Ready to Go? Vamos

I leave for Cuba in nine days.

downtown-havana-cuba-with-vintage-cars.jpg

My salsa team, Spartan Mambo from SJSU, has already made my college experience more fun than I could have imagined. And now, we’re going to Cuba for winter break.

In the dancing world, Cuba is known for their popular social dancing called Casino. In the States, Casino is called Cuban-style salsa or Salsa Cubana in order to distinguish it from other salsa styles that became popular in the 1970s. Casino has a large Afro-Caribbean influence. Social dancing is the essence of Cuban culture!

We are so grateful for this opportunity to learn from Cubanos themselves. Since the Cold War in 1961, Cuba and the United States relations had been severed through the Cuban embargo; restricting commercial, economic, and financial trade. After January 2015, restrictions for Americans travelling to Cuba have relaxed, however, actual “tourism” isn’t allowed.

So the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control gives travelers 12 categories for reasons to travel to Cuba:

1. Family visits

2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations

3. Journalistic activity

4. Professional research and professional meetings

5. Educational activities

6. Religious activities

7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions

8. Support for the Cuban people

9. Humanitarian projects

10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes

11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials

12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Under the twelve options given, my team is visiting for “Educational Activities.” And as far as I know, there is no investigation about this–either way, I’m ecstatic to learn Casino from them! (Personally, my Journalistic Activity might be equal to time spent on Educational Activities. Stay tuned, folks.)

Our coaches, Takeshi Young and Natasha Morales, have planned for us to take salsa workshops for a few hours in the morning and afternoon. And for those Havana nights…well, I’m sure dancing will be involved. (Dirty Dancing 2, anyone? I haven’t see it, but plan to within the next week. Something about an American girl in Cuba falling in love with Casino and her Cuban dancing partner, of course.)

Eight of us will be travelling together. Most of us are taking different flights, since everyone booked at separate times. I’ll be there for a full two weeks: December 26th, 2016 to January 8th, 2017. Bring on the new year!

As far as planning:

Hotel/stay: We’ve had some trouble booking bed and breakfasts in Havana…www.havanacasaparticular.com would let us book, but then email us responding that there are no available rooms. Ah! One casa that I booked was confirmed, but I wanted to double check and when I emailed them, they then said because of internet issues, they couldn’t tell me that room is no longer available. I’m not sure what to make of this. Kinda sketchy, right?

A couple of our teammates have friends in Cuba so maybe they will be able to help. One of their friends contacted Havana Casa Particular and they confirmed they have no vacancies. Apparently other Americans are thinking the same thing as our team with the new Cuba travel regulations!

“Technology Timewarp” : Since the embargo, or el bloqueo “the blockade”, was placed in the the 50’s technology is in a bit of a “timewarp” as many travelers call it. Smartphones? Yeah, they won’t work there. Wifi is not easy to come by it sounds like, so internet cafes will be our friend, amongst the Cubans on the street. Cuban people are known to be “some of the most friendly and honest people on the planet.” Some cellphone carriers offer typical out-of-country charges for text and calls. T-mobile has been good to me out of the U.S., so I’ll call them tomorrow and figure out the communication situation.

Well, it’s Friday night so I’m checking out of blogging and will share more tomorrow. See you then.

For more info on travelling to Cuba, check out Matthew Kartsen’s post.

Cheers!

-Chantel

 

 

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