Long time no talk;)
After leaving the beautiful valley of Viñales, the group headed off to our first project site for volunteer work; the small yet absolute cutest ocean town of Playa Girón.
Upon arrival, we took the first day to become more well acquainted with the community, went on a tour of the beaches, hotel area, and visited a historical museum. However small the town is, its history is rich and very intriguing. The museum we visited had a vast amount of old memorabilia, wartime tanks and artillery, authentic soldier uniforms, diaries, and many other trinkets collected from the town over the years. The museums main focus was to inform people of the significance of the town and the role it played in the primary years of the revolution. Before 1959, smaller towns on the outskirts of the capital were incredibly rural and thought of to be, in some ways, irrelevant, as they did not directly contribute to local economy as much and didn’t attract as much tourism as other large cities. However it is because of its small size that Playa Girón for example became an ideal location, both geographically and demographically, for revolutionaries to spread the importance of education and literacy. Putting any political agendas aside, literacy was in fact spread throughout the town as well as bordering cities, and this is something that the locals are very proud of.
After touring the museum and beaches, we jumpstarted our volunteer work at the “beisbolito”. This work consisted of 3 hours of labor in the mornings, followed by a mid day lunch break, then 3 hours of labor in the afternoons. Some of the work involved raking the grass, collecting sand from the beach to spread on the field, sifting our the rocks and gravel, and hoeing up the overgrown areas of the land. Other days when we weren’t working at the beisbolito, we worked on beach cleanup, as the hurricane had washed up a significant amount of debris and trash on the shoreline. In this work, we snorkeled for old and broken bottles and cans in the ocean, gathered the washed up piles of dirty seaweed and trash that had been collecting in the sand, and made signs explaining to tourists and locals alike to not litter on the beach, or “¡No tirar basura!”
During break time, we would enjoy some of the smaller perks of the town, such as climbing palm trees and harvesting our own hoard of coconuts to munch on later. We made friends with local dogs and carried them around as if they were our own, we caught an endless amount of lizards and enjoyed the company of some of the children as their curiosity sparked and they came around the beisbolito after school. The creator of the beisbolito was none other than the funniest man we have yet to meet on our trip. “Alfonsito” as they call him, was our instructor and guide in all things we accomplished in Playa Girón. He made sure that the work we did was both enjoyable and efficient and showed us how to properly use the tools in the grass and the sand. He is a young 71 years old, and his “child at heart” personality and sense of humor ensured that each day was certainly interesting to say the least. All the locals new Alfonso as the unofficial town mayor and after paying hotels, beachside restaurants and the local clinics a couple of visits, we soon started to realize that our tabs were being covered (he truly did have just that many friends). The nurses at the clinic got to know us very well as we laid them 3 visits in total while in Playa Girón, but the didn’t stop Alfonso from having an upbeat and positive outlook on the situation. He truly was a blessing to have there and we are all so glad that our volunteer experience was enriched by his presence, despite how “loco” he may have been.
On our weekends off in Playa Girón, we explored some of the more touristy areas that the area had to offer.We went to a local crocodile farm, swam in a natural lagoon, snorkeled with an array of beautiful fish at a beachside spot called Calleta Buena, and went Lion Fish Hunting. Upon finishing up our work at the beaches and beisbolito, we played some baseball with Alfonso and one of the local children, packed our bags, and were then set off to have some downtime in the beautiful town of Trinidad!
Arriving in Trinidad was very exciting, as we had some great activities planned for our time there. First, we rode horses to a breathtaking waterfall that opened up into a cave and 3 natural pools that you could swim directly in! The boys went cliff jumping from the top of the waterfall, we found some giant banana slugs, and we all swam around like water guppies before heading back down the hill on our horses.The next day, we took a taxi ride up to the lookout point for the vast vineyard valley of Trinidad and Sancti Spíritus. We toured a historical sugar mill from the early 1800s and climbed a beautiful bell tower that again, boasted one of the most beautiful views of the landscape we have seen thus far. Later, we got an even closer look at The Valley, but from a different perspective. We “zipped” through the trees as we went zip lining over the lush valley below! Some of our other activities in Trinidad included taking 3 hours of Salsa classes, biking to the beautiful local beach, snorkeling with the rainbow fish of the ocean, finding a giant sea snail, and spending an unconventional Halloween night in a cave club!
As fun as Trinidad and our volunteer work was in Playa Girón, we are happy to be back in La Habana Vieja, and are now awaiting the last week to continue our volunteering work before we return home to you all. Although this trip has been incredibly fun, we haven’t lost site of the foundation and main focus of our travels here in Cuba. The volunteer work we did in Playa Girón and the continuation of our work here in Havana is truly en enriching experience for all of us. Knowing that the locals appreciate and acknowledge our effort, no matter how small of an impact it may seem to have at the time, is truly satisfying and well worth the hard work! I think I can speak for us all in saying that this is truly going to be a trip we remember for our entire lives and I for one feel blessed to have had this experience!
Till next time-besitos y abrazos
Side note: We all miss you Haydn! See you all in 10 days