Havana, Cuba: 3 personal reflections

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I.  …it is important to do appropriate touristic research before visiting a foreign country. Believe it or not, I was shocked to find out that no US credit or debit cards currently work in Cuba. Moreover, online access to all US financial institutions is prohibited. Wait, I thought all the recent conversation regarding the renewing of a trade relationship between the two countries had worked everything out. NOT SO FAST! Apparently, the conversations have been just that, conversations. If you’re American and plan on visiting Cuba within the next year, bring lots of cash. It might save you the expense of a last minute, unplanned trip to Mexico just to access cash and online banking.

II.  …sometimes gaining understanding will just NOT happen. Communication is so important in everyday life and we are blessed to have an ability to discuss and attain understanding amongst one another. Having extreme language and communication barriers in place for a month can really test one’s sense of understanding as well as one’s patience.

For instance, language barriers made it was really frustrating when I attempted to explain and get help regarding the things stolen from my luggage at the airport on the first day I arrived to Cuba. Or trying to help my Spanish tutor understand that he misunderstood a particular course-related request of mine and that my intention was not to be offensive. A variety of scenarios during this trip had left me feeling misunderstood- more times than I actually care to remember.

However, as trial and error had played themselves out, it was made clear to me that not all understanding comes right away. Whether it be due to language or communication barriers, everyday ordinary misunderstandings or otherwise. Regardless of how intentional or determined one is to gain said understanding, sometimes accepting that you do not (and possibly will not) understand serves a great purpose. Dare I even say there is strength in acknowledging and accepting lack of understanding.

III.  …the love of music and dance is still strong in Cuba. There may not be a strong Salsa scene in Havana amongst the locals, and the youth may primarily dance Reaggeton and Salsaton, but music and dance seems to be something that gives the people hope.

One of the best nights in the city for me was during a visit to the Malecón, which is a popular sea boulevard situated on the Northeast border of the Havana. Young and old alike religiously hangout at the Malecón nightly, especially when there is good weather. Cuban Rum is the official drink of choice, and good laughs, friends, music and dance are always in abundance.

On this particular night as the ocean was relatively calm and the International Hotel of Cuba sat in the backdrop of a beautiful moonlight, I witnessed an essence of the Cuban spirit. It was suddenly clear to me how a place like Cuba could give birth to many of the original inspirations for Salsa and other Latin forms of music and dance. Some of the clips below captured just a few highlight of the trip including that night at the Malecón…. Thank you Cuba for a tough, yet rewarding experience!!

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