Monday, July 18, 2016

Blog 8: 14 de julio, 2016

After breakfast prepared by our homestay families, also known as casas particulares, we bused over to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. There, we received a guided tour of the section of the museum containing Cuban paintings that paralleled Cuba’s twentienth century history. The art employed striking textures and colors to explore themes leading up to and including the revolutionary period. After viewing these inspiring works, we boarded our bus and drove down Monserrate, passing El Floridita—one of Hemingway’s old stomping grounds—and Edifico Bacardi—a beautiful art deco building that housed the former headquarters of the rum magnates—before leaving the center of the city to reach Guanabacoa, a center of Afro-Cuban culture dating to the sixteeenth century. Our visit to the Museo Historica de Guanabacoa introduced us to the history and practice of Santeria, a religion based on beliefs and gods brought to Cuba from various regions of West Africa during the slave trade and intertwined with Catholic saints. Talented musicians accompanied dancers dressed as the syncretic deities of the Santerian religion. Their energy and complete dedicatation motivated teachers in our group to join in. We headed back to central Havana for lunch at Cafeteria El-Tren, a small café owned by Jennifer’s good friend Raymer. It was fun to be his very first customers, and to watch the new staff taking orders, baking pizza, and churning out pasta dishes in a very warm and crowded space. After lunch, Raymer spoke to us about his education here in Cuba—he has a degree in electrical engineering—and the difficulties of finding work in Cuba that can meet one’s financial needs. In additon, he touched upon the challenges of entrepreneurship in Cuba and the need to integrate informal and state economies to procure the necessary supplies for a small business, a relationship understood by the state out of necessity.  After this busy lunch, our free time at Parque Central was a refreshing change of pace. Some of us ambled about the park, listening to the music or joining locals on a shady park bench, while others explored nearby streets or went shopping. The next point of interest was Callejon de Hamel, an narrow pedestrian alley featurting the works of street muralist Salvador, whose themes emphasized Cuba’s African roots.  A short break before dinner allowed us to shop or walk through Havana’s fabled Malecon, or harbor front. Along the way, one could see young people flocked around internet hotspots. We finished our day at Atelier, an elegant resaurant whose architecture echoed Cuba’s Spanish heritage, meeting for group time on the terrace after a sumptuous meal. As if the day were not busy enough, some of us even ventured out to Fabrica de Arte Cubano (, located four blocks from our casas in Nuevo Vedado, to experience one of the city’s most unique and popular nightspots. Set in an old factory building, the space was filled with modern visual art and featured an open performance space featuring live Cubano-jazz music, which served to arouse all of one’s senses and offered a unique look into the creativity and passion of the Cuban people.

Richard and Lauren

Friday, July 15, 2016

Blog 7: 13 de julio, 2016

We made a quick stop at the Plaza de la Revolución to see large-scale portraits of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos in the heart of the city. We were able to spend our first full day in Havana. We set off to explore the historic district where  Rei led us through book sellers and 18th century arcades in the Plaza de las Armas, so we could get a taste of the art, history and culture that permeate this part of the city. From there, we took a walking tour through old town plazas to see the cathedral, the customs house. and other historic monuments. 

After lunch at a swanky restaurant decorated with vibrant sheep paintings, we set out for a visit to the University of Havana. We learned about the history of student activism dating from the independence movement and its close ties to the Cuban Revolution. 

Then, we walked to the house of Caridad Regina, a wise and insightful Cuban educator and award-winning artist, who shared her life story both as a student and teacher before, during, and after the Cuban Revolution. She began as an art student, but due to restrictions of the the time, she spent most of her teaching career in the social sciences, and thanks to hard work and dedication, was able to enjoy a rewarding career. Later in life, due to illness, she rekindled her love of art and has been able to show her work in numerous exhibitions. We were fortunate enough to purchase some of her pieces and very much appreciated our time with her.

We finished the day with a pleasant dinner, lively conversation, and a sudden Carribean downpour. On the bus, Berenice, a former student of Jennifer’s, told us about her experiences studying abroad in Cuba. She has been researching dissident art and underground hip-hop which analyzes and critiques the political climate in Cuba and its relationship with the United States. 


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Blog 6: 12 de julio, 2016

Tuesday began with an emotional goodbye to our host families in Cienfuegos. Last evenings meal in both of our houses was AMAZING!!!! Both homes made a traditional Cuban New Years Eve dinner. We received quite a send off.

This morning we were picked up early, (at 8am ) and we were off to begin our bus ride to Havana! One hour into the trip we stopped at Punta Perdiz to swim and go snorkeling! The water was the most beautiful turquoise and you could see multitudes of different tropical fish, coral and other beautiful sea life.

After snorkeling we had a delecious meal on the terrace of Hostel Enrique. The wonderful food was complimented by the beautiful and refreshing breeze. After our meal we continued our journey to Havana with a brief stop to buy souviners.

The time spent on the bus went quickly because we had very good discussions relelated to the essential question of the day and also about the projects that the trip to Cuba has inspired us to create. Also the ever changing view from our windows were breathtaking.

At around 5:30pm we entered Havana! When we passed through the tunnel and took our fist look the city, everyone on the bus gasped together at Havana’s beauty.
It was at that time that Suzanne was welcomed into our group.
About one hour later we all had dinner at a resturant called Cimarron, where we ate, enjoyed each other’s company and listened to fantastic music. 

We are all looking forward to continuing our Havana adventures tomorrow!

Silvia and Anita

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Blog 5: 11 de julio, 2016

Monday was filled with two major activities. First, we enjoyed a long boat ride with Emilio and his crew across the Bahia Cienfuegos to Cayo Carena, an island with two year long residences and a number of other summer homes. On the trip, Jennifer helped the group to understand the importance of personal flotation devices, and the ease with which they can be put on. Once we docked, we walked across the island in search of a beach for swimming. During that hike, we came across two gems- a beautiful iglesia Catolico and two of the island’s residents- a husband and wife who have lived on the island for 78 years. Needless to say, they welcomed us with open arms to their island home as we have come to know is the Cuban custom.   Once we arrived at the beach, we had the opportunity to swim and enjoy each other’s company. The conversation was warm as was the weather. 

After our visit to Cayo Carena, we reboarded our boats and went to visit the Castillo de Jagua which was built in 1745. The castillo was built to protect the bay from invaders and to police the waters for smuggling by pirates. By the early 19th century a group of 137 French settler arrived at the location of the castillo and settled-  forming a fishing village which still remains today. 

After exploring all of the amazing features of the castillo, including a cannon tower, dungeon, soldiers quarters and chapel, we made our way in the heat of the day to the “El Pescado”- a quaint seafood restaurant next to the castle. During lunch we sat in groups by our academic disciplines and discussed our experiences with Project Based learning- Everyone was very engaged in the conversation and it was refreshing to converse about a wide range of PBL strategies which will benefit all of our work as educators. The food was delicious and we all thoroughly appreciated the shade and the soft breeze of the water. 

The trip back across the bahia  went smooothly and we arrived back on land ready to debrief our day and excited about our trip to the Bay of Pigs and Havana tomorrow. 

Jing Liu and Peter Brooks
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Monday, July 11, 2016

Blog 4: 10 de julio, 2016

Today we enjoyed a day with each of our host families, which gave us insight into a typical family day in Cuba.  The slower pace of the day was welcomed as everyone got the chance to rest and reflect. In my case, I (Jessica) spent the morning at home with my roommates and our host family learning how to play dominoes after a leisurely breakfast. [Insert domino picture] . My (Sarah) family time began last night with a special Cuban dinner prepared by my host family that included many local dishes, highlighted by the simmered pork chops, and finishing with a flan and espresso for dessert. [Insert photos of pork and flan]. Today we rode in a 1947 Chevrolet taxi [Insert photo of taxi] to a special beach that the family enjoys every weekend where we dipped into the water after watching a spectacular dolphin show [Insert dolphin show photo]. I feel fortunate to count my family as new friends in this intriguing country. 

We all came together at mid-day to travel together to another local restaurant D’Carmelina where we enjoyed a delicious lunch. A band called Trio Ilusion played music just for us, and the lunch gathering turned into a dance party. After lunch, we held our first formal learning session dedicated to developing strategies for project-based learning. It was a rich discussion which will be continued through discipline-based conversation tomorrow.

On another note, our group got to experience the excellent medical care that Cuba offers to all of its citizens and visitors, as gastrointestinal illness befell two of our members. The local health clinic provided quick and comprehensive care as needed, and doctors even made house calls this morning to the patients. Thankfully, those affected are recovering well.

Sarah Buchanan and Jessica Cuni

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Blog 3: 9 de julio, 2016

We began the day by discussing what skills our students need to have in a “VUCA world” (Volatile Uncertain Complex and Ambiguous world). We proceeded to work in small groups to examine and discuss a variety of  frameworks designed to map global competencies as they relate to global education. We talked about the elements that were most appealing and how we could implement them in our classrooms and schools.

Next, we ventured into the heart of the city to visit the local fruit and vegetable market. We saw a variety of products including yucca, pineapple, mamé, coconut, papaya, and many more.  A few of us sampled fresh coconut water straight from the fruit. 


 Inside of the market, there was an interesting mural featuring the words of José Martí which are found in many places around the city. 

We enjoyed a wonderful lunch at El Prado, where we were also able to celebrate Sue Borland’s birthday.  Earlier in the day, we were able to have everyone sign a card and presented her with a small gift. We sang Happy Birthday for the fourth time and she was also given a delicious flan for dessert. 

After some free time, we gathered again at Casa Maikel to hear from his parents, Rogelio y Xiomara, who are professors at the University of Cienfuegos.  They gave us an overview of the Cuban educational system from kindergarten through the university, with a particular emphasis on the post-secondary education. They were delighted as we were to participate in an intercultural exchange of ideas about educational practices. While they have previously spoken to groups of educators from other countries, this was their first encounter with educators from the United States and Canada on Cuban soil. 

Meghan Edwards y Shara Khon Duncan

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Pictures from Cuba

Hello Everyone:
Spotty internet from Cuba is not allowing the group to send more than word docs to me for the blog, though I have received a few pictures via Facebook messenger from our instructor Susan Lambert. I'm sure the group will post more pictures once better internet is available. I just spoke with Jennifer Klein, our other instructor, and the group is having a great time today in Cienfuegos.
Ross Wehner, World Leadership School

Friday, July 8, 2016

Blog 2: 8 de julio, 2016 (Perspectives)

On a trip designed to challenge, inform and expand perspectives, we had a change of location out of Cienfuegos and into the country side.  The change from city to rural landscape helped continue to bring to the group new perspectives on Cuba and her people.  En route, our guide Reidel offered his insight into the history of the surrounding area and the daily lives of Cubans.  Rationing is a way of life in Cuba and Reidel shared his ration book with the group and explained the way this program seeks to ensure food for all of Cuba’s citizens.

The morning’s destination was a national park, El Nicho, in the southern mountains of Cuba for a trip to a local waterfall and some swimming.  After our arrival, our trek through the forest was led by a guide who explained some of the flora to us.  

We traversed the river over a couple of plank bridges and encountered several waterfalls.  The largest was not for swimming, but spectacular for its beauty. 

Our hike ended at a smaller waterfall that allowed the group to swim, relax, and explore.  The water was very cold and refreshing and it was wonderful to see other travelers sharing the experience.  After a relaxing walk back, we enjoyed a lunch that included a musical performance of classic Cuban songs.

The afternoon was spent with Teatro de Elementos, an artistic community that consists of singers, actors, artists and welcomes anyone from the outside world to share in the artistic process and to connect with nature. After a tour of the property and several moving performances, the group had time to talk with the General Director and resident artists over tea made from local leaves.  The visit concluded with a ‘play back’ performance with consisted of the artists interpreting some of our experiences in Cuba thus far.  One of the highlights was Indigo playing percussion with the band, and Kristina and Shara Kahn dancing with the performers.

Both of these experiences added to our understanding of the beauty of Cuba.  The natural beauty of the hills, agricultural activity, the forest and the falls showed a different side of Cuba from our bayside experience in Cienfuegos. Horse drawn carriages, ‘living’ fences, field of sugar cane and mango trees painted a different side of Cuba than what we have seen thus far.  Gone were the broad concrete plaza and boulevards of the city, replaced with the lush green of a fertile land that is often still farmed in traditional ways.

The experience at Teatro de Elementos furthered our sense of the passion that Cuban people bring to their art and culture.  The music, a blend of traditional songs and individual interpretation allows a unique style of music; an intersection of the past and the present.  In the play back session, our impressions of Cuba were reinterpreted through the eyes of the troupe, a unique blend of the Cuban and American lenses on this place.  These ideas and emotions transcended language as many were moved to tears.

Tom White and Kristy Johnson

Blog 1: 6 y 7 de julio, 2016 - Cienfuegos

Excited and tired, we arrived to Cienfuegos, known as “La Perla del Sur”, from Miami and met World Leadership School instructor Jennifer Klein and our local guide Reidel.  After searching for and finally finding bottled water which is not always available in stores, Juan Carlos, our bus driver, drove us through Cienfuegos and we met our homestay families.  After settling in many of us walked around the neighborhood and along the Malecón (the sea wall). Typical of every evening, we gathered together at 5:30 for group discussion.  Following the gathering we returned to our homestays for dinner provided by the families.  We ventured out later in the evening to an open air concert after hearing that Marc Anthony might make an appearance.  As is the Latin American custom, the music started well after 11:30 p.m., and unfortunately Marc was not there and the beer, what could be found, was warm.

The next morning we met again at 9:00 for a tour of the city of Cienfuegos.  First on the list was the area known as Punta Gorda with palacial homes and hotels on the water.  Famous for its architecture   Next we went downtown and near the plaza we visited the Taller Gráfico where we learned about lithography and how the workshop connects with the community. We were able to purchase art made there and interact with the artists and some local neighbors. 
is the Palacio de Valle.

On the way to lunch we came across one of the many classic cars and its proud owner. At lunch we surprised Reidel on his birthday with a resounding version of the “Happy Birthday” song.  It was a small gesture to show him how much we appreciate his being with us, helping us to understand life in Cuba, and of course carefully planning the logistics of our journey. 

  After lunch we had time to explore the area.  Some went to have coffee, some walked the open air market on the way to a port, some explored the Plaza Martí and some visited the Palacio Ferrer from the ground floor to the top of the tower. This historic building is being restored and will become a cultural center in the future.

The evening meeting included a small group activity to “solve” the problems of the world as defined by the United Nations.  Using the problem cards provided, each group discussed and came up with a resolution and visual representation.  [solving problems 1] [solving problems. All went home for dinner and a few brave souls finished a busy day by going to hear a local band playing salsa. 

Sue Borland and Joyce Lang

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Group is in Cienfuegos

Hello family and friends! 

The group of educators have arrived in Cienfuegos, Cuba! We are so excited about this program! The group will start updating the blog as soon as internet is available. Please don't hesitate to call 303-679-3412 with any questions. 

Erin Hawk 
Director of Operations

Lincoln School Faculty are heading to Cuba

Peter Brooks, Anita Thompson and Silvia Campbell from the Lincoln School are at the Miami airport and will be heading to Cuba this afternoon!!