So I have been getting worried messages from friends and family about my lack of updates, and I apologize (again). My life has been crazy recently. This will be long and hopefully answer some questions I have received!
I am going to skip over my trip to Matanzas with the group last week because, due to a combination of an incompetent professor, incompetent tour guide, and bad food, I consider that weekend a complete waste of time and money. I learned nothing except that I cannot dance casino (a type of Cuban dance) if my life depended on it.
Next order of business: my family came to visit. It was wonderful and bizarre and lovely and weird. My Cuba isn't their Cuba isn't Cubans Cuba, and that took me a while to realize. And while I kept saying, no, this isn't a vacation for me, it was a bit of an escape due to the amount of money spent/tourist-y things done.
Mom and Kate got here Wednesday night. I went to the airport and waited for four hours, after which I decided that they must have had a complication in Mexico or something. I go home, sad a dejected, and run out to go to an event at school. I come back to my residencia with a message saying that they got here safe and sound! I call them up, discover their bags had been lost, and go over to their hotel with clothes and essentials for them to use.
Dad came late late Friday after a long trip, and it was wonderful to have everyone together! We had many issues with hotels, and moving around (one night we stayed at a casa particular, which is basically staying in someone's house. It was very cool), but it all worked out. It was jazz fest this week too, which was a lot of fun. On Wednesday we went to see Chucho Valdéz, who is a very famous Cuban pianist. He played with a lot of people and it was so fun, you could tell they were playing around and having a blast. Mom, who wasn't even really excited to go, had so much fun. On Friday, we went to see Buena Vista Social Club, who was also so much fun. I was sad, because I bought the Chucho tickets knowing Dad would love to go and then he didn't get to! But it worked out anyway. On Saturday night, we went to the ballet to see Giselle. It was so incredibly beautiful. I don't know much about the ballet, but I absoultely loved it. The theater was another story. It had the potential to be so beautiful (the architecture was amazing) but it was dirty, and there were broken seats, etc. I kind of feel like that is a metaphor for Cuba as a whole (beautiful underneath all the grime, and not just the literal dirt).
Anecdote about buying ballet tickets: I know I have explained the two different currencies here in cuba. For the ballet, we couldve paid 20 CUC (about $24 USD) for each ticket and sat in the orchaestra and everything. Or we couldve paid 5 peso nacional (about 20 cents) and sat up in the balconey. So obviously, I wanted to pay in moneda nacional. I go up to the desk, show them my id, and they tell me oh yeah, just wait in line and you can pay in MN. So I get in line at one and wait until two for tickets to go on sale. I get up there and a different woman looks at me and is like "you can't use this ID, you're only here for three months." I just looked at her and was like "This is ridiculous, she told me I could pay in MN, I waited in line for over an hour, I'm buying these for all students, blah blah" pretty much just yelling in Spanish and being generally disagreeable. Finally, the woman just had enough of me and gave up. So I got the MN tickets, feeling all proud of my Spanish skills.
So then we go up to the MN door the night of the ballet. Clearly, all four of us are not students. The woman taking tickets was like "You have to go buy CUC tickets, you can't use these." So once again, my inner college student (aka can't pay full price for anything) came out and I started in saying "You can't do this, I already paid, what if there are no more tickets, I waited in line, the woman told me this was okay, etc." And she just didn't know what to do! I kind of felt bad for her, but I was stubborn. Eventually she let us through. Victory!
Other highlights: I drank more mojitos when my family was here than I have the entire six weeks prior. We went to the Havana Club (rum!) factory/museum, which was pretty cool. I learned all about the process of turning sugar into rum (and when we go to Trinidad, we're going to see sugar mills, so now ill be able to see the whole process). There was a tasting at the end of the 7-year aged rum, which I hadn't had before (pretty delicious). Then mom bought me a set of Havana Club mojito glasses and an official muddler to bruise the mint leaves! Such a good house present. So Brit (and everyone else in Boston) get ready for some delicious mojitos upon my return!
The fam also brought me a bunch of chocolate, twizzlers, peanut butter, and other treats, so I am happy (at least this week).
So overall, it was wonderful having my family here. I was really glad to be able to show them my life here, but I feel like they were kind of cheated because they didn't experience the Cuba that I see everyday, but you can't do everything in a week, so whatev. Also, being away from my house was a very unsettling feeling, and I am glad to be back to my day to day ritual. Although I wish that they were still here.
Okay, as of right now that's all I have to say. But I am trying to write in here more regularly, and I have a list of things I want to talk about, so get ready!