This is it…the final blog post! I’ve been avoiding writing it, mostly in a vain attempt to pretend like SAS isn’t over, and I haven’t left the MV Explorer for good. But more than a full week later, I’ve finally sat down (with inspiration from the lovely Dawn Myers!) to put into writing my thoughts on our last two ports and the end of the voyage. In a further act of avoidance, I’ll start with the ports and put off the sure to be emotional voyage reflection until the end.
First, Barbados. Rihanna’s homeland is a bit of a blur to me, to be honest. We had three days there, but it easily felt like the fastest port. This might be because it followed our eight days in Brazil, or maybe because it was so close to the end of the trip, but either way, it flew by. I had my last field lab, for Travel Writing, on our first day in Bridgetown. It was also the second or third rainy day of the entire trip (how lucky are we?!), so I wasn’t too disappointed at spending a majority of the afternoon on a tour bus. We visited an old, historic plantation house and enjoyed a local rum and food presentation in the backyard – turns out popcorn chicken and plantains are a great combo. Also, shots of rum are acceptable at 10 a.m. When in Barbados…
The highlight of the port was the catamaran Shannon, Sterling and I went on during our last day. We spent the afternoon lounging on a yacht sailing along the west coast of the island, swimming with sea turtles, and snorkeling over shipwrecks. Not the most cultural of activities, but it sure was fun. We also found a vegan restaurant near the beach that was a much-welcomed change of pace from the multitude of fried flying fish on most menus in town.
Last but not least came Cuba. I could write pages and pages on Cuba and still not fully explain the intricacies of what we saw, learned and heard. Another student, or maybe professor, put it best when they said they left Cuba with far more questions than when they came. To come to Cuba, we had to be there for a legitimate educational purpose, so on the first day all 600 and some odd students, plus our professors and staff, caravanned to the University of Habana in a long line of tour buses to attend lectures. When we walked off the ship we were greeted with camera crews, also present at the university. It was at this point, looking up at the crowd of probably 100 Cuban students standing on the school’s front steps—on a Saturday, mind you— when I realized what a huge deal it was for us to be there.