Written By: Keerthan Sritharan
Day 1 was a Tuesday morning when we boarded a flight to Cuba,
We landed in a sea of green landscape with the humid air around us,
A magical school bus took us to our Casa in Varadero,
We unpacked and received an orientation from Ron and Nazira,
In the late evening, we toured our community and visited the beach,
The day ended with a lecture on the history of Cuba.
Day 2 started with an introductory lecture to permaculture,
We visited the local farms of Tony and Omar,
I learned a lot about permacultural strategies used by the farmers,
Crop rotation, Bud grafting, Biogas production and even about an ingenious chemical called EM,
I attempted to play hangman and teach English to our friendly guard Lazaro,
The day ended with our first reflection circle and some downtime with my peers.
Day 3 began very early with a trip to Roberto and Cusa’s farm where we worked,
We toured the farm and learned about past Centennial College projects,
We were introduced to some of the projects that we’ll work on,
Next we went to visit the Bellamar Caves in Matanzas, Cuba,
We learned about the history of the caves and importance of its preservation,
The day ended with swimming followed by a reflection circle.
Day 4 began with working on our farm and meeting the brilliant Caver Estaban,
We met our junior high students and did machete work with them,
In a matter of hours, we cleared a few square meters of a forest,
Next we toured the city of Matanzas and visited an old pharmacy and paper factory,
We also toured Mont Serrate and saw a breathtaking aerial view of Cuba,
The day ended with a reflection circle and treated with delicious Cuban ice cream.
Day 5 was a continuation of the work on our farm,
We continued to clear the forest and started work on a composting toilet,
I tried to converse and learn more about my junior high partner Jhon,
He was 13, in grade 8, and aspired to become a baseball player like David Ortiz,
Next, a short tour around remaining Matanzas and my peer and I led a reflection,
The day ended with us presenting Driscoll’s model of reflection and a fun game of Cuban jeopardy.
Day 6 was spent largely in the capital city of Havana,
We visited Old Havana and got a tour of its rich history and old structures,
I ended my drought of not using WIFI and reconnected to the outer world,
Met some Canadians in our downtime who stayed at the resorts,
Reflected upon the contrast between rich Havana and “the other side” (rural parts of Cuba),
The day ended with a reflection and Ron’s logistics of what to be done on the farm.
Day 7 greeted me with another junior high student named Jonathon,
My first buddy had some poison ivy rashes from the previous machete work,
I got to know Jonathon and we both continued work on the composting toilet,
After the work shift, we went snorkling in Coral Beach Varadero,
Once we got home, we put donation loop bags together for the kids at the farm,
The day ended with a reflection and our group finished our painting to present to Roberto and Cusa at the farm.
Day 8 was continuation with work on the farm with machete work,
Work time was also split working on the farm gardens and the composting toilet,
I learned about a solar cooker and an insulated box that cooks or cools food,
We handed out our gift bags to the kids at the farm and they were filled with delight,
We visited the kids school, met the principal, and were treated with a beautiful song and dance,
The day ended with a lot of pictures with the kids, a reflection, and a walk down First Street filled with street side entertainment and joy.
Day 9 hit me hard when I realized it was the last day,
We had the pleasure of working one last shift with the kids at the farm,
As noon hit, all members of GCELE, the kids, and staff of the Permaculture projects came together,
The kids gave us lots of hugs and parting gifts and I played a game of soccer with them,
We all rounded up and gave our appreciations for allowing us to work on the farm and wished them luck in the future with their projects,
The day ended with a teary-eyed drive back home and a final reflection group including the highlights of our trip and some things to take back with us.
Day 10 started with an early breakfast before the roosters could even wake us up,
We packed our bags in the magic school bus and said our goodbyes,
We gave the staff at the Casa some donations and parting gifts,
Then came the hour long ride back to Varadero airport,
We all soaked in the surroundings that we were first introduced to for the final time,
The day ended with thanking Ron, flying back to Canada, and an utmost appreciation for the past 10 days that we will forever look back upon.