Wednesday 6 July 2016 94 °F
Very early this Monday morning, I returned from my choir's week-long tour to Havana, Cuba. It was possibly the most eye-opening trip of my entire life, and the entire choir was changed by this tour.
As the first youth choir to travel to Cuba from the USA, it was an immense privilege for my choir, the Voice of Chicago, to travel to a country with such a vibrant culture and that has had strained relations with this USA for sixty years.
Although this was truly an amazing tour, I will be honest with you, it was not all fun and games. We had 16-18 hour days, sweated through our uniforms during every concert after a full day in the blazing heat, and many, including my, hotel rooms were not in good shape. These hardships; however, made all of us think about our daily lives and I think that we can say that we now have a greater appreciation for everyday things such as air conditioning, plentiful clean drinking water, reliable toilets, etc. that many people around the world unfortunately do not have - which is the case for many Cubans.
This trip was all about experiencing the culture of Cuba, so it will not be bird-focused; however, I did take a few bird photographs and I did get a few lifers.
We spent one day in Florida before spending a week in Cuba, and once we arrived in Fort Lauderdale, we immediately headed to the beach:
In the afternoon, we split up into three groups and took a "gator tour" by airboat:
Beautiful PURPLE GALLINULE, life bird:
Family of LIMPKIN, life bird:
On the tour, I also gained my life bird BOAT-TAILED GRACKLE.
The next day, we flew to Havana, Cuba on a charter flight out of Miami. I luckily got a window seat and it was cool getting our first views of Cuba - a land so mysterious, so unknown - but enchantingly beautiful:
After waiting through many long lines in the airport, we sat on the air-conditioned bus and I spotted my life bird CUBAN EMERALD hummingbird. Unfortunately, I did not see its smaller cousin, the Bee Hummingbird, which is the smallest bird in the world, a Cuban endemic species.
The experiences we had on tour were just phenomenal. From just seeing the country from the bus to numerous cultural exchanges with choirs and musical groups, we really experienced the best of Cuban culture. It was astounding to meet such pure, happy people who enjoy life with such kindness and pride in their culture - and it really made us thing about how we live our lives.
Now I will leave you with these photos, and my only "talking" will be naming birds that I have included. The Cuba tour was a truly awesome experience and it changed my life.
World Life List: 897 Species (10 life birds on the Cuba trip)
RED-LEGGED THRUSH, life bird: