by Jack Suderman, tour leader
After getting settled into our rooms, we had a nice supper together at a modest local restaurant, and everyone was in good spirits. It is 28 degrees and sunny today and we are looking forward to a full day of touring tomorrow.
Friday morning we had a very good orientation session, and folks expressed a lot of appreciation for it. The group is gelling well. After the orientation session, we went to a museum, then on a city tour in the afternoon. We finished the day exploring the Old City and then enjoyed a Bodeguita del Medio supper experience complete with nice music.
Sunday, January 20
Another day is finished. The church service we attended was quite an experience. Folks were just kind of blown away and beginning to wrestle more seriously with issues of poverty and wealth; hospitality and selfishness; community and individualism. As always, after a VERY lively and varied service (including baptisms), there was a conversation (question and answer time) with the congregation. The very first question that one of the congregation members asked our group was: “How do you manage to walk obediently in your Christian life, when you live right in the midst of hyper consumerism?” Good question. Our group was quiet, until Bob, a farmer from Kansas, in a very gentle and quiet way, explained how living on a farm, watching the changes of the season, depending on God for rain and sunshine, was a daily walk with God that was just there morning, day, and night. We had a good conversation.
After lunch, which again, was amazing, we came back to the hotel; we rested, and had a debriefing session before going out for supper. We talked about what we experienced at the church service and the question and answer time with the church. It was a good conversation.
Then we went to the Terraza for supper, which was very good. Tour members raved about the fish and such. So, all in all a very good day—good spirits with lots of interaction starting to happen within the group.
Today was more of a tourist day. The cigar factory was interesting. The trip to Soroa was very good and the two engagements with locals were excellent. The spirit of the group is positive as people continue to loosen up, talk, and laugh with each other. I think they are really enjoying themselves and each other.
Tuesday, January 22
Well, today was, in our opinion, a VERY good day. Engaging with Cubans at the Martin Luther King Centre (MLKC) and the Cuban Council of Churches (CCC) was very challenging, positive, helpful, and good. The group really hung in there: actually, more than hung in, they came alive with questions, and were obviously listening. All the presenters were very engaging and helpful.
One tour member from Kansas asked a question that had been on his mind. He had always heard that Cubans are atheist and yet he had also heard that they are very spiritual and that churches in Cuba are growing. Raquel Suarez at the MLKC, did a fabulous job of taking the question seriously and carefully responding in a very understandable way. He told me later: “My question has been answered. She was great; as far as I’m concerned, I can go home now.”
Our group rode back to our hotels in five antique cars for which Cuba is so famous—what fun!
Here, another excellent day is coming to an end. We had a nice trip to the Taíno Indian village site, a lovely ride in the boats, and lunch at a nice spot about 9 km from the Bay of Pigs museum.
Then Bay of Pigs museum was a highlight for some tour members—they were learning and stretching as they looked at this US/Cuba conflict from a different perspective. Then we travelled to Cienfuegos and had a delicious dinner at very lovely hotel.
The weather has been warming up as we move further south.