The blades on both turbines had reached a sufficient speed and the wheels were correctly aligned. A switch was flicked and a petroleum mixture began spraying into the tunnels of rapidly moving air attached to each wing. Simultaneously two electric sparks ignited the solution of pressurized air and fuel. The turbines roared and our plane jerked forward pushing everyone back onto their seats as we rapidly accelerated along the vast stretch of concrete-covered ground. After a few moments we had reached nearly 200 miles per hour and our plane was lifting into the air. As the ground shrunk and tilted away from us a solemn kind of silence settled over our usually talkative group. It was our last view of Cuba. Our last look at what had been our whole world for three long months.
We had spent the days leading up to our departure in the city of Trinidad to the south east of Cienfuegos. Trinidad is a city of cobbled roadways and street side shops. A city with beautiful church steeples and elegantly decorated parks. A city who’s roadways quickly become streams after a rainstorm. We took time in this final moment of our trip to decompress and interest ourselves in things like Cuban clothing and cigars. Trinidad is a city more heavily steeped in tourism and as such it was a little different than our previous week of arts school out in the country.
And while shopping can most certainly be a painfully stressful process, the real difficulty of our last few days came from the knowledge that we were all about to go our separate ways. When going about our days the subject that we had under 100 hours together would often come up and a floury of sad noises and hugging would ensue. In addition to this all of us students had a final checkout with both of our beautiful overseas educators. We discussed what we originally wanted from this trip, what we had gained, and what it meant in our lives going forward. A lot of tears were shed and a lot more hugs were given.
On Friday we all drove out to the beach to soak up a few more moments of Sunshine before our migration back into the cold north. Riding one of our last Cuban taxis over the remains of what was once a full highway a lot of us felt very whimsical. It was such a strange combination of excitement for seeing friends and family and sadness for leaving the beautiful Cuba and all the wonderful people who had accompanied us on this journey.
The night before we were to leave we all gathered just outside Kevin’s room on an enclosed sort of terrace to conduct a farewell ceremony. Wylie and Sarah walked us through the uncountable moments of this long journey from our start in the rustic and beautiful streets of Baracoa to the energetically expressive arts students of Korimakao. After sharing this session of poetic reminiscing we all moved to focus on what we were going do with what we learned from this crazy adventure. We invoked and shared concepts and lessons (and sometimes objects) which we were going to bring with us from this trip as well as those which we were going to leave behind. Once this second step was complete we all took a band of string and wound it around our wrists once for each student who accompanied us abroad. A little something to remind us of each other and everything we journeyed through together.
On the morning of our departure we all awoke early as the Cuban sun was still peaking the horizon. We had our final breakfast together and loaded all of our belongings onto two Cuban taxis. The final drive was filled with singing and exchanging of pictures amongst each other. When we got to the little airport we noticed it consisted of just one little building. After we checked in we walked across the street and waited for our flight to be ready in a small cafe. Personally I took the opportunity to buy myself a final batch of Cuban graham crackers. Nothing quite like em. Once we finally boarded and took off it was less than an hour before we reached the sprawling city of Miami. Our group had one last bitter sweat farewell in the airport and with that we drifted our separate ways. Cuba has been a strange place to experience especially when compared to our american lives but it almost feels stranger to be back in the States after so long. We are all looking forward to a wonderful Christmas season of re-connection but we be reeling a little from such a sudden an extreme change. I would say something along the lines of “Love from Cuba!” but most of us are already home. Instead I will wish you all a happy Christmas season and a happy rest of your year for that matter! We hope you all continue to courageously stretch yourselves and try new experiences on the caliber that we all have this fall. In short; carpe diem.
Signing off, for the last time-
“…a person is like a rubber-band ball. We’ve all got a lot of bad rubber bands, and a lot of good rubber bands, and they’re all wrapped up together. And you’ve got to have both types of bands or your rubber band ball ain’t gonna bounce. And no use trying to untangle them” – Humans of New York