Archive | January 2015

Grand Adventure

Hello again friends!

Two days until take-off on the next trip on the road! Due to a serious turn of events in the region of West Africa, my previously planned trip to Ghana was cancelled. Fortunately enough, my college supported my decision to go to Cuba in exchange. Thats right – CUBA! Its interesting that it happened this way and so soon. I had been saying that I would love to go to Cuba for a few years. Not only does it have the allure of a Caribbean island, it also happens to be shut out of existence by our country due to an unfortunate series of events that occurred nearly sixty years ago. Well… that is what we all thought until about two weeks ago – diplomatic relations have begun anew between the Cuban leader, Raul Castro, and our president, Barack Obama (as if this guys couldn’t get any cooler).

Anyway, to keep with the ever growing demands of my career aspirations and global interests I am traveling to Cuba under the flag of an economics trip. Legally you ask? The trip is sanctioned by the US state department as an educational cultural exchange. We will be visiting the country for 18 days in which we will traverse the better part of the central and western sections of the island. This takes us through the cities of Santa Clara, Cienfuegos, Matanzas, Havana amongst others. I am really looking forward to the interesting time capsule nature of the islands infrastructure, architecture, and modes of transportation. Thats not all … Cuba boasts an incredibly rich cultural heritage, amazing history, and most of all one of the greatest health care systems on the planet. This may be part of the allure of my upcoming trip.

To give a bit of background past what we all know well. You know, blah blah blah – the Cubans are bad blah blah blah communism … blah blah blah castro blah. To give you the real picture, the US and Cuba are the most tightly connected nations in the history of our great nation. What you probably didn’t know was that Cuba was more than an economic interest of the US when it came into our general realm of influence in the late 1800’s. In 1898 the Spanish American war broke out … why you ask? Must have been because the two powers were sticking their noses in the business of the other… In reality, some nasty (and nasty is a vast understatement) and incredibly large epidemics of Yellow Fever were moving across the trade routes between Cuba and the US. The Cubans couldn’t really help it, nor did they care that much for that matter. By the way, the Cuba that we are talking about at this moment is the Spanish colonial government that were fighting the native cuban rebellion. Now back to Yellow Fever. It turns out, the native population of the southern US coast and the same population of the Cuban island were immune to the disease as small scale infections typically occurred during childhood. These infections produced minor symptoms of the disease that rarely caused the rather high mortality rate of adult infections. Why is this important? Well… this meant that the non-native … or first generation inhabitants of these general areas typically caught the deadlier adult infection of Yellow Fever and a large portion of the infected died. This posed a large problem, especially to the federal government of the US who were increasingly trying to improve their domestic development. So … with several warnings and strict quarantine guidelines, the outbreaks continued until the point of war. The US invaded Cuba with the primary interest of eliminating the Yellow Fever outbreaks.

A little aside on the understanding of Yellow Fever at the time. Yellow fever is a virus a particularly nasty one as i previously explained. The virus is spread via infected mosquitoes through the consumption of human or primate blood.  Primary infection results in fairly generic symptoms; muscle pain, weakness, nausea and vomiting. The secondary infection, which develops in only a portion of the infected individuals, includes some much more dire symptoms including profound weakness and multiple organ failure (including the liver – causing jaundice – turning the patient yellow – hence, Yellow Fever).

Sorry for my rant… I get really excited about these kind of things. What you need to understand is this … One – Yellow Fever = Bad. Two – The facilitation of a public health venture led to the original relations (and animosity) between the US and Cuba. So Cuba – yellow fever – lots of death in the US – bad turns in the US economy – US gets angry – US invades Cuba – US (Army) spends a lot of time, money, and expertise figuring out how to eliminate Yellow Fever from the major Cuban ports – leads to animosity between the now “independent” Cuban people and the US. Tada! We have the makings of a REVOLUTION!.

So I go to Cuba with an open mind and “nearly” empty stomach. I am really looking forward to again advancing my Spanish language skills, learning a fair bit of Cuban cuisine (COOKING!), and most especially meeting some great people along the way. This time Im bringing a camera along. Although I have not done an overwhelming amount of anything during my vacation (and boy does it feel great!). I will be putting up my darkroom before I leave so that I have a good space to develop all of the “great” pictures that I take.

Also – you won’t really be hearing from me until afterwards. Cuba does not have a great amount of internet access. Therefore , I am going computer less for the duration of the trip. This time we are going pen-to-paper with some manual photography. Until we meet again!

Best wishes,

Tristan