RUTH M. STONE
My name is Ruth Stone, Cal State East Bay Communications major. I already have an associates degree in communications and I’m currently entering my senior year of college. After college, I plan to move to Los Angeles and pursue my career in the media, hopefully in television. I’ve had experience in radio, television, broadcasting, and photojournalism. Everyday I’m getting closer and closer to conquering my dream.
(CLICK ON CASA PARTICULARS TO SEE MY PROJECT AND ESSAY DOWN BELOW)
Fresh off the plane in Havana, Cuba
Wow, what can I say, Cuba has blown my expectations and I only have been here for three days. Day to day life in Havana is vastly different from the United States which we’ve experienced due to the humidity, 1950s cars, and architecture. My fellow classmates and I are definitely not in the United States anymore. Moving forward, the first stop on everybody’s travel list was going to the hotel and checking in. From the airport to the hotel it took about 25-30 minutes. At first glance, I realized our hotel is impressive. It stood out like a sore thumb because of its bright colors; red and white. Walking into the hotel I realized that there was no air conditioning, which made me nervous to think that I was going to stay in this grand hotel for 17 days in the blistering heat. Taking our luggage into our room in the elevator was unbearable. I didn’t think that the elevator was going to be as claustrophobic as it was. I thought it was just me, it turns out it was everybody, sweating up a storm. Walking into our room it was slightly humid, but it was interesting to experience such a difference between this hotel and California hotels. Its Victorian style is aesthetically appealing but it could also use some updates. The crown molding is nice but falling apart. There’s also some water damage. What makes this room unique is the fact that they have furniture that seems antique. I have to say the best part about our room is not only the fact that it has air conditioning but the fact that we have an amazing view of Havana. We have the opportunity to take pictures of all the architecture, and people rooming the streets. Three days into this trip we have explored so much and I’m excited to see how the rest of my trip goes, but after a long day of being in the sun its wonderful to come back to the room and relax.
When you aren’t expecting
When you go to a foreign county what is it that you expect upon arrival? Do you expect people from other countries to be friendly, rude, or pushy? Being in Cuba I am pleasantly surprised to find out that people are so nice. Granted most of them can’t speak English here, but the ones that can, wow they sure love to talk. Not to mention super friendly.
Obviously studying abroad that means you are working on something; I decided to focus on casa particulars, which in English means Bed & Breakfast, or rented room (or Air Bnb’s). I decided to focus on this because different people from around the world can’t always afford hotels. So trying a new environment to stay instead of the traditional route seemed like something better to focus on. In Havana, Cuba there are more than 1,000 casas here, and I was able to explore two rental options today.
The first one was a brightly colored yellow house, that looked very inviting. The owner of the casa didn’t speak any English but her son did, and was able to answer all my questions. It seems like when learning another language especially Spanish, you can make out some of the phases they are say. Especially when you ask them a direct question. The casa was very beautiful on the outside and had plenty of rooms for rent. One downstairs, and two on the second and third floor. When taking pictures, he told me that he recently renovated to make sure his clientele would come back in the future and continue to stay with him.
The second stop was 26 minutes away. It was a casa that was on the inside of a modern building. You had to walk up three flights of winding stairs. Yes, it was a workout but it was big on the inside with such a welcoming environment. They offered me Cuban coffee, cigars, and friendliness. He was interested in my project and gave me great intel in the casa particular business. As well as answering all my questions honestly, he gave me input on President Donald Trump, his views on Cuba and the revolution which changed Cuba forever. This gentleman’s name was Ray jr.
I’m so fortunate that he greeted us with welcoming arms and sat down and talked with us more about other things than just my project. He rejected the 5 pesos I tried to give him and said my smile was enough for him, which was very generous to say. The Cubans here really are fun, even the ones that don’t speak English, they still kindly say excuse me. Being in Cuba has truly has a welcoming vibe.
The little things you take for granted
I love my country so much, we have so many conveniences such as internet, electricity, and air conditioning. I am truly a neat freak and love to have everything clean and organized, especially when it comes to my clothes. Being in Cuba for about a week now, I figured its time to do some laundry. When I’m back home I do laundry when my basket of dirty clothes gets full. I do full loads that consist of dark’s, lights, and towels. Being in a country like this, laundry is not as easy as it is in the states. Its actually a culture shock.
My roommate and I decided that our room was getting a little funky and we thought it would be a good idea to pay to get our laundry done. But little did we know; you have to pay for every article of clothing here. They expect you to pay for everything such as socks, shirts, jackets, dresses, etc. Looking at the paper with the list of price ranges, it seems like they make you pay for clothes based on sex; male, female, and children. For example, a women’s dress is 4.50 pesos; male’s shirt 1.75, and for a child’s blouse is 1.75. Not only are you paying for that, you are paying for quantity. So, if you had four dresses to wash you are paying 18 pesos. It’s a little mind- boggling and it makes you wonder why you are paying so much and why. Is it because, of the high electricity bill, or because it’s a hotel and they can over price because people will actually pay for it? If you compare this back to the states when you need something washed, you are paying for the loads. Not only in hotels, but apartments, and air b&b’s.
I have lived by myself multiple times in apartments and shocking enough the laundry wasn’t free. For washing it was about $3.00, and drying was $2.00; but again, paying for the load and not the quantity. The cultural differences between America and Cuba are really started to be present. Because we didn’t want to spend over 100 pesos on laundry at the hotel, me and Christine filled up out bath tube with tide and washed out clothes by hand; like you used to do in the early 1900s. It was an experience, because we had to constantly scrub, rotate, and soak. We also hung up our clothes to air dry and it are clothes are still soaking wet, 48 hours later. So, little things such as laundry makes me want to go back home and appreciate everything I have.
Food in Cuba is either hit or miss
Going to another country, one thing I typically get excited for is the food. Before going on this trip my dad went to Cuba before I did and told me the food is literally hit or miss. My dad said the best food to get on the island is the seafood, especially the lobster. Haven’t had the lobster yet, but food in Cuba can literally be a hit or miss. We have had amazing fresh food from HM Restaurante near the Malécon. We had the best ceviche which was super fresh fish along with gluten free chicken dumplings which was delicious. Then two days later we stumbled upon a restaurant that was around the corner from our hotel, called él Cameron.
We were so hungry and we both wanted to get our food cravings out the way. I wanted spaghetti and Christine wanted chicken wings. As we sat down ordering, the waitress asked me if I wanted something else on the side oddly enough I said chicken. She came back about ten minutes later with a full plate of spaghetti and a whole plate of chicken, beans and rice, and cucumbers.
Now being from America and tasting amazing food, looking at the spaghetti she put on the table was bizarre. It was covered in white cheese that look ridiculously hard, and the middle was supposed to be red sauce but it was pink. I literally thought my eyes were playing tricks on me, but when I was mixing it around, I realized my eyes were not deceiving me. I took half a bite and almost gagged, that was the worst pasta I’ve ever had in my life. I moved onto the chicken next, which was decent, but it was very salty. Everything about that restaurant left a bad taste in my mouth and that night, I was having the worst stomach problems. I could feel my stomach-turning upside down every hour I was trying to sleep.
The next morning, I threw up and couldn’t stop going to the bathroom. Going to class was also bad, because I could feel and hear my stomach continuing to turn. Moving forward three days later my stomach still wasn’t having it even though, I was trying to push through the pain.
Eating in Cuba now has ruined everything, and I’m scared to eat anything at this point because I don’t want an upset stomach anymore. I have literally been eating once a day, and drinking as much water as possible, and its not getting any easier. Eating here, like I said has been hit or miss, but being here for nearly a week now, I’m scared to try any type of food at this point. Situations like this really make me miss modern convenience in like CVS, so I can pick up medicine, as well as drinking tea. Also, yelp would have saved me if I looked up the reviews for this place.
Experiencing the unexpected
Traveling to another country, I would never imagine finding myself in a hospital. Turns out, I was wrong. After four days of being in excruciating pain, it was time I told my professor that I have been feeling like shit, and my stomach wasn’t feeling any better. I woke up with my stomach looking like I was pregnant, and pain that made me feel like I had to constantly puke. After sitting in class dying from constant movement in my tummy, my professor said its time to go to the hospital. We ended up going to Farmacia Internacional about 15 minutes from the Hotel Presidente.
Going to a hospital in a foreign country, I had no idea what to expect. Walking in, it had this aura of sadness and pain. Nobody was smiling, except for me and Casey. I smile through pain, but I felt like I was disrespectful to everyone else. Casey helped me get checked in. Prior to getting here, I overheard someone say that people speak English here, but that was false information.
After waiting over 30 minutes, the nurse came to get us to take us to the doctor. The doctor was talking to Casey about what my problem was. Questions such as how many times have I gone to the bathroom, how long as my stomach been hurting. He then asked me to lay down on the table to figure out what areas been hurting. My stomach didn’t hurt as bad until he was applying pressure that made me queasy again. He then concluded saying I needed shots in my butt, as well as get my blood drawn to see if I was dehydrated. The two shots were for nausea and stomach pain. Seemed like the one for stomach pain hurt more-so than the other. The shots made my butt super numb! But it was worth it if I could get back to my old self.
After a nurse came to draw my blood, she said it would take about 15 minutes to get results. That ended up taking three hours! We finally got in line to pay but surprise, she said that we had to go to the pharmacy first. Both Casey and I weren’t thrilled about that. The pharmacy was very different from what I was used. It was displayed in a glass box with prices, and heath cures, but we got the medicine. Furthermore, after waiting a while we went back to billing and paid. Casey, not eating all day was guarding our spot vigorously because people were cutting in line. Four hours after being in the hospital we were ready to go and get some food. With another unexpected surprised, they ran out of food. Six hour there we in return we then really ran out of patience. Going to a foreign hospital was definitely an experience and I wouldn’t want to go again; due to lack of communication and constancy and rudeness.
Cuba has been an eye opening amazing adventure. Thank you.