Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Snapshots of Cuba I - The Faces of Cuba | Cuba Journal

I have decided to do multiple "Snapshots" pages for my trip to Cuba. The first will feature "the faces of Cuba" - the Cuban locals who made this trip so fantastic. I will do my best to provide information about each of the people in the photos while keeping in mind a respect to privacy. This post is dedicated to all of the Cuban locals who helped us out and showed us an incredible time. Many of the photos have a narrative to go along with them. I've had a lot of requests to post what "actually happened" in Cuba here on The Column. Well, here ya go! It's my best effort to keep it appropriate while also sprucing it up a bit. Let me know what you think! **NOTE - Many of you have probably heard about my "Cuba Story." This Snapshots page does not include Carlos Freddy, Luis, or Aymeé. They will be receiving their own page. Don't fret, they are still to come. Sorry for the lateness of this post. A lot of this was really tough for me to write so I needed some time to digest everything.

Camilo, Chris.
I would like to start this post by introducing everyone to Camilo Miranda. Camilo is the son of Humberto. I frequently spoke of Humberto in my journals. Humberto travels to CofC annually to teach a course or two in the fall. He has been doing this for 13 years (I think). Camilo, his 22 year old son, loves spending time with the US students when they come to visit. I have to say, this guy was phenomenal. He was incredibly smart, unendingly courteous  open minded, talented, and hilarious. I really miss hanging out with Camilo and I deeply regret not getting to spend more time with him. When I make it back to Cuba I will be certain to take him out for a drink! 
Friends from El Malecón: Derek, Joseph, Yainil, Daniel, Chris, Jared
Yainil is a school teacher; since arriving in the US, we've actually managed to have some contact with her. Daniel is 19 years old. Despite education being free, Daniel does not attend college. He is required to stay home to take care of his uncle who has a severe leg problem. 
Derek, Jared, Daniel, Chris

Chris, John
John, or however you spell your name, you are one crafty person. Definitely just out for a tourist's money. Apparently he was a university student. Despite completely trying to scam me AND getting me started on cigarettes, I wish you the best in your studies, provided they are real!
Michael, Chris
We met Michael in Cienfuegos at the bar at El Rápido. He was not a happy chap. As you can tell, our picture is devoid of smiles. He made a living off of tourists doing things that will remain unsaid here as well as by selling random items such as belts and tshirts. I didn't spend too much time with Michael but he was a good host for what it was worth. 

Michael again - about to blow smoke all over the camera. 

Michael at his happiest moments.

Chris, Carlos
This is Carlos from Cienfuegos. We never got a last name or middle name so it's hard to give him a more specific identity. He is not to be confused with Carlos from Havana. This guy was awesome. He was incredibly friendly, showed us around the clubs, didn't always expect us to pay (shocker), and helped us meet credible and friendly people. Not to mention the guy helped me when I was gracefully throwing up over the sea wall at 4AM one evening. He has our contact info but we've yet to hear anything. Coincidentally, he knows both Carlos Freddy and Luis from Havana - they all grew up in Cienfuegos together. (Small world!)

Carlos, Chris

Carlos, Michael, Chris

Chris, Carlos
At the Micha concert in Cienfuegos.

Cristian, Chris
Cristian had a profound impact on me. I met Cristian at a club called Costa Sur. It was our last evening in Cienfuegos. Our experience in Cienfuegos was so much different from that of our experience in Havana due to the time difference. We were only in Cienfuegos for 3 days so the relationships we built were on fast paced mode. I met Cristian through Carlos. He introduced himself as being 18 years old. He was quiet and shy. I finally convinced him to hang out with my group of people and dance. He was terrified of dancing. We were in a circle of friends and he was the only one not moving; I decided to force him into it by moving around his arms. Picture that - a gringo teaching a Cuban how to dance! We all hung out together until the club closed. More to follow with the next picture! 
Cristian, Chris
After leaving the club, a group of us took a walk to the Malecón in Cienfuegos. It was pretty late, going on 4AM. Joseph, Carlos, and Diyana stayed back a while; Cristian and I decided to take a walk on our own. We had spent a few hours hanging out as a group but I still didn't know who this kid was. We found a place to sit down nearby Joseph (didn't want to break the golden rule). Pretty quickly he pulled out his ID card and laughed. "No tengo 18 años, en realidad tengo 16." So he wasn't 18 after all; also, I guess fake ID's aren't unique to the US. Cristian, a 16 year old KID, was out till 4:30AM on a school night. You had to wonder what his parents were doing. After talking for only a few minutes he revealed what I had feared most; like all the young Cubans we met, prostitution was nothing unfamiliar. Up until this point I had only pitied those who were in his situation. When I heard Cristian admit to these activities, my heart sunk. "You are so much better than that Cristian." He couldn't even look at me. We continued talking, met back up with Joseph. Joseph and I proceeded to have a horrible drunk argument at 5AM in front of the poor kid. After things settled down, we walked him to the bus stop. "La guagua no viene hasta 6." Finally, Joseph and I had to get back to our room - we were leaving Cienfuegos in about 2 hours to head back to Havana. Cristian walked with us halfway and then turned to hug me goodbye. I've never hugged someone so hard in my entire life. "Cristian, you are so much more than you know." "Y tú también." "Me harás falta." He turned and walked away. My first tough goodbye with many to follow. 

Chris dancing with Diyana, a friend of Carlos. PS - she was incredibly drunk.

Diyana and Chris having entirely too much fun. Later she would have a run in with her drunken, angry hair stylist.

Cristian and Joseph - Joseph's notorious "I've been drinking face"
Chris, Carlos
Cristian, Carlos
Cristian, Carlos - one of my favorites!
Yet another favorite of Joseph and Cristian towards the end of the night
Once again, way too much fun. Chewing on chewed-already-by-Cristian gum. One of my finer moments.
Chris and Diyana deeply in love!
Chris, Cristian, Joseph, Diyana at the Malecón
Carlos, Chris
Carlos, up close and personal
Chris, Cristian, Joseph, Carlos
Los Cuatro Amigos!
One last shot of Cristian and I

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

BBC Scotland, A Technical Role Model, & Industrialization | A Journey to Scotland

A flashback to Dundee - Daria and Chris being goofy at our farewell dinner. Photo credit: Irma Bektic

The journal below covers my activities from 31 July - 1 August. I spent the 31st sick in my room, so I have to borrow some photos and information from my peers. Thanks for reading as always!

The BBC Scotland

BBC Scotland - Pedro Zamora Albor
I spent the day in my room sick, unfortunately. I was really disappointed to miss out on both the Riverside Museum and the trip to the BBC. The BBC Studios trip in particular was of much interest to me; since I missed out on the tour, I decided to do a bit of my own research to reflect on in my daily journal. I found all of the following information on the BBC Scotland website. In the opening question provided in the FAQ, BBC Scotland asserts is goal to provide programming that remains true to Scottish culture, thus at times meaning that certain programs will not be aired. By placing an emphasis on Scottish culture and programming, the BBC is working in part to preserve Scottish culture. Once again, subtleties in day-to-day Scottish life offer an outsider an image of a Scotland moving towards independence, whether the nation knows it yet or not. Furthermore, BBC Scotland offers programming in Gaelic. In my opinion, this is truly valuable; not only does the BBC value all Scots in doing this, they are also working to preserve a language that has a minority of speakers. I was surprised at the number of Scots who do not speak Gaelic, so I think that it is brilliant that the BBC is working to preserve the language and reach out to all viewers. Though this research is surface level, I was happy to at least get a bit of information on the institution. The BBC Scotland actually provided books on the history and functions of the BBC to all of the Fulbright participants, so I will definitely be reading up on that in due time. 

Industrialized Scotland

A touch of modernism - facial laser scan at University
of Dundee. Photo Credit: Anna Courchaine
Professor Richard Finlay taught today’s class; we focused on immigration and urbanization. First, we defined a few terms to help us understand the context of the class. Urbanization is simply the process in which a population moves out of the rural countryside and into the city. Industrialization is the move from an agriculturally based economy to an economy based on industry and production. This transformation in Scotland took place over the course of 100 years between 1750 and 1850. In addition to industrialization, Scotland witnessed the modernization of agriculture, and soon Scotland jumped from being a peripheral northern European country to being at the forefront of the technical world (a statement on Scottish innovation). Land was no longer considered wealth; an importance of sophistication emerged. The new question was what you did with your land. Simply owning land was not enough. Along with sophistication came the move towards materialism, something I feel that is close to home. American society is driven by material wealth represented via what you own and what you can show off to others. Though this marks development, I often wonder what a developed world with less of an emphasis on material wealth would look like. I doubt we’ll see this anytime soon, but it is an interesting question nonetheless. With this move to materialism, estates were no longer a social obligation; in other words, land owners no longer “had” to provide land to peasants. The race for wealth trumped all else. I personally view this as a dark but necessary time in Scottish history. Professor Finlay emphasized the evils of industrialization, such as disease, lack of education, and malnutrition; however, he also described the Irish potato famine as a result of a failure to industrialize. While industrialization, urbanization, materialism, and modernization have horrendous consequences, a failure to become modern leaves a nation in the third world with even more issues. It is a blessing and a curse simultaneously. 

Monday, August 5, 2013

Highland Clearances, Planned City, and Loch Lomond | A Journey to Scotland

A photo from Dunnottar Castle's waterfront - Photo taken by Anna Courchaine 

The journal below details my actives from 30 -31 July. There are lots of photos as promised. Hope you enjoy!

Highland Clearances

Today’s class focused on the Highland Clearances, and to my pleasant surprise, we took a more hands on approach. Professor MacInnes had us act out, in a sense, the process of being cleared. It really is sobering to see how versatile your life was as a peasant in Scotland during this period. You truly have little control over your life, and at a moment’s notice your family could be shipped to another city, or in some situations, another country! I have heard that there is still some resentment felt in the Highlands towards this expulsion; I can certainly understand why. Class made me rethink the stereotype of a hardier breed of Scots in the Highlands. It makes sense. Highlanders are not only subjected to harsher climates and landscapes, but their history was filled with poverty and clearance. Highlanders definitely would learn to be hardy and adaptable after facing such an intense past. I would like to have the opportunity to speak to a modern day Highlander about how they feel towards the clearances.

Photo from the Highlands
Photo credit: Anna Courchaine
Irma, Carolyn, Pedro, Meghann, Cole, Anna, Chris, Meghann, Jessica

New Lanark and Loch Lomond

After class we visited the planned industrial city of New Lanark. It was somewhat of a depressing experience for me. Though the town was stunningly beautiful, the town was home to child labor. I know that this is not unique in the world, and fortunately modern day Scotland has eradicated such practices, but it still never ceases to make me sad. Questions of socialism were asked with respect to New Lanark. Though the town was planned, the work days were long, and education often fell to the way side (ie child labor), thus challenging the notion that the town was built under a socialist mindset. The town reminded me of the Lowell Factory System in the US where women were essentially mistreated and forced to work. I think that the system in Scotland had much better intentions but the result may not have been too different. Either way, it is fascinating to look at how Scots tackled problems of unemployment and the like in history. We finished up the day at Loch Lomond, a stunningly beautiful lake with a mountain scape as the backdrop. The visit gave me some time to clear my mind and take in the natural beauty Scotland has to offer. Please enjoy the photos!

Photos of New Lanark (And the Garden Animals!)

River Clyde and New Lanark City

New Lanark

"The ever-changing scenes of nature afford not only the most economical, but also the most innocent pleasures
which man can enjoy." 

Jessica being a goofball

Pictures from Loch Lomond