Lindsey A. Conover
"In November 2002, a group of 27 people from the Princeton Alliance Church in Plainsboro did something few others had attempted. The group, ages 16 to 72, split into a Bible School Team and a Construction Team to make a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba. I was a member of the Bible School Team."
"When someone mentions Cuba, people think immediately of the Cuban cigars the country produces, and its domineering communist leader, Fidel Castro. I now believe Cuba is perhaps one of the most misinterpreted countries in the Caribbean. In 1977 the U.S. made the cautious decision to discontinue all trade and correspondence with the country, which is only 108 miles south of Florida. Because all trade between the States and Cuba is still prohibited, Americans know and understand very little about the country. We often view this Spanish-speaking oasis as one of the most dangerous places in the world."
"The Princeton Alliance Church entourage was prepared, as the largest American group to enter Cuba since 1950, to push aside all stereotypes and simply experience the people. As a high school junior I was the youngest traveler on this journey to the unknown. Many who had traveled to Cuba before tried to explain what I would experience. I found that no one can truly explain the suffering of that country. Few realize that they will be drinking out of old soda cans used for cups, and they will be eating chicken and rice every day. Sometimes pork, considered the finest meal."
"While in Cuba for 10 days, the group visited Las Tunas, Perea, Santi Spritus, Varadero Beach and Havana. The longest stay was four days in Las Tunas. There my Bible School team worked with the children of the Los Piños Nuevos Church, putting on skits, doing crafts, playing games, singing songs, and offering spiritual leadership. We only spent a short time with those amazing kids, but our hearts broke as we said good-bye. In Las Tunas the children cried when our bus drove away. It was there that we received pictures, notes, and flowers all inscribed with the words 'Enscríbame prónto,' [meaning] 'Write me soon'."
"It takes a trip to Cuba to realize how little the Cubans have. A family only receives two to five pounds of rice per month, no matter the number of members it has. The consumption of beef is strictly prohibited, a federal offense, even if it is the family's own cow. The tourist beaches, hotels, restaurants and stores are off-limits to native Cubans. Government officials have homes on each street to watch every single person and make sure they do not break any laws."
"Through three translators, the group was given the chance to uncover the truths behind Cuba and its people. Although Cuba is poverty-stricken, it holds a happiness that is often concealed to those who are blinded by the façade of its grimy streets and rundown homes."
"In Cuba I found more than a gorgeous sunset, more than dilapidated homes, more than the realization that helping people makes me feel good. I found true love in Cuba. Not the true love of fairy tales, but a true love for life. The Cuban people cherish everything. Every step they take is a miracle for which they are truly thankful. They don't meander around complaining about their lives and how things could be so much better. They instead thank God for their lives and what they have. Here in America we are reluctant to give people our last piece of gum. In Cuba, they will gladly give you their last dollar."
"Many Americans look down upon people that do not have as much as they do, are not as successful. But I learned that when it comes to life, a Harvard University degree and a hefty salary may buy you a nice Ferrari, but it will not buy you happiness. Happiness is found in the things you do, not in the things you have. I have learned that the poor man knows and understands more because he truly understands how precious life is."