We started off our day with an eyeopening bus ride to Ernest Hemingway’s farm. The bus took us through many poor and rundown neighborhoods, showing us a different side of Havana. After the short drive, we arrived at the Hemingway estate and began our tour. Our tour guide’s name was Tatiana, and I have been told that back in the day Russian names were common here (a tribute to their allies). We toured his home and the various sites on the property. His home included his typewriter, and many heads from animals he had shot. The flowers were in full bloom and the colorful orchids made the gardens look spectacular. Outside the home we headed up Hemingway’s tower where he used to write. From the top you could see a sweeping view of the Havana skyline. After viewing the tower, we headed to see his swimming pool and his wooden boat, which he would take from Florida to come to Cuba.
After our visit at the Hemingway property, many of us purchased wooden marlin carvings from a street vendor right outside. We also enjoyed a unique cultural experience–a working sugar cane press right outside in the street. The men working the press gave us samples of sugar cane and fresh juice. Everyone enjoyed the delicious drinks!
We boarded the bus from Hemingway house to head right to the game. The opposing team this time was Playa, which means beach in spanish, and the game was at their home field. The field is located right next to a beach, and many of us headed over to enjoy the tropical waters while the players warmed up. While the sun was shimmering on the aquamarine waters, some of us explored and collected sea glass. The pregame ceremonies were exciting and welcoming again, as this was a new team we had not yet played. They were gracious and kind hosts. I learned that the announcer at our games was the announcer at the historic baseball game between the Cuban National Team and the Tampa Bay Rays during President Obama’s visit. I was lucky enough to interview him after the game, and am excited to bring this video clip back. In addition to the announcer, the red, white, and blue banners at the field were also from the stadium of the historic game. There were countless parallels between these two ballgames, and it is clear these kids are making history here in Cuba.
People are excited to see Americans, and it is evident that the beginnings of friendship are starting to form between our two nations. I notice American flags all over the place--inside cars, on apartment balconies, and on buildings. While there are few Americans here now, things are changing, and soon Cuba will be more accessible. The Cuba we were seeing today is a very different Cuba than the one we would have seen a few years ago. A person I spoke with yesterday told me that the government took great measures to to fix and paint buildings and clean up the city, for two important visits–President Obama and the Pope. Tourism will take over this place in little time. Carnival cruises will begin heading to the island from Florida in May. I am lucky to see this incredible place before it all changes.
After our ballgame, the players exchanged uniforms, and our Vermont ballplayers were given an authentic Cuban uniform! The uniforms have sharks on them, and they are from the Playa team. We enjoyed a delicious meal at the Lucita restaurant after. I sat at the same table as the groundskeeper from the Rays-national team game. The players had their uniforms signed by the opposing team on both sides. We handed out copies of a group photo to all the Cuban ballplayers and coaches. The meal was followed by a delicious dessert of Guava puree.
Following our meal we stopped by at the most unique neighborhood I have ever entered. Started by an Gaudi-inspired artist named Jose Fuste, this neighborhood (called Fusterlandia) had tiled artwork and mosaics all over the place. It was incredible to walk around and take pictures. This was one of the most unique and fascinating places for photography that I have ever experienced.
This was definitely a day to remember, something I cannot not properly justify in words. Take a look at my snapshots from today’s experiences in Cuba. I hope you all check back for another update tomorrow night (Around 8-9 pm ET).