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

notes from the middle

Things in Havana have been slow, I’ve been going to school, panicking about misunderstanding instructions and deadlines, actually misunderstanding instructions and deadlines, and doing a lot of thinking. 

It has cooled off enough that I can fall asleep easily with the window cracked and the air conditioner turned off, this also means that I can sit in my room and do more of my thinking. Not having constant access to wifi or the Internet in general (no data) makes me actually sit with questions rather than immediately googling any and everything. I walk around, I talk to people, I ask them if they know the answers instead of quietly trying to find them myself and surprisingly, this method works. I almost always learn something new and it comes in the context of all the people answering me. Initially I was frustrated but once the knee jerk reaction to look everything up online died down I realized its kind of nice to not have the aggressive correctness and exactness of solitary facts and to know things in their place and time and with nuance. 

I’ve also been thinking a lot about time here and how so many people I spoke to before I left the states, both for this trip and my short visit to Havana last spring, talked about Cuba as a time machine and Havana as a magical city frozen in its colonial architecture and 1950’s cars. And it bothered me, the idea that old things held a country firmly in place, in disconnect. And the more time I spend here the more evident it is to my how untrue a conception it is that Cuba, Havana especially, is frozen in time. 

Everything feels so present and normal and alive, colonial buildings house paladares serving cans of Malta and Ciego Montero cola and trips in old cars are standout when they don’t have new sound systems playing the latest hits from farruko or Gente de Zona. 

It’s 2015 in every way with social manifestations of politics only kinder than those one would find in an American city. 

But at the same time things do move differently, there are few TV channels and no expectation of Internet and so I find myself wondering if this is what summertime felt like when my mom was a kid, my languid downtime reminding me of the 70’s in the way I know it from episodes of Freaks and Geeks, there’s almost always enough time.

As wonderful as everything is I have been homesick, I miss my creature comforts- I miss processed food and affordable soy milk (8 bucks a carton is not happening, though soy yogurt is cheap and ubiquitous). I miss my dog and feeling at least mostly sure of where I’m supposed to be and what I’m supposed to be doing. 

me milking a buffalo!


  a baby buffalo says hello at dawn

Audacity, tenacity, intelligence- core values of Camilo Cienfuegos are remembered in Yaguajay at the site of Batista’s barracks during the revolutionary battle of 1958. A museum to Cienfuegos stands at the site today.



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