Museum Cueva el Paraiso
Living in Chicago and hearing that we were going to a museum, I expected to wake up and head to a fancy marble building full of cold air and facts printed on cards. But the museum we went to was the complete opposite (which I guess should be expected now in Cuba.) The museum at the Cueva el Paraiso, or Paradise Cave, was literally inside of the cave. It was a beautiful place, but it included a seriously steep incline, making it an aerobic activity just to reach the entrance.
The museum included a few cases and artifacts set into the walls of the cave. The best part was being able to climb up to the next cave system and take in the amazing views of the city.
That day in Baracoa was probably one of the most memorable of the trip for me. After our day trip, we got one of the most amazing lunches I’ve had in my life. Our first course consisted of the enormous Cuban salads that they make, which had things like green beans, beets, cucumbers, carrots, and Cuban spinach with lime and vinegar. The plates of rice and beans and fresh bread kept coming and we all washed it down with lemonade. Then our plates came, and our minds were blown; some people got coconut shrimp, there were halves of chickens, crabs, swordfish, and my favorite, coconut lobster—and it was all caught and cooked that day.
I was expecting to stay in the hotel room and relax and write, but Dr. Calabrese invited me out with the rest of the group to see some traditional Afro-Cuban dancing. We got to the place and I sat down, thinking I’d get to enjoy a nice show. Everyone in Cuba, however, loves making me dance, so I got pulled into the show twice, along with Erin Novak and Alyse Stolz. The dancer performing Haitian Vudu would do a move, and we would have to copy it. It was easy enough until he sat down and started bouncing around on his butt…which of course was my job to copy.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget today; I feel so lucky to have been able to experience it and this trip in general. It is something that has forever changed my perspective on the way I’ll live my life and what I take for granted. I feel like I’m more willing to see the world now for what it is, and hopefully in the future I’ll get to visit even more places in the world. This trip has been an exercise in breaking misconceptions and expectations. Like I’ve said, I’ve woken up every day with expectations of what would happen, what I would get to see, who I would get to meet. But they are shattered every time, and it’s a refreshing experience constantly to be breaking boundaries within myself and within our group.
May 27, 2011