A Trip Back in Time
-by Victoria Principato
It's been quite an interesting month to say in the least! Not only have I been out of the country, but I've been to a place back in time, a place where 1950s cars drive in the streets, and access to the internet is hard to come by. Can you guess where I've been yet?
Cuba has long been known as a land of tropical mystique to many tourists, particularly in America. Ever since the Bay of Pigs incident, followed by the Cuban Missile crisis in 1962, relations between America and Cuba have been strained to say in the least. Travel to the small island nation just ninety miles off the coast of Florida has been restricted (then less restricted, now more restricted again.) As a student, I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to study abroad at the University of Havana for the past month
Studying in Cuba was an incredible experience. I was able to brush up on my Spanish, communicate with locals, and adapt to the Cuban way of life. However, learning how to master transportation in Cuba is a feat in itself. Brightly colored "maquinas," or taxis, ride along the main roads, lined with waiting customers, and pull over to collect people as they go. As an American student, it was important to be wary of the prices drivers were charging and that I was being dropped off in the right spot. However, after a month, I felt like I finally got the hang of the system. (Note: If you should ever find yourself in Cuba, make sure you shut the doors "mas suave," drivers cringe when you slam their doors!)
Overall, my experience in Cuba was truly eye opening. I was awakened to a new way of life; although Cuba lacks an interconnectedness in a technological sense, people there share a greater connectedness in everyday life. Neighbors not only know each others' names, but they know each others' professions, and their daily routines.
While Cuba has given me a greater appreciation of all that we have in America, it has also showed me different areas we can improve. For one, we need to gain a greater sense of community, of physical interconnectedness. It is my hope that this connectedness can be achieved in part by train travel. Train stops establish communities, and bring people to a shared space. This summer, I can't wait to experience these different communities throughout the country, with Summer by Rail.