I want to tell you everything … but everything was deleted when I tried to post my blog. There were pictures and such. Here’s the short version:
I signed some important papers.
Took the BART and a taxi to the airport.
Chicago to Miami with no sleep.
Arrived and headed to the Sheraton Hotel by midnight with a 2:15 meeting with the group.
Half an hour of sleep = delirium. But I looked really awake and happy.
Going to Cuba involves a lot of hurrying up to wait: 2:30 to the airport, check in at the airport and paid extra for the luggage ($20 for the bag, $25 for the taxes, and $1 per pound over the “free luggage” amount of 44 pounds)
6:30 flight to Havana
Long wait at immigration; long wait for luggage; long wait for money at the cadeca (for exchange)
Lunch at the house (after my mom and I had a housing exchange so that we could stay together)
Rest and rest and rest (with a small change in the schedule)
Walking tour of Old Havana
After being chased out by the rain, a short stop at the Hotel Nacional for a walk (but mostly for mojitos).
Dinner at a paladar, starting at 7 and going until 11pm … VERY long for the sleep deprived like me
Straight to bed
We started out the day with an incredible breakfast: fresh mango and papaya; guava and guava and mango juices, coffee, water, jamón y queso, scrambled eggs, pan, tostones. The table was overflowing with food. When Silva asked me later if there were any changes to be made to the breakfast, I literally said, “Menos” or less. WAY too much food for just three people.
After dinner and a bit of time to just pack and ready ourselves for the day, Mami, our housemate Micki and I headed over to the bus stop to be picked up. It’s just a 4 block walk from our house to the center, but it was nice to be picked up in the morning.
There we met Dr. Olga Rosa Gonzalez Martín, professor and researcher at the Centro de Estudios Hemisféricos y Sobre Estados Unidos, for a lecture on the current political situation and the history of Cuba. It was an immense topic, but her lecture style (without technology, because it was not working as well as she would have liked) was so dynamic, that many of us in the room commented on how quickly the time went by. In a 2.5 hour lecture, I felt when we broke for a small coffee break and later for lunch that I could have listened to her for a much longer time. I will have to look for conferences where she presents. I got her card for a colleague at SMC who I think would love to connect with her, one historian to another. I also took some notes on the presentation, though I do wish that the lecture had been recorded.
For lunch, we ended up going to a nearby restaurant. I had a phenomenal shrimp dish … the dessert in particular also stuck out with its buttercream flavor. Another thing I should have taken a picture of.
After lunch, we headed to Revolution Square and the José Martí Memorial for a short introduction into the life of the father of the revolution. I already loved José Martí for his poetry but the visit made me think that I must do some research on him for my own edification. The only drawback for the visit was the heat and humidity in the space
After Revolution Square, many of us headed out to a Agency of Telecommunications by the Ministry of Communications to get WiFi cards. Lots of heat, lots of waiting.
I thought to myself of what I had heard of those wifi parks where people gather with their wifi cards to connect with their loved ones, how there they use their wifi cards to see their faces… but first, one has to wait in a line to get a card. We waited in line in the heat and humidity for about an hour or so. Many of the group complained about the wait or the weather, and I reminded myself and others that this is just one way of understanding what it is to live in Cuba. One must get used to waiting.
The day took a slight turn for the worse on returning for our salsa lesson (which was absolutely amazing). Heat, dance, and even a beautiful and strong rain shower, perfect to cool us down. Unfortunately, that heat and humidity did not agree with my mom who got sick and worried me half to death by literally passing out.
Desperate fear. Mine.
When she came out of it, I was still very much on edge.
No more on that.
After some rest, we ended up seeking out a good place for wifi, walking the neighborhood a bit. A few hours later, I barely sent the one major email I needed to send (but probably didn’t make the deadline and one picture didn’t go through). Then it was a walk on the Malecón, the boardwalk by the sea, before a return home, seeing colleagues from the seminar the whole way.
I even watched TV today (Saving Hope, an awful American comedy that I don’t know the name of, and a telenovela). It’s been, to say the least, an active few days.