This past Intersession, I went to Cuba. The trip meant so much to me and it has taken me a while to write about it. I went with eleven other Hopkins students for the Intersession study abroad class. The fact that Hopkins even had the trip was one of the reasons why I chose to come here. I had been itching to go to Cuba since I was a freshman (and maybe even before then) when it was a class on Hemingway. I am glad that I took this class instead, which had a much broader artistic focus. After spending a semester in Rome, a place that I have studied since I was in the sixth grade, I was ready to go somewhere that I knew very little about but that had some sort of hold on me.
It really drew me in. I don’t speak Spanish. I knew about as much as A.P. U.S. History taught me about the Cuban Revolution, which is to say, again, very little. Maybe it was the forbidden fruit — the fact that it is so hard to travel there, and I thought I would have very few opportunities to go.
Maybe it was the fact that this society is so completely different than the one I know. I was lucky enough to be able to swing going to Cuba this January during one of the most exciting times to go as an American. I have thought about this country every day since then.
There were so many aspects to the trip that made it incredibly special. The first major one was that we packed so many things into two weeks. Besides our daily class time and lectures by some of Cuba’s most influential artists, we took day trips to places like Ernest Hemingway’s house, “Finca Vigia,” in San Francisco de Paula. We wandered through Old Havana where there was not one street that wasn’t absolutely charming. We collectively organized a couple of outings that were not on the original itinerary, like going to see one of Havana’s baseball teams Industriales play at Estadio Latinoamericano. One of the highlights. We also made friends in Cuba who told us what they thought about the politics between our countries. No one cares. It’s about the people.
The second was that this was the first time I was off the grid since I got my email account when I was in middle school. If needed, I could use the Internet and even the phone, but it was incredibly expensive. My family members had to trust that I was okay. It felt so good not to use Facebook or text for two weeks. We rely on this stuff so much and it’s basically a necessity when we are in school; we would be putting ourselves out if we didn’t use these forms of communication. But when traveling, I might as well cease to exist to anyone but myself. And this was exhilarating. When I travel, I get selfish. The only person who is going to make my trip worthwhile is me, and I didn’t waste time by showing other people how much fun I was having.
I have to say one of the best parts of the trip was that I made an absolutely terrific group of friends. I only knew one friend very well, my roommate at Hopkins, and knew of a couple of others. Some of them knew each other before, but most of us were meeting for the first time in a different country. While this was the same situation I had in Rome, the difference here is that we all had one thing in common: that we go to Hopkins. And it just so happens that everyone on this trip was exceptionally cool, friendly, open-minded and down for adventure.
We did everything together. We would roll into restaurants in Havana and sit at a table, insisting that it fit all twelve of us. We looked after each other. We made sure no one was lost, took selfies everywhere we went and got to know one another very well. It also helped that we were off social media when we hung out. The only time this occurred to me was when we got each other’s numbers at the end of the trip. I’m thrilled to say that since we arrived in America, we talk every day.
I’m leaving out so much here. I need to follow up with an article about what I learned about the people and the culture. I’m sentimental. I am still wrapping my head around it all. I wanted to first write about what this trip meant to me, but I’m going to look at this article in a few days and think of a million more things that I left out. Until then, te amo, Cuba.