Internet in Cuba

20161004_133920

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.

Advertisements

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.

casa-final
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.

best-havana-and-vedado-map-1

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.

 

 

Day 15- THE END

The exams are HERE!!!!!

At 9 am today students took their ISSEM course exams. It was a gloomy morning as students walked in to take their exams. After the exams most students found the exams fair, especially the students of development economics were pleased.

Today, was also the day of German Unification and there was a small ceremony at the German embassy. 

Some students took their exams, and then travelled on to other states in Cuba. Such as Viñales, Trinidad and Maria la Gorda. This is the End of the summer school, and now there is still some time for exploring Cuba -for those that didn’t travel at the beginning of the summer school.
Many students however will fly back to Berlin tomorrow. Some professors and students already left today.

Travel fever

In the evening there was one final ISSEM office dinner. Then the crew and the few students that remained in Havana met at the Malecon to celebrate into the Birthday of the head of the WIWEX GmbH Jan Hansen!

Happy Birthday Jan!

Day 13 & 14

This may be the last weekend for many of us in Havana. After the great closing party, some of us went to the beach and enjoyed the sands and waves one more time.

There have been Hurricane warnings. As the ferocious stage 4 Hurricane Matthew is rocking the Carribeans. However, the Hurricane will not hit Havana. It will pass through East Cuba on Sunday till around Tuesday. People in Santiago and prisoners in Guantanmo have already been evacuated according to news reports. Due to the Hurricane, it has been raining at night and its been a bit more cloudy and cooler in the city, and some lightening, has been blitzing through the sky.
Check out (for information): http://www.cubahurricanes.org/

On Saturday night the ISSEM also hosted the official closing ceremony for the alumni’s at the Gran Teatro. It was a nice event with live music and a three course meal. The alumni danced and sang along to the music and recalled the last two weeks. Kisses and hugs were passed and everybody was happy and hoped to see us all again next year. Emails were exchanged and friendships had been formed.

On Sunday most students were busy studying in the lobby of the Havana Libre. The reality of exams that are a day away was sinking in.

giphy

Good Luck to all of you on your exams!

SHORT STORY COMPETITION 

Theme: one “neverending” night or day in Cuba
Set up: you can be as creative as you want to be. Your story just has to be based in Cuba. You can submit poetry, flash fiction, prose etc

Rules: Wordcount min 500- 1500 words. Everything else style and voice is all up to you! You can even submit stories in German or in Spanish.

Submit your stories to issemblog@gmail.com

Deadline is the 20th of October 2016


Day 12

The ICEM conference.

The  ICEM conference was held today. This is a very important day for the cuban alumni. Here talks and lectures, on topics such as logistic, applied mathematics and information systems were presented by alumni and professors. 

Incubator demo day

Simultaneously, the incubator had its demo day. The incubator is a co-operation between the Humboldt University Berlin and the University of Havana, its an entrepreneurial exchange of mentoring, know how and technology. The incubator is located on the 12 floor, in the economics faculty of the University Havana. Students and professors from all fields of the university of Havana can go and present their Entrepreneurial venture ideas here. Once they have done this the incubator helps them draw up a business plan and mentors them on how to go about realising their business. 
This year the incubator presented itself, and 4 groups pitched their business ideas to cuban political officials and potential investors.

It was a very emotional day as the cuban students of the incubator had worked very hard all year round for this day.

The course panel data posing for a last group photo.

In the evening there was the closing event of the ISSEM. It was held at the beautiful venue Casa de Amistad. Pictures were projected and stories of the last week were recalled. Students and professors talked about their time here in Cuba. Reflections and retrospectives were recalled. 
After that everybody headed to the Malecon, one last time. Professor Burda stringed some tunes on a guitar. Everybody sang along and the atmosphere was very warm and friendly. People were hugging eachother, and I could tell that friendships had been made that will last for many years to come.

“We all live on a yellow submarine…”

Day 10

GAME DAY

The heaviness of the match was looming in the air last night. In the end the German teams Mojito (Mosh-gee-toe) numero un and dos won 1-0 and 5-0 respectively. It was a sad night, for the german women as they could not defend their title and lost 1-0 to the cuban team. 

Women team in full game mode

Emotions were sky high and the german mens team Mojito(Mosh-gee-toe) numero uno, held a strong front during the pre game press conference. The captain Florian said that he will need motivation from his team and will not spare any team members that do not have the motivation to give what it takes to win the match. When asked what the teams diet was like Florian exclaimed  “Eggs Eggs Eggs..”

“Eggs! Eggs! Eggs!”- Captain Florian on the teams diet.

The co- captain Jonas added that they optimised the teams diet by eating cuban rice and beans, to into get into the mindset of their opponents.

In addition there was still a friendly mixed team match. German women formed a team with cuban men, and the german men paired with cuban women. In this friendly match, the wrath of the losers was felt and like a phoenix the german women and cuban men were reborn and beat the previous winners 2-0.

Day 08

The second week of the summer school, brings with it some new courses. Such as Accounting, Design Thinking and Marketing. 

The design thinking team busy at work, preparing for the next class.

In the evening students where given the opportunity to use the reserved rooms in the Havana Libre Hotel to have some guided study time. In this period students where able to go over any material that they did not understand, and to review the things that they did last week.

There was also a Cuban spanish class which was taught by a fellow alumni.

Day 6 and 7

THE WEEKEND IS HERE!!!!!!

So since it is the weekend, students have some free time to travel and explore Havana. 

So what where the students upto?

On Saturday there was a trip to the los Jardines de Hershey. Yes, by Hershey we mean Chocolate Hershey. This trip was organised by ISSEM and students and alumni could take part in excursion.

Also on Saturday some students headed out to the Playa del Este. The ride to the beach is about 20 minutes by taxi and students carpooled together. After, some tanning and sipping on agua de coco Cuban students showed us what Havana’s hip night life is all about.

On Sunday, Cuban and German students all went to the beach again and had a nice chill beach day. 

In the evening the ISSEM office team had a wonderful dinner together.

Other students, also used the weekend to travel to towns nearby to Havana . For example Viñales, this is a small town located two hours away from Havana. It is known for its tobacco and cocoa plantations. The panoramic valley scene of the town,  resembles a person lying on his/her back. 

Day 4 and Day 5

Day 4

Classes have now been transferred to the hotel Habana Libre. The transition was smooth, and if students are still not sure where their classes are, check the  notice board at the first floor outside the ISSEM office at the Habana Libre. In general, the notice board is full of useful tips and suggestions and information. Students can also pin up their own recommendations and communicate through the board. 

In the evening students could participate in a movie night. The movie Strawberry and Chocolate( Fresca y Chocolate) was screened which is a film based on the short story by Senel Paz who also wrote the screenplay for the movie. The movie is set in Havana, and deals with different social phenomena.  After that students headed on out to the Malecon for a drink, and to enjoy the vast night life that Havana has to offer.

DAY 5

At 8:00 am a group of students headed out for a bike tour through Havana. I personally perticipated in this tour and i can only recommend it. It is a great way to get to know the city. You can also learn a lot about Havana. Our guide Yasser made the tour very enjoyable and taught us a lot about the city. The tour started with a ride through the lush and green Havana forrest, we then went to the 3rd biggest cemetry in the world that is based in Havana. From there we meandered through the colorful neighbourhoods of the old town, and lastly we biked down the Malecon. 

I will write a detailed piece about the bike tour soon. I can,however, only urge anyone that gets the opportunity, to take part in the bike tour. 

Our guide Yasser giving us some knowledge about the forrest of Havana.

The bike crew at the Plaza de la Revolucion.

In the evening there was a culture exchange, at Erich’s house. Erich is a German expatriate  that has lived in Cuba for the last 20 years, he is a Cuba expert in his own right. Students asked questions and talked to him in the comfort of his home. 

For now the ISSEM week has been going very well. It is Friday, and the music is blaring out of the lightly lit bars of Vedado. The streets are full of people that are dressed up, and ready to dance into the weekend. So lets see what this weekend holds for us…