Cuba Report: The adventure continues | AspenTimes.com

Cuba Report: The adventure continues

The Mural de la Prehistoria, a 120 x 120 mural that took five years to complete, in Cuba's Viñales Valley.
Courtesy photo |

Editor’s Note: A group of 12 Aspen High School students and social studies teacher Gretchen Calhoun are now halfway through their educational tour of Cuba. Here is an update on their travels, in their own words.

Gretchen Calhoun, teacher: “A quick one finger reflection: My morning (Tuesday) started with a trip to the elevator where I was met with a wheelbarrow of wet cement … classic. In Cuba, the average salary is $20 a month; doctors might make $30; retirees only get $8. Cubans have a foundational document called the liberta, or ration book. Goods are distributed in neighborhood bodegas — specializing in bakery or farm products. Chalkboards list the available goods. Only people with ration books can buy from there and buy in pesos. Otherwise they have to use a second currency (what we are using), the CUC, and everything is 3x as much. Cuba has had rationing longer than the Soviets! Incredibly the rationed food only last 12 days. So basically to survive everyone participates in ‘extra’ income outside the system. Probably 50 percent is resold or repurposed. It’s the ‘tolerated corruption of survival.’”

Emily Driscoll, sophomore: “Cuba is amazing. We are so lucky to have this opportunity.”

Sassy Geisbert, freshman: “It’s weird spending Easter in a different country where they don’t celebrate the same way.”

Taylor Reed, freshman: “It’s crazy that traveling six hours can take you a world away.”

Fernando Ruiz, freshman: “It’s cool being able to speak the language and communicate with the locals.”

Phillip Psaledakis, freshman: “I am going to live here in Havana and work in the U.S. Embassy. I’m not joking. Seriously.”

Hannah Small, sophomore: Today (Sunday) we went to Vinales Valley, or Pinar de Rio. We saw Indian caves and did a boat tour; we went to a cigar factory and saw a 120 x 120 meter mural. Today was also Easter in the U.S., but most people in Cuba celebrated on Friday. I know everyone misses home, but it’s going to be hard getting us to leave!”

Claudia Smart, freshman: “It’s crazy how much the world stopped in the 1950s.”

Annabelle Ward, freshman: “It’s also crazy that you can buy authentic Cuban cigars at age 15.”


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