As an American who has been to Cuba I am appalled at the media for hating on Cuba so much. We know nothing of the Cuban side and the Cubans know nothing about us. My experience there changed my life and I hope all of the items I gave to my maid at my hotel and all of the cucs (currency) I handed out, helped in any way.
I wish I could go back to Cuba.
I’m in international studies major at Arcadia University and here are my photos and stories of my journeys around the world.
Entering the Cuba class I felt a sense of ignorance in myself. I didn’t know anything about Cuba except for the fact that the majority of American’s are unable to travel there. We started reading our book Cuba: What Everyone Needs To Know and I found myself not understanding the book and being unable to fully grasp what it was trying to teach me. I learned more in one week in Cuba than I think I did in my whole semester in any of my classes. After being in Cuba for a week I found myself being able to understand the textbook more and more. I finally understood who Jose Marti was, Cuba’s national hero, and I could understand the embargo. What was interesting to me was how much we don’t know about Cuba and especially after our Cuba/US relations class, how much Cuban’s don’t know about America. This is all important information to understand, but my experience in Cuba went a little deeper than the history. My experience in Cuba was definitely life-changing, I wouldn’t trade that experience for any other trip or for anything in the world.
Going to Cuba I was very hesitant. I was excited, but a little nervous of what to expect. I expected there to be nothing at all in the grocery stores and that we wouldn’t be eating very well. I was incredibly wrong because we ate pretty well all week and the store near us had everything! We all expected a lot less, which was probably a good thing because at least we weren’t disappointed. Even though we were shocked at the food and the grocery stores, we noticed how little a majority of the Cubans have. A life changing moment for us was the night we spent on the Malecón. We were sitting on the famous sea wall listening to people play us music and dancing to the sound of bongo drums and a guitar, enjoying the beautiful night. A little while later we came across a fisherman who was hoping to catch dinner for his family. We had Michael speak to him in Spanish and he asked him how life is in Cuba and to be honest with him. The fisherman told Michael how much he wishes he could come to America and if he ever could he would never come back to Cuba. The fisherman makes only 15 pesos a month and on top of that he has a 2 year old daughter, he told us that sometimes he and his family only eat one meal per day. Michael gave him 10 cucs after the conversation and we reflected on this moment for a while. It was our last night in Cuba and we really were going to miss it. We discussed how hard Cubans have it and how we’ve learned so much by just spending a week in Cuba. I explained this story and others at the global expo when we returned home to a woman who was interviewing me. The shock in her eyes and the tears that were almost there told me that no one in America really understands. I learned that in my first class and readings about Cuba. Trying to explain Cuban’s side to my parents was impossible because most American’s see Cuba as communism and nothing else. I think we really shocked people upon our return. Everyone I spoke to I told them I wanted to go back, and how I gave my maid everything and tipped extra than needed and people really thought I was crazy. I received questions like “Why would you want to go back,” and “is any of that really helping?” I was in shock and I suppose so was everyone not on the trip. I could sit here and write about how beautiful the buildings and old cars are there and how cheap the food was, but that’s not the reality of the trip. The reality of Cuba is and was an experience that made us realize how much we have and how ignorant we are to the world around us. Yes, we did eat a lot for very cheap and we had a lot of fun going out and riding in the old cars and seeing the city, but the most meaningful experience I took from the trip was the stories I heard from other people. Listening to who hates Cuba and who loves it, dancing and enjoying life for an hour with the locals, seeing a child’s face light up after receiving a pack of gum or a baseball, these are all the experiences that made me see the reality of Cuba and made me cherish everything I have. At the beginning of the trip we were all bonding and trying to spark up conversation because we didn’t have our phones and social media to distract us. Somebody asks, “What would you do if you won the lottery?” I had never known the answer to this question for myself. Pay off my student loans I guess? Save the rest? Donate to charity? By the end of the week in Cuba I knew the answer. If ever I won the lottery and had the ability to go back to Cuba I would give everyone there everything. Nothing feels as good as a smile on the face of a child or the tears in the eyes of parents who live with nothing. I’d want to experience Cuba all over again and not have to feel like I don’t have enough money to give out. This is not charity to me. This is helping those out in need because you’ve seen what they go through and you’ve heard their stories and you want to help them out as if they were family. Family is another idea I learned about in Cuba. Family does not have to be those you are related to, but the people who mean the most to you and share the same experiences with you. During our week in Cuba I became so close to my professors and some of my classmates and I could definitely consider them my family. We’ll probably never be as close as we were on that trip but it doesn’t change a single thing for me. Cuba was truly a life-changing experience. I realized how much I want to help others and experience culture and to be able to understand the world around me. After preview, I decided to change my major to International Studies and I’m minoring in Anthropology, and so far it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I’m excited to continue learning about those around me and helping others in any way that I can. Cuba taught me more in one week than I’ve learned in one semester. I’m really glad we got to experience Cuba, a place that almost no American’s get to travel to. My experience and what I learned during my week in Cuba are lessons I’ll keep with me for a lifetime.
Thanks! It was so fucking cool! Foreal! I miss it soo much. Thanks for asking about it =] it was just crazy. Everything there is still from like the 1950s so all of the cars are old! The buildings are beautiful and the people are really fascinating to talk to. Sometimes you’ll get stories saying they love cuba but most of the time people will say that they hate it and if they had the chance to come to America they would never go back. We spoke to a fisherman who said he has a two year old daughter and he only makes 15 pesos per month and sometimes they only eat one meal per day to save their subsidized food. It’s really crazy! We tipped people a lot and gave away a lot of things that we had! The driving is crazy and everyone takes their time for everything like at restaurants and what not. Most places we ate at our meals would be only 7 cuc! 6 of us ate meals and had drinks and our bill was 25 cuc which is crazy. It was such a cool experience and if I could go back I would in a heartbeat. To answer the other part of your question, I got lost with the stories, I was there with my school. Arcadia university has a program for first years students called preview where you can go to a study abroad location for a week over spring break for only $495 it’s a fabulous opportunity and actually after preview I decided to change my major to international studies! If you have any other questions I will gladly answer! I love cuba so much!