Initial Thoughts and Itinerary

Trip Start Feb 09, 2013
Trip End Feb 24, 2013

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Flag of United States  , New Jersey
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Welcome to my travel blog for my experiences in Cuba and Miami! First off, thanks for taking the time out of your internet life to read my jumbled thoughts on life and travel. This is the first real travel journal that I've ever created for public consumption, so this will be an adventure in more ways than one!

Today I stand two nights away from my United flight from Newark to Miami, and I face the coming journey with a mixture of excitement, anticipation, and anxiety. Is the Cuba of my and the collective modern American imagination completely off-base from reality? How will I and my family be received by the many Cubans that we are set to interact with? Is Havana as magical a place as Tony Bourdain said it was in his awe-inspiring No Reservations episode on Cuba?

Of course, there is the larger moral dilemma of visiting Cuba, a topic that I've begun to ponder more thoroughly as the days become hours. As an American tourist in Cuba, I will be contributing money to a regime that fails to provide the most basic necessities to most of its people. I'll be witnessing first-hand the devastating effects that the US embargo of Cuba has had not just on the Cuban government, but on each and every Cuban citizen. How should an Americano like me feel when put into that situation? How do Cubans even feel about the embargo?

So I've got questions. For now, though, I'll provide some basic info on the itinerary of this trip. The Cuban leg of the journey is an organized tour through National Geographic Expeditions. As it stands now in US law, American tourists may only visit Cuba as part of an organized educational expedition. National Geographic has therefore organized an itinerary of cultural experiences, including walking tours, panel discussions, and visits to schools, theaters, art galleries, historical sites, and museums. The four of us will be grouped with fourteen or so other Americans, as well as two National Geographic experts who will lead the tour.

We fly for Miami this coming Saturday, where I'll be staying with my family overnight before our charter flight from Miami to Havana on Sunday. After spending three nights in Havana, we'll travel by bus to the southern coastal city of Cienfuegos and stay there for three nights. During our time in Cienfuegos, we'll take a day trip to another coastal town called Trinidad. Finally, we'll make our way back to Havana via Playa Giron, the site of the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by the United States in 1961. After two nights in Havana, it's back to Miami for seven days to eat, drink, relax, and do all of those things at once at the South Beach Food and Wine Festival!

I've already started to pack and I can't wait to delve into this whole thing. I've already read the classic noire Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, Telex from Cuba by Rachel Kushner, and an assortment of works by legendary Cuban poet and independence leader Jose Marti. Now I need to read Islands in the Stream by Hemingway, a man who spent much of his life in Cuba and saw something there that I hope to see myself. I've also dug up some great Cuban music, mainly from the artists featured in Wim Wenders's 1999 documentary Buena Vista Social Club. These are the greats: Ruben Gonzalez, Ibrahim Ferrer, and Compay Segundo. They recorded all of this wonderful music near the ends of their lives, and I couldn't be happier that Ry Cooder found them and brought them all together before they died just a few years later. I definitely recommend checking the film and the music out if you haven't done so before.

Maybe I should re-watch Buena Vista Social Club?

Expect the next post from me on Friday. Hope you guys enjoyed reading!
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