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CUBA | Wednesday, 4 December 2002 | Views [774]

It’s so strange to actually be in a place where we’re not supposed to be and where not everybody assumes we’re American because they’re not used to seeing Americanos.  The only reason we’re able to come here is because we have an academic invitation from the University of Havana, so the Cuban students have been everywhere leading us around.  They are definitely the best students we’ve met the whole trip!

I went to the Welcome Reception today and had a great time talking to the students about everything from languages and names, to Fidel Castro and the embargo, which they call the blockade.  They call it the blockade rather than embargo because the US blocks businesses from coming to Cuba and they’re taught that the blockade is what put the country into the state it is currently in.  I always have to remind myself, though, that a lot of what I’m being told by students is propaganda that they are taught in school by the government, so they don’t know any better.  They also made a big deal over the Elian issue and how they admired the fact that over 80% of Americans believed the boy should be sent back to Cuba. 

One of the interesting but sad things about the students here is that the 150 “host” students are picked by Castro based on their loyalties, so as we’re hanging out with them, they’re telling us how great everything was.  But when I got to talking with some students that weren’t part of our reception, I got a different story, one that I’m assuming is closer to the truth.  These students told us that even though everybody has houses, free health care, and free education, there’s still not enough money to put food on the table half the time.  They also explained that for college, only a set number of majors are assigned to each area of the country – I think she called them provinces.  So the students have to take tests to qualify for the positions.  One girl told me only one English major was assigned to her province. 

Then I met up with Kate, Jeremy, Tim and a student named Alfredo and we went to a little restaurant that was in someone’s house.  I had the BEST chicken I’ve ever tasted with papaya and pineapples on it, with Cuban black rice.  The chicken just fell apart – no knife needed – and it smelled amazing!  Someone took a picture of our table, but I don’t think I was looking because I was bent over smelling my plate! 

Tags: cuba, culture


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