Hey Everybody, Miriam here!
We are officially adjusting to the magical whims of Cuban lifestyle here in Baracoa. So far the adjustment process has been tough… Swimming in the ocean everyday during Spanish class, learning how to cook a traditional Cuban meal, riding horse carriages to arrive at our destinations, having multiple salsa dance lessons and eating three huge amazing meals a day that are most often accompanied with fresh fruit, vegetables and fabulous Cuban coffee. Not to mention that our casa for the time being has a rooftop porch that overlooks the entire town.
You may be asking yourself, all that already?
Yes, but that’s not all. Let me give you an overview on what we’ve been up to for the past week.
Thursday morning we flew into Santiago de Cuba where we were welcomed by breathtaking landscapes and sweltering heat. After a four hour journey to Baracoa in classic old fashioned cars, we arrived at our home for the next 10 days.
We started off our first day here with a talk from Baracoa’s historian. He gave us an introduction on the most important pieces of history and historical figures that the Cuban people most identify with during their lives here today. It felt important to learn this and begin to understand the roots in which Cubans come from so that we can best understand and be compassionate with them and their ways of life.
Everything in Cuba doesn’t go quite as planned so we’ve been finding ourselves learning how to surrender to the unpredictable quirky ways of the Cuban lifestyle. On Saturday we rode horse carriages to the Toa river and went swimming in its beautiful water. That was followed by learning how to make a traditional Cuban feast. We learned how to cook fried rice, breadfruit (which amazingly tastes like French fries), Calulu (which is vegetables in a coconut sauce), and pork stew. All of which were ridiculously yummy.
For the past five days we’ve also had the amazing opportunity to have experiencial learning Spanish classes. Every morning from 9-12 our Spanish teachers Mari and Wilkins take us to the beach or around small neighborhoods to engage in conversations involving different scenarios based on where we are located and what we have done. It’s also been interesting to hear about their life here as teachers. Resources are so scarce here in Baracoa that students and teachers often times don’t even have internet access, pens, notebooks or books to learn from so everything is taught and practiced on chalkboards. Mari and Wilkins only get paid 22 cuc per month which is equivalent to $22.
For the past week we’ve also began taking Salsa dance lessons. After the first class, we left the studio drenched in sweat but all of us determined to improve on this art form that is in many ways the heartbeat of Cuban culture. Even after our third class (with many more to come), much improvement and progress is visible. Although air conditioning would greatly aid in the learning process, everyone is pumped on salsa!
In between our regular scheduled classes, we’ve also gone on some excursions to a couple of eye opening and breathtaking places. A few days ago we were brought to a small house 20 minutes out of town. We learned how traditional chocolate is made here in Baracoa as it is one of the main places that it’s produced in Cuba. We were shown the process of making chocolate from the moment that the cacao fruit is picked from the tree to the finalized packaged that’s ready to serve. The process is surprisingly simple.
To celebrate the life of the woman who made this whole journey possible, we joined Britt at one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen for a traditional pig roast with a group of her friends. We spent the afternoon swimming in the sweetest river water I’ve swam in. It felt like silk on your skin. And because Britt’s friends just happened to be a group of professional dancers, we watched them all dance wildly for hours. But not before the whole roasted pig was brought into the portal with a giant stick running through its body.
Now ya’ll are probably wondering about the group. Yes, every single person here is an amazing, strong individual. It’s apparent that everyone here has a key aspect to bring into this group. Although the first day at the airport was a bit awkward, we’ve already grown so close to each other in just a week. You could say we’re a developing family that is just waiting to burst with all the love and light that’s created each day that we are here together.
Last night we had a closing ceremony for the completion of our orientation and an opening ceremony to set intentions for these next few months. There are so many amazing things to come in these upcoming months and it feels so good to be with a group of people who all want to grow and develop within themselves and those around them.
So don’t be worried. Everybody is safe, happy and learning. Although an upset stomach has hit a couple group members, everybody is doing good and those who aren’t feeling 100% are in recovery mode.
Group Chango is sending love your way <3 More photos coming soon!