Vacation-style tourism is not yet an option for American visitors to Cuba. So, last month, when I escorted 15 of my fellow mediators to Cuba, the focus of our trip was on researching the conflicts that drive a mediator's work as well as the Cuban existence. Since our return, everyone wants to know "how was Cuba?" Clearly, my impressions are only a snap shot of a much bigger picture. There are obvious limitations on what can be learned about a culture -- especially one that is still wrapped in secrecy -- in just a few days. With that said, here is my take on Cuba in 2015.
- Havana smells. The city's sewer/septic system is a disaster waiting to happen. The stench of raw sewage, mixed with cigar smoke, mold and bug spray, permeates the air. In spite of this, Havana is one of the cleanest cities I have ever visited. Without a lot of industry, much of the government's work force is relegated to cleaning tasks, including sweeping the streets with brooms.
Ultimately, for me and my 15 fellow travelers, this was a once in a lifetime trip. We had a chance to see the before picture -- a country frozen in time before it begins the thaw-out process that seems to be right around the corner. Hasta pronto, Cuba!!
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