07 May 2011

eso! cuba study trip.

My last full week in Latin America was spent in Cuba and that was a great way to finish of the semester. I learned SO much about Cuba and U.S. foreign policy and socialism.  Mostly it was just amazing to experience Cuba first hand.  If you don't know much about Cuba at all, I was in your shoes three weeks ago.  Learning about Cuba doesn't really happen much in the U.S. education system, so I felt like a sponge during my Cuban experience.  I got to learn about Cuba from Cubans, which was a perspective I have not gotten in the U.S.  My group stayed at a Baptist Church center called the Martin Luther King Center and the workers there set up our tour of Cuba.  Our tour included charlas (lectures) with fascinating people, visits to museums, schools and hospitals, dance lessons, participating in an elderly dance therapy class, two days at the beach and delicious coffee.  Since I can't remember everything nor would you want to read every little detail or my trip, I will just give you a few highlights.

1.   Solidarity:   I read a little bit about the sense of solidarity amoungst Cubans and I got to experience it first hand.  Let me tell you, it was awesome! Through listening to the charlas, I learned that solidarity is what influences Cubans to clean up their neighborhoods together, to share their material things and really all aspects of their lives with each other.  I think it's solidarity that fuels the incredible friendliness of Cubans.  The Cubans I met were some of the most friendly people I encountered in Latin America. People on the street would stop me and my friends, asking where we were from and what we were doing. 

2.  Dance Lessons:  Cubans can dance.  It's in their blood or something.  We visited an elementary school and the kids danced for us, we attended a dance class for the grandmas and grandpas in the community and we went to a dance performance done by college students.  Everyone in Cuba dances, so we did too!  One night our group of 40 gringos got a a dance lesson. We learned 3 or 4 different dances, but the only one I remember is the salsa.  And the only reason I remember the salsa is because every night after our dance lesson, my friends and I practiced and practiced and practiced.  It was great.  However, I am still on the most basic level of salsa.  Most basic, I tell you.

3.  Easter in the Ocean:  On Easter Sunday, my group was at the beach in Varadero, Cuba.  After walking around town and writing in our Cuba study journals a bit, my friends and I made our way to the beach.  That meant a two second walk across the street.  We were quite lucky in our guest house location.  Once in the clear blue water we decided to recognize Easter in our own way.  Caleb, Allison, Alyssa, Annie, Josh and I each shared how we have seen Christ resurrected in our lives this semester, we talked about what we have learned and how we plan to incorporate these new findings into our lives back home.  We prayed the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi and recited a Psalm 23.  It was an unconventional Easter celebration, but it was fitting considering that we choose to leave our home culture and home community for the semester.

I hope to write another post that is more specific about what I have learned overall this semester.  It could turn into me writing a book because I learned so much this semester.  Vamos a ver.


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