Cuba is realllll different, from any other place I’ve been to. The airport, the taxis, the good, the rules, the regulations, the street grid, the Internet (lack thereof to be exact) really puts this case unrest in its own category.
We arrived at Jose Martí airport and found ourselves opening the wooden customs doors to our freedom… Well, almost. The 2 small scanning machines took ages to read everyone’s carry-on baggage. The conveyor belts took even longer (which was expected, but gosh).
As we exited the airport, a swarm of people waiting for loved ones yelled and shouted phrases I had never heard before. We followed a loose leaf paper that read Spanish Studies Abroad that whisked us away to one of the main houses to meet our homestay families.
The homestay family….
Lauren and I will be hosted by Francisco and Magda, their two daughters, and their grandchildren for these four months. The house (pictured here) is absolutely beautiful. With high ceilings, tall windows, long hallway with painted tiling, and nice living spaces, 558 Calle 17 is definitely the place to be. We were first welcomed by Omar, the oldest grandson, with a snack plate of fruits and fresh juice. Such a nice gesture! We returned the appreciation with our family gifts of a DVD and chocolate. We then met up with the rest of the group to see what the Internet life was really about.
Step 1. Purchase a Nauta card from the ETECSA office for up to 5 hours of Internet access for 10 CUC (a little less than 2 dollars per hour). This line at the ETECSA could be very long and they may not have Internet cards, but if they do….
Step 2. Sit outside or have a glass of something at a hotel to use their router. You may spend up to 3 CUC for a drink the bartender doesn’t really know how to make. Or you may make friends out on the sidewalk as you both look for the best connection site.
Step 3. Enter your Nauta card information into your Wifi credentials when asked and press ‘Aceptar.’ You may be waiting a couple minutes or longer for the Wifi location to even show up….
Step 4. Pray that your Wifi does not cut out or slow down as you check your emails, answer iMessages, catch up on Facebook and Instagram posts, and attempt to open up video calls. (Snapchat doesn’t work here – Google, barely. You cannot update old apps or download new ones.)
As soon as you get your best connection your card is finished and it’s time to go home and appreciate the high you felt from the temporary drug called Internet service. Truly a test of self-resistance as you save your Internet card to last you a couple of days. So far, I have only used 9 hours of Internet for the past 11 days…. At home I’m ALWAYS plugged in.
The lack of connection sometimes is what makes me feel uneasy. I cried about a week in, missing my mom’s voice. I jumped for joy when I finally got video call to work yesterday to see my two good friends. I giggled all day after talking on the phone with people from the states.
Meanwhile the machismo is out of this world. Hisses, kisses, nicknames, and word games are the language of men in these Cuban streets. Factor in all the staring and you have yourself an objectified walking body. I tend to ignore it, but with a trip consisting of majority women (minority women at that) it is very hard to do.
The ultimate word on this trip is PATIENCE. Classes only just stared yesterday although they should have a week prior. Toilet tissue runs out for a couple of days. Rain falls when it wants to mess up your plans. A couple people have gotten sick and have had to endure week-long diets that even Cubans couldn’t adhere to. We’ve gone on trips that have taken us all over the eastern part of the country at all hours of the morning and the night. But overall, we have survived this far. After a couple weeks of school, boxing class, and English tutoring, I’ll update you all again.
But for now,
Email me: Christine.firstname.lastname@example.org
Make sure your Facebook and Google Hangouts video calling services work.
Pray for me and for the others on this roller coaster of emotions with me.
Cocodrilo (or Coco for short)
P.S. UP NEXT… Academics… and everything else that consumes my Monday-Friday
One of the classrooms at El Facultad de Arte y Letras (Literature and Arts Department)