¡Dios Mío! The trip is over??? Somehow the last 14 days have felt like an entire year in Cuba yet simultaneously like the flash of a dream. Only in a country this profoundly fascinating, confusing, irresistible, and vibrant could time move so fast and still so slow.
We left Havana for a couple nights and headed west towards the paradise of Vińales, a small charming town surrounded by bright orange and silver limestone walls and towers covered in jungle. En route we stopped at a bioreserve to learn about the intersection of ecological conservation, sustainable development, and the historical wounds of the the coffee industry and slave trade. Lunch, a culinary highlight of the trip, was received from Eluisa, a genuine Cuban Medicine Woman who operates a small medicinal plant farm and roadside juice stand. She and her family prepared us an amazing, nourishing meal of traditional dishes and the care put into each plate was undeniable.
Vińales was sublime. While slightly touristy, it was so scenic and peaceful and felt like some kind of tropical farm heaven! Hopefully the photos convey a fraction of the beauty that fills this one-of-a-kind country.
In the morning we visited a renowned farm-to-table restaurant where we spent a few hours doing various farm tasks: weeding, prepping beds, planting beans, caring for rabbits and pigs, harvesting pineapple. We then enjoyed yet another sensational organic meal.
Food and social justice issues have become such prominent themes on this program that we decided to contrast the ebullient feast of lunch with a very different dinner activity that gave us a window to empathically understand food justice issues around the world. It was edgy and intense, but we were glad the group was courageous enough to experience these issues of privilege and scarcity directly and discuss their experience with vulnerability. An impactful night for sure…
After a morning visit to a nearby tobacco farm to learn about this industry iconic to Cuban culture (and a chance to pick some infamous souvenirs…) we made our way back to Havana for some final activities and reflection.
On our second to last night we met Yoss, a biologist and Cuba’s most celebrated science fiction novelist. Our fascinating and downright surreal evening with him was a reminder of how science fiction can be an ideal vehicle to explore what is happening socially and politically as well as what is possible. He also inspired us with his life story as he followed his dream of becoming a writer yet realistically reminded us that “every choice has a consequence.” His unique perspective on Cuban culture was an eye-opening contrast to the many voices he encountered on this diverse intellectual exploration.
After such a potent 11 days of intense travel and exploration, we spent the final chapter of our Cuban adventure pumping the brakes, reminiscing, and finding personal space to reflect on our individual and collective journey. We also spent a fun night in Old Havana on Día de Indepencia with a cool, student-designed scavenger hunt before dining at a rooftop hipster restaurant and finding live music to perfect our salsa skills.
I can’t believe it’s over. It’s been a few hours since our last student flew out, and it feels so strange to be a party of two now 🙁 Haley and I (we’ve recently concluded that we go together like Lime and Yerba Buena aka mint) have made our way back to….you guessed it: Vińales!! for some rock climbing and potential program expansion… and some much needed rest and self-care.
It’s been an absolutely AMAZING (“we are all sooooo amazing” ….inside joke) program down here in Cuba, made even more special by some incredible students. Before we sign off, we really want to shout out to our Cuban staff, Sandra, Nacho, and our driver Eduardo. They worked so hard to make this experience rich, fun, and smooth, and are truly wonderful people. We felt so fortunate to be in their care for this journey.
Okay, families, we’ll quit rambling…thank you all so much for your support on this program. We’ll see you all very soon!
Con Luz y Amor y Schloob, Skyeler y Haley
Ps: Hey students, “Despacito” played like 3 times while we wrote this blog. Hasta la Vista!!