Welcome to April in Cuba!

Hello, and welcome back!
Quick shout out to my Grandma and Mom, who sent the link of this blog to everyone in my family, including my Great-Grandma Nannie. Now, let’s talk about rum…(haha)

This past week my program took us to the National Rum Museum and we learned about how it’s made, why there are different colors, and the taste, smell, and texture differences between 3, 5, 7, 15 year old rum (we did not try the 25, 40, or 150 year old rum). Within the first 15 minutes of the tour, our guide put molasses on our hands so we could taste what is put in the rum and poured rum on our hands so we could feel the texture of rum that hasn’t aged enough. While on this tour I somehow felt somewhere between a 5 year old after eating sweets and a middle-aged man as we talked about pairing different rums with certain cigars (with our still super sticky hands).

Later in the month my friends and I posed as tourists (not hard to do when you kind of are a tourist), and visited the Hotel Nacional. Before the Revolution the Hotel Nacional was a space for North American gangsters and has a bunker where they used to meet and hide out. We tried to visit the bunker but were cut short by a fairly large deadbolt, so instead we sat near the Cuban flag pole and looked over the Malecon and man-made waterfall that is a large marker of the Hotel Nacional.

The rest of this month we have spent at the University. I am only grateful that I have an 8am for a single reason (maybe two because learning can sometimes be fun), it gives me reason to see the sun rise at the University and it can be absolutely beautiful.

I’ll end on a new spot we just found! It’s an amazing little bookstore that was founded by a former US citizen. She has a wonderful collection of books and an amazing area/garden for people to read and enjoy their coffees in the shade. It makes me miss my public library back home. I’m a little bit book deprived and I wish I had thought to bring more books before I had left.

Anyways, I have a ton more adventures planned in the latter part of this month, check back later for a post Spring Break update!

March Throwback

Little late, but April Fools! Pretend this was posted in March haha. (I didn’t buy internet for a solid 2 weeks and it caught up with me) My host mom had to remind me that while I might live here right now, life is still moving back home, so I need to make sure to pay attention to dates. I’ll try to keep to my two posts per month in April, so keep an eye out for two more updates this month!
My friends and I did a lot at the end of March. We went to Trinidad, Vinales, Casa de Africa, Casa de Yoruba, and the HU Culture Festival.

The whole SSA crew together with an amazing speaker on race in Cuba

We took the Viazul bus to Trinidad, and started our journey at 5:30am by missing our guagua to the bus station, which turned out fine and we made the bus with 20 minutes to spare! We were promised that it would take 4 hours, it took 7.5 hours, so we didn’t have as much time in Trinidad on the first day as we had originally hoped. I had never been on a big bus like that before, so we made it an adventure. I read ‘One Flew Over the Coocoo’s Nest’ and listened to music on the way to Trinidad and then again on the 7 to 8 hour journey on the way back.

In Trinidad we went to the beach, partied at Las Cuevas, hiked, and rode bikes. If you can’t tell by that list, we tried to spend the least amount of money possible while in Trinidad, and many of our activities were free or at the very least super cheap.

In the Casa de Africa (which is in Old Havana), we learned about the original slave trade in Cuba and the syncretism of African and Spanish culture that created modern day Cuban Santeria. In the Casa de Yoruba (sits in front of the Capitolio) we learned about African religions in Cuba and the Spanish oppression of such religions. We learned the ‘equivalences’ of Spanish Catholic Saints and African Yoruban Orishas. In the Casa de Yoruba they had created statues to each of the Orishas along with plaques in Cuban Spanish, Spain Spanish, English, and French.

The University of Havana had their annual culture festival in March, and I was lucky enough to help organize the United States table! This was the first year that the US was represented in a few years, so we chose to get as many people involved as possible this year!

We had a hard time deciding how we wanted to represent the US because all of us agreed the US has a very imperialistic vibe that would ostracize people more than welcome them. So one program brought a bunch of different state flags and represented the different cultures of different states. Another group brought a bunch of country flags to represent the diverse immigrant population in the States. Someone brought a computer, and played Lemonade by Beyonce. Someone brought photos they had taken of a Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest and had them printed out all over our table. We served Hershey’s chocolate, graham crackers, and giant marshmallows on sun-cooked s’mores, and we answered questions about the US, our states, and a lot of questions about our political ideas. My favorite part of the day was the flash cards someone had brought. We asked people to write their thoughts, questions, anything they wanted about the US. We put them all (negative, positive, random, every single one of them) on our table.

It could have gone terribly wrong, but it was absolutely amazing. People wrote sympathetic messages about our president, they wrote about family they had in the US, and messages of love for the people who were trying to work for a better US (both abroad and at home).

This month marked our half-way point, and I’m proud about everything I have learned and everything I will learn in the next month and a half.