On December 11th, 15 of us from Columbia Business School traveled (legally) to Cuba for what ended up as one of my all-time favorite trips.
Prior to starting graduate school, I had read that travel to Cuba was legal for American graduate school students provided they travel under a specific university license and jump through a number of other administrative hoops. And just like that, I decided that my pre-graduation bucket list needed to include “visit Cuba.”
Getting the license, however, was not quite that easy. My friend Hilary and I recruited an advising professor, created a course syllabus, obtained university approval, brought together a group of students, worked with the government and the school…and FINALLY, after 7.5 months of work, we obtained the final approval to proceed with our course studying the political economy of Cuba and, most importantly, spend a week 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
It was an adventure I will never forget, simultaneously like so many places I have been and unlike anyplace I have ever been.
Represented in photographs, here are the highlights:
Arriving in Havana, Cuba!
The best mojitos (Hotel Nacional)
Havana club rum
Loving the old cars, downtown Havana
Sunset on the Malecon (waterfront esplanade)
Rooftop Drinks at one of Havana’s best Paladars, Atelier
The Havana coastline and the Hotel Nacional in the forefront
Aerial shot of Havana
So many Cohibas
Cigar rolling station
This man holds the Guinness World Record for longest cigar
Liz & I stop for a photo in Revolution Square with Che Guevara in the background
The 1950s cars, like stepping out of a time warp
Exploring old town Havana
The entire group in old town Havana
One of the old town buildings under restoration
Cafe in old town Havana
Old town Havana (restored)
The group enjoying an amazing dinner at the private restaurant (paladar) La Guarida
Incredible live music at Casa de la music
Taylor & me enjoying the nightlife at Casa de la Musica
The Industriales baseball field reminded us very much of our beloved Fenway
At the Industriales baseball game
Uno! Dos! Tres! Industriales!
Day trip to Vinales, Pinar del Rio (group photo!)
Win & I are ready for our cave walk!
Stalagmites and Stalagtites
A tobacco farmer rolling Cigars
Tobacco farm in Vinales, Pinar del Rio
Happy Hanukkah from the bathroom of the Hotel Presidente
Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana
Inside Beth Shalom Synagogue in Havana
Happy Hanukkah! Feliz Januka!
Letter to the Jewish community from Steven Spielberg
Visiting the Havana Club Rum museum
Cuban flag in the old town
So much Havana club rum
On the water in Havana
What is a trip to Havana without going to the Tropicana?
Bringing school supplies to a local elementary school
The most poised 3rd grader explains his art on the life of Jose Marti
Cigars rolled in front of us…$1 each!
Mariana & I visit the best/worst communist ice cream parlor in Havana
The best/worst communist ice cream I’ve ever had (wishing Chavez a speedy recovery)
Winning = convinced immigration to stamp my passport!
We’re finally off to Cuba tomorrow! We have 15 Columbia Business School students traveling to Havana and Vinales (Pinar del Rio) to meet with The National Jurists Union, the Cuban Society of Labor Rights and Social Security, the Cuban Society of Merchants’ Rights, and the Cuban Society of Economic and Financial rights.
Things I’m most excited for: going to a Cuban baseball game, touring the La Cueva Del Indio tobacco farm and cigar factory, and visiting Havana Club Rum museum.
After 8 months of planning (and not easy planning, at that), we’re ready to go!