My little travel buddy, Little Lucie, loves to play chess and Cuba was the perfect place to indulge in the game. She did a presentation for our local chess club yesterday and she posted her thoughts on her blog page.
Between arriving in Cuba, changing into our bathing suits, getting to the bus station to buy our tickets for that evening and store our luggage, we had about 3.5 hours to get to the beach, see some sites, have dinner, and get on a night bus to our next stop.
Varadero is a major tourist spot on a peninsula with amazing beaches, azure waters, all-inclusive resorts, hotels and golf courses. We went straight for the beach and water and along the way, we saw some interesting sights.
What happens when the Black Gringa (me) takes off from writing for a few days? Well, I wake up, planning to have a completely normal day, and then buy a ticket to Cuba! It is a trip I have been contemplating for about 20 years and today for some unknown reason, I decided to write it off my “bucket list”.
So, in six days, I’m off again to another Spanish-speaking country with my travel buddy. Now to present something ironic, I actually thought about having my little one spend the week with grandma in Los Angeles or her aunt and uncle in Washington DC, but the roundtrip tickets there (including unaccompanied minor fees $460 at the cheapest) were more than the roundtrip ticket to Varadero, Cuba ($335). So for one week, Cuba will be our classroom as we learn about Columbus (not discovering the “New” world, Spanish colonization, the slave trade and the Cuban Revolution. We will also be working on Spanish language, map skills and self-sufficiency. Homeschool for the 3rd grader, gotta love it!
Like the random, spontaneous traveler I am:
- I have no idea what we are going to do (besides roam randomly, hang out, and do some of our usual school work)
- Accommodations are yet to be determined
- Transportation is yet to be determined (besides the flight)
- And, I have 5 days to figure it out
Fun times. The first thing I have discovered is that outside of a lower airfare, it is significantly more expensive to be a tourist in Cuba than in Ecuador. There is no comparison. In Cuenca, excluding our apartment, I spent less than $100 over the course of a week. That is pretty hard to beat, especially looking at some of the posts on getting around Cuba.
While I look forward to our upcoming adventure, I am already missing the budget friendliness of Cuenca. That said, I plan to salsa my way to Cuban bliss, then return to start packing up for our Ecuadorian move. Yeah!
There’s never a dull moment in the Black Gringa household. That’s how we roll!
Where do I begin? I mean literally, where do I begin to unravel the litany of things that I need to accomplish to make this move? If I over analyze, over think, over strategize, it begins to get complex, quickly. Schools, homes, cars (or not), things in my apartment here, things for my apartment there, visas, adjustment period, culture shock, and other “stuff”.
Just listing these things down makes me anxious….then I realize, who am I kidding! The only things that really matter are the plane tickets. The beauty of a ticket is it automatically streamlines and simplifies everything. You get a specific date when your place “here” needs to be empty, you get 2 suitcases to back your stuff in, and really…what more do you need?
- I am renting, not buying, so if my friends are not able to help me find an apartment before I get there, I will surely and quickly find an apartment once I arrive. Check
- We are getting there in the summer, so school will be on vacation. And I made the decision to homeschool for the of this school year. So for now we have got school down to a science (literally, plus Latin, Spanish, math, grammar, history and geography). Check.
- With bus rides for a quarter and taxis between $1.50 and $2.00, who needs a car! Definitely not me. Check.
- I am selling, giving away, donating, or putting in storage, everything in my apartment here and I am getting everything new for the apartment there (I’m really zen about home furnishings anyway). Check.
- We will extend the term of our tourist visa for 6 months before we leave the US and I will figure out the rest while I am chillin’ in a relaxed pose in Ecuador. Check.
- Adjustment period? Culture shock? Seriously, it is Cuenca, Ecuador not Timbuktu, Mali. Visit the Latino neighborhoods and businesses in your town, imagine it significantly cleaner (because Cuenca is cleaner than the vast majority of American cities) and in a valley surrounded by mountains. Adjustment finished. Check.
- There is no other “stuff”. And if there is, it will be taken care of at some point, while in my relaxed Ecuadorian pose. (There is the issue of closing down my business, that but requires a whole post of its own.)
So the biggest step is to purchase our tickets and I already told my oldest daughter we are making two stops immediately after her high school graduation in June,
- Grandma’s house – to drop off all of her boarding school stuff; and
- JFK airport, to catch our flight to Quito.
And like the awesome daughter she is, she is right on board (pun intended).
Step 1 – Decide the specific date we are leaving and buy airline tickets.
All my talk on school and travel has really revolved around elementary school children; however, what about high school students? This is especially important if you aspire that they be competitive college applicants for the best schools in the country.
I am sure that there are a ton of homeschool families that could give all sorts of really great advice. In our case, my daughter has been in boarding school for the last four years, so the homeschool scenario no longer applied. Instead she was subject to traveling with us during her school breaks, which were pretty long ( 3 weeks in December and March) and summer holidays.
Family holidays, however, are not the only option for high school students. If you, as a parent, have an open mind and trust in the relative maturity and character of your child, you may consider the multitude of school year abroad programs that are out there. Through the School Year Abroad (SYA) program, my daughter spent 10 months living and going to school in Beijing, China and immersing herself in Chinese culture. She learned how to write, read and speak Mandarin and she learned how to make dumplings from her host family. She also had multiple opportunities to tour other regions of the country.
She grew immeasurably in ways that are still manifesting themselves, she has determined that Asia will be her future home base, and she picked her college prospects based on the strength of their Chinese and East Asian studies programs.
Whether you are a homeschool, public,or private school family, SYA and other similar programs, offer a unique opportunity for young adults to spread their wings, within the constraints of a structured program. Gap year (year between high school and college) programs, such as Global Citizen Year, can have the same effect as well.