Cuba–June 22, 2014

This morning the majority of the members of our group awoke at around 7:30 a.m. After the previous long couple of days that we have had we were pleased to have been able to leisurely prepare for our 8:00 breakfast time. Today breakfast consisted of the usual: fresh pineapple and mangos, scrambled eggs, delicious rolls, and tasty coffee. This morning I was especially looking forward to my fresh pineapple and did not hesitate to thank Carlos for the millionth time for preparing our food for us.

Breakfast was followed by a three hour church service at 9:00. I am positive that is the longest service I have ever sat through, and though it was long and we were all hot and sweaty, it was nonetheless an enlightening experience. The George School group divided into two groups prior to the church service. One group joined Ileabeth in the teaching of a song to the children of the congregation while the others joined Tom in thinking of and sharing of responses to readings written by a New England Quaker, Thomas Kelly. I happened to be in the latter group and I shared my response to the query: has there ever been a time where I have felt temporary and fully present while simultaneously feeling eternal and lasting. I found myself reflecting on the events of the other day when we were helping to make, mix, and transport cement to improve the church. The sensations of exhaustion, and exertion while working were temporary, and the senses of community and joining together for a greater cause to me felt eternal. To say the least it was a very powerful experience for many of us.

After church our group changed into our bathing suits, grabbed our backpacks, and hopped on a tour bus which drove us to a hotel/resort in the hills overlooking Holguin. A few members of the Church accompanied us on our excursion, and before we knew it we had arrived. The resort was beautiful and offered a breathtaking view of the city. One member of the group even noticed that from where we were standing we could even see “La Loma de la Cruz,” the hill we climbed very early on in our trip. It was quite lovely. The resort also offered a wonderful lunch for all of us which consisted of rice and beans, some pork for those of us who eat meat, and my personal favorite, plantain chips (Mom, please take note. I hear they can be purchased at Trader Joes).The food was great, but the guys serenading our group while we ate made it even better! There also seemed to be an unusual amount of our feline friends hanging around which was entertaining for some of us.

Lunch was followed by a walk down the hill to the resort’s swimming pool. There were several guests already enjoying the refreshing water, but our group did not hesitate to jump right on in! After spending the morning cooped up in the hot church it felt great to go for a swim. Unfortunately we noticed that a storm was brewing in the distance, so we got out of the water to avoid the dangers of swimming during a lightning storm.

Alex managed to snap one of the best photographs of the trip this afternoon when almost by chance he captured a flash of lightning with the beautiful mountain vista in the background. He bragged about it for a solid ten minutes afterwards, and I have to admit it was pretty incredible. When it actually began raining the group took shelter for an hour and a half in the resort lobby. Matt and Natasja decided it would be fun to play a jumbo game of chess in the rain, while the rest of us killed some time by purchasing snacks and chit-chatting. Eventually Fritz, Chinue, and I left to accompany Matt and Natasja in the game of chess. Fritz then proceeded to order a soft drink called “Tukola,” but instead was served two cans of cola. It was pretty funny.

When we returned to the lobby, we still had quite a bit of time to kill. A few of the girls decided we needed to use the bathroom, but upon opening the door to the facilities I discovered a huge, black butterfly. Emma, Emily, and Chinue thought it was hilarious when they heard me yell from outside of the bathroom. Emma caught a series of photos of me cowering from the butterfly, which is pretty funny if you ask me. Our stay at the resort was concluded with a large game of “BS” or “Disconfio” in Spanish. I couldn’t think of a better group of people to spend a rainy afternoon in Cuba with.

Our afternoon was topped off with a lovingly prepared dinner, which was waiting for us when we returned. We had meat, plantains, salad, rice with sardines (that was interesting, but good in my opinion), and some vanilla ice cream. As of now some of us are watching the World Cup, while others are taking showers and enjoying one of our last few nights together.
None of us can believe how our time hear has flown by. It seems like yesterday to me that we showed up with our luggage.

To my family: I love Cuba, but I can’t wait to come home! The ride home from the Philly airport is going to seem short because I have so many great stories to tell you about our trip! It has been wonderful! I love you!

-Katie

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