Wednesday, February 11, 2015

IMPRESSIONS OF CUBA - PART 1

Cuba has lately been in the news. This prompted me to go back in my journal and remember the trip that I made there quite a number of years ago.
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(From my journal)

02 January, 2003

The alarm awakens me at 3:00 this morning – “airport early,” as our son Levi puts it.

I am at our farm in Wisconsin. The first thing that I do is turn on the yard light and peer out the window.  I am glad to see that it is not snowing.  We have been waiting for a little snow because we have a bit of a lack of it this winter, but I do not want it this morning.  Vivian is driving me to the airport and I am glad that the roads will not be slippery for her.

5:00 AM – Our Central Wisconsin Airport is very busy.
Put in place at the beginning of this year, there are new security measures that I will need to go through today at various airports. This is another step taken since the terrorist attack at the Trade Center in New York. I am used to lines in airports, but now the lines are long and moving very slowly, especially for our little airport in Wisconsin.

Watching the line move is a bit like watching a turtle crossing a road.  You wonder if he will make it before a car comes – I wonder if we will all be checked in before our departure time.  It turns out that we are – and I have noticed by the demeanor of the people in the line that we Wisconsinites are a patient lot.

7:00 AM to 3:30 PM – A day of travel.
Waiting in airports and standing in lines.  The day is not over but I am getting closer to where I am to go.

3:30 PM – Arrive in Cancun, Mexico.
This is where I am to meet up with the rest of the group that I am to travel with.  There is a long, meandering line at immigrations.  I see a small group (6) of college kids talking excitedly and basically just being college kids. 

According to the information given to me about the trip, I learned that I was to travel with a small group of college students that were going as part of a mission group, along with a leader from the mission. I wonder if these students that I see are the group I am to meet up with. A lot of college kids go to Cancun, so it is a small chance, but something tells me that these did not come to lie on the beach and party all night.

I have to say that I am also pretty excited. Never in my life had I thought that I would be going to Cuba. It is something that Americans are simply not allowed to do – at least those from the U.S.   Canadians can and do go there. It is also a travel destination from many Europeans.

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, the Castro government has been gradually opening the country for tourism as a means of income.  The tourists are mainly European and Canadian, but I am told that there are also many U.S. citizens that visit the island.  Strictly speaking, it is still illegal for Americans to do so, unless one goes for “religious ministry” as was our visit, and I believe also for other humanitarian purposes. In our visit to Cuba, we will not be going to any of the tourist areas.

There is also one more person that is to join up with us here in Cancun. He is a partner of mine from our pastoral training organization. The main reason that I was asked to go on this trip was to give the commencement address at a church where they have been having Bible training classes. These have not been “clandestine” classes in that communist land, but all with the full knowledge of the Cuban authorities. I do not know how difficult it is for the churches to function in Cuba, but I was glad to hear that there is quite a group of graduates.

7:00 PM – Some time ago, everyone in our little group met at a predetermined spot in the Cancun airport to meet and get to know each other a little.

The mission leader has come with all of our tickets and visas for Cuba.  I am looking forward to getting there and finding where I am supposed to sleep, since I am getting pretty tired. Travel does that to me. However, our flight is long delayed for reasons that are never explained to us. We were supposed to have left about an hour ago.

10:30 PM – The call just came for us to board the plane. Next stop – Havana.

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