Greetings from your favorite Carpe Diem group. Group Chango has had quite an active week spent at Korimakao diving into the Cuban cultures of art, dance, music, and theater. With an extensive array of talents among our group, everyone has found a form of art that they fit into quite nicely. Myself, Mirium, Sarah, Liza, and Michelle have spent our days attempting to keep up with some of the most talented dancers in Cuba in contemporary, popular, and folkloric forms of dance. Our class actually could be lessons in comedy with how hard the real dancers are laughing at us but who really knows? Noah and Caden have found their callings in the theater and music portion of Korimakao screaming swear words in Spanish as loud as they can in the morning and playing sweet sweet music in the evenings. Jack, Shelly, and Taylor have directed their skills in the art department creating a mural of a bar code that reads peace and love on the street that runs through Korimakao. And those who have invested themselves entirely in music are Kevin and Adrian, where even master of the Spanish language, Kevin, has trouble understanding the instructions from their teacher and Adrian can be found nodding off in the back of class still beautifully strumming his ukulele in his sleep.

Our time here began with quite a hoot and a holler with nightly dance/pool parties with our new and forever friends of Korimakao. But fiestas and moods were quickly extinguished with the death of the the Cuban Comandanté, Fidel Castro. Immediately at the news of his death, a 9 day mourning session with restrictions on music, celebrations, drinking, and sports were implemented. And you guessed it, we were here for exactly 9 more days on the day of his death. We took the news of no drinking alcohol surprisingly well *cough cough* dry program, but the no music and celebrations restrictions have hit us hard, especially with this crazy music blasting, constantly dancing group of Cubans we have all come to love so much. But it is true, this is a time to mourn. As Americans we may not share the same views of the all mighty Fidel as our Cuban family does, but without that cigar smoking man this beautiful country would not be exactly what all 12 of us have fallen completely in love with. And for that, Group Chango thanks you Fidel, you have forever changed our lives and will be missed by many.
Our final day at Korimakao was definitely one for the books. After all the hard work day after day for an entire week, it was time for us to put our new talents to the test with performances for the fine people at Korimakao. The day started with the dancers performing multiple different styles of dance. We preformed a contemporary dance we had been working on since the first day, a folkloric dance that has far too many sexual intentions than I care to mention because my mother is reading this, and a combination of Mumbo and salsa to top it all off. Noah and Adrian carried the torch into the music department where Noah showed off his unknown drumming skills with a group of fellow Afro-Cuban drummers. And Adrain brought the house down with an impressive compilation of ukulele playing, beat boxing, harmonizing and even had a couple solos to remind us all how unimportant language barriers actually are when it comes to the world of art. We finished off the night with one last get together with our friends at Korimakao. This past week we have spent a significant amount of time teaching the locals the American national sport of beer pong, don’t worry no beer was used. As it turns out we may have spent too much time teaching them because our night consisted of us getting beat left and right whenever we stepped up to the table. But most importantly, there was a lot of gift exchanging between our new friends and almost everyone left with something sentimental to help remember their time here. Our biggest and most heartfelt thank you goes out to all those at Korimakao who helped us see the ultimate beauty of this country so close to our departure date, this week has been the greatest of all.
As our time spent in Cuba is coming to an end, our moods have been undeniably low with the fact that we must say a temporary goodbye to our Chango family in only a matter of days. This program has taken 14 complete strangers from all across the country and put them in a completely foreign environment. And through every day, and every struggle, and every new adventure, we came closer together and tackled Cuba head on with tons of jokes an terrible communication. Amazing isn’t it? I didn’t know a single one of these random people 76 days ago and now stand facing one of the most heart retching goodbyes I may ever endure. I sit quietly wondering what ever will I do without the unwavering leadership and friendship from our group Beta, Kevin. Or the flawless grace and charisma constantly radiating from our group Alpha, Michelle. Or the sweet melodies that Miriam has taken far and wide across this beautiful country, gifting her song to anyone who is lucky enough to cross her path. Or Sarah’s incredible ability to be a best friend to every single individual in this group and brighten everyone’s day time and time again. Or the the ultimate friendship I have formed with Jack where I can proudly say that no matter when or where we are will always truly be one of my best friends. Or Shelly’s motherly instinct that all children are reluctant to hear but deep down are truly grateful for and will use the lessons for a lifetime. Or the ray of sunshine that walks with us and doesn’t allow for even the darkest of moods among the group known as Adrian, he brings limitless joy and embodies all the happiness this group could need and hands it out one by one until no one is left without a smile. Or the terribly timed jokes that have only gotten more hilarious throughout the trip that I know will leave an immense absence of humor in my life when I return home from Noah. Or the grandfatherly wisdom and voice from Caden that never failed to teach one of us something new every single day. Or the unbelievable combination of so much beauty and humor into one little body that Taylor encapsulates. Or that smile, that simple smile that shines off of Liza and for reasons I do not understand, always reminds me of home. I simply don’t know what my life will be like after parting ways from my wonderful group members. But I know our friendships will last forever, we are a one of a kind group of people that have taken on the first Carpe Diem program in Cuba together and are now ready to take our skills and talents and spread them around the world. Peace, Love, and Fire, Changó.

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