Roughly a week-and-a-half ago I got an email advertising a very last-minute cultural exchange to Cuba. This is an entirely legal proposition, since people-to-people exchanges like this one are allowed under current OFAC regulations. (It’s really the only way to go, short of a study abroad trip with your own university.) This is true today, but whether it will remain that way in the near-to-mid-range future is up for debate… In general I’m a fairly law-abiding citizen, so while I’ve always entertained the idea of getting to Cuba one day, I would personally prefer to do it without risking some giant fine and governmental chastising.
For those of you who don’t know me, it’s safe to say that I’m a planner. I do like to go whither the wind blowest me once I’m actually at my foreign destination – I don’t plot out much of an itinerary – but when it comes to deciding when and where to actually go, I think about it at length. I read books related to the country. I might buy some clothes. I definitely buy a ton of film. I revel in the anticipation of what is to come. It’s part of the fun. So to have to decide whether or not to undertake a huge trip like this with only about 2 weeks lead time…that seemed rather unprecedented for me!
After a few days of torturing myself and trying to decide whether to go or not, the moment came last Friday when I had to decide…and I decided yes. I managed to nab a plane ticket to Miami using frequent flyer miles, which is fortunate, although the exact days I wanted weren’t available (no surprise when you buy a ticket less than 2 weeks out!), so I wound up having to use more vacation time than I had hoped. I also have to fly to Miami via Los Angeles, which isn’t the most logical thing in the world. Definitely not as the crow flies, but apparently as American Airlines does. The supreme bonus to this trip – my best friend lives in Miami, so I get to see her a bit on either end of my travels as well.
In preparation for the trip, this past weekend I went to the library and got out all these books.
I don’t have time to learn everything I should know about Cuban society and politics and such, but I feel I can make a tiny dent in my ignorance and learn something about the country before heading south. In the photo above, the book I probably *should* read is the one sitting on end – one take on the political history of and current situation in Cuba, with a close look at the U.S. role and such. I *might* get there. Far more likely, however, that I will first read ALL the other ones laying horizontally, which range from dance to art to memoirs from exiles and their families…because that’s what grabs my attention and won’t let go.
So there you have it – a travel bolt from the blue, which will result in me being in Havana 2 weeks from the time I write this. I’m still kind of astonished at my decision, but very happy and excited to go!