Since the time we arrived at the airport in Miami our cameras have been rolling. From interviews with airport employees to B-Roll of people at baggage claim we filmed it all. After a three full days of non-stop action we were finally able to get a few hours rest and relaxation when we headed to a beach resort in Trinidad. The opportunity to sit back and relax has been one of the highlights of our trips so far as the last three days were filled with lectures, tours, and continuous filming. Check out a wrap-up our days here so far below.
(DAY 1) Sunday, March 20, 2016
Sunday was both tiring and absolutely exciting. We all woke up super early to catch our shuttle to the airport. Upon arrival we checked in with Ray our program coordinator and got coffee while we waited. There were many Cuban Americans traveling to Cuba as well and they had packed and wrapped many items to bring to their families such as televisions, food, and clothes. We were ready to hop on our plane as soon as we passed security, but we had to wait about two hours due to a delayed flight.
When we arrived in Havana we walked off the charter plane onto the tarmac and into Josè Marti International Airport. We had to pass through passport control and security before we could wait for our luggage, which took some time, but when we finally received them we headed outside to our bus. Once outside, we were greeted by the hot, sticky, Cuban air and watched as hundreds of people who stood around the exit waiting to greet family members. We then met Theresa Frey, the Pace study abroad coordinator who had arrived one day prior to us. Theresa greeted us warmly and proceeded to pass out water bottles so we’d all have some drinking water. We passed Revolution Square and the streets of Havana, taking in all we saw with eyes and cameras. Our bus finally stopped in front of our casa particulares (kind of like B&Bs) and met with our host families and got settled.
Our next stop was lunch at a Paladar, or privately owned restaurant. The food was delicious and a good meal was just what we needed before continuing on our adventure. We stopped at a nearby hotel and exchanged our US dollars and Euros for CUCs or Cuban Convertible Currency. This is the money tourist use while staying in Cuba, while Cuban Pesos are reserved for Cuban citizens. Once we had some cash we head off to get video of President Obama’s motorcade down the Malecón, or boardwalk. We set up our cameras and were all ready to shoot, when a slight drizzle started. We rushed to secure our equipment from the rain, and proceeded to wait. The rain picked up and soon we were all soaked standing behind our cameras. We were determined to wait it out and get the shot, but a thunder and lightning storm foiled those plans. We then returned to our rooms and changed into dry clothes before heading off to dinner. A few lucky students were able to catch some much sought after footage of the President Obama as his motorcade went down our street from their balconies. After dinner we had an orientation at Spanish Studies Abroad so we took refurbished old cars many Cubans operate as taxis. The orientation covered topics such as tipping bathroom attendants and how to act in our casas.
After a long day we were ready to get to sleep, but being dedicated film students we still had to log our footage. We all regrouped and made sure to upload to the hard drive, and log our footage in the groups we worked in. Once that was all done we were able to go back home for much needed rest. It felt so surreal, but we’re all ready to continue our adventure.
(DAY 2) Monday, March 21, 2016
Monday mornings are usually not our favorites but we were so excited to see more of Cuba. Our day was full of so much excitement that we figured we’d just break it down for you. Check out the timeline below. (Times may vary)
08:00 a.m.: Our day started with a home cooked meal from our host families. It is customary for the host mother or father in casa particulares to make us breakfast. Our meals consisted of a variety fruit, rolls, eggs, ham, fruit juices, milk and coffee.
08:30-08:45 a.m.: Our group met in front of the Hotel Capri (central location for all of our apartments) to catch the bus to our morning lecture.
09:30-11:30 a.m.: Time for our morning lecture! The history of Havana’s agriculture and restoration efforts is quite storied. We were given powerpoint presentations at the Centro De Estudios Martinianos (Center for the study of Jośe Marti). There we saw visuals of a 16th century map that showed us the cities from a different time. We also learned that Havana had five municipalities that make up the center of the city. Its five main squares were not created at the same time and are listed below
- Arm Square (Army)- the royal fortress where the troops got together to practice and make operations.
- Old Square
- San Francisco Square
- Christ Square
- Cathedral Square
The architecture was heavily influences by the renaissance and Spanish-Americans. Our presenter called the embargo a “risk” but says they have the plans in place (planners, architects) but not the workers. During our lecture we unfortunately missed the opportunity to see president Obama’s motorcade drive right down our street L. We heard the siren and the cheers of the people but by the time we noticed what was going on it was too late. Don’t worry! Luckily there were Americans around who took a video! Interviews started taking place! After our lecture we interviewed our presenter and got her opinions on Havana’s current and former state. She also gave her insight into the changes that are soon to occur. We also got the chance to interview a woman from Cuban who was very excited for the President’s arrival.
11:00-1:00 p.m.: On to the next adventure. Now it was time to dig deep into Havana’s agriculture. We took a tour of the Organopońico in Alamar, which is an organic farm in the city. The farm was created mainly for the Cuban people and produces fresh and organic fruits and vegetables. We interviewed one of the employees, recorded a ton of B-Roll and even got the chance to see some horses, working worms and rabbits.
1:00 p.m.-2:30 p.m.: Lunch Time! We feasted on fresh fruits and vegetables from the farm at a nearby restaurant as well as white and fried rice, pork and fish. While at the restaurant we were able to gage the reaction of some of the Cuban people as they watch their president as well as our president speak on the television.
3:00-4:30 p.m.: Our next lecture was on Jose Marti who is the national hero of Cuba. Instead of a regular lecture the class did a question and answer session with the instructor and found out ton of information about the country, the man and their history. Some of the students met a Cuban journalist on the streets who fled with his family to America before the revolution and returned to Cuba after. They interviewed him in his home and learn a lot of information about the US and Cuba’s relationship.
7:30 p.m.: After a few free hours where students slept, ate and caught site of the President’s motorcade near the US embassy, we headed to our welcome dinner at Cuban’s Italian inspired restaurant Moscatelli. The meal consisted of seafood pasta, roasted chicken, eggplant, vegetables and for some a nice mojito. Laughter, great conversations and even a little dancing concluded the night’s activities.
Overall our days in Cuba have been nonstop action and adventure and we look forward to what day three has in store! By the way we’re heading to the beach!!
(DAY 3) Tuesday, March 22, 2016
The day began with breakfast in our homes before we boarded a bus and headed south for the coastal city Trinidad.
The drive from Havana to Trinidad is approximately 4 hours, but we broke up the journey with stops at Casa del Africa, a small zoo; lunch at the Bay of Pigs; and the “Fish Caves”.
Today we really got to experience the abundant flora and fauna of the island. On the way there we came across hundreds of crabs crossing over the streets, which was both exciting and frightening. We also had a student run into some family friends on the way who he hadn’t seen since he was a little boy.
We arrived in Trinidad, driving through the narrow streets of the colonial town established by Spain. Our hotel sits on a beach a few miles away from the old city and we were pleasantly surprised to find the all-inclusive resort-style accommodations. We checked in as the sun was making its descent, but many were determined to get a swim in the last light of the day. The dip was refreshing and provided fantastic photo ops with the sun setting over a calm sea.
Dinner was buffet-style and continued the tradition of there being plenty of food at each meal. The dining room was filled with European tourists. Most notably German and Italian. These few days have been amazing but they are just the beginning. We look forward to the more adventures that await us.