On the morning of our first full day in Havana, we enjoyed a rather full day. Being already vaguely familiar with the city after the first day’s tour, my pre-departure research, and my own understanding that comes with having family from the city I was able to absorb the geography and layout even better. While Havana feels physically small, it is larger than life. Filled with wonderfully frustrating contradictions, the city is never boring. The aging and decrepit buildings crumble with the lack of maintenance, casting a sad and haunting aura over the city. However that same decay also gives testament to the true age of the city, perfectly conveying the life and struggle of the island since it’s discovery and colonization by the Spanish hundreds of years ago…but I digress.
We all hopped on a bus and visited the various areas within the city. For me, that part of the tour was forgettable, not because it wasn’t interesting, but because I was to return days later to Miramar and have a profound personal experience that eclipsed anything that our tour guide or my camera would be able to capture today. After touring around Miramar, we stopped to visit with a representative of the Cuban equivalent of the United States’ EPA. Providing plenty of interesting background into the environmental challenges facing Cuba, she was very kind and fielded questions from the group very well. I must admit that this was also a bit forgettable for me, as I was not familiar with many of the environmental issues at hand.
In the afternoon, we had our first of two days of salsa lessons. The instructors were young, fun and vibrant which I later understood to be necessary in order to properly convey the soul that salsa dancing entails. I hope to retain at least some of what I learned from these lessons and continue lessons upon my return to the United States.
After two full days in Havana, it all still seems a little bit surreal. I am standing on streets that my father and grandparents and great aunts and uncles may have walked before fleeing the country. I feel that there is still so much left to know and understand, yet it all feels so familiar.