March 10th, 2019
Today was our first official morning in Cuba. Our morning then on would start with a 8:30am or 9:30am breakfast. Yoanna, the woman who owned the hostel, would take our orders. Our options were eggs with the opportunity to add cheese, meat, and vegetables. Our tables would also have toast, fresh fruit, jam, milk, and fruit juice. There was a woman who would prepare the meals, we never got her name, but she did know how much we appreciated her cooking. I typically asked for scrambled eggs with cheese and I would put it on toast with butter. It always hit the spot. I was not a fan of the fruit juice that much, but overall I never had complains. As a group we would never finished the guava and papaya, it's an acquired taste. At first we wanted to try and save our food or eat every last bite, but it was always to much.
After breakfast, we got ready for our long day of activities. We did a walking tour of historical sites in Havana. One was called Plaza de Armas, which has a church and other great museums. Then we went to the Plaza de San Francisco, which has a lucky statue that many people take photos on. We continued to walk a lot and learn the of casual kind of history that you would experience on any tour, like things you would not actually remember but very interesting.
While I was in Cuba, it felt like we were on a scavenger hunt, well that’s how I felt. We could not use our phones so every destination was a mystery and we would get to a random park and our next community partner would just be standing there waiting for our arrival. Alternative Breaks never really go like this, so it was interesting. We were standing outside of old havana which has the most cubans who are black in Havana. The buildings in this neighborhood are very old and falling apart, the people are not poor, but their housing could be better. The cuban government is different and discrimination is talked about differently. Because of this things that I observed and harder to describe. The housing could be better upkept by the government, but the government does not have the means right now.
The guys that were waiting for us talked about their work in the community and the ways private companies can help the public sector. I should know their names, but at this point when I heard anything in spanish I would tune out for a second. Anyways, the main man speaking talked to us about his work in developing sports and his work in the senior citizens home. The senior citizens home basically is a house for the elderly in the city. Sometimes the elderly might have mental health conditions that are cared acknowledged in the home. The elderly are able to interact with people and even talk to the younger generation. When younger people are able to bond with the senior citizens in the center, they are inspired to go home and bond with their grandparents. The elderly have to pay a subsidized fee a month and private donations help lower the cost for some of the people who need. For example, people usually pay 10 - 6 Cuban convertibles a month, but that can be brought down to 4 - 2 CUC.
Once we finished our experience with the staff, we had the drop top cars waiting for us. I swear this is treatment and punctuality I am not used to. It was fun to ride in the drop tops to go to our next community partners. The ability to go inside a Black Cuban home was one was one of my favorites. Originally we were supposed to meet with a Black Cuban musician, but she was not in the area, so she let us meet with her mother and neighbors. The interior design of the apartment was very pro-Black. We asked the musician’s mother, if black cubans experience discrimination and she said no. I have a feeling her daughter would have said otherwise, if she was there.
Then we went to the Callejon de Hamel, this is where we learned about santra which is a religion with african roots. The guy we were talking to was so helpful and said “look don't try to understand my country just come and enjoy it”. I personally needed to hear that because we were only a day in and I was so confused. And then we watched a performance with african gods and they made me dance.
We finally got home, but our itinerary for the day was not over yet. We met with Cimafunk! He is an afro cuban funk artist, he was kinda hard to talk to. He is very popular in cuba so it was an honor meeting him. I did not listen to his music, until I got home and it is great. I suggest everyone listen to him. Then we ate dinner and went to bed, or at least I did. I was exhausted.