Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

All in the Family

Family bonding all around here in Havana, with my parents visiting from the states as well as with the incredible couple that runs the house that we live in with another program of Americans. The easiest way to describe them is as our host family but that’s not quite the case. They own this property, cook us (delicious) breakfasts and dinners, but live in another house a few blocks away with their two sons. They basically come over in the morning for breakfast, cook and do some business during the day until dinner, then return home to their life. Like most parents, they’ve got a set of house rules, and like most groups of Americans abroad, we’ve had our more rebellious students take bending those rules across the line to breaking them. This is particularly troubling here in Havana because we are representing America in a country with limited direct interaction with Americans. I’ve really gotten to know the couple so much better as they navigated this drama.  They explained to me how grateful they are to have us here because we provide them with honest work and food for their children. Their kindness was really touching but what really hit home for me was how concerned they were about the ripple effects for their livelihoods. They worry that any fiasco, at the fault of the students, might jeopardize their well-being. All seems to be resolved for now, but I won’t soon forget this really personal look at their reality here in Cuba.

A little farther off from reality in Cuba was my parents’ visit! It was very strange seeing the tourist experience here because from day 1 we have been thrown in to the mix as just regular students at La Universidad de la Habana. My parents are both American and they prefer to color within the lines so they visited on a people-to-people exchange, the easiest way to legally visit Cuba. The good news is I think they really enjoyed most of the organized activities that were part of the program! I wanted them to play a little more hooky but you win some, you lose some. We went out to dinner at two fantastic restaurants. One was La Guarida, the setting for the movie Fresa y Chocolate. The other was an amazing rooftop restaurant across from the Granma memorial and the Revolutionary Museum with the best mojitos ever. Aside from at these restaurants, where the staff can hold their own in English, while I was acting as a tour guide for my parents I had the serious responsibility of being the only Spanish-speaker of the group. It was intense recognizing that they really depended on me to safely get us to our destination, but I was proud to realize that my Spanish really has come along way since I’ve been in Havana.

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