Last year, I spent my fall term as an exchange student at the University of Havana, around the same time that you may have been listening to Camila Cabello’s hit song, “Havana.” Cabello’s lyrics do not lie — I am also left longing to return. Havana could not be any more different from Hanover. I don’t presume to know the ins and outs of Cuban culture, but I do have anecdotes aplenty to illustrate some of the differences between life there and life here.
Havana is a rich, sensual city. While there my mind was saturated and, with no digital distractions, I felt a new surge of creativity. Instead of using my phone to mindlessly scroll through Instagram, I read and listened to music. That isn’t to say that I was without Internet for four months. As of June 2013, Cubans have been able to access the Internet through a state owned company called ETECSA. But it isn’t free. Prices change often — when I was there, it was the equivalent of $1 an hour. Like most things on the island, ETECSA and its spotty service is a source of humor. ETECSA has been made into the following acronym: Estamos Tratando de Establecer Comunicaciones Sin Apuro (we are trying to establish communication without rush). This exemplifies the good-natured Cuban humor. They find amusement in the absurdity of life there. “No es facil” (it’s not easy) seemed to be the unofficial national motto. My hostess would jovially declare “a la batalla” (off to battle!) before leaving home.
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