Leading up to the trip, I had some worries and I was apprehensive about how the 12 days would go by. Before the trip, the leading faculty members for the trip made us watch “The Cuba Libre Story” on Netflix, which was a documentary that briefly described Cuba’s history and how it became the country it is today. Although it was detailed and descriptive, I was nervous because documentaries never quite capture the complete experience of a country, I didn’t know anyone going on the trip, and my Spanish was rusty. However, once I arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, and met the other students who were going on the trip, my anxiety diminished and soon turned into excitement. Our flight was not a non-stop flight, as we had a connecting flight from Atlanta to Miami which would then take us to Havana. Upon arrival in Havana, we were welcomed by palm trees that were swaying in the wind from the slight drizzle, and humidity so thick you could feel yourself being engulfed by the heavy moisture in the air. After going through airport security, Rose Ana, the representative from IFSA (Institute for Study Abroad), and Yoseti, our official translator and guide from IFSA, met us and took us to where we would be staying for the majority of the trip. The area we would stay in was called Vedado, which is the Spanish word for “restricted” or “forbidden”. According to Yoseti, the area is called Vedado because it used to be that construction and urbanization was not allowed in that area because the colonial government used that area as a means of protection from unwanted invaders. However, Vedado is now an organized neighborhood in Havana where the streets are organized by letters and numbers and conveniently located right next to the seawall called the Malecon. The area was safe and the people in the area were friendly and welcoming. When we arrived in Vedado to unload our luggage at our casa particular (homestay), I was assigned to Casa Maite with two other girls from the trip. We arrived at the home and we were welcomed by our host parents, Sra. Maite and Sr. Amaury. They treated us like we were their grandchildren by providing us with 3 meals a day, knowledge about Cuba, and great recommendations in the area. Their English was not perfect but neither was my Spanish. So, I used the Spanish that I knew and they used the English that they knew and we were able to communicate using hand gestures and bits and pieces of Spanish and English. Contrary to its name, Vedado was welcoming and it was the spot where we all felt comfortable calling our temporary home in Cuba. Countless memories were made by exchanging conversations with our host family, afternoon and evening walks on the Malecon, exciting excursions to see the local businesses and street art, and relaxing on the steps outside our casa particular.

Street view from the window of La Casa Maite
Visiting the Malecon at sunset
Homes in Vedado
Outside view of La Casa Maite