April 10, 2014, by Guest blog
I hope I will leave this island with many friends, and we will toast to my return
Early this February, I left snowy Vienna for the sunny, buzzing capital of Cuba: Havana. It was a total shock to my system – staring at the deep blue sea, sitting by the Malecon in the shadow of the famous Hotel Nacional, surrounded by the cries of the street vendors and the roar of engines racing down to Havana Vieja, I was seriously wondering how I would ever adapt to this environment, let alone make Cuban friends… Luckily though, I was not the only one left to wonder, as my best friend from university and a bunch of other British students were sitting down by my side too, instantly creating a sense of warmth and friendship.
In spite of our “banterous” camaraderie, which I happily took part in, I had come to Cuba to practice my Spanish, meet Cubans and learn about their culture and the peculiarities of living in this very special country. Once again, luckily Calle B, where we all live, worked its magic. We soon met our neighbours, active, funny, young Cubans keen to have us share their social lives and show us around. I was only but too happy to tag along, from one salsa bar to another and explore the most beautiful beaches of Havana. As much as I appreciate their company, I really wanted to meet more people, in particular students, to exchange impressions on teaching and learning, and expand my social circle.
Arriving at university, I was a little disappointed that we didn’t have any classes with Cubans, which until now has severely impaired my ability to meet students. I realised that the lack of communication methods, having no cell phone and no internet, meant that you often meet someone once, and then never really see them again because of the lack of possibility of contacting them…
I seemed to have found a silver lining though in focusing on neighbourhood life and visiting the basketball court, where we often seem to meet new and old players, who appear to visit the same bars as us. Making connections in Havana hasn’t been as easy as I hoped it would be so far, but I keep trying and I am confident that, despite all the challenges presented by the lack of means of communications, I will leave this island with many friends, and that we will toast to my return, on the Malecon, surrounded by the familiar roar of engines racing to the Capitolio.
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