Over the March Break, the Dartmouth High School Grade Eleven
and Twelve Concert band, with chaperones, Mr. Hill, Mr. And Mrs.
Endres, Mr. and Mrs. Farmer, and Mrs. Carson, spent eight days
together on their trip to Cuba.
Although the first and last days were devoted solely to travelling,
the remaining six had enough fun and excitement to fill an entire
month. Grade 12 trumpet player Joanne Haran sums it up: "Cuba
was one of the most memorable experiences I've ever had. That
and the time when I laughed so hard jell-o snorted out of my
nose. Yeah, Cuba was amazing!" The group stayed in a hotel
outside of a major tourist city, Santiago de Cuba. The hotel
was not as luxurious as The Holiday Inn, but with the swimming
pool, palm trees, and spectacular view of every sunrise/set,
no one was complaining!
Tuesday was the first "actual" day of their trip.
A bus tour of Santiago and its surroundings gave the students
a good look at Cuban life; a museum gave them a little history;
a castle gave them a little culture - and several breathtaking
views. But possibly the most impressive aspect of
the day was the dance presentation. An internationally famous
dance group put on a show that was in a word, spellbinding. Many
of the students left the theatre trying to recreate the dance
steps - but none were brave enough to attempt the fire-breathing.
It was back to school on Wednesday where the Spartans played
for fellow musicians and then attended a class in salsa dancing.
Several volunteers jumped up to learn the steps, and within a
few minutes, Canadian and Cuban students were dancing together.
After leaving the school, the next stop was the beach - with
water that was in the mid-20's! The water was so inviting that
even Mr. Hill was seen in the water. Those who felt adventurous
swam out far and let the waves pull them in.
A concert at the music conservatory filled the evening. This
was the first instance where the band really had to adapt to
their surroundings as there was only one lightbulb. Although
this made the music a little hard to read, it proved to be a
very successful night.
Thursday brought the only day which was completely devoted
to music. The students found themselves at the conservatory again,
this time to play with the Cuban musicians. The enormous band
practised all morning and afternoon, in preparation for the joined
concert that night.
The Canadian and Cuban students found time to mingle together
at lunch, talking about their ways of life, and of course, their
favourite music groups. However, the favourite time for all was
the social/dance which followed the concert. As well as dancing
to Cuban music, the massive group danced to music which the Canadians
had brought, at which point the Spartans taught a few students
from the conservatory how to breakdance.
After a day like Thursday, what should a band do? Relax! Friday
was a day of leisure - but that doesn't mean they sat around
all day! It took them over 400 steps, but the group made their
way to the top of a huge mountain which held a spectacular view.
There was one downfall to the mountain, though: bugs. Hundreds
upon hundreds of tiny black bugs were attracted to white, as
a few unfortunate souls found out, including Mr. Farmer.
Next was the coffee plantation where everyone was surprised
that you couldn't buy coffee!
On the way back into Santiago, the group's translator, Julia,
made a request for them to stop at an incredibly poor elementary
school. Before their trip to Cuba, the Spartans gathered together
boxes and boxes full of donations for all of the schools, including
music paper, pens, candies, and basic things like soap and disposable
razors. So, the group stopped at the tiny school, which had under
50 students, giving them some of the supplies. This meant a great
deal to the woman who ran the school, especially since our group
was the first to ever stop at their school.
Although very shy at first, as the children are taught not to
ask for items from others, they eventually warmed up to the group,
accepting small items like Canadian pins or candy. They even
allowed a few people to take their pictures.
The last stop of the day was to another elementary school,
this time in the city. There, three young girls gave a presentation
about their school, the history, and the history of their city
and Cuba. This simply floored the high school students as they
realized that they didn't know a quarter as much about Dartmouth
as the girls did of their city!
Saturday was another full day. The group travelled to an Artists
Community where they played a short concert. They found out afterwards
that this was the first concert the people had ever heard. As
soon as the musicians packed up, they were invited into all the
habitants house, where they bought much art and pottery. Every
D.H.S. student left the community absolutely amazed by the talent
that these people possess, and made it well known to every artist
which they purchased from.
"Everyone Loves Marineland!" Alright, it wasn't
the exact same, but the afternoon was filled at an aquarium where
the students were treated to a dolphin and sea lion show. Also,
about ten students swam with the dolphins, and another two were
kissed by them. Although everyone agreed that it was quite "cheesy,"
the final verdict was that the dolphins were incredibly cute.
The group's last "actual" day was Sunday, which was
filled by shopping, and one final trip to the castle. There,
everyone took their last few frames of film, and sat for a while,
just taking in the last bit of Cuba air and freedom.
So, the overall thoughts and impressions? First of all, less
chicken would have been nice. "I went to Cuba liking chicken.
But after eating it almost everyday for lunch, I couldn't eat
it for a month when we got home!" said Grade 12 trombone
player Jenny Winn. (This turned into a big joke amongst all,
and many were looking forward to the airplane ride home so they
could have something different. Guess what was served...)
Schedules mean nothing in Cuba. A two hour bus ride is actually
four hours (as you have to share the road with cyclists and herds
of cows - Seriously!), and lunch can take up to three hours.
It seemed that no matter where you looked, it was picturesque.
But the resounding thought of everyone is, "I WANT TO GO
BACK TO CUBA!"