A bit of sleep deprivation never hurt anyone! An early wake up call of 5am (3am Utah time) and we were off to Havana. Boarding the special charter flight felt surprisingly normal considering all of the paperwork that goes into booking airfare to Cuba as a US citizen. I imagined that we would be taken to a special corner of the airport reserved for Obama or Beyonce, but it was just a normal gate in a normal terminal and a fairly standard boarding process. My slight disappointment didn’t last, because a quick 50ish minutes later and there it was… the beautiful small island nation that has been off limits for much too long.
Excited to discover the reasons why we couldn’t visit and what it will mean now that we can, we stepped off the plane into a sunny day in Havana.
Landing in a foreign land always triggers sensory overload. I felt like I was going to break my neck as I attempted to look at everything and take it all in while making sure we don’t lose any of our travelers (rule #1 of tour guiding). As a feminist, the first thing that I noticed was how free the female airport security personnel looked. Their short skirts and fancy patterned tights are not something we see in the US. But, hey, in this warm weather it’s gotta feel better than pants.
Going through border control we all secretly hoped that our passports would be graced with a forbidden Cuba entry stamp – and most of us got it! Hot pink too. It’s the little things.
Going through was incredibly simple, not sure if this is a recent change or not, but I got the feeling that for Cubans it has never really been a big deal to have US citizens visit. Once through border control, we were warned about the possibility of waiting a long time for our luggage in the one-terminal airport, so it wasn’t a surprise that our luggage took about an hour to come out. As I continued with my sensory overload, I was struck by how many north american tourists were in the terminal. Things are changing. Fast.