Dr. Ed Kardas recently returned from a trip to Cuba in which he represented SAU in visits with the University of Havana and the Ministry of Higher Education to take the first steps towards beginning exchange programs.
“Like everyone I encountered in Cuba, the officials at the University and the ministry were welcoming and optimistic that things were changing for the better between Cuba and the U.S.A.,” said Kardas.
This was a return home, of sorts, for Kardas, as he spent three years with his family in Cuba in the late 1950s and was even witness to the Cuban Revolution. His family was stationed there as his father was a diplomat with the American Embassy.
Kardas said that all communication was done in Spanish, and his use of the language seemed to improve daily. Immersion in the Spanish-speaking culture would be one of the more obvious benefits to establishing such an exchange program, but that others will have to be considered and developed.
Kardas expects that faculty exchanges will be likely. Marine Biology is one obvious place faculty could collaborate, but he thinks there are many other possibilities such as art, STEM, business, and others.
The Ministry of Higher Education encouraged SAU to attend an upcoming international conference on higher education. All Cuban universities will be represented at this meeting. A committee has been formed at SAU to discuss ideas to possibly move forward with Cuban relations.
Other observations from Kardas about his Cuba trip:
- There are lots of old American cars running the streets. We rode in a 1957 Ford Fairlane convertible and in a 1958 Chevy Impala convertible. We also rode in a few (horrible) Russian Ladas. Many of the old American cars have been converted to diesel engines.
- There are already many tourists in Cuba. Most are being hauled around in huge Chinese-made tour busses.
- Tourists eat very differently from most Cubans. We got tired of eating lobster, for instance. Cubans never see lobster on their plates.
- Our taxi driver/guide drives a cab owned by the government and he must pay all of his expenses. He must also give the government a portion of his fares.
He said he might clear the equivalent of $40 to $50 in a day. To support his wife and three children he said he must drive seven days a week.
- We found many Cubans who were American citizens and who traveled back and forth to Cuba at will. At the Miami Airport we noted that these travelers’ luggage consisted of consumer goods such as televisions and microwaves.
- I was impressed with the large number of motorcycles equipped with sidecars.
- We saw police everywhere, but I only saw one who was armed (with a pistol).
- It was hot and sticky. I should have budgeted three shirts a day, not two.