"Impossible to choose just one highlight! This is an amazing little country and it was a wonderful visit. I think ‘visit’ sums it up - it was more than a trip, a tour, a journey, a holiday, a viaje - it was getting up close and personal with so much of what Cuba is about: what its people have overcome, have achieved and are achieving. Cuba awards its patriots with ‘hero’ status: Cuba itself deserves to be seen by the rest of the world as a hero among countries. It is certainly the David to the US’s Goliath.
I loved the chance to work in the fields, reminding me of the necessity to be in contact with the earth, and to work in community with others, and how refreshing to the spirit this is. I loved living simply (hmmm... the bathroom arrangements in camp, at times, need to be excluded from this sentiment - I feel a renewed appreciation of a constant supply of fresh water and adequate waste disposal). I loved the Cubans themselves: friendly, warm, relaxed, generous, patient, with a great sense of fun, and yes, most of them, from 5 to 85, love music and dance like they’re oiled. Saying thank you and goodbye to our wonderful host families, after only 3 nights, brought tears from both sides!
We had great visits to many different places of interest, including a hospital and a number of schools, the latter including one for deaf children, one specializing in sports development, and one in ballet. The ability of the dancers, aged between 12 and 15, and their maturity as they described their 10-hour school day, was astounding. The children, wherever we met them, were just delightful. Especially one 5 year old exponent of the salsa in front of the village church...
Whenever the beaming faces of the children come to mind, I think about Bush’s ‘Plan for Cuba’ and experience another surge of anger at the arrogance of the US government.
I felt that, as a group of simple Aussies, we were feted by the Cubans. Many people expressed appreciation of our long journey and our interest in Cuba, and members of our group were interviewed for radio and TV on our impressions. The message to us was "Take home to your friends and families the truth about Cuba". Certainly most humbling of all were the talks and meetings we had with many different organizations and people. In these we learned in great detail about the lucha Cuba and its people have been so long engaged in: from the early extermination of the indigenous people; to the long struggle to be free of Spain and from bad dictators supported by the US; to the achievement of the revolution and the ongoing determination to maintain it in the face of the US blockade and especially after the fall of the communist bloc; to the situation now, its economics, its foreign policy, and still with much deprivation due to the blockade, and the imminent threat from the US. Throughout, their belief in the readiness of the Cuban people to face this threat, survive and overcome it, was strongly expressed. Perhaps most impressive in all of these talks and meetings, for me, was the quiet dignity, optimism and patience of the parents and wives of the Cuban Five, and the fierce, ongoing belief in the ideals of the revolution held by the old men who had fought with Che, both in Cuba and in Angola.
As one Cuban who addressed us said, "A better world is not only possible, but necessary". Hard choice next time I’m able to travel: Cuba (for the third time) or Venezuela?? Viva Cuba and the Bolivarian Revolution!"