Carlene Hempel's Travel Blog

Reflections from a journalist and teacher abroad…

Excursions…

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We took a number of trips away from Havana while we were working and studying there for a month. My favorite was Trinidad – a beautiful, quiet, nearly carless city about six hours away from Havana. We also went to Matanzas, Las Terrazas, the Bay of Pigs (Playa GirĂ³n) and Veradero, where we stayed at an ocean-side resort. I’m including just a few pictures and captions from these wonderful adventures.

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Written by carlenehempel

June 15, 2018 at 11:04 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Good cheer, even though…

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One of the things that most distinguished this tremendous group of students was their work ethic and their unbelievable resilience and good cheer. Reporting from Cuba was damn hard. It was hot, and then it was p-o-u-r-i-n-g for days because of a tropical storm system that swept over us. The language barrier of course was always there. But also no one had use of a phone except for mine, Mike’s or Danny’s. The only wifi was at hotel lobbies, through $2 scratch-off internet cards that work for an hour. And they had to pay for their own cabs to take them to appointments – many of which produced no-shows and late-shows. And of course, most of them were sick, nursed back to health by the staff at our residencia, until their systems got used to Cuban food and water. Through all of this, I never heard them complain. Not once. They were hard-working, diligent, mature, always respectful of me, their hosts and their sources. And they did amazing work. (We’re still finishing the magazine. It should be posted within a week.) This particular group of students was the perfect collection for Cuba. I was lucky to have them, and wonder if I’ll ever be able to assemble another quite like them. I’ve included a few pictures to show them at work. Click on any for a slideshow with captions.

Written by carlenehempel

June 15, 2018 at 7:55 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Mike and me…

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For two years, I have had my dear friend and colleague Mike Beaudet to help me with the work we do abroad. Last year, he assisted with the Greece Dialogue and was responsible for three of our team winning a student Emmy with their package on the Syrian refugee crisis on Greece’s islands. This year, he was again around for two weeks to help us with a number of fascinating pieces. He was up late with us editing, and editing early in the morning. I even saw him with headphones on in the plane, editing a package the whole way home from Havana. He and I are a good team and it was a pleasure to have him. (He also takes good care of me while we’re abroad. All I have to do is think I want a coffee and one magically materializes.) This next week of final edits will be tough before we get the full magazine online, but I know Mike is up for it. He always is. Until the next adventure…

 

Written by carlenehempel

June 9, 2018 at 2:57 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Work, work and more…

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I’ve hit that portion of the program… all editing… all the time. Except here, there’s no Google Drive to work from, or any reliable internet to use. So, we’re making it work with passing thumb drives back and forth and writing notes to each other on… paper! How quaint, my friend Walter Robinson would say. Of course, my computer is dead, so I also have to take students’ computers each day to edit their work. But, despite all of that, it’s going smoothly. We have a rhythm down, just in time for the story packages to be piling up. We aren’t publishing from Cuba – we don’t have enough bandwidth. But we’ll take care of that once we’re state-side. Below on the left is a glimpse of my work station this morning, which was at our breakfast/dinner table in the residence. (I skipped today’s lecture on religion in Cuba to do work.) You’ll notice all the thumb drives with articles waiting to be edited, my (broken – ugh) reading glasses, and a story list to the left. On the right is a small indication of how well I’m taken care of. The ladies of the house (there is a staff of 12 who takes care of us) know I LOVE the fruit juices here. Guava, mango, banana. They brought me fresh pineapple juice this morning as a treat while I worked. Mmm. Only a week left before we leave… And while I miss my family very much, I am not ready to leave this wonderful, magical place. More soon! Carlene

 

 

Written by carlenehempel

May 30, 2018 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Mosaic town.

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One day last week, our lovely handler Emily – who just seems to make things happen when we ask – arranged for our bus driver to take us to a small town about a half hour outside of Havana called Fusterland. I call it Mosaic Town, the reason for which will become clear when you see the pictures below. One of our students, Annina, is creating a video package on it, which I will link here when it’s done. Her piece will be about the 70-something-year-old artist who started creating a mosaic on his house, and then ended up covering the entire property with colorful tiles. And then he covered his neighbor’s property, and so on. It’s quite a sight. And, as usual, I just loved it.

Written by carlenehempel

May 28, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Where we work…

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I don’t think I’ve had time to describe how truly amazing the students’ residence is. It’s extraordinarily beautiful, an old house with at least 20-foot ceilings, antique tiled floors, double rooms each with a bathroom, amazing gathering spaces, plants everywhere, and a dozen local women and men who take tremendously good care of us. (And we have needed it as many students have succumbed for a day or two to the perils of Cuban water and food… Good news though – everyone’s system has adjusted and we’re all healthy.) We are in our last week of the program, and soon, the students will realize their magical time is ending soon… I know they will feel the pain of that, as I do, as this has been a life-changing experience from the first day until now. We all know what a gift it is. I’m including a few pictures of the places in the house where we work and talk and strategize our stories and write. These can’t begin to adequately explain it, but at least it’s a glimpse of what we are so lucky to experience every day.

Written by carlenehempel

May 28, 2018 at 3:25 pm

Posted in Life in Cuba

Happy Sweet 16, darling Lila

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Carlene Hempel and Lila, Happy Birthday 2018

Written by carlenehempel

May 28, 2018 at 3:10 pm

Posted in Family, Life in Cuba