Visiting Cuba was such an incredible experience. I’m so grateful that I was able to go to Cuba to see what their country is like; especially because it’s becoming more industrialized and touristy as you’re reading this! Instead of my regular vacation, I didn’t go with my parents. I went with a group of my eight best friends. We had the best time. Honestly, going to Cuba was probably my favorite vacation/service trip I’ve ever been on! (Aside from Rome and Switzerland!) Readers, hopefully you all have the opportunity to travel to Cuba at some point. It’s so interesting to see the difference between the United States and the communist country of Cuba.
Tuesday, March 14th:
Rise and shine!! At 3:00 am in the morning we all needed to be at the airport ready to go. Unfortunately, I had to miss a week of school which means makeup work, but what will I remember more, and eighth grade test grade or an amazing Cuba trip? Anyways, I was so tired but so excited! I wore a very comfortable shirt from American Eagle and my Chacos, which I bought for the trip and loved! For the first time, I actually had to fill out my own immigration paperwork and such which was weird. My friend Lauren accidentally checked off every box saying that she was bringing drugs, explosives, live animals, and pornography. That was a fun start to the morning! Our flight was at 6:00 and it only took one hour to arrive to the Havana Airport. Once we exchanged money, went through immigration, and got our bags (took two hours) we jumped on our bus. The first day we just walked around downtown Havana and visited some gardens and squares which reminded me of Rome. My friend Kelly (roomie!!!) went into this gorgeous cathedral too. After touring the downtown area, we went to this crafty/artistic community and bought a few things from them. For dinner, we went to a fancy Italian restaurant, yes Italian. I just had some vegetable ravioli and my favorite Cuban soda. After dinner, Kelly and I just headed back with the rest of the girls. I’m so lucky that I got to go with all my best friends, Maggie, Leah, Kelly, Lauren, and Hannah! Can’t forgot about Greg + Kyle too!
Wednesday, March 15h:
This next day was sooo much fun! We had to be in the lobby at 7:45 ready to go and have already eaten, so Kelly and I got coffees and omelettes at 7:15. Today we decided to go caving. If you go to http://www.jetsetjulia.wordpress.com, you can see my previous caving/spelunking experience in Canada. Let’s just say that the Cuba cave was half outdoors. It still gorgeous and worth the tour, but this summer, my family and I crawled through holes less than a foot tall. Before caving, Greg found some really cute baby chicks who kept peeping and following their momma and it was too cute! For lunch, we drove to a farm which planted fresh fruits and veggies. We had the privilege to have lunch there and it was so tasty and family style. The view was stunning from the top of the mountain and us girls took advantage of this and made Greg take soooo many pictures of us using his gigantic camera. After our meal, we visited a local tobacco farm and watched a man roll a cigar right in front of us. It was interesting to see because none of theirs were manufactured, all hand made. To end a perfect day, we headed to a place like a Johnny Rockets and had milkshakes and quesadillas. Also, we met the cutest little Cuban boys and talked to them in Spanish while they were showing off how far that they could jump. We asked ages, favorite animals, colors, if they had siblings, etc.
Thursday, March 16th:
This day was our main community service day, though we did more later on during the trip. We woke up early that morning to go to a community which had transformed an old tank into a center where artists and children come together to make music and just have fun. Everything that’s on the buildings is made from recycled materials. While we were there, some of us chopped cement (Kyle and Greg), some painted fences (Me, Hannah, Kelly, and Leah), while others cooked and prepared food (Maggie and Lauren). We also had lunch there that Maggie and Lauren had helped make. Our group also took a dance class and learned the Congo and Merengue. The teacher loved to yell at us when we didn’t swirl our hips the right way. I’m bony and not at all Latin, I definitely am not good at it! We also gave hacky sacks to a group of school children and each of them got one to take home to play with. While they were there, we got to play and talk with them! They were so pure and adorable. They made my trip and make me so happy. Afterwards, we briefly visited a chocolate store where I bought chocolate churros for 75 cents! So yummy! Along the way, an eighth grade Cuban class decided to start whooping at us, so we whooping back. Then we made friends! Apparently Señora (my Spanish teacher) said that they were saying “They are so blonde and white!” That was so much fun to talk with them and just giggle. When we got back to the hotel, we had some free time to swim before dinner, so eight of us went swimming together.
Friday, March 17th:
Today was our long driving day, but it was still so much fun! We had breakfast in the hotel buffet again and then boarded the busses. First, we visited the school of arts which was so cool to see talented artists our age. We got to see various dances, bands, and singers. Afterwards, we rode the bus for a while and then got to a book making place. All the books they made were by hand. This place wasn’t super interesting, but I’m glad we stopped by. Then we got back on the bus and drove a few more hours to a farm. This cram grew fruits and vegetables, raised animals, and had art pieces. They served us a homemade lunch and it was delicious. I tried Guava syrup. It wasn’t very good. After lunch, they gave us a tour around their farm and we saw various animals such as roosters, cows, and even a peacock! They had an apiary at the farm, which is a place where bees are stored for their honey. I’m actually terrified of bees, but I decided to face my fear and hold one. After the quick lunch visit, we drove two more hours to reach the town of Matanzas. Before heading into the town part, we stopped at a naturally made swimming hole. It was crystal clear and beautiful. We had the best time jumping in and exploring for fish. This was a very local, beachy place that we stayed. In Matanzas, we stayed in bed and breakfasts, so I got to stay with my friends Leah and Maggie. Our room had been renovated and it was so nice. We then ate dinner family style and danced with a live band. Poo-Poo! Cha-Cha!
On this day, we drove to Cienfuegos. First off, it was my friend Lauren’s Birthday! So we got her a cake to start off the day! To start the morning we visited another community center where kids in the community can come and draw on the weekend mornings. It was so heart warming to see all the kids come in and start to color with all their friends. I talked to many of them in Spanish. Occasionally it was difficult to understand them and communicate, but for the most part, it was fairly simple. I honestly loved every minute of it. Afterwards, we went into the town of Trinidad. We walked around for quite some time and it was very hot. Our group saw this adorable pottery shop and we watched some craftsmen make pots right in front of us. I decided to buy a hand painted and handmade flower vase for my house because I knew that my parents would love it. That’s one part that I enjoyed about Cuba, the bargaining. The sellers try and see the highest that they can sell you at, but you just have to negotiate in Spanish. While on our walk, we found many fun Cuban cars. We also went to this super cute hotel with an adorable plaza with a pool in the middle. These two days were so fun.
Monday, March 19th:
This was our last day in Cuba before our flight at six at night. By this time, I was excited to go home, but at the same time, I loved Cuba and wanted to do more. We visteid this old fort which had the world’s longest cigar and just was cool. It kind of looked like the London Tower. It had giant canyons and such. Once we got to the top, we decided to pull out the hacky sack and play some. By the end of this trip, most of us had significantly improved. We then walked a few minutes to a place dedicated to the missile crisis. We briefly talked about it and walked past it. Then, we saw this ginormous Jesus statue overlooking the city. For lunch, we went back to one of our favorite restaurants. My friend Leah and I loved these pineapple juices and thought they were so good! After that, we needed to go to the airport to get through immigration and security. Overall, I was tired but had a great time.