Volume 12 Week 5

Monday, May 29


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Orléans Ward
Bob Monette

Beacon Hill,
Cyrville Ward
Tim Tierney





The more you travel
the smaller the world becomes

I’ve always been a big believer in the importance of traveling to other countries and meeting people from different cultures to develop a broader perspective of the world around us.

I’ll use my recent trip to Cuba as a perfect example. I went with my two boys James and Dylan, who I have been promising to take away as a high school graduation present for the past year now.

Up until a couple of weeks ago, circumstances with work and the paper prevented me from doing so, but then I finally thought if not now then perhaps never.

I booked the plane tickets through Sunwing out of Montreal on a last-minute deal. The destination was entirely dependent on what day of the week we could leave. The two choices were either Holguin in the south of Cuba on a Wednesday, or Santa Clara, in the centre of the country, on a Friday. I chose Santa Clara because of its proximity to Cayo Santa Maria on the north shore, Havana, and Trinidad.

I’ve never been to Cuba, so I didn’t know anything about any of these places except for Havana.

My ulterior motive, besides taking the boys on a trip, was to see Cuba before the Americans turn into another Disney World.

During the week we spent in Cuba (see page 10 for part one of our trip) we met people from all over the world. We spent the first two days at an Airbnb in Havana. Airbnbs are everywhere in Cuba and for my money are the best places to stay. We paid $45 a night for a second floor, one bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a small terrace that looked out over a garden, owner by a woman named Niky.

But the best part was Niky’s neighbour Andy. Andy is a 22-year-old doctoral student who became our driver, guide – and after just two days a trusted friend.

We could speak to Andy about anything. Cuban politics, where the best restaurants were, the hottest night club; his favourite baseball players, how to avoid being ripped off by taxi drivers… you name it.

I learned more about “Autentica Cuba” in two days with Andy than all of the travel sites on the Internet. For one, I learned that most Cubans are on Facebook, and not some cheap facsimile, but the real deal.

I can’t remember how many times I read Cubans don’t have access to Face-book. I also learned that Cuba has serious infrastructure issues. Andy’s biggest com-plaint is the potholes that litter the streets in Havana – sound familiar?

He also told me about how difficult it is to navigate through government regulations and get things like building permits. His father is a contractor. When I told him that contractors and small business owners in Ottawa can sometimes take months to get building permits approved, he didn’t believe me.

After two days in Havana, we traveled to Trinidad, a small colonial city on the south side of the island about an hour east of Cienfeugos.

It was in Trinidad that we met fellow travellers from Spain, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Australia, and Sweden.

I was also able to talk to a couple of local restaurant owners about Cuba and how much things have changed there over the past 10 years. They both said the country has a long way to go, but both agreed that their parents could never have imagined owning things like cell phones and laptops with unfettered access to the Internet and social media.

They are also fearful, however. Fearful, that the current Cuban leadership will cut a deal with Trump and open things up for their own benefit rather that the benefit of the Cuban people. A running joke is that the first American-owned hotel in Havana will be a Trump Tower.

Talking to all these people from dif-ferent walks of life and different countries affirmed my belief that we are all basically the same with the same wants, desires and needs.

We all want to raise a family in a safe environment with access to health care. We all live in countries which generally have the same issues when it comes to the relationship between the people and the government. That is, the less government interferes with our lives the better.

My belief that 19-year-old boys are the same the world over, was also affirmed in conversations with parents of 19-year-old boys from Cuba, California, England and Spain. They spend way too much time on the Internet playing video games and think their parents are old and boring… except for me, of course.

I hope those same themes have struck a chord with my boys, and that as they grow up they too will gain an appreciation of the benefits of traveling to other countries and meeting the local inhabitants.

(If you wish to comment on this or any other View Point column please write to Fred Sherwin at fsherwin@magma.ca)

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