Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Good and the Bad

Thomas Pankau
Reporting from Havana

The sun beat down on the beautiful beach of Varadero and I could see through my sunglasses that the rest of my group was getting ready to pack up and head back to Havana.
 Four of us were in conversation as a French-Canadian couple took interest in us, asked where we were from, how we liked Cuba, and insisting we drink with them. The woman seemingly knew nothing of US policy towards Cuba as she learned of the embargo and travel restrictions for the first time from our mouths. The man was clearly drunk as he forced mojitos onto us and talked about their plans for drinking alcohol and laying on the beach all day. They were astonished to learn of the high price we Americans had to pay for our Cuban experience. “This,” the woman said, pointing all around the beach, “I would not pay that much for. I paid $700. I could get this anywhere.” While I don’t think that this couple was representative of all tourists coming to Cuba, they are indicative of a very shallow mindset. Sunshine and mojitos are fun, but I know my fellow students came on this trip with specialized interests in the culture and for a unique learning experience. As the bus rode away, we saw Cuban citizens standing by the road, hoping they could catch a bus for a ride back home—something most tourists probably don’t think about. Experiencing Cuba is about experiencing the bad and the good, and I know my unique situation travelling in Cuba allows me to get the most out of it.

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