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.