It’s almost surreal that my time in Cuba has come to a close. What’s even more so is that I got to be a part of history on Tuesday.
On Monday, the “United States Special Interests Section” was officially turned into “The Embassy of the United States” a title it hasn’t had for over 50 years. Almost immediately, lines of hundreds upon hundreds of Cubans formed in order to apply for visas. On Tuesday, along with two other student groups, my group got to visit the embassy. What we learned was that we were the first ever group receiving a briefing as an embassy, which was pretty amazing. We discussed future relations between the US and Cuba including the potential lifting of the embargo and what that would mean for Americans and Cubans alike. I am so happy that I got to have this opportunity and got to become a part of history.
The rest of the week involved finishing up with class, visiting last minute destinations, buying gifts, saying goodbye and going to the doctor.
You can definitely say that I had a well-rounded trip because I got to observe the Cuban healthcare system firsthand. My eyes had been giving me trouble during the whole trip. I had three styes, one of which ended up getting infected. I promise that I am a very clean person. These things just happen. Anyway, I went to the eye doctor and was seen by three specialists. They determined what it was and I was given two prescriptions: one for an eye cream and one for an antihistamine for swelling and irritation. The visit was completely free. I went to a farmacia close by, but they were out of both medicines. This drove home the point that in Cuba, nothing is ever guaranteed. I went to a second farmacia closer to my casa and they had the cream, but not the pills (I ended up taking some allergy medicine that another student left behind on a previous trip and it did the job just fine). The cream cost me 1CUP, which in dollars is about five cents. What would have cost me around $30 in the US, I got it in Cuba for five cents. People aren’t lying when they say that Cuba has an amazing healthcare system.
The flirtations from men, propios in Spanish, seemed to come more and more often during our last week. At one point while I was walking home with Kenzie and Grace, a man sticks the whole top half of his body out of a car and yells, “AAAYYYY I LIKE TU ASS!!!!!!” at Kenzie. At that point, it was so funny it didn’t bother us at all. I think I ended the trip with around 16 marriage proposals, which is pretty good in my book.
We finished off the week by having ice cream at Coppelia, an ice creamery made famous by the Cuban film Fresa y Chocolate, which was the first Cuban film to have themes of homosexuality. The ice cream was good but I could not justify waiting for over two hours for it, like a lot of local Cubans do every day. Instead we opted for the immediate service line, it was more expensive, but at that point in time, time was more precious than an extra dollar spent. Friday night, we went to La Floridita, the bar where Ernest Hemingway invented the daiquiri. They ended up being the most expensive drinks I had during the whole trip, coming in at a whopping $6 per drink.
In leaving Cuba, I have learned to appreciate what I have, because nothing is ever guaranteed. While I was there I found myself missing toilet seats, air conditioning that was everywhere and even chewing gum – things I never usually think about while I’m home. It was humbling to see how people when without and for the most part had no complaints. People definitely want to see change, that part is very clear. But, they also appreciate everything they have and have such passion for living and making the most of their lives.
I am so happy to have spent a month in this incredible country and I hope that one day I will be able to go back. But for now, it’s back to school in the fall and off to Argentina in the spring!