Monday, March 21, 2016

Saturday, March 19th, 2016

Waking up and knowing it will be the last full day in Cuba can mean different things for everyone. Some excited to back home, others not wanting to go, and then there are those who are too exhausted to formulate opinions. As we made our way to Havana, I thought that I was feeling all of the above. 

Today we watched a performance of African Cuban culture. In small seats we sat, watching interpretations of the sun, earth and sea gods performed by a group of five dancers. Gabe was asked to dance with the sea god, (and did so graciously, of course) three drummers wearing traditional robes began to play. To me, it felt like this performance was not done out of love, grace, or expression, but as a sham to separate tourists from the money in their wallets. I am wondering how many times those drummers and dances have punted there feet against the street, sang there voices dry, and played their fingers numb, we then moved onto a barber shop cooperative. 

Cuba is a beautiful country with beautiful people. Here, in this street, we glimpsed Cuba’s other half. Something essential to see for those of us who want to understand all of Cuba’s multidimensional self. 

Chris helped us culminate the trip by helping us write our own leadership stories. We reflected on what type of leaders we were before coming to Cuba and thought about what we learned about leadership during the trip. Each person found something about themselves that they wanted to share with the group: a habit they want to change, a passion that was galvanized by this Cuba trip, an appreciation for the country we stood in. Our leadership stories framed our adventure in Cuba: we began and ended the trip thinking about what kind of leaders we all wanted to be. Now looking back at our time, we can see how our individual leadership styles contributed to our enjoyment of Cuba.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Pictures from Sunday, March 20

Pictures from Saturday, March 19th

Hello Parents:
I just heard from Gabriela, and our instructor Chris. The group was delayed by President Obama's arrival in Cuba (!) but have finally made it to Miami. They are getting dinner now and their flight is showing no delay at this point. We'll update this blog if that changes.
Thank you,
Ross Wehner, WLS

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Videos from Havana

New Blog Updates

Hi Parents:

Wifi in Cuba is extremely difficult to use, but our instructor just managed to send me an email with some blog updates, including some that were posted earlier via screenshot but are now typed out. Thanks,

Ross Wehner

Friday, March 18th

Yousif: Today was our first day in Cuba’s capital, Havana. I had a great breakfast of eggs with toast and freshly squeezed carrot and orange juice with my host family. We visited Museo de Bellas Artes and Museo de la Revolucion, both were equally interesting and completely different experiences. I particularly enjoyed Museo de la Revolution as it offered a captivating perspective on the revolution. For lunch we went to a restaurant called Sloppy Joe’s. I ordered a sloppy joe and it was really good. Others ordered Cubanos, a pressed sandwich with ham, mortadella, and melted cheese. We also visited an open air market which was a lot of fun. We got to interact with Havana locals and test our bartering skills. It was a great experience and one of the highlights of the trip. After that, we walked more in Havana and visited many plazas and a beautiful church. 

Magnus: Finally being in Havana was extremely exciting for me. When one thinks of Cuba one thinks of El Capitolio, the grand dome in the city center and plazas marked  with grand Spanish churches at the ends. This Spanish influence was particularly special and at some points the architecture was intimidating. 

Thursday 3/17 Travel Day to Havana
  • Departure
  • Share out on bus
  • Playa Giron
  • Snorkeling
  • Finca Vigia
  • Homestay
  • Dinner

  • Isaac:

  • We woke up before sunrise today. We had a great breakfast, for me it was an omelette and lots of fruit. Then, it was to the bus on our way to Havana. After some quick maintenance with the AC, we were on our way. Two nights ago, we did what WLS calls a Community Inquiry, where we spoke with our host families about gender roles and different aspects of Cuban life as sociologists or anthropologists would. 
  • Today, we shared what they said on our way to Playa Girón. Our first view of the water was a crystal clear light blue water and white sand. We rented snorkels and got into the water. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The water was clear and the fish were colorful. 
  • One of the coolest fish was a flounder that was changing color to blend in with the environment. Our group went out with our certified dive instructor and there was a flipped over, sunken boat at the bottom and I was to be able to touch it. 
  • We ate lunch at Villa Rosita where there were a range of options from lobster to pork to squid. Then we drove for a little while longer to Ernest Hemingway’s house called Finca Vigia. It was a beautiful estate with lots and lots of books on the outskirts of Havana. I then met my new homestay family, a lovely elderly woman named Tania and her son Oscar. To finish off the day, we had a lovely meal of rice, beans, and bread.

Day 6 Wednesday March 16

Menen: We were picked up from our home stay families at about 9 am because we were headed to Cinco de Septiembre which is a technical school. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the director and given some background on the school and the overall school system in Cuba. After completing the ninth grade, if you are not sure what you would like to do as a career, you can attend high school. However if you have a good grip on what you’re interested in, you can go to a school that focuses on that career. We were also introduced to a Haitian student named Joseph who came to Cuba without knowing a word of Spanish… to be continued….Thursday 3/17 (Travel Day to Havana)

We woke up before sunrise today. We had a great breakfast, for me it was an omelette  and lots of fruit. Then it was to the bus on our way to Havana. It didn’t start off great with the bus not starting originally. After some quick maintenance we were on our way. Two nights ago, we spoke with our host families about gender roles and different aspects of Cuban life. Today we shared what they said of our way to Playa Girón. Our first view of the water was a crystal clear light blue water and white sand. We rented snorkels and we got into the water. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. The water was clear and the fish were colorful. One of the coolest fish was a flounder that was changing color to blend with the environment. We went out to where the water was around 20-30ft deep. There was a flipped over, sunken boat at the bottom and one of my self imposed challenges was to be able to touch it. After a couple of tries and multiple pressurizations, I was able to do it. We ate lunch at Villa Rosita where there were a range of options from lobster to pork to squid. Then we drove for a little while longer to Ernest Hemingway’s house called Finca Vingia. It was a beautiful estate with lots and lots of books on the outskirts of Havana. I then met my new homestay family and lovely elderly woman named Tania and her son Oscar. To finish off the day we had a lovely meal of rice, beans, and bread.

Tuesday, March 15
We woke up early and headed to a middle school, grades 7-9. The name of the school was Luis Pere Lozano and like other schools around the area and in Cuba, the school was named after an important historic figure. Once we arrived, we got a warm welcome from the students and the teachers. One of the teachers spoke English well and was able to translate what most of the students said to us along with Rey. We went to a science lab with students in the 8th grade and got to look at the set up of the classrooms. To no surprise, the students felt too shy to ask questions, but as the day went along, both the students and our group were able to break the ice a bit. We then got to visit a chemistry class with students in the 8th grade, and students were shocked at our age. The students were pretty shy and only 2 or 3 of them asked questions. We went outside and got to play soccer, basketball or talk with the students. We then walked to the garden and saw what the students have planted throughout the years. The students plant lots of fruits and vegetables to be sold for the school. The students then have snack.The students had a performance ready for us. We then sang and danced and managed to get everyone up on the dance floor, especially Bobby who yet again led the pack. It was a lot of fun working with middle school kids and they opened up a lot more once we were dancing. 

After we left the the school, we headed to a roof top restaurant on top of a beautiful hotel in Cienfuegos. From the roof we could see a unique panoramic view of the bay of Cienfuegos and the ocean, and also in the distance we saw old Soviet-era power plant. The weather was warm and beautiful but not too hot because we had a breeze on the roof. For lunch we had pizza and pasta with ham or just cheese. After lunch, we went back to our homestay families briefly to change into or grab our bathing suits before heading back to the hotel to go to the pool. The pool was really cool and relaxing and we just hung out in the water and around the pool for a couple of hours. At the pool,we also did ANCHOR and had some really good lemonade. After the pool, we went back to our homestay families played BS and UNO before eating a fantastic dinner with our homestay family and than doing community inquiry. Community Inquiry is a WLS activity where each homestay group has an in-depth conversation with a member of our homestay families abut topics like health care and life expectancy. After community inquiry, three of the homestay groups met at Manolo's house for card games and group bonding before heading back to our houses and going to bed! Thanks for reading!

Student Arrival Tomorrow

Hello Parents:
Quick note to say we are carefully monitoring the weather in Boston for the students' arrival tomorrow. We'll be updating the blog should there by any chance to the students' arrival time. I've been in touch with the group this morning and they're having a great time. If you have any questions, please call us on (303) 619-1835.
Ross Wehner, World Leadership School

Friday, March 18, 2016

Pictures from Havana

Pictures, videos, and blogs!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Saturday, March 12

This was our first official day in Cuba. We woke up at around 7:00, tired but still excited to start the day. For breakfast there was a quick meal of ham and cheese sandwiches, guava juice, and fish sticks. The bus came to pick us up at around 8:30. We were headed to el Nicho, a National Park outside the city of Cienfuegos. We enjoyed an hour and a half drive through the countryside. Something about the rolling hills and sparse vegetation with a mountain range in the background, made it feel like we were in the middle of a savannah. Big cows, chickens, and goats roamed and grazed through the pastures. I was surprised by the lack of fowl, especially ducks near the little streams and bushes. We arrived at around 10:30 at a little arch in front of the park. Javier, our guide took us through the forest. We came upon the first pool of water within the first five minutes. The water was as a clear and blue as a summer sky. Still Javier lead us past and told us we still needed to continue forward. We were all disappointed but we trusted that we would soon get to dive into the cool water. We passed by a couple more including an enormous waterfall. When we reached the top of the mountain we were welcomed by a stunning view of the canyon below. We then shuffled back down towards the entrance. I was still confused when we kept walking towards the bus. Fortunately, Javier led us past the highway and down a little hill. At the bottom, was a little pool, still and calm  and untouched. I marveled at the refreshing water flowing around my body. We dove beneath the waves and sat underneath the waterfalls. The experience was both calming and energizing, preparing us for the long week ahead. We swam and sat on the hot clay before heading back up for lunch. WE enjoyed a meal of fresh chicken and pork along with rice and beans. We also enjoyed our first sample of Guantanamera. There were many more to come. -Aidan

After El Nicho, we took a ~45 minute bus ride back towards home before stopping by El Teatro del Elementos to learn a little about Cuban theater. It is a traveling theater company that is this year celebrating its 25 year anniversary. The majority of their plays are self-written and discuss the lives of Cubans in rural areas. The head of the theater company told us the group’s story and then showed us their own outdoor amphitheater on their property. We then watched some of the actors and actresses perform some short interpretive pieces with some accompaniment by the tres, a guitar with three pairs of strings (hence the name tres), and later some of us (Jesse, Lily and I) did our own performances about what it was like to be in Cuba. Their performances were intense and a little weird to us at first, but their interpretations of non-concrete emotions and feelings were very entertaining. Overall it was a very cool look into what performing arts are like in Cuba (hopefully someone else mentions the Tomas Terry theater). After our time at the theater ended, we headed back home and did a WLS session about defining our personality styles and our defining characteristics. For dinner our host mother, Heazel, cooked us some very good sea bream (I think) and then flan for dessert. After some card playing our host parents took us (Jesse, Bobby, David, and I) out for a walk in the town. It was Saturday night, so a ton of people were out, giving us a good feel of what the city was like. We walked all the way down the main avenue towards La Punta. Along the way we had some good conversation (all in Spanish!) with Juan, our host father, and Heazel about the history the city, the architecture styles, his life growing up, private vs. public businesses, US politics and more. We took the city bus back towards the center of town and just played some cards until we headed to bed. -Gabe

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Pictures from the School Visits!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Monday, March 14th

`After we got lunch we traveled to the José Marti Plaza. In the center of the plaza there is a statue of this extremely famous political poet. If you turn 90 degrees left you will see a large two story building that is the museum of Cienfuegos. Directly to the left of the museum, is the town hall. The town hall looks exactly like you’d expect. Grey building with a red dome top and the Cienfuegos and Cuban flags hanging out front of the town hall. If you turn 180 degrees, then you will see the Teatro Tomas Terry. Tomas Terry was a person who left money in his will for a theater to be built. 90 degrees to the right, you will see a cathedral that was built when the Spanish were in Cuba. If you follow the Boulevard, you will encounter a small market that sells small trinkets. We did some souvenir shopping, and around 3:00 we stopped in a gazebo to reflect on the day. I wrote most of this paragraph in that time :) After our break we had another 30 minutes to shop, and a group of 4 got split up so we had to find them. After that we went to the WLS Learning Session. During the night, a few people walked down to the marina, and talked about a variety of things. I slept soundly and I was ready for the new day.
WLS Learning Session: Millenium and Sustainable Development Goals
Today we went to the Julio Antonio Mella high school. There we saw demonstrations by the students of traditional singing, dancing, and a tai-chi routine. After these, we played soccer with the students and visited an english class. To close our experience with the Cuban students, we saw more examples of traditional performances and then we shared some American dance moves and sang some songs together. Throughout all of this, we were talking with the Cuban students, learning about their lives, answering questions, and just talking in general. It was definitely a very powerful, meaningful and unique experience that we had today. That we had the ability to meet, talk with and hear about life from these students who live in a country that ours has been at odds with for almost sixty years is truly incredible. Today’s WLS Learning Session centered around the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We each picked which goal was most meaningful to us, grouped together based on that, and then came together as a whole to share why those were important to us.

Sunday, March 13

In the morning, we rode on our bus through the city of Cienfuegos and observed many historical sites, such as one of Fidel Castro's seasonal residences and a former Cuban yacht club. From there we had originally planned to visit a market for cultural immersion, but instead, we were presented with the opportunity to watch an amateur baseball game in the Cienfuegos stadium, which was something we wanted to do all along. From the game, we were able to end up visiting a market stand where we were able to buy yucca, a pineapple. limes and beans for our host family. Many of these ingredients were used in the creation of our wonderful dinner of fried fish, grilled fish, two different types of rice, chickpea soup, and pineapple juice. After the market we rode in pairs of two in bicycle taxis to get to lunch where we enjoyed chicken, rice, beans, and mango marimba. We then proceeded to one of the host families houses for a WLS learning session. Together we explored our personal leadership styles and hoe they differ from our previous dispositions and notions. We also acted our skits about our personality styles with some of the native Cubans at the homestay. I felt this was an extremely valuable experience that really helped me to learn more about myself, my leadership style, and an important other culture I had little previous knowledge about.

After we experienced the baseball game and all of the other activities that Charlie described, we went back to our homestays for a nice homemade dinner. Gabe, Jesse, David, and I had a perfect combination of shrimp, rice and soup. Then, as a unit, we hit the streets and walked to a small “party” where music was playing, and people were dancing. We all sat together, drank virgin pina coladas, and looked at the beautiful view of the ocean as Charlie and I lead tonight's ANCHOR reflection, which allowed people to open up and express themselves. Tonight, I feel like we bonded as a unit, and I strongly believe that the bond we created tonight will only strengthen as we continue our journey through a new, exciting, and overall beautiful world.

Friday, March 11th

Sunday, March 13, 2016

More pictures from Cuba....

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A view from Cuba....