We sent our good friend Hayley from Local Love 805 to Cuba with some RAREFORM gear as she embarked on a two week long mission and tourism trip, and she's here with us to share some of her exciting stories!
Our 13 days in Cuba exceeded all expectations. The country, the food, the energy, the people -- I loved it all! We started our trip by flying into Holguin Airport, on the east side of the island, where friends of the non-profit we volunteered with, Action Cuba, warmly greeted us outside the tiny airport.
We drove 1.5 hours to the small rural village of Naranjo, just outside of Las Tunas, where we stayed with a family in a Casa Particular for the first 5 nights. We were greeted with kisses, hugs, and music from about 30 people who had been anxiously awaiting our arrival. They quickly served welcome food & drinks. The five of us brought eight cargo bins full of donations with us – consisting largely of construction tools for the mission work but also toys, clothes, shoes, & RAREFORM gear. The kids were swarming the bins with excitement, but the construction tools were the biggest need. We immediately started planning how we could bring more donations on our next trip.
For the next 4 days, after breakfast at our Casa Particular, we drove out to Naranjo and worked (and played) there until about 6pm, after which we would have dinner at a family's home and stay there until nearly midnight every night! Cubans love to eat and visit - no necesitan dormir! I quickly adjusted to this aspect of their culture, but the Café Cubano every morning & afternoon might have helped a bit. ;)
We were very sad to leave our new friends in Las Tunas, but we had to head out via a ten hour bus ride to Havana! We stopped at the famous Varadero Beach for some R&R which was a real treat. We ended our trip exploring for a few days in the vibrant city of Havana -- live music on every corner, delicious food, iconic 50's cars driving in every direction, tourists from all over the world -- it's beautiful.
There is so much to experience in Cuba, but I'd say the highlights from our mission trip include cooking, eating, & visiting over every meal with the families; our baseball game in the park where locals started joining in to play (most things we experienced ended up being much greater than expected), and simply living and working with the people of Cuba. I have never felt so welcome in a new place - especially given the language barrier and abundance of differences. It is a beautiful country full of the most welcoming, generous, and resourceful people. If you have not gone yet, I would say it is a definite must.
Hasta luego! - Hayley