Michael Lasonczyk

Thursday, February 07th, 2013 

It didn’t take long after stepping off the plane at the José Martí International Airport to know that life in Cuba would be very different from life stateside, but that different doesn’t mean bad.

One thing that I have come to realize and appreciate over the past week is the general happiness and benevolence of the Cuban people. Everywhere we go people have been incredibly accommodating to the fact that we are still getting our bearings in the city, and that from time to time our Spanish is subpar. For example, on our first máquina ride I insisted that we were close to the university and tried to get out of the car, but our driver assured us that he knew exactly where we wanted to go and that we had not yet arrived.

The friendly atmosphere that permeates the city of Havana is electric. No matter where you go, if you want to have a conversation with someone, just say “hello”, and the Cuban will do the rest. I can’t even begin to say how many times I have been walking down the road, and said a simple “buenos dias” to someone that sparked a pleasant exchange. Nor can I stress the amount of information that I’ve gained from these exchanges. The Taxi drivers here are some of the biggest assets when it comes to information with whom I’ve come into contact since being here. They always have information about certain historical spots in town, places to eat, or markets to go to which has been a tremendous help.

Another aspect of Cuba that I have come to admire is Cuban ingenuity. In the States, if it’s broken, you buy a new one, but that’s not the case here. Walking through the streets of Miramar on any given day, you can see people tinkering with their cars with whatever they can find to get the job done. Cubans don’t seem to have the problem of functional fixedness that many Americans have; they truly are a culture of MacGyver’s. As an example of this, I’ve come to notice that the handrails in our hotel are made out of the exact same material that is used in America as home gutter guards. On the railings with exposed ends, you can even see the slots that would allow them to slide over a gutter. It is awesome to see a culture of individuals dedicated to making due with whatever they can find.

While at first, it was a bit shocking to realize how different Cuba and America truly are, I’ve come to embrace the differences, and hope to grow even more as an individual based on what I can learn from each culture.

 

Thursday, February 07th, 2013 

My name is Michael Lasonczyk, and while I am here studying in the city of Havana, I hope to accomplish many things.

  • First among these goals is to improve my Spanish.
  • When speaking Spanish currently, I sometimes get nervous, flustered and apprehensive about making mistakes.Hopefully by the end of the trip, I’ll be able to put my nerves aside and just talk.
  • Secondly, another goal I have while I’m here is to gain a better sense of the Cuban perspective of the current regime, communism and US-Cuban relations. Just as there are varying opinions in America, I expect to find the same here, but I’m interested to know what the average Cuban thinks.
  • Along those lines, my third goal is to become more independent in my thinking. Being raised as an American citizen is predisposes oneself to certain views of other countries around the word, and I hope that this trip will help break down some of the stereotypical American views of Cuba and come to form my own opinions.
  • Fourth, I aim to converse and get to know someone new everyday that we’re here. I know I can’t meet everyone on the island, but I think that so much can be gained talking to people out on the streets that could never be learned in a classroom.
  • Which brings me to my last goal: make good grades. Although Havana is an amazing city that I would love to explore all day everyday, we’re students foremost, and I have to remember that.

 

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