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     Cuba – A Memorable Visit

             by Marge Hampton



When Hazel, Barbara, and I decided to book the Road Scholar tour to Cuba I was excited and interested about what the country would be like. Very quicky after arriving in Havana I realized that I carried a lot of sterotypical attitudes about the “Communist Country” on our doorstep.

I had expected to find a lot of homeless people. Wrong! I expected that the people would be subdued and joyless. Wrong! I expected to see a lot of poverty and hunger. Wrong! By the end o the trip my image of Cuba and its people had revolved 180 degree.

Just the visual scenes negate any sense of joylessness. Even I Havana where there are a lot of derelict and crumbling buildings there is a riot of color. They are in the midst of a very long renovation project with the old colonial buildings. Wherever a building is intact, it is a bright, beautiful color.

Green gardens overflowing with colorful plants. Pedicabs with hand-painted colorful designs...the classic cars in every color of the rainbow… murals, both painted and mosaic tile on many walls. When I close my eyes and remember Cuba I see color everywhere!

When I think of the people one primary word comes to mind – HAPPY! There is live music everywhere – in the cafes, in the squares and just on the street corners. People on the streets are energetic, hurrying along, laughing and talking. I saw very few beggars. Everyone is neatly dressed and in current, modern fashion. We know that Cuban citizens have very limited incomes but they somehow manage to look good in their clothes. And I never saw a woman of any age that didn’t wear jewelry – earrings, necklaces, bracelets.

Our guide was hones in admitting that people get frustrated with the government restrictions but added (with a shrug) that people figure ingenious ways of getting around them too. And Cuban ingenuity is another aspect that I have great respect for. They can make almost anything from nothing! On the cattle ranch we visited they made their horseshoes from discarded rebar.

I had always seen Cuba as a police state but much of that seems to have been relaxed in the past several decades. Private enterprise in the form of small businesses is now encouraged. We had freedom to wander wherever we wanted in the cities and village we visited. There was no sense of police looking over our shoulders. In fact the government is energetically promoting tourism and are hoping the U.S. restrictions will end.

I am so grateful that I was able to visit this country and encourage anyone to think seriously about booking a tour. And a plug for Road Scholar – they really have it down to a flawless experience.