Day 6 Photos
Holy crap did we have a day today! Started off with breakfast and getting ready for a day at the national park and a beach. The bus couldn’t take us so we had to take a tractor.
After waiting for 45 minutes we took a tractor ride, 22 of us to the park. It took about an hour and we drove through a small town, fields with cows, bulls, horses, goats, and through a forest. It felt like forever in the hot sun.
Mohammed jumped at one point to pee, ran back, and hopped back on while the tractor was still driving. That kid’s crazy.
At the national park we saw 2 caves. They were nice, similar to caves I’ve seen other places. We went to one previously owned by an American company that extracted bat poop for fertilizer there. This was just before the revolution.
The other cave had old pictographs. They were fairly well preserved. The cave was discovered in 1958 by Antonio Nunez Jimenez, the guy who started the foundation we went to. Full circle I suppose.
We spent the rest of our time there at the beach. It was warm water and I got a sunburn. We were actually on a small Key off the coast of Cuba but we crossed somewhere in the mangrove forest and I didn’t see.
Our ride back was nice. Told plenty of tour stories. Tonight we have dinner, lounging, and we leave at 9 for Havana. Our last day will have salsa, the ballet, and food hopefully.
How is it possible to do so much stuff in 1 day? Like seriously. We woke up early to eat and exchange money and then we were off on our excursion.
First we stopped at a rest stop on steroids. There were like 5 little shops bathrooms, goats, cows, turtles, birds, fish, a crocodile, and guinea pigs. These people know capitalism no joke.
Then we drove to Playa Giron, the Bay of Pigs. The Bay of Frickin’ Pigs!!!! It was wonderful to get the Cuban perspective on the whole thing and see how crappy we ‘Yankees’ can really be. Seriously we were not nice.
We met a group of lawyers from Boston, Memphis, and somewhere else. The Boston and Memphis guys were really nice. Boston loved everything about the museum and said, “I don’t know why we don’t trade with this country,” because we’re both stubborn.
Next was a long ride to Santa Clara to eat mediocre Italian food and check out Ché. Ché frickin’ Guevara. We saw his monument and went to his like little mausoleum and museum. Such an interesting character.
We went into Santa Clara and walked around the center. They have a statue of a boy with a boot that the town ordered ages ago from a mail order catalog from New York. I swear to God it’s just like the one in Ellenville. Manuel came up to me afterwards to say he told us to see if we knew about it and he was so happy I thought of a possible connection.
We also went to the museum of the de-railed train. This was where Ché and Camilo broke apart a train track with a bulldozer to stop Batista’s reinforcements. It was really cool.
While we were on the bus I sat next to Emily, who’s one of semester students. She’s great. We talked about her classes, her major, her writing. She told me how she lived in England, Somerset to be specific, for a year cause her father did Fulbright. Turns out they do teaching/house exchanges. So cool! Must tell Mom and Brianne. We talked about education and such for a while; it was cool.
Now we’re at the resort. It’s dark so all we’ve done is drink and eat. We’ll try and swim in the pool tonight. Tomorrow we’re going to the beach. So frickin’ excited!
(Note: When I got back I looked more into the ‘Boy with the Boot’ Statue. Turns out it’s in like a dozen cities. You can learn more about it here)
Today was packed. First we went to the Museum of the Revolution on the 55th Anniversary of the day a group of University of Havana students attempted to assassinate Batista. The bullet holes are still in the staircase of the presidential palace. It was unreal.
The museum was fantastic, way better than the rum museum. It’s amazing to see things from the Cuban perspective. Say what you will about Communism and Fidel but overthrowing a tyrannical oppressive government takes intelligence and bravery I will never have.
After visiting the museum I think I’ll write about Cecilia Sanchez. Her photos were all over the museum and I want to know more about women in Cuba and the Revolution.
Next was a tour of Cuba’s largest tobacco factory. I wasn’t really a fan. I couldn’t sit in those rooms for hours rolling or sorting. I’d go crazy. We watched a woman separate leaves by size and color. She alone processes 600 leaves a day and there are 60 workers for that job.
As for the rollers, each roll 120 - 180 cigars a day and I have no idea how many there were of them. The tour guide said they produce 5 million cigars a year. She was also the person who reads the paper to them in the morning.
Prof. Glidden said it was much better than another factory she’s been to and they make a ton of money off tours. I don’t know, I just didn’t like seeing all those people stuffed in hot rooms doing the same task over and over again.
Then was lunch. Hawaiian pizza and coffee at an Italian restaurant. Boss!
From the restaurant we walked to University of Havana. On the way we saw a yellow school bus from the Bronx painted beautifully by Pastors for Peace. Glidden said they lost their license for travelling here for being too political. The US must not have liked ‘Stop the Blockade’ painted on it.
University of Havana is gorgeous. I can’t even describe it well enough. Giant marble pillars and buildings among large green trees.
We walked back along the Malecon and I was the leader. Apparently I have a good sense of direction. Who knew?
The houses along the Malceon are under construction. They’re badly dilapidated. I wonder what they’ll look like in 20 years.
We walked to China Town, got lost but ate with a University of Havana professor. Didn’t talk to him much. A lot of people begged us for money and food. We shooed the kids asking for candy and pesos away but we gave our leftovers to a man and a woman. The professor and Gildden said the begging is a new trend only in the last 2 years. It made the professor very upset.
Most of the group took a taxi to see the canon shot but I stayed behind and got coffee at the Hotel Telegrafo with everyone else. We talked about travel and school. It was great!
Went back, talked a bit, and now going on an excursion tomorrow. I’m super excited! Can’t wait to write again!
Had a fabulous dinner at the Hotel Nacional. So much good food here, I love it! Stayed on the patio and talked to 2 of the girls who are on the full semester program. One girl is from Bard and said she picked Cuba because of her interest and love of Cuban literature.
The second girl, Rebecca, said that she and people in Latin America see Cuba as a model of freedom so she has long admired the place.
After we all talked we danced on the patio with the girls, Manuel, and Mario for a while. It was the perfect night; seriously I loved it.
We came home to a broken toilet that’s going to be fixed tomorrow.
We hung out all together smoking cigars and drinking rum. I think this smoking is making my asthma work up but I won’t worry about it yet.
Tonight we sleep in. Si! Buenas Noches!
Today was slow but some how tiring. Another great breakfast with fantastic coffee. John and I are so impressed we wonder how it will be at really good restaurants.
We went to the sustainability thing this morning. The power was out so we heard that time honored mantra “Welcome to Cuba,” and had a little meeting in the dark.
The premise was interesting and the young guy talking to us was interested in the subject but everyone was so tired we all fell asleep, well I watched people sleep to keep from sleeping. Maggie said she needed more coffee. I agree.
Then we had lunch. I got coffee, an orange milkshake, and a giant burger. It was awesome. I also got some chocolate pastry thing with Lindsay.
Next we went to a guy’s farm/patio garden in the city. It was cool and the guy has great ideas for a restaurant and community involvement. He only spoke Spanish so Glidden had to translate but I was pretty good about figuring out what was going on. I think if I immersed myself in Spanish I’d understand it with a month or two.
The garden guy took us to another guy who makes wine in his house. He ferments all kinds of wine in giant glass jars with condoms. I call that ingenuity. He gave us vino de naranja and it was delicious! I want more. Glidden tried to give him money but he refused. It amazes me how kind people here can be.
We just went to the José Marti memorial. Very impressive. I need to read his stuff for sure. The view on top was amazing. I didn’t realize how big the city was till today.
The bus driver dropped us off for more shopping at Obispo. I bought a cute mug. Now I have a mug from Harry Potter World, the Adirondacks, the Bronx Zoo, and Cuba. I’m so worldly.
We walked back as the sun got lower and lower.
We’re about to leave for a fancy dinner provided by the trip. Score! Then who knows, Hopefully nothing expensive.