Tag Archives: Cuba 2018

Cuba

8

Today we woke up at 7:30 to be ready for breakfast at 8. Angie, Ike, Courtney, Sarah, Illeabeth, Priya, and I’s day started off with carrying 270 boxes of bibles into the church. I was so glad that there were a lot of hands to help with the lifting as it allowed it to go by a lot faster than if there were fewer hands. Once those were all in the church, Ike, Angie, Priya, and I switched with those the that were previously working on the roof, mixing cement. Our group worked until lunch, filling buckets with sand and gravel to be dumped in the cement mixer.

Afterward, we had a lunch of rice and beans with chicken, tomatoes, plantain chips, and so many desserts. There was cake and ice cream and cookies and more cake, Lianet gave us so so many options, it was amazing. Then after lunch, we all showered and got ready for our final walk around Holguin.

Originally we were all together but split up to venture around the plazas. Angie and I walked to a department store where I bought a shirt that says Cuba. Later we walked to a small market were she almost bought a painting but decided to save her money for  more ice cream. We went to the little ice cream shop where I only drank a bottle of water while Angie ate her ice cream. Around 2:25 we headed back to the plaza to meet up with our sponsors to go back to the church.

For about 5 hours until dinner many of us sat around entertaining ourselves while dinner was made. Later, we had imperial rice, plantain chips, fried sweat plantains, tomatoes, sweet potato chips. After, we all walked to Lianet’s house and played around with her son until around 10.

We’ve had a great time here and have grown so much. We understand so much more about the world.

These are our biggest takeaways from Cuba.

Angie: Happiness isn’t linked to what we want but rather what we have.

Maddie: There is more to life than the internet.

Alice: Travel with a mindset of self improvement.

Courtney: Happiness comes more easily than we think.

Miranda: Don’t let the lack of job security stop you from perusing your dream.

JoceLynn: Happiness is in the experience not in the objects around us.

Annarose: It is possible to understand people even when you don’t understand what they said.

Priya: Taking yourself out of your situation and comfort zone can help you see the others

around you.

Ike: No matter where you go, people are fundamentally the same everywhere.

Eric: Look around, observe, and appreciate what is around you.

Ahmed: find happiness and gratitude in the small things in life and you will never be bored.

Aaron: Simplicity is often the ultimate road to happiness.

Sara: Things are often so much more complicated than they first appear. It is in going out and seeking our own truth that we open ourselves to the world and in return, the world opens itself to us.

Ileabeth: Cuba is such a beautiful country, and its people always fill me with joy and so many life lessons. May we never forget that the simple things in life is what brings us joy. Hasta la victoria siempre, Cuba!

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Last Day in Cuba

The day started out with a healthy dose of 3-10 year olds, as we assisted Ileabeth in teaching the church’s children group. We helped the kids make craft lanterns, and sang with them, “Caminemos en la luz de Dios” (“We are walking in the light of God”). Working with the kids was really fun, even despite that we had more assistants than seemed logical, and I resorted to picking up then kids’ trash from right in front of them rather than helping the craft. We then transitioned to the church service, where many of us exchanged cheerful greetings with our host families from Friday’s dinner. Ileabeth, Sara, and I sang with the church choir. (And I sang a solo for the church! ūüėČ ). I was surprised by the ability of the choir to learn and perfect the song in such a short time (we started learning it on Tuesday, but it definitely helped that of the eleven in the choir, four were or had been professional opera singers.

After the service, and a hearty lunch, we returned to Floro Perez to finish painting the meetinghouse. This time, instead of biting ants, we found adversaries in the many spiders hiding in the corners of the church. We just barely finished painting the first coat before our truck arrived, and it was sad to think that, since we had to rush out, we will likely never see the finished product of the newly painted meetinghouse. We followed our long and treacherously bumpy ride home with dinner at a (Cuban) Japanese restaurant down the street from the church, where the food was well worth the long wait (and maybe worth a bit of complaining from the others).

Ike class of 2019

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Cuba

by Eric Yu ’19

Today was another fun day. Since we had so much fun at the beach last week, Ileabeth and Sara scheduled another trip to Guardalavaca. We had to be at breakfast by 7:15, so we could catch the 8 a.m. bus. Unlike yesterday’s 3-hour ride to Santiago de Cuba, the ride today was only an hour, which was still enough time for a good nap. When we got to the beach, we went to have breakfast before we all jumped¬†into the beach, though we already had breakfast back at the church. We could choose our own dish and I decided to have some bacon and fried eggs. Just like any other places in Cuba, it took a long time for anything to come out. Of course, we had to wait patiently because as Ileabeth said, “Waiting is part of Cuban culture”. The food was decent and later on we also found out that we all had access to a snack bar that had various food and drinks. We then went to the beach to have more fun. The beach was relatively smaller than the one we went last week. Also, there were seaweeds all over the place, which limited the area we could go on. And Ike told me that he got stung by something walking over the seaweed. After about an hour, we all as a group decided to go to the snack bar and get some fries with hotdogs which we were all craving the whole trip. Like at the breakfast place earlier in the morning, it was so hard to get the waiters and waitresses¬ī attention to order some food. When a waitress finally got to our table, we ordered some burgers, hotdogs, and fries. While we were waiting for the food, me, Maddie, and Alice went to watch the Nigeria and Iceland game. The game ended with a 2:0 Nigeria win. After the game was over, we went back to our table expecting some good food. Unfortunately, it was not. The fries were soggy and the buns for burgers and hotdogs were too hard. Then, Ileabeth came over to tell us that we also go to the hotel buffet for some lunch. Still not full from those fries and burgers, me, Ahmed, Courtney, and Miranda went back to the hotel lobby where the buffet was. Buffet had so many options. Finally after filling our stomachs, we headed back to the pool area where we played volleyball. Then, we went to participate in a Bingo game which eventually became the highlight of our day. It was pretty simple, if you win the game, you take the prize. ¬†Miranda and I were the first ones to get¬†two bingos and the guy gave us a prize.¬† It was already 4:30 and we had to get ready for our bus by 5. While waiting for the bus, many of us went into the souvenir shop for more gifts. I chose to get coffee for all the relatives and family friends. The bus came a bit later than it should have, so we had to hurry for our second family dinner. I was grouped with Annarose, Angie, and Alice. Later on, Sara, Miranda, Aaron, and Courtney came to join us. The host was a photographer and his wife was a painter. Since it was a home of artists, there were lots of paintings and photos hanging on the walls. After a great dinner, we went to the living room for conversation. Since I couldn¬īt speak any Spanish, I had to stay with Alice and Angie the whole time for translation. Even though I had major language barriers, I still had a good time with a local Cuban family. Tomorrow we are meeting the youth of the church for various activities.

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Cuba

Time in Cuba has gone by quickly. Today we woke up with the feeling that our stay here is almost coming to an end. Our mornings have been filled with mango juice, eggs and bread. Carlos, Lianet, Alberto and María greet us cheerfully in the morning, and today was no different.

Today we had a day full of cultural exchanges with different groups. First, we had an outing at the park with the youth of the Quaker meeting in Holguín. At 9AM we all boarded the truck to the park.  The group was composed of kids, youth, and adults.  Our students have gotten to know the members of the church well. As we got to the park we knew it was going to be a good time. We were divided in groups to get to know each other better. We played soccer and volleyball, and rode elevated bicycles. After enjoying some time together, we walked to lunch.

The pace of life here is different than in the US. ¬†Here, we¬īre not continuously bombarded by media, social networking, or advertising. We can really take time to enjoy each other’s company. I keep on thinking about how we will readjust, and if we will continue to take the time back home to just be present and not on our phones.

After a delicious lunch, we headed to a soccer game with the local youth team.  We cheered for Miranda, Ahmed, Eric, Courtney, Alice and Aaron. Sadly, we lost but we had a good time.

After sharing soda and smiles with the group, we headed back to the church to relax and have dinner.

Our Cuban friend, Leo, came to pick us up to go to the Vista Alegre Quaker meeting. We had a great time with the youth there. We played games and got to know them. The students got so involved in their conversations that it was hard to pull them away in the end.  Our dog friend, Chica, is still following around the streets of Holguí, and it is really cute.

Today was a great day, full of companionship with new friends.

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Cuba

by Sara Shreve-Price

It was another busy day in Cuba for the George School crew. We woke up early to have breakfast and be on the road by 7:30am. Today we focused on cultural exploration. We spent most of the day in Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city.

We visited the main cemetery and the monuments to Jos√© Marti, Fidel Castro, the Buena Vista Social Club’s Company Segundo, and main other prominent Cubans. It was interesting to see the different customs here in terms of memorials. We also saw two museums.

Lunch was delicious as usual. Then we had the afternoon to explore central Santiago de Cuba. Many of us went shopping and looked around the city. The students enjoyed siestas during the ride back to Holguín.

After dinner we had an evening meeting during which many of us reflected on how much more complicated the world is than it first appears. Finally, a few of us went to choir rehearsal while everyone else played card games and chatted. Now we are hanging out in our rooms getting ready for bed (which honestly looks a little more like a dance party than whatever you as a reader are imagining). Then we are off to sleep in preparation for another early day tomorrow.

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Cuba Day 8

I woke up to Sara’s wake up call. I was running¬†relatively late this morning. ¬†We ate breakfast as usual and dove into hard work. Today, we started plucking wheat out from the ground; however, this did not take long and our truck arrived outside. It took about 10 minutes to arrive at our destination, we stopped by a government building with people waiting for us.

Our activity today was meeting “young communists” who were about 40 years old. One of them was a History professor at Holgu√≠n University. ¬†He passionately talked about the rise of the Cuban system and how before the Revolution, the dictators were manipulated by the United States. One of the interesting things he said was that every year Cubans submit a plea to the United Nations, and within the proposal they ask to lift the Cuban Embargo that has devastated the Cuban economy decades. Every country in the UN voted for the embargo to be lifted, except Israel and the United States. Many of us were shocked. It is interesting to see the juxtaposition between Cubans in Cuba and Cubans in the United States, because they both have reasonable opinions about the government.

Being from China, I personally love the political system here where there are no social classes in Cuba. Education, health care, housing, and more are all provided by the government, which embodies the true definition of communism. In Cuba, there are no illiterate people and they have the most doctors per capita. This is truly a unique country that is progressive in human rights and equality. Moreover, Cubans do not believe in working for money. I know. It is a rather unique definition of freedom, but they believe there is no dignity in life once a person is enslaved by monetary limitations. He said a newly drafted constitution is in play and the first article is going to be about working for the sake of service and for the people. This sounds like a Utopian society where everyone lives equally, but let us see how it plays out.

Admittedly, I wanted to ask more questions, but it was 12:40 and I was too hungry to stay there any longer. We went back to the church and did more work after eating. One of the better experiences today was after dinner. ¬†We all went salsa dancing at Leo’s dance studio. We had so much fun and the day finally came to an end.

I would love to talk to the students here in Cuba that are my age so I can get to learn about their perspectives of the education in this country. It was a tiring but fruitful day and I am willing to experience more of this country as we now only have 7 days left. I have fallen in love with Cuba and I will make sure to come back to visit Havana and this Church again.

See photos.

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Cuba

By AnnaRose ’19

Our service group and a group of church members took a day trip to Gibara, a coastal town about an hour away from Holguín.  On the bus ride there, our guide explained how the Cuban education system worked, and how Cubans attained jobs.  Education is free, and mandatory until ninth grade, although nearly all Cubans will continue their studies past then.

On the drive we passed many forts from the early nineteenth century. There was also a good view of the bay, which we would end up paddle-boating and kayaking in. ¬†Ike, Angie, Priya, and JoceLyn n were in one paddle-boat, while Alice, Maddie, Courtney and I were in another. ¬†Aaron and Ahmed, and Eric and Miranda, rowed about in kayaks, and they stuck by the paddle-boat I was in as we moved about the bay. ¬†Courtney and Alice were the ones who were paddling, but they seemed to be good with the load.¬† It was fun to explore the bay, even though we couldn’t swim in it because of the water quality. ¬†Ike, Angie, Priya, and JoceLynn were a couple minutes late getting back to shore, but then we were on our way to explore a cave.

The cave had more graffitti than I expected, and more bats, but it was a new experience to  aim my headlamp at the cave walls to see if there were any interesting rocks.  As we walked around the dirt floor, many people, including me, took pictures of stalagmites and columns.  At one point, on the way back to the cave entrance, we stopped for a minute to stand in the dark.  It was scary, but thrilling.

As we drove towards the restaurant for lunch, we saw many of¬†Gibara’s houses and buildings. We stopped at a lookout to take pictures of the town and the bay encircling it.

The restaurant, named La Cueva, served us seafood, mostly shrimp and crabmeat. There were also platters of rice and beans, vegetables, and plantain chips. ¬†Aaron continuously stopped by where Miranda, Courtney, Sara, Ileabeth, Roxy and I were sitting in order to get more plantain chips. It wasn’t just the plantain chips that were good; you could say the same for all the food. Spaghetti or pork was available for those who did not want to eat fish. There was a small zoo attached to the restaurant, and Miranda, Courtney and I stopped to look at a parrot.

After lunch, we traveled to Gibara’s main square, where we could walk around for half an hour before we had to go.¬† Most of us stopped at a grocery store to take a look around. ¬†While there might not be as many products as in American stores, there didn’t appear to be a lack of products for sale. ¬†Ike, Angie, Priya, JoceLynn, two sisters from the church named Maylen and Mitel, and I looked around for ice cream. ¬†It took a while, but eventually we were able to find another convenience store that had ice cream. As we walked, Jocelynn, Angie, Maylen, and Mitel talked about their shared love of K-pop (Korean pop music), especially BTS.

As we returned to the church, it started to storm, and while the rain w as refreshing after a hot day, it made everything hard to hear.  We rested before dinner, and then went for a walk towards a nearby plaza.  Roxy joined us, and Ike stayed behind to practice singing with the church chorus.

Walking the short distance from the church to the plaza at night didn’t feel unsafe, especially as our resident street dog Chica was beside us, barking at any bicycle that passed. ¬†We made our way to an ice cream parlor opposite the plaza.¬† Miranda, Maddie and Alice debated what questions they might ask a group of communists we would meet tomorrow, and Courtney and I talked about our upcoming trip to Santiago. ¬†Eric was mostly interested in eating his sundae.

After returning to the church, we heard part of a song that the chorus was singing, and they sounded great.  Angie and Priya joined Ike, and they all seemed to be having fun, judging by the singing that I could hear.  Others headed upstairs to play card games or journal for a while. After the evening meeting, we went to bed, tired after a full day.

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Cuba Day 6

By Miranda ’19

Today we went back to work. Our day started out by having breakfast at 8, we had pineapple, eggs, packaged toast, and bread with butter. As soon as breakfast ended we headed back to work to finish what we had started on Friday. We pulled over 16 barrels full of sand to the second floor then we bucketed them up to the third floor (the roof) where we had previously put the rocks from last week. Throughout this tiresome process we had rotations to reduce the work and to give people a break.

We ended work around 12:40 and started our nap session shortly afterwards. During our nap session we munched on my goldfish, Ike’s Milano cookies, Maddie’s pop-tarts, and Alice’s crackers. Everyone was so tired to the point where they didn’t care where they slept. Alice, Priya and I made make-shift beds out of chairs; while Maddie, JoceLynn, Annarose and Angie all slept on beach towels. Courtney, Eric, Ahmed, and Aaron all slept in their beds.

After our hour and thirty minute “nap”, we all went straight back to work but this time filling up water for the community from 2 to 5. The two men, who help us build the church, showed up a little after five to help us continue construction. This time we moved 12 long metal bars and multiple tin roof top pieces from the ground level to the first floor then immediately to the second. Lastly we formed an assembly line to move cinder blocks from the ground up to the second floor.

After we finished all of our hard work it was supposed to be time for dinner but we had time to spare so we all decided to walk 15 minutes to La Loma de La Cruz ( which is a giant hill with over 462+ steps!).

After the hike we all feasted on rice with shredded beef and green peppers. For dessert we had jello and banana cake. Following dinner, Ahmed and I played Spit, the card game (I won by the way), and JoceLynn and Maddie also played afterwards. After our games we all went upstairs and played a mini game of apples to apples followed by our meeting that occurs every night. Overall today was tiring yet fun and I can’t wait to see what is in store tomorrow.

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Cuba

cuba (2)

by Ahmed ’19

The service today was not too long but was very early in the morning (editor’s note: the service began at 9am). We sang a song and performed a dance for the service. It was a special service because it was fathers day. It was finally time for the thing we have all been waiting for: going to the beach. The bus ride to the beach was really chill. It was air conditioned, comfy, and I saw a lot of beautiful scenery.

We went horse back riding as the first thing we did once we arrived at our destination. Personally I just wanted to go to the beach but I was wrong. Once we started riding I had so much fun. I got a really good horse. I started going slow at first but then I learned how to maneuver my horse and once I did that I was able to do so many things. Everybody was going way too slow and I wanted to go faster. Oh my god I loved riding that horse. It was so much fun. Near the end more people started riding their horses fast and Eric, Maddie, Aaron, and I started riding our horses together really fast. It hurt so much. I thought I was going to die because I kept bouncing up and down on my horse.

Then we went to lunch which was so good. We watched part of the Brazil vs Switzerland and we saw Coutinhio score.

Then we finally went to the beach and it was so much fun. We took so many pictures and enjoyed the view. The water was so clear and there were so many fishes. We tried to catch them but it didn’t work. When we went in the water we took videos of us messing around in the water. It was beautiful. None of us wanted to leave, but sadly we had to. Everybody was enjoying their experience at the beach.We took some fire pictures there. Today was by far the best day. We all want to go back for a second day.

The food here has just been amazing. We all ate dinner together and it was also really good.

We then went to chill at the plaza and after we played card games when we came back. Ileabeth said that she never lost a game of Sushi Go, so I played her in that and I won. People are adjusting pretty well and I think people are really enjoying it.

Check out more photos on Instagram.

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Cuba Day 3

by Courtney Heffelfinger ’19

So today was our second full day in Cuba and it was better than the first, for me at least. Today we woke up and ate breakfast of fruits, toast, and eggs. Alice and I struggled to keep our eyes open during breakfast even though we got about 8 hours of sleep.

After breakfast we went right to work with Roxy where we were getting the gravel we moved from the ground to the second floor up from the first with our pulley system. It wasn’t so bad because I was with Priya, Alice, Maddie, and Miranda and we had our rotation system down so each of us could take breaks. Priya struggled a bit with moving the wheelbarrow full of gravel to the big pile we were making on the roof, so Jose helped her each time that it was her turn to push the barrow, saying in Spanish that she needed “one big push”. After we got all of the rocks up we moved this huge thing up from the floor the rocks were on. I literally have no idea what it was or what purpose it served, but I had to stand on bags of rice while Eric had to climb up the wall and help Jose get the thing onto the roof. We also filled buckets with sand and did the same thing that we did with the gravel. I think it was easier because the sand wasn’t as difficult to shovel up into the buckets.

After our shoveling and filling the wheelbarrow, we had a snack and watched the World Cup on the TV in the living room. Ahmed was rooting for Egypt against Uruguay but I think it ended up being a tie at zero, however I could be completely wrong because we missed the end of the game. Alice, Miranda, Sara, and Maddie washed the dishes after lunch while the rest of us continued to watch the World Cup until we started rehearsing for our dance for our Sunday service. That was a mess. We’ve been getting better at it but I think we have come to the understanding that we are all really bad at timing. Aaron has to be a grandpa in the ending scene of the dance, but when asked to walk like a grandpa, he instead walked like he was having a heart attack. He tried and eventually fixed it, because that wasn’t exactly how Leo, our choreographer, imagined the dance.

The last sort of event we had today was our first family dinner. My group was Sara, myself, Maddie, Ike, and Angie with our host Sergio and his family. We were apprehensive at first because we had just met them and only half of us knew Spanish – myself, Maddie, and Eric excluded. As we continued to talk with the family, I started to understand more and more of what the conversations were about. Our family made every effort to include us in conversation and they had the most bubbly and amazing personalities of the people I have met so far. Sergio is an artisan who makes bracelets and we found that out after he pointed to Maddie’s bracelet she got yesterday in the shopping plaza and said he makes them. He elaborated on how he works and what he does saying that he uses cow bone to make certain parts of the bracelets and then makes a certain design with the string and puts it all together. He asked us all what our favorite colors were and at the end of dinner gave us all bracelets that he had made. We walked all the way back home from his house which took nearly and hour but I’d say it was worth it. Today was actually such a good day and if I could spend all of my time walking around Holguin like we did, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to do it forever.

-Courtney Heffelfinger ūüôā

p.s. Mom and Dad, we got my luggage and I’m happy as a clam. Thanks Pops.

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