Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cuba: Clear Skies

So, there we were in Havana.  We had eaten well, and it was a beautiful day.  No one we met that day seemed to know anything about the incoming storm (Ike) that was heading to wards Cuba.  The strongest hurricane to hit Cuba in 50 years was just a day away.  The government had not yet publicly put any information about it on the news yet.  We had a few hours to kill so we got a chance to drive around a bit, and even visit a museum.  There was a museum located at Revolutionary square.

Museum : Havana : Revolutionary Plaza

We did get separated for awhile (Kennon and I from the rest of the group) and would later meet up with them at the airport.  It did give Kennon and I a chance to take one of the little open taxi cars.  That in itself was quite an adventure.  In traffic you could practically reach out and touch the big trucks and busses that flew by.

Havana Taxi

Our taxi driver was named Roberto.  We got a chance to talk to him and he shared with us about his wife and child.  They were pregnant again and his wife was changing careers.  She had been teaching English, but switched over to Taxi driver since there was more income (due to tips).  We did have a chance to share with him about our faith and what we were doing in Cuba.  I hope they are doing well... and I pray that he read the tract we left him.

We arrived back to the airport and waited for the rest of the group.  It would not be too much longer until they got there.  The interesting thing was that we really did not have tickets to fly that night.  And the booking/airline systems that they used were very antiquated.  I think this added to our issue on getting an early flight since tickets had already been issued for a morning flight (and we did not have them yet).  We got a chance to chat with a nice lady at the airport who pulled a lot of strings to get us some tickets (she did risk a lot making these changes for us).

And then there it was on the news:  Ike

Ike Category 4

(Well, this would be the following day actually)  It was now public Cuban knowledge that a hurricane [class four] was heading straight for Cuba.  We still had a green light on the flight to Holguin but they were sure flights were going to start canceling soon.  The happy go luck tourist feeling was starting to slip away.  What plans did God have in store for us?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Landing : Havana

A nice smooth flight (about an hour and a half) and we were there in Havana.  There are not too many flights from the US to Cuba (as you might imagine) and the landing is at one of the small airports in Havana.  The larger is for international travel to other countries, and a third for flights within Cuba.  Waiting for the luggage took the longest as we had to wait for our bags to come out.  Some of the bags had been searched, and a few items went unaccounted for, but overall we were glad that we did not have to through a full luggage search on the way out.

Hot Havana : Landing at the airport.

We collected ourselves and headed outside to the nearest Money Exchange Huts.  Our American dollars would not help us much in Havana without the proper connections so we changed our Dollars for the Cuban Convertible Pesos at a 20% loss(which is the standard in Cuba).  This is the money that the tourist and visitors use, which is different than the local Cuban money used by the Cuban citizens.  It was surprising to find out how much tourism from Europe and South America that Cuba still receives.

Havana Cars

We got a cab ride from Jose Luis to the internal flights airport to check for earlier flights to Holguin.  A professional cab drivers of over 10 years, Jose told me about life in Havana.  As we drove around we noticed that Cars that were on the road were 'vintage'.  Jose talked about how hard it was for the average person to own a car because of cost.  And that most cars are very old (and any new cars that are seen are typically for the high powered officials or foreign visitors).  We arrived at the airport and were able to leave our luggage and had a few hours to kill.

Lunch in Havana

It was hot.  Havana Hot.... and we were getting hungry.  Tracy recommended this place for lunch where they had eaten before, and we were all game!  The food was very good... and the place looked very Tropical.  I was surprised at how reasonable the prices were for us, but to keep it in perspective, I had to remember that the average professional salary in Cuba was about $25.

Havana Piggy

To this point, the trip has seemed almost Touristic.  We had been watching the storm heading toward Cuba, and were surprised how no one in Havana seemed to know anything about it yet... and it was only a day away.  Even the airport personal who coordinated the flights said that they had not heard anything yet about it but started looking into it (through personal connections : Internet is not publicly accessible in Cuba without proper authorization).

It would be later that evening where I would know a profound fear that I had never experienced before in my life.  It would be later that evening were I would look back at the happy go lucky meal we had for lunch and remember it as my last supper.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Cuba Awaits!

I know I am a bit behind, but I wanted to post from my notes and while my memory is still fresh from our first trip to Cuba.  I am actually sitting right now in the Airport typing this, waiting to return to Cuba on the second trip (one week after I got back from the first trip).  But I am getting ahead of myself.  Lets go back to September 5th was our "Launch Day".  All systems were a go!

Plane To Mia

We were all in good spirits, and the initial parts of the flights/connections seemed routine.  Some of our luggage weights were over, but not to bad.  In Miami, we had a chance to have our last stop at a good old American fast food restaurant.  We chatted and joked... and it promised to be a good trip with a great group of guys.

The Cuba Team

I was glad to be a part of the trip, and glad to share some time with my fellow brothers from Rockdale Baptist.  (Tim, me, Dan, Kennon, and Tracy).  At the time, we know that there were some storms out there, and we were watching closely.  We were hoping and praying that God would take control and push the storm out of harms way.  It would not be until later that we would see more of God's plans unfold.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Tower

Ah finally made it to first grade!!  Of course Matthew says its old hat now.  He has his own alarm clock.  He gets ready all by himself.  He focuses on getting the work done.  But what does he miss while he is out and about?  ...What are his sisters up to on days they don't go to school? 

Matthew Off to First Grade

Well, maybe some days are more exciting than others... but we always feel that when we are not there, was the day that they did the coolest thing ever!!  This day was just about towers.

Sophia's Turn Megan's Turn

The girls did play some nice games while Matthew was out.  I guess they needed to practice a bit so that they could surprise him with their mad ninja like skills when he got back.  Of course like all fun games... the inevitable happens.

Again Game Over

Once the blocks come crashing down... some smiles turn to frowns.  But I am hopeful that they will recover and live to play another day.  Because this too shall pass.