Today was our last full day in Cuba, and a full on free day. I haven’t seen most of the kids all day…I think we are both a little OK with that…nevertheless, I’m excited to hear their stories and adventures (I haven’t heard anything bad either, so that’s good).
My wife and I took the day to visit her family in Arroyo Naranjo (Ah-ROY-oh Nah-RAHN-ho), a municipality just on the outskirts of Havana. Niki’s father was born there, and he lived there until he was about ten. A number of relatives still live there, mostly cousins and cousins of uncles and three times remove-type relations. But, relations nonetheless. Many have been there since before Niki’s father left.
Visiting her family was an amazing experience. For me, it was seeing a world that I had never really experienced before, as well as learning about another side of my family. For my wife, it was going back to her homeland….seeing where she came from and meeting family she had never met before. The experience was especially emotional for her. I’m not going to go too much into the details of the visit, mostly because there are so many intricacies and complicated family connections. Niki’s abuela and abuelo, whom I talked about in this post lived in Arroyo Naranjo for many years. Her father, aunts, and a number of other family members, both in Cuba and in the U.S., were born here. Most of the people in the coming pictures were born and raised here. Roberto, mentioned in some of the pictures in the middle of the slideshow, played in the neighborhood with Niki’s father when they were kids, and hasn’t seen him since her father left in 1961. It was amazing to meet them all. They were warm, kind, fun, and we were very sad to have to leave them.
Here is a video of riding in Chuchito’s truck. I think it gives a feel for where we were today, in a unique way:
Tomorrow we fly for Miami. The flight is scheduled to leave at 1:30, which means an approximate arrival of 2:30. So sometime around 1:30 Grand Forks time, expect a flurry of texts, phone calls, and emails as we get cell service again. Stay tuned for updates of videos and pictures from the students cell phones and cameras. I plan on adding them over the next few days. Updates will come for the next week or so, so stay tuned.