered outside by the pool and completed a session of sun salutation to warm up our bodies for a long day of adventuring.
Our first venture was to Cueva De Los Indios, a cave used by the natives. We walked through the cave for about 10 minutes, enjoying the cramped and dark atmosphere. The cave had a river running through it and our group waited there for a boat to come pick us up and complete the tour. A tour guide was on the boat with us pointing out the shapes seen in the rocks like an Indian man, a fish, and a skull. Seeing the light at the end of our tour was beautiful, and we all were in awe of the beauty of feeling free and enlightened. There were many shops at the end of this tour and of course we all, easily distracted, looked around quickly, and then loaded up the vans.
Lunch was at Habana Retro Café. This restaurant was beautiful and filled with drift wood sculptures. The café was made completely out of wood and had rooms upstairs. We met families who lived there and bonded with their children, taking pictures and laughing.
Noel, who was the man who ran this place, brought us through his land showing us his vast farmland where he grew tobacco and coffee. This man was inspirational and shared his way of being with our group. He speaks of positive energy and how it is a choice and how it is achievable. We hiked up the mountains with him enjoying the indescribable views we saw. We stopped at an overlook to take pictures and listen to Noel speak of how he was inspired to create this café and make the wooden sculptures. After he described the beautiful mountains, we all took time as a group to reflect in our journals, to write about why we are on this trip. Then as an entire group, we all went around in a circle and told one another why we believe we are on this trip. We reflected for about 45 minutes to each other, and then we went back to the vans. We drove back to the hotel and then went to get dinner. At dinner, there were many options to have, such as chicken, fish, and pork. After dinner, we went back to the hotel to reflect, once again, and then we went to sleep.
Spencer and Charlie
Photos by Spencer
Today we visited Patio de Pelgrin, a self-sustainable community project in rural Pinar Del Rio. Groups of students participated in activities such as fishing, dancing, painting, and ceramics. The students who went fishing had a great time, and on the way to the river we fished in we saw several incredible views. It was about 20 minutes and the walk was a great time to relax and talk to our friends about our experiences thus far. Painting was another popular activity. While in the morning only a few students were painting, everyone was painting in the afternoon. There was everything to paint from clay sculptures to beautiful pottery. Annie won “first prize” for her artwork, which consisted of a woman with a beautiful starry background, on a plate.
We had a delicious Cuban lunch of chicken, pork, and of course rice! The most interesting aspect of the lunch was that all of it was grown on the farm itself. At the community project, there were lots of very interesting people, such as the man who made coconut water. He was a huge hit, and everyone loved the drink. The machete he used to cut the coconut was intimidating to some, but everyone had to try the water nonetheless. Dancing was so much fun, and all of the locals were trying their best to teach all of us new moves.
We stayed at the project all day, so not much else happened. However, going back to the hotel and swimming in the pool was very stress relieving and the water felt great in the sun. After a few hours there, we went to dinner. The restaurant was delicious, and the food was mostly pork and chicken based. However, one of the best parts of the day, and possibly the trip, came after dinner. We found out that there was a man making churros on the street, and we all wanted one. Everyone had been craving a Cuban churro for a few days, and it was incredibly gratifying to finally eat one.
The day was very relaxing, and the theme of the day was learning, since we were at the community project all day and had the opportunity to learn about art in Cuba. We all shared one thing we learned today, and it was clear that everyone enjoyed the day!
Nami and Sydney
Today we had an earlier start than usual as we had a long trip to Pinar del Rio, a rural town two hours away from Havana. The group enjoyed its last meal at Jardin de los Milargos. This breakfast included aeropas (a “Cuban” pancake) which was a group favourite, omelets, and fruits.
Before leaving Havana, we visited the famous Plaza de Revolucion otherwise known as Plaza de Jose Martin. Everyone took various photos of memorials dedicated to revolutionary leaders in Cuba. The group was sure not to leave before taking a successful jumping photo together. From the Plaza, we headed to the Fuster Project. This was an entire estate covered in mosaic tiles. After taking a tour and having the opportunity to take many colourful photos, the group headed to lunch in Pinar del Rio.
Lunch was served at the community project where students enjoyed live music while surrounded by various animals including peacocks, crocodiles, dogs, and guinea pigs. The group got to take a sneak peek of the possible projects they could take part in tomorrow. These possibilities consist of painting, dancing, fishing, and ceramics.
The day was concluded with one last activity: relaxing outside and swimming in the pool. Hotel Pinar del Rio fortunately has a great pool facility and is a wonderful place to spend the next few nights. The group had a great day and is looking forward to a fun filled day tomorrow!
What a day…
Today we embarked on a new journey to Cuba’s museum of revolution. There we learned all about Cuba’s history, all the way from 1492 (discovery by Columbus) to the 2014 (U.S. restoration of relationships with Cuba). It was very enjoyable learning something new outside of the classroom and from a whole different perspective. Afterwards, it started raining and all the students enjoyed a little cool down before the next activity.
Just a few moments later, we found ourselves in the national Ballet School of Cuba. There, we were able to watch the Cuban ballet performers training for their upcoming Dracula performance. Some of us even had the chance to dance with some of the students and learn some Ballet poses.
Trying to regain energy, we stopped by Bella Ciao, an Italian Restaurant, where we had great Pizza and Spaghetti.
Ready for more fun, we took our next step into an old cinema hall. There, we watched children, younger than us, perform the most impressive acrobatics and tricks ever. From Clowns to a human, crawling spider- we were entertained!
To take a break from all the laughter and applause we went back to our homestays, where we freshened up and went to dinner. At dinner our most amazing leaders started a real dance party and made us have a great time!!! How can we ever thank them enough??? Jk- lol!
Your leaders, Maria and Katharina <3
Photos by Annie Mulholland
We kicked off our second day in Cuba with a delicious breakfast either at the Jardin de Milagros or with the host families. Our morning activities included a game of "who else?", personal reflections, and historical stories from Pedro and Gracie. We then proceeded to La Finca de Viaja to get a tour of Hemingway's house. 'La casa' was absolutely beautiful, and perhaps a bit overwhelming (in a good way, of course).
Then we headed to lunch at a traditional Cuban restaurant; the Guava juice was a big hit, along with the watermelon juice. After we indulged in a rich culinary experience, we went to Clave del Sol, a community music center. We were serenaded by a talented group of elementary and middle school students. The experience included not only listening, but also singing, dancing and interacting with the kids.
After tons of cultural stimulation, we headed back to what is feeling more and more like home for showers and perhaps personal time with our homestay families. After we were cleaned up, we headed to dinner in our usual spot, La Jardín de Milagros, where Abby and Zach Kreider expressed their anticipation for their soon to be born kittens. Pedro, a local man accompanying us on our trip, gave us a short lesson on the history of government in Cuba with regards to Fidel. It was very interesting and informative to hear the perspective of a local.
Overall today was another amazing day in Havana, Cuba. It was full of self-reflection, fun, adventure and new experiences! We can't wait to experience more of the true beauties and wonders that Cuba has to offer.
Madison and Hunter
Today was an amazing way to start off this 9 day journey together. Everyone woke up for their first times to the Cuban birds singing in their homestays. Then, after a delicious breakfast at Jardin De Los Milagros, the team departed for Old Havana.
We enjoyed an epic photo scavenger hunt throughout the four different squares of Old Havana. This allowed us to soak in not only so much of the beauty it has to offer, but also the components we wouldn't otherwise notice. For example, we took pictures with various statues, in front of buildings, spoke Spanish with native Cubans, went to a Cuban mass, watched Cuban street music, and much more.
By lunchtime, our stomachs were more than ready for the delicious food we were served on Calle Hamel Street. It consisted of pork, fish, vegetables, and other traditional Cuban foods. Afterward, we got to go to one of our guide's hometowns and walk around. We saw the water front, the church, the school, and even some traditional dancing that we got to take part in as well! The dancing was definitely a highlight for lots of us.
To end the busy day, we visited a massive statue of Jesus Christ, which also came with a great view, and then went to dinner after relaxing for a few minutes back in our homestays. The day was super busy, but extremely fulfilling, and most of all, our group saw through our first lenses of the colorful culture of Cuba.
Emily and Alyssa