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My First Impressions of Cuba – Larilyn Miles

Last summer, I went to the Dominican Republic with UA in order to help with an orphanage and help meet basic medical needs. Due to this experience, I already had some preconceived ideas of what to expect. I also spoke with some students who had previously taken part in the trip. They told me how much they enjoyed it, but they warned me of some of the uncomfortable things I would experience such as extreme heat all the time. I was pleasantly surprised. Cuba is much more industrialized than I expected. Street laws are followed and riding in the taxis here isn’t nerve racking. We have basic things I was not expecting such as electricity all the time and hot water. I’ve slept wonderfully every night.

The different currency was initially confusing, and I was a little upset that you only receive about $88 dollars for the $100 you originally exchange. I plan to just stick with purchases that use Moneda Nacional currency as often as I can. I was a little nervous about being a black person in Cuba because the desire to look as close to Colonial Europeans as possible seems to plague countries all over the world. I have been mistaken for Cuban three times. The third time resulted in me being prevented from going into our hotel. I’ll say it was an interesting experience that was definitely something to journal about. The political signs we have seen are always surprising such as the one about the blockade that you see immediately after leaving the airport.

I have really enjoyed Cuban life so far. Caitlyn and I have already made a Cuban friend. We went to her house the other day to meet her parents. Cuban hospitality is much more attentive than American hospitality. I think I’ll attempt to imitate their gestures when I’m home hosting my guests. Her family paid so much attention to detail. They gave us coffee with the exact amount of sugar we desired. They told us the best places to eat for the most affordable prices which is definitely information I was looking for, and they seemed genuinely happy to have us over for a visit.

Old Havana is beautiful. It looks like it came straight out of a picture perfect Utopia. It was like a surreal experience when I first stepped out of the taxi and looked around. Hemmingway’s house was also a majestic thing to see. I love seeing pieces of history. It’s almost as if you can see him writing or reading in his house. I can imagine the old time celebrities getting out of their fancy cars walking into to an exclusive party. It’s amazing!

My hardest issue so far is preparing food. I’m not accustomed to going to a market and buying fresh food and preparing it (especially before it gets old). It’s an exciting and very movie like thought, but it is a little more complicated than it sounds. On the bright side, I’ve definitely mastered a nice little rice with chopped jalapenos dish. It gives me hope. Also, our new friend gave us a recipe book, so we can figure out some easy tasty dishes to make while we are here. I love sweet things, and I’ve become obsessed with the desserts that I’ve found such as freshly made churros and the best ice cream I’ve ever had in my life. The food that we’ve bought from different vendors has been extremely delicious too. So far, my favorite is from the Havana Libre ids menu. It consists of eggs and sausage covered in some type of spaghetti sauce. I never would have thought to put it together, but it makes an impeccable combination.

The heat is actually bearable, and I enjoy being able to pretty much walk to any place I need. For the most part, the Cubans are really friendly. For example, I rode the bus for the first time yesterday. It was extremely intimidating because everyone is pushing to get on before the driver pulls off, but Elizabeth and I had a lot of help from people when it came to finding where we were supposed to get off the bus in order to get to class on time. One man even gave me his seat which never ever happens on the Crimson Ride. Overall, I have had an amazing time, and I am looking forward to all the exciting adventures that will take place during our stay in this beautiful country.