Note: Amy was a summer Whitworth Fellow at 1stPres in 2016. She is currently studying abroad in Cuba this semester. This is Amy’s blog from before hurricane Irma came through. She reports that she is well and that Havana was spare the worst of it. Please continue in your prayers for Amy!
This has felt like one of the longest weeks of my life, due to reasons of culture shock, time zone difference, and overall adjustment to living in a foreign country. Despite having many activities and events packed into the span of a single day, I also have been wrestling with prevalent, almost-existential, themes of purpose. I have many questions to ask of Cuba, of the people who inhabit this island, of the Cuban government, and of God, who I know to be the God of every nation.
On a practical note, classes officially started at the University of Havana this week, and I am more disoriented than I have been in a while. The education system in Cuba has many layers, but most interestingly, school is compulsory up until the university level. It also seems that learning is taken quite seriously by students and families alike, despite differences in teaching style and classroom resources, such as the lack of technology. I do find it exciting that there is quite a large department for humanities, philosophy, and social sciences. The thought of attending the same university that Fidel Castro graduated from also sends shivers down my spine.
If I’m being perfectly honest with myself (and with you, the reader), I am quick to say that I don’t know much. I know enough within the scope of my academic studies, how to relate to other human beings, and the difference between right and wrong (most of the time), but in the grand scope of it all, I live with ignorance. Sometimes ignorance is bliss, yeah? However, I don’t believe that staying in this space can do anything but harm. Cuba is a country of paradoxes. Its history is long and rich, filled with tragic stories of colonization and slavery, but also of fascinating political relations with other hegemonic countries in the world, i.e. the United States. One thing that I have come to realize in my short time in Havana is the sheer power of a community, and its existence as an active, living, breathing thing. Community looks differently depending on the context of where it resides. Though Cuba is not exempt from systemic issues of racial and class divisions, I can foresee it taking a bit of time to fully grasp the complete picture. In the meantime, I hope to continue staying parasite-free and joy-filled, trusting that my semester here will serve a greater, grander purpose than anything I can speculate at this moment.