At this point I just want to say how appreciative I am for the people I was able to meet and travel with. Without the hard work and dedication from our professors and the compliance of our university, this trip would not have been possible. With everything going wrong at the time, it was a miracle we were able to travel to Cuba but this trip was an absolute blessing in my life.
After meeting many different Cubans and hearing their perspective on life it was really eye opening to me and the way I live my life. These are some take away things I will carry with me my whole life:
1. Be a good neighbor and friend
In my life Cubans are the greatest example of selflessness. They do things for each other, they support each other, they take care of each other, and they are not afraid to stand up for each other. They love unconditionally. Family, neighbors or stranger like I was. They invited me in and treated me like family. Despite the different walks of life they treated me as one of them and they are what made my experience so meaningful.
2. Share your knowledge
Not everyone gets the same opportunities as you do. Each walk of life is special and unique in its own way. We are privileged to get to learn different things but thats why I believe we are called to share our knowledge. What a waste to keep it to yourself. In Cuba, everyone I met wanted to pour their knowledge and experience into my head. They gave me things to look at, think about and form opinions of my own. Everyone has something to offer the world.
3. Be a well informed citizen
Everyone has their opinions and their right to an opinion, however, uninformed opinions can be dangerous and lead to a misinformed society. One of my favorite parts of the trip was speaking to a man who acted as our guide/educator/friend Padrón. Speaking about the relations between the U.S. and Cuba he acknowledged, "We separate the people from their government." He explained at length that the Cuban people do not hold grudges or hate Americans, they may dislike the laws and the clash of the two governments but the recognize the people are not always represented by the actions of their governments. As I thought this was just an educated man speaking I believed that mentality did not go beyond the walls of the room we were sitting in, however, I came to realize it seemed to be a nationwide mentality. As I am sure there are some who do not agree with this, the common misconception that all Cubans hate Americans is completely false.
4. Be grateful for what you have
After seeing the lack of material things I was intrigued in the joy, happiness and closeness of the Cuban population. They were not focused on material things because no one really had the best of anything. They lack things. THINGS. That's all that they are. They do not have the best clothes, technology or television sets but they have the right to an education, they have their health, their families, art, culture and passion. They may be poor monetarily. They do not live lavish lives but, they are not poor in things that really matter in life. I sometimes forget that.
5. Cuban food is really good
Despite the warnings before hand, I loved the food. It was something I had never really tasted before. Im not sure if it was the organic means of growing food but the food was delicious. Clean, crispy and tasty. The efforts taken to produce the food each morning were impressive. Things we don't have to worry about have to be done in a Cuban kitchen like examining rice handful by handful and picking out rocks and grounding coffee beans.
P.S. If you know the meaning behind "fruta bomba" don't tell someone right before they try it the first time
Traveling can teach you more about other places but it also teaches you a lot about yourself. Your values, your perspectives on the world and sometimes it helps you realize that those perspectives were wrong. My view of Cuba is forever changed, not because of amazing buildings or beautiful beaches but because of the wonderful people that reside there.