Global Lunch Hour: Recalling a trip to Cuba
Editor's note: The following article was written by UW-Parkside student Alyssa Kay. A UW-Parkside senior, Kay is interning in Enrollment Management was Valerie Zahorski-Schmidt who asked Alyssa to attend a recent Global Lunch Hour on Cuba and write an article. Here's what she wrote:
By Alyssa Kay
This January, fourteen UW-Parkside students and faculty members had the unique opportunity to visit Baracoa, Cuba. On Monday, March 18, some of the travelers regrouped to share their unique experiences and photos at the Global Lunch Hour.
The Center for International studies sponsored the trip, which spanned January 10 through January 18. The group included Professor Maria Martinez of the English Department, who was a frequent visitor of Cuba.
"I fall more and more in love with Baracoa every time I visit," Martinez said.
Jeremy Durick, an M.B.A. student at UW-Parkside, says the trip enhanced his understanding of business and expanded his already broad cultural horizons. Having visited 47 of the 50 states as well as Canada and Mexico, Durick considers himself a traveler.
"I have traveled to many places, but none compare to Baracoa," said Durick.
With a special currency called "cuc" designed for tourists, the Cuban economy relies heavily on tourism. Despite this fact, UW-Parkside faculty and students had a truly authentic experience in Baracoa, where they enjoyed illegal fish sandwiches, bartered with local vendors and explored the El Yunque Mountains.
As explorers in an area that was otherwise inaccessible to tourists a couple decades ago, the UW-Parkside students and faculty traveled through caves, beaches, jungles and villages, building unique experiences and immersing themselves in Cuban culture.
"One of the most memorable parts of the trip was hiking up El Yunque," said Durick. "We took a Jeep part of the way up, then crossed a river. We were chest high in water. Halfway up the mountain, where there was no trace of civilization, we found an indigenous fruit stand. For one dollar, we were able to buy enough fruit for the entire group."
The group stayed in a 1901 war fortress, which was redesigned into a hotel. Some of the student's favorite parts of the trip included purchasing intricate Cuban paintings and vising many of the local homes that doubled as restaurants. Durick says lobster was one of his favorite delicacies. As a non-coffee drinker, Durick found enjoyment in the authentic Cuban coffee.
Due to the United States' embargo, Cuba does not have many items that most Americans often take for granted. Some of the students brought laundry detergent, razors, Advil, clothing and other mass produced items to barter with the locals. Nike products are especially coveted among the locals.
"They wanted to give us their entire table of items for a pair of Nike shoes," said Durick.
This was just one example of the interactions and culture shocks that the UW-Parkside students experienced. Baracoa proved to be an educational and cultural experience for International Studies majors and non-majors alike.
"[The trip] gave me a perspective of the way other people outside of our culture live," said Durick. "If the embargo is lifted, I see valuable opportunity for business and trade."