By: Inez Tarditti-Falconer
Sancti Spiritus, Cuba… Where do I even begin? This GCELE was literally a trip of a lifetime for me. I learned things I never thought I could learn, went through experiences I never would have imagined, met Cuban friends that I never thought I would have met and travelled with an amazing group of people from Centennial!
While in Sancti Spiritus, I really got a taste of what it’s like to live in Cuba. I went on this trip with the mindset that I would be helping the people there, but in reality, the people of Cuba taught me and helped me more than anything. I learned a lot about the permaculture movement happening in Cuba and what that meant in regards to their food security. It was moving and inspiring to get to know how the Cubans we met lived a life that revolved around nature and taking care of the land, while living off of it as well.
Many of the farmers were teachers, engineers and ordinary people with other jobs. They had farms and gardens as a side activity. I thought this alone was moving because taking care of these farms and gardens is a big and task requiring a lot of hard work! Since I know how to speak a bit of Spanish, I was able to speak with some of the farmers and I honestly learned so much from them. They are so wise, knowledgeable and humble in all that they do – it was amazing to meet people like them.
All of my new Cuban friends are always in my heart and without a doubt, I will be returning to Sancti Spiritus to see them again! I also got the chance to plant banana trees, papaya, sweet potatoes and coffee. I was actually in the dirt and planting! It was such an awesome feeling, mainly because, before this trip I would have never ever thought I would be working in a farm and getting dirty – or even planting anything at all!
Learning about permaculture in Cuba opened my eyes to our own food security in Toronto and what that really means for us. I also stayed at the foundation’s museum, and something that I had to get used to was the water shortage. Mostly during the days, the water would run out and return in the evening. I never had to deal with anything like this in Toronto, so it was something that made me realize just how grateful I should be for something as simple as having unlimited access to water in my home. From the drives in cars from the 50’s, to the delicious food, to the vibrant energy of the Cuban people, to the endless laughs and memories, I can honestly say that I enjoyed every second of it.
All in all, this trip was unreal. When I was back in Toronto and it came time to tell all my friends and family about it, I found myself having difficulties putting it all into words. It’s one of those experiences that you just had to be there to really get it! I am so grateful to have been given this opportunity by Centennial. I think that GCELE’s are such an amazing part of this College. Because of this trip, I have memories that will last a lifetime, lived through experiences that have changed me as a person and made amazing new friends. Without a doubt, this GCELE was absolutely and unforgettably INCREDIBLE.