When I pulled into the parking lot of Pearson Airport I already had an idea of what Cuba was going to be like. Everyone would be very poor and sickly on the streets. The country would be starving and we woul
d get little food. The beaches would be a dark brown and the crime rate would be relatively high. I boarded the hot plane with a partially broken A.C. and prepared myself for the worst. When we finally landed, I saw the 50 year old airport, with the name Varadero slightly brown from either age or jet fuel. Unbuckling my seat belt, I walked out into the hallway and the blazing heat hit me like a train. We worked through finding our Visa’s and walked up to the desk, where a very beautiful woman asked me personal questions. Very few men work in the Varadero airport, a woman work force largely dominates it. We reach outside and I’m ready to meet this ‘Urban Farmer’ we have been talking about. He looks like nothing very special, but I would soon learn he is special. Ron, The Urban Farmer, is one of the most special people on earth. He is the ‘Jack of all trades’ but the master of all.
After exchanging our money, we pushed the heavy carts over to the bus that would be driving us to Casa de Carina, a center we would be staying at. It had large writing on it like ‘USA-Cuba Love’ and a lot of other statements, which you would need to see for yourself. I walked into the bus, warm on the inside. I see my friends sitting all around me, who are still just names in a What’s App group. The bus driver Jose puts on the song ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ and as we sail down the road, beaches and greenery all around us, I realize that this trip will be amazing, one way or the other.
Let me tell you about Cuba. Let me tell you how I felt going in. At first I was nervous. Everyone around me looked a bit sullen and I thought I looked hideous in my wide brimmed hat. I’m constantly adjusting it until I look over and Anh is smiling at me. “I like your hat.” I stop fussing over it and just enjoy the sites around me. I peer over into the window and the bluest ocean I have ever seen stares back at me. The front of it is a lighter blue than the cerulean of the distance. I see people standing at the side of the road waiting for, what I soon learned, was a ride to the hotels where they worked. I can no longer sleep even though exhausted and I feel my lungs finally take a full breath. The anxiety is released from me. We pull into a side street I now have seared into my memory, 51st. I step into the blazing sun, burning and pull my bag into the house. I knew I would begin my adventure.
When I first wrote this blog, I wanted to document everything about my trip. Every little detail, but I realized that I would be doing a disservice to the people who came before me and who will come after me. This is something you need to experience on your own. I have beautiful pictures of different things I saw attached, but you need to experience it on your own. You need to go to Cuba, and see what life is like on the bottom floor. Where the real people live, rent a room from one of the locals, talk with the locals and explore the history. Cubans are very proud of their history, learn something new about YOURSELF. I learned that I do not wish to live in the city and that I will change the world with what I’ve learned. I learned that my view of the world is very small, tiny. I’ve learned that I need to grow 1000x more as a person and that I need to treat the people in my life better. I’ve learned so much from Cuba and you can also learn. I’ve made many friends that I went through experience I could never have done without Centennial. I miss Cuba so much and hope to see it again. Cuba is now my second home. Hopefully I’ll adopt more homes on future GCEL’s.
The trip was very amazing. Ron was the most awesome guide. He is a translator, farmer, business man, mediator, a mentor, and a bright light in the world. He always made us feel like we were making a different. But he isn’t the only one who made a difference. The bus driver that took us everywhere Joel, always made sure we were having a fun time with the locals. He made sure we knew where to go and is an awesome personality. He talks of his travels all over the world, and how Cuba is still his home. Cuba is home to many, few people I encountered would like to leave it permanently. In fact, Joel is included in that list. People in Cuba have security that even people in Canada do not have. They are given their homes, they have free access to health care, free education from elementary to PhD and free access to food security. There was very little people asking for extra money, a lot of them opting for their own trade to make extra spending money. The average salary in Cuba is 20$ to 40$ a month. Unlike North America and the rest of the first world, the ‘poverty’ is shared. Everyone from the doctors to the laborers share in their low funds. Yet somehow people survive and are very happy with their lives. Can you imagine something like that happening in Canada or the U.S.A? People in Cuba don’t have to worry about dying because they can’t afford access to health care. Freezing to death because they have no home. Walking around at night while I was there I did not see any homeless people. A lot of the people asleep outside at night said they liked the sea breeze and wanted to lay near the beach, or some of them wanted an early start at their trade.
Cuba is how the world should work. I understand the wage system is the forefront of our society but it is not working. People are dying everyday due to lack of resources like food, water, shelter and, most frequently, health care. Seeing the way the poverty is a small part of Cuban society shocked me. Coming home and seeing how much people waste due to selfish acts almost made me a bitter person. That was until I realized I needed to see more. I hope to go on more GCEL’s in the future to start my life as a world leader. I will definitely be the type of person to fix all of the issues we have in our society. I will definitely be changing a lot in our world and it all started at Centennial College. This journey for me is not over, thank you Cuba for showing me the light. Thank you Centennial for showing me the future.