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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The second week of the summer school, brings with it some new courses. Such as Accounting, Design Thinking and Marketing.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Today the summer school was in full swing. Students bustled into classroms at the economic faculty of the University of Havana to attend their courses.
The courses International Economic Integration** and Panel Data Econometrics also started today. Some classes were filled up and therefore it was quiet hot, however, there is no need to worry as of Wednesday the classes will be held in the cool new rooms of the Habana Libre.
There was also a bike tour today. For those of you that missed to register for it, no worries you can always register for the second tour that will take place on friday.
Today was also the official welcoming party for the alumni. I can only recommend students to come into contact with the alumni; they speak very good german and are always happy to share stories, talk and give tips. There are daily alumni functions taking place that students can also participate in. It is really worth it! There is a lot that can be learned from the older generation.
** For those of you who are very interested in the topics discussed. Check out Prof. Burda’s Youtube channel, where the complete course is available in English.