Teaching English in Cuba:
I lived in Havana, Cuba for one month through GeoVisions. My assignment was teaching English to school age children with another teacher. We taught Cuban students in the afternoons. The children were eager to learn and very appreciative. We were always greeted with excited giggles, squeals and Latin cheek-kisses.
Teaching children was fun. I had plenty of free time during the week, as well as the weekends, allowing travel to the beach and rural Cuba. Our living accommodations were clean, safe, comfortable and healthy. Cuba is a very safe country, but you must always be alert for desperate persons trying to use you in some way for their personal benefit.
I chose teaching English in Cuba because of my love for the Latin culture, and because I wanted to meet the Cubans on a very personal level.
With travel restrictions of U.S. citizens being relaxed, this was a perfect opportunity to travel, meet the Cubans and provide some value to them. Indirectly, this is a goodwill mission to provide friendship, love and support to these beautiful persons.
GeoVisions made the experience possible and took care of all of the arrangements while teaching English in Cuba. Their business partner in Cuba (Jakera) did an excellent job for all of the on-site arrangements. My family and friends were very surprised, if not shocked, I would go to this “forbidden land.” They were concerned about my safety and the unknown. Personally upon my arrival, I was not surprised by the poverty in Cuba because I have been to other Latin countries, as well as other third world countries.
I was shocked by the essential absence of crime and the devastating impact of socialism creating a widespread class of poverty. I was also very surprised by the aggressively friendly Cubans in the tourist areas seeking any form of help by very creative offers of friendly services. My annoyance with these hustlers was abated when I realized they are struggling to survive (average income of $20 per month.) Courteous and respectful response declining their offers was well received.
Also, traveling with another person significantly decreased these gestures. Although free enterprise is growing in Cuba, there’s still limited opportunity for innovation and reward for performance. Cubans do not have the liberties and freedoms we take for granted. For example, Cuba has nationalized most buildings, houses and businesses. The government owns most everything, even farms. The inefficiencies of government control are quite evident and the communistic philosophy seems to overtax and oppress businesses with revenue collection and a high level of regulation.
For example, tobacco farmers give 90% of their crop to the government “land owners.” Socialism provides excellent education and health care with subsidized food and housing for their citizens. The Cuban people know about their material oppression, but are a very happy and friendly people, which is evident in their hospitality, warmth, dance and music.
I now have Cuban friends and opportunities to return some day.
This program has broadened my perceptions of the world and given me a greater compassion for those less fortunate than ourselves.
I have seen first hand the beauty of the Cuban culture and how a different form of government has changed their lives. My volunteer teaching English in Cuba experience through GeoVisions has touched their lives and has definitely broadened my life perspective.