Editor’s Note: The Culver-Stockton College group is back from their Cuba trip, but we’re still bringing you updates and photos on this blog because Jen Roberts was unable to provide daily updates during the last part of the trip due to lack of Internet access. This is her post from Dec. 10:
We left Havana to visit Cuba’s countryside and once we left downtown, the landscape looked much more like America, mostly Florida with the palm trees.
We went to visit Las Terrazas, an eco-community. By the late 1960s, sugarcane plantations had taken over the countryside nearly killing off all of Cuba’s forests. This area was later replanted and is protected by the government.
Upon arrival, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the village. We were welcomed by a traditional Cuban music performance, and then had a short lesson on the UNESCO biosphere reserve initiative to regenerate the Cuban forest. From there students were able to zipline across the area, which I did not hesitate to do as well.
The landscape was breathtaking; mountains were the backdrop, with palm tree-studded hills and vibrantly painted small homes and village shops.
Next we went to an open-air restaurant, where we dined on the best food of the trip so far, which included chicken, pork, rice, beans, chips, with a bread called 21 day coal bread, which got its name from when the men would leave for 21 days to go into the mountains for coal – this is all they would take with them to eat.
After lunch we were able to jump in the natural fresh water river pool and students were able to jump from a small waterfall area that even had a natural slide down it.
After swimming for about an hour, we went on a tour of the village, which has school, a hotel, bakery and a coffee shop called Maria’s, which we stopped at to enjoy coffee before we left. Let me tell you, Starbucks has nothing on Maria!
Students also enjoyed a quick demonstration at a paper making shop, where we were able to buy artwork made on the recycled paper.
Begrudgingly we had to leave the Terrezes to head to Vinales Valley, where the best Cuban coffee and tobacco is grown. As we pulled up to the Los Jasmine Hotel, we felt like we had stepped into paradise. I don’t know how, but Cuba kept getting more beautiful by the minute.
The group enjoyed dinner, while a musician played American music on the piano, such as the Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly,” and Beatles’ songs. However, the students have grown to truly love Cuban music, to the point that C-SC student, Jessie King, said, “When we get home, I’m going to be the guy at the party doing the Cha Cha Cha”! (America: Cha Cha / Cuba; Cha Cha Cha)
After dinner we gathered by the pool to reflect on the day, something that has naturally become common, and to our surprise had our own personal fire racing performance. It is amazing here.
I was asked by everyone to end this post with “this will be the last transmission, good bye.”
Just kidding, but they really did ask me to say that, because they love it here.