Skip to main content

Impressions of C*U*B*A

I do not believe that I managed to get an adequate overview of the whole country of Cuba in my short stay there, especially since most of it was on a resort relatively isolated from the everday life of most of the residents, but here are a few impressions, some light-hearted, some a little bit deeper.

1. There are no windows. Virtually all of the houses that we passed as we drove through the country had no windows. There were only shutters of various kinds and at times, open squares in the wall. Most doors were open as well.

2. Many yards boasted a cactus hedge which kept the desired animals in and the less desirable, out.

3. Despite a lovely tropical climate, the land seemed tired and dry, the foliage and grass brownish instead of lush green. There were, however, some outstanding flowers and cactus that were flourishing because of attentive care.

4. Guards and fences were common sights at most establishments. Our resort had a guard and guardhouse at the beach gate and a 24/7 guard just outside our building. There was even a tall wire fence separating our resort from the neighbouring one. Most companies of any size that we drove past had a guard house, several people standing or sitting at the front, a fence around the perimiter, and perhaps a guard tower if it had a large yard.

5. According to one of the Cuban animators at the resort, there are no laptops, ipods, or cell phones allowed into the country (unless you are a tourist). The Cuban people are not allowed to bring them in.

6. While we enjoyed a multitude of channels in our hotel room, we were told that the Cubans only have state channels accessible to them.

7. Billboards and books were mostly political propaganda, especially about Che Guevara and Fidel Castro. One book available in a souvenir store was entitled "The Real Story of Cuba." The first page stated that at no time had Cuba ever instigated any violence against the United States, yet it had been the recipient of much harm and injustice from that country. Another book that I was tempted to buy just for interest sake was "Fidel and Religion." T-shirts and hats mostly boasted Che's picture.

8. Transportation was a wondrous mixed bag. We saw horse-drawn carriages, buses that were really just a truck with a big open box in the back, vintage cars that have been kept on the road and repainted, many motorcycles with sidecars, lots of bicycles, carts drawn by oxen, and of course, some newer European cars, though these were in the minority.

9. The people were some of the most endearing, friendly, open, and generous folks I have ever met. When asked, most of them loved living in Cuba, though one young man seemed to have his sights set on exploring more than the world he knew. I never heard one complaint while I was there, except from people on vacation.

10. Military service is mandatory for men, optional for women.

11. All of the workers on the resort that we came into contact with spoke at least 3 languages, and often more. They were fluent in Spanish, English, French, and sometimes Italian and German as well.

12. The resort we stayed at had been built for wealthy Russians who vacationed in Cuba (when Russian was still Communist as well). The resort was older and in need of a few updates, but it was clean and well-utilised.

13. All the Cuban workers at the resort worked 6 days a week, usually for 12 hours. They got paid less than any workers that were brought in from Italy.

My overall impression of Cuba was that though it has a bit of a tired and run-down exterior, if you scratch beneath the surface, you will find a vibrant and passionate and hard-working, though fun-loving people who could do much with their situation if they were only given the chance.
Last photo: One of the great animators, Jordan, helping me with archery.


Popular posts from this blog

the songs we sing

NOTE: I am going to make some pretty strong statements below, but understand that it is my way of taking an honest, hard look at my own worship experience and practice. My desire is not to be overly critical, but to open up dialogue by questioning things I have assumed were totally fine and appropriate. In other words, I am preaching to myself. Feel free to listen in.


When I am in a church meeting during the singing time, I sometimes find myself silent, unable to get the words past my lips. At times I just need a moment of stillness, time to listen, but other times, the words make me pause because I don't know that I can sing them honestly or with integrity. This is a good thing. We should never mindlessly or heartlessly sing songs just because everyone else is. We should care deeply about what we say in our sung, communal worship.

At their best, songs sung by the gathered body of Christ call to life what is already in us: the hope, the truth, the longing, t…

theology from the margins: God of Hagar

Our contexts have major implications for how we live our lives and engage with our world, that much is obvious. However, we sometimes overlook how much they inform our concepts of God. For those of us occupying the central or dominant demographic in society, we often associate God with power and truth. As a result, our theology is characterized by confidence, certainty, and an expectation that others should be accommodating. For those of us living on the margins of society, our sense of belonging stranded in ambiguity, God is seen as an advocate for the powerless. Our theology leans more toward inclusivity, and we talk less about divine holiness and righteousness and more about a God who suffers. On the margins, the priority is merciful and just action, not correct beliefs. 
There are significant theological incongruences between Christians who occupy the mainstream segment of society and those who exist on the margins. The world of theology has been dominated by Western male thought…

the movement of humility

We live in a context of stratification where much of society is ordered into separate layers or castes. We are identified as upper class, middle class, or lower class. Our language reflects this up/down (superior/inferior) paradigm. We want to be at the top of the heap, climb the ladder of success, break through the glass ceiling, be king of the hill. This same kind of thinking seeps into our theology. When we talk about humility, we think mostly think in terms of lowering ourselves, willfully participating in downward mobility. This type of up/down language is certainly present in biblical texts (James 4:10 is one example), but I believe that the kind of humility we see in Jesus requires that we step outside of a strictly up/down paradigm. Instead of viewing humility as getting down low or stepping down a notch on the ladder of society, perhaps it is more helpful to think in terms of proximity and movement.

Jesuit theologian, James Keenan, notes that virtues and vices are not really…