Hello From Cuba (6) – The Student Experience And Political Insights

Hotel Havana Libre, Friday, April 8, 2005, 3:21 pm

It is such an amazing experience to live the life of a student again, after 15 years in business, 2 business degrees and at almost 40 years of age (okay, soon I´ll be 39…..). No regular Internet access, no cell phones, no business appointments, just interactions during the classes with the professor and my co-students. And after class, of course I try to immerse myself as much as possible in Cuban culture, speaking Spanish only. (I have actually started noticing that when I speak English now I am starting to mix in Spanish words…..very very strange.)

For me this is absolutely fabulous. Yesterday we had a particularly great day. There were only 4 students in my class yesterday and the other 3 were from Scandinavia (Finland, Sweden and Norway) and we had this amazing exchange among all of us, including the professor, about different cultures, different lifestyles, recreation, perception of other cultures, customs, laws, societal circumstances.

I have never had much contact with Scandinavians and I asked some rather naive questions about the long hours without daylight during the winter (after which the suicide rates shoot up in spring) and my colleagues talked about the fabulous summers in Scandinavia, when it´s light from 4 am in the morning until 11 pm at night.

And I find myself sharing a lot of things about Canada, my chosen home country and I find that I am a lot more proud of my Canadian connection than my original Austrian heritage. Here in Havana, where there are students from all over the world, studying Spanish (Europeans from all different countries, Canadians, Brazilians, Chinese, Koreans, Japanese etc.) I feel at home and the atmosphere reminds me very much of the environment in Toronto, where we have people from more than 100 different cultures. And it´s great to hear from people from different countries that Canadians are generally well received everywhere. I figure Canadians generally know their place in the world, we know we are a pretty insignificant country and there is a certain humility that goes along with that….

At any rate, the student experience is fabulous, and my Swedish co-student and I in particular share a lot of idealist perspectives about the world. He is young and plans to study international law and human rights in Sweden and has a real interest in social justice and I have a feeling we will spend more time exchanging ideas and viewpoints.

Today we watched a…

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