by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation
It's great to be wrong.
In the weeks leading up to this trip to Cuba, Louisiana Farm Bureau 1st Vice-President Jim Harper, Secretary/Treasurer Mike Melancon, board member Marty Wooldridge and Back Vacherie sugarcane farmer Greg Gravois picked my brain about what it would be like when they came to Cuba. Will I have a phone? Will I have access to the Internet? Should I check my bag? They're all valid questions and having been to Cuba once before, I was the veteran from whom they sought sage advice.
I told them phones only work from certain carriers and it's expensive to call home. That's pretty much true, but it's no longer as expensive as it used to be. There are some options for renting phones and Louisiana Farm Bureau Assistant to the President Jim Monroe even found a National Geographic SIM card that fits in an iPhone which turns it into an international phone with data and everything... and it works in Cuba.
I told them they would have to pay 10 CUC, that's the Cuban Convertible Peso which is the currency tourists use, to buy 12 hours of Wi-Fi service and that the 12 hours of internet service expires every 48 hours. That's how it was in April. On this trip, the organizers gave us codes that work for the duration of the stay without costing us any more than we already paid. See, I'm batting a thousand here.
I told them to carry on their luggage because when I flew out of Miami, it was chaos at the ticket counter to check a bag. There were people with luggage wrapped in plastic and LCD TVs taped together for checked luggage. This time, flying out of New Orleans, I got to the counter, saw the lack of chaos and checked the bag I had packed with travel sized toiletries because I was prepared to carry it on. Believe me, Greg, Mike and Marty were quick to point out that I went against my own advice and checked my bag. Jim is much more forgiving... or at least he stays quiet enough for you to think he's forgiving.
I poke fun at them because they're my friends and I enjoy the ribbing they're giving me on this trip. I mean, after all, I've been to Cuba one time more than they have, now. That's like 100% more experience than they've had.
I'm glad that communication is becoming easier between Cuba and the U.S. It's through communication that we learn. I'm glad more websites work when I hop online in my hotel room, like I am right now as I type this. I'm glad that Randy Haynie has done such a great job organizing the trip that the chaos I witnessed in Miami is not anything like we've experienced here.
So, yeah, I'm pretty happy that I was wrong and the folks on this trip are enjoying every moment of it.