Saturday, 17 March 2012

S.O.S: Stuck Overseas Studying- Cara

Stuck Overseas Studying is a series of posts that I'm introducing to Jabajanas. I love that the acronym is S.O.S and I did it intentionally because often times when you are abroad for school, you feel like you are in distress and in need of being rescued. The series is going to be about the studying-away-from-home experience of various people who are either Jamaicans studying abroad like myself or non-Jamaicans studying in Jamaica. I first felt inspired to do this when talking to an old friend of mine from primary school. She was my best friend in third grade. She struck up a convo with me over the Christmas and we started talking about our lives and while she started sharing hers with me, I told her to stop answering me in Facebook chat and asked if she would be so kind as to answer formal questions that I would send her via e-mail for a blog post. Once you become a blogger, you start seeing every experience as worthy of documentation and every adventure, conversation and mishap is a potential blog post. Without further ado, I now invite you to experience Cara's journey.

Age: 24
Where you study: University of Medical Sciences, Faculty 2, Santiago de Cuba
Major: Medicine                                                                            

What’s the biggest culture shock or some of the biggest culture shocks between where you study and where you’re from? The people, the country, the school etc..: I would have to say that the biggest  culture shocks for me was going to the bathroom with my toilet seat and lysol in hand and after "cleaning up" , having to put the tissue in the basket beside the toilet instead of flushing it plus having to use newspaper instead of toilet paper when I go to my cuban friend's house and forget to take tissue and not being able to use the internet freely (thats if ur lucky to have access at all) and going to the supermarket and having to carry the things u bought in your hands (bags r not provided).

How well did you adjust to any change(s)?:   Well the adjusting period was a 2 part process because the first year we were placed in a school for latin americans in havana then the 2 year we were moved to santiago de cuba to a school filled with cubans, africans and haitians (no cuban students were at the school in havana) At first i adjusted rather poorly....with lots of time spent asking myself why i chose to do it. however as the months went by i began getting the jist of most conversations...though alot of my responses were Si, Si, Si while nodding my head. it was easier to adjust to santiago because not only is the atmosphere more caribbean, but there were quite a few jamaicans and other caribbean nationalities there. plus we had more freedom in santiago...with the boys now being able to be on the girls' dorm and vice versa. 

What is/are the best part(s) about studying where you do?: Being able to learn another language, meeting people from all walks of life....learning about different cultures...about countries i've never heard of prior to going to cuba (eg. seychelles, djibouti, nauru).....being able to submerge myself in the world of performing arts ( opera, ballet, symphony, art museums) with a ticket for each show being about $ 30JMN....TOTALLY FREE health care. Studying in cuba revealed to me the true difference between the things that i really need and the things i think i has taught me how to be frugal and appreciate the simpler things in life....

What is/are the worst part(s)?: Being in cuba sometimes feel like being on a different planet. At times its so difficult to communicate with family and friends back home.  ive lost contact with alot of people because of this difficulty in communication. we do get roaming with digicel however, the cost for a text from my cel phone to jamaica is $84. recently the bb service was made available.....but its cost effective at all. you have to sign up for which plan u want at the same cost however, everytime you receive a ping, or one of your contacts changes their status or u change your status ...u pay. if u aint got any credit then u just simply wont receive any messages. being in cuba means most times having to bite your tongue in fury at some irrational rules that the cubans set and their rigdness and sometimes inability to rationalize. it is really hard to leave cuba to visit jamaica. travelling to jamaica requires a "salida" which is like a temporary visa that can anly be obtained in december and july providing you didnt fail any course or in the event that a family member dies in which u have to show proof of death. 

How’s the food? (if not mentioned before): for the most part the food is horrible. i cook most days but when i do eat out i normally dont eat much. they cook their rice with meat in it (pork or chicken), not nicely cut and cooked meat. and the rice is so wet. the seasoning of choice for the cubans is salt and nothing more. which is a far cry from the jamaican way. 

What do you miss most about home when you are abroad studying, if anything?: nice bathroom, being able to flush tissue down the toilet, patty, pastry, internet access, paying $3 for text, being able to use my cel phone as more than an alarm.... but most of all family and friends.

Would you migrate there at a later point in your life? Why or why not?: No. though it's cheaper to live in cuba than jamaica and more peaceful i wouodn't live there permanently. the salary of a doctor is chicken feed plus there are alot of restrictions i would be subjected to though i'm not a native.

Any other interesting things you’d like to mention?: cubans love baseball, its common place to see cross dressing men on the streets, cuba's society is firmly trenched in its history. if your not a diplomat then u dont have access to cable tv unless u happen to go into one of the hotels. cuban television doesnt have commercials. in santiago the most common form of transport is a "camion" which is a truck. cuba has 2 different currency...pesos moneda nacional "MN"(used at the markets, at the bodegas, and for transportation) and pesos convertibles "CUC" ( used in the stores, at the airport and in the hotels).. wit 24MN=1CUC. the cubans love to take advantage of the multiple currency on unsuspecting tourists. oh and i met my future husband there. with each year im in english deteriorates a bit. and can u believe the cubans make us do an english course?! guess who are the stupid is that when we know more english then them...cubans are big on promoting different cultures

Pictures documenting some of Cara’s memories and adventures from Cuba will be in my next post.