Internet in Cuba

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Internet, yes it does exist in Cuba! It may not be as fast as you are used to, but patience is key! All the internet spots are usually located in parks so you can always turn over, and have a chat with your neighbor while your page loads up.

I had my doubts starting a blog in Cuba, but in truth it actually went quiet well and i am glad that it all worked out for the best.

When accessing WIFI you have two choices:

1.Many hotels have internet connection. The Habana Libre hotel does too. However this is a very pricy option as one hour of browsing costs 5 CUC ( at the Habana Libre), and is not necessarily faster then the internet that you can access in the park.

2. ETECSA internet cards. These are recharge cards that you can buy for 2 CUC per hour. You can either buy a 1 hour card  or a 5 hour card. Once you have a card you can use Internet in the various hotspot parks that are spread out across Cuba.  Cards are available at official ETECSA outlets ( make sure to go with your passport when buying a card), or you can buy it around hotspot parks from people who are selling cards for 3 CUC per hour. Usually you will need to ask someone, if he knows who is selling the cards at the park. Or the seller may just approach you when you are at the hotspot.

Some students during the summer school were actually happy about the lack of internet. To them this was more of a internet detox.

Internet in Cuba is seen more of a meditation( as you can see a woman meditating on the recharge card), in the western world disconnecting is seen as meditating and connecting with the inner and outer realness and beauty that is all around us.

However, the Internet card image of a woman meditating and connecting to the world could also just mean that you need to practice gratitude and patience with the speed of the internet, and to keep the mantra inner peace while clicking that reload button over and over again.

http://deutsch.havanamyway.com/wifi-hotspots-karte-havanna/– here they have a map with all the ETECSA hotspots in Havana.

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Where to Stay in Havana.

Staying in Cuba can be as cheap as you make it, or as expensive. Usually,  the best choice for summer school participants is a casa particulares ( private homes). A casa particulares is the cuban equivalent of a bed and breakfast. It was established in 1997 when the Cuban government allowed Cubans to rent out their rooms to tourists and visitors, as an extra source of income.

Casas (as they are often shortened) are usually equipped with a en suite bathroom, air conditioning, fan, clean towels, fresh bed sheets and the rooms get cleaned almost everyday.  Some Casas usually run like mini hotels, and are equipped with more services and luxuries for their guests such as swimming pools, meals three times a day cooked by chefs or your own kitchen. Whatever  you prefer you can find,  just watch out for the official sign which is a  blue arrow facing up (or two blue triangles) and down on a white background -which means that the household pays a tax and possess a license.

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official casa sign

Havana is divided into 6 neighbourhoods; Centro Havana, El Barrio Chino,Miramar &Sibonay, Malecon, Havana Vieja, and Vedado. During the Summer school, it is best to stay in Vedado as it is the students neighborhood, and it is in this area that the university is located at. Also, the Habana Libre hotel which is the main host of the summer school is located in Vedado, so living close to it is advised. Spending money on a taxi everyday in Havana can be costly over time and is also not very time efficient.

The casa costs can range from 25-60 CUC ( breakfast usually costs 5 CUC extra) per night. Rooms can be shared, and therefore the costs for a room can be split up. It is best to find some people that you want to live with beforehand, and then book with them. You can either book an accommodation before you leave for Cuba or you can book an accommodation upon arrival ( take note that this could be more stressful). If you are booking beforehand, make sure that you book 2 weeks to 1 week before arriving (or  as early as possible). This is advised because of Internet access problems of the hosts.

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You can book casas via Airbnb or the links that i have listed below.

http://www.casaparticular.com/ – This is a directory of all Casas in Cuba. ( good for when travelling as well)

https://www.airbnb.de/rooms/5880038– This where i stayed, Aymee has been hosting ISSEM participants for years now. She is a very sweet host, her casa is well equipped and it has a beautiful rooftop terrace as well. It is located right opposite the university building, it takes around 15 minutes to reach havana vieja ( via local taxi aka machina) and 3 minutes to the hotel habana libre.

http://www.havanacasaparticular.com/– Directory only for casas in Havana.

 

 

Morning tunes in Havana 

In the morning the cars zoom through the streets, and cough up a dark cloud of smoke into the air. Like a heavy smoker with a good morning cough, life goes on and the colorful aged cars continue to wheeze in the streets, collecting school children in uniform, with slick gel backed hair.

In a park under the tree a group of people join in on a communal activity, more like a meditation to open their minds to a world beyond Cuba that is projected through a third external eye. 

The old strech themselves and greet the day with some Tai Chi, balancing out the Ying and Yang of the city. 

Amongst these daily scenes university students with name tags walk around their neck. We have casa’s here and families that take care of us. It may not be a family in the traditional sense as we pay them, but nonetheless we are living together. It is a little like a WG I suppose.

We have classes that we attend, and we have a routine now. I think that it is not such a bad thing that we had classses in the economic faculty,  as it gave us an insight into what daily lectures look like for Cuban students. Yes, it was very warm, however it was not only hot for some of us but for all of us. 

In 2 weeks one half will leave, and the other half will stay and go on with their daily life here in Cuba. However, i think that maybe we should not segregate ourselves during the course of the summer school, because we have so much in common, for one we are all summer school participants. Secondly, we all attend classes together. 

Therefore, maybe we should look beyond stereotypes that make us different and instead start to learn from our similarities. Think about what you want to to take personally with you once you are back home? What do you want to remember? The rusted taxis that practised price discrimination? The mistrust that everybody is after your money? That everybody wants to sleep with you? That everybody flirted with you? 

Or you can choose to to focus on the things that reminded you that there are places and people that have fears, dreams and rich histories just like you. That try to find a sense of fulfilment just like you? How they go about finding it could be different but it could also be inspiring.

The choice is up to you on what you choose to focus on.

Cold Feet

Bags are all packed, finally. and it all fit in!

I have had nightmares about packing for the last few days. I am just glad that it is over now!

So tomorrow at 12 i leave for Cuba, i am excited. A few days back i had cold feet about the whole thing. I mean yes at first you get the acceptance letter then you book your flight and get even more excited. However, the closer the date comes the more it starts to sink in. I am going to Cuba. I am going to Cuba. I-AM-GOING-TO-CUBA!!! suddenly i am no longer excited but scared, what if this happens? what if that happens etc etc. I went out to a cafe yesterday and sat myself down to have a small moment of peace. A woman was sitting beside me and was really digging into her sandwich. She had her laptop wide open and did not take her eyes off her screen.She was just reaching for a tomato on her sandwich, when i started talking to her. I dont know, there was something sympathetic about her, maybe the way she ate her sandwich, reminded me of myself.

I told her that i was starting to have cold feet,  going to Cuba and that i didnt really speak spanish…etc etc. She then went on to tell me that she moved to Berlin 2 weeks ago from Italy and that she does not speak a word of german. She told me that she was excited at first too, and that as the days dawned closer she was starting to get cold feet as well. She even recalled another similar incidence. So, what i am trying to say is that it is totally normal. Its ok to get cold feet, and there is no point in trying to act cool about it ( no pun intended).

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However, we are all going to Cuba as a group, and the ISSEM team is  also always there to support you. So there is nothing to be worried about. This will be a great experience! Dont stress about it all, even if you do not get to see everything on this trip. Be happy, because that means that you will have a reason to return sometime in the future to Cuba, and see the bits that you didnt see this time. 

So, see you all soon and till then have a safe trip and enjoy this experience and adventure!

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