"Everything they tell you about Cuba is a lie!" I exclaimed to my very relieved mother once I was back in Miami.
"Everything?" she responded.
"Well, kinda. There were some truths. I loved it there. I was safe the entire time. No need for you to worry."
"I'm glad God looks over you. You're definitely my wildest child. I don't know where you get it from. Send pictures and make a list of where you've been so I can tell my friends."
Cuba was always a place I wanted to go- but due to all of the legal restrictions, I figured I would never see it in my lifetime. My new job had pushed back my start date another month, so I had time to travel some more. A friend sent me a link to an article detailing that some restrictions had been lifted, and Americans could legally go and visit as an educational trip. I frantically called around and went to all of the Cuban travel websites hoping to book a trip within the month.
The fourth one I called actually had space for just one more person. She promised they could help with the visa stuff, but I had to pay for my trip in full the next day. I couldn't believe it- I was actually going to Cuba! Old images of national geographic danced in my head and I started my research and packing for the trip.
My Thoughts On Cuba-
Cuba is a beautiful country with a rich history and a lot of national pride. Listening to the news and reading articles in the U.S. makes you think that everyone in Cuba is desperate to escape. That was not true at all. Many of the people in Cuba I talked with expressed their displeasure with the stereotypes about Cuba.
"All countries have their issues. We love it here. The people that leave are the worst representation because they don't like it, so they make it seem as if Cuba is all bad. We want the embargo to end, and we want to be able to improve our country, but don't think we don't love it here." I had so many people tell me variations of this in English and Spanish.
Cuba is changing rapidly. With Raul now in power, he is relaxing a lot of the restrictions and people are happy about that. There were buildings falling apart, others lovingly restored, some preserved, and new construction. Internet is slowly being opened up with more access.
People are excited about the changes and new possibilities for Cuba's future. While I know some people are rushing to go 'before it changes', don't worry about that. Cubans do an excellent job of keeping their history and culture intact. Even with all of the foreign investment, the "Real Cuba" is within the people living there.
Show me pictures!!!
Below is a slideshow of my first and second days in Cuba. I plan on adding captions to all of the pictures by Friday, July 22. I will also make a separate linked page for more text information for those that have impaired vision.
Tomorrow I will post more information about Havana, and will have logistical information about visiting Cuba up by Thursday. Enough of me, let's look at pictures!