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.

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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.

 

 

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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 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. 

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).

2-feet-of-snow

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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Berlin are you ready for Havana?

Cuba Berlin mit logo.jpgSeptember is here! Only 19 more days to go till the summer school officially kicks off. Some of you may already be in Cuba and travelling, or are getting ready to leave for Cuba soon. For those that are already there, and are travelling it would be great to hear from you. What is it like? what are the coolest spots? share your pictures with #issem16 and let us now how you are doing.

For the Cuban students that are taking part in the summer school, let us know what you are looking foward to. We would love to hear from you.