Port of Call
Peace Boat Exchange Event with University Students in Havana, Cuba, Nov 8, 2017
The Cuban students practicing writing their names in Japanese.
Twenty participants of the 95th Global Voyage went on an exchange tour with university students in Cuba when Peace Boat made its port of call in Havana on 21 October. They were joined by 14 university students from throughout Cuba, many of whom study Japanese and were excited to practice their language skills; of the Peace Boat participants on the tour, a dozen were native Japanese speakers and most others had studied the language to varying degrees. The event included sightseeing and learning about the history of Cuba in Havana's historic quarter, a dance performance over lunch, cultural exchange games at the Casa-Museo de Asia, and a visit to the Plaza de la Revolución.

Havana's historic quarter of Habana Vieja.
The ship docked at the Terminal Sierra Maestra in Havana's atmospheric old quarter of Habana Vieja. The Peace Boat participants and the university students met and introduced themselves at the nearby Plaza de San Francisco de Asís, where they were broken up into small groups and given a list of questions to answer while walking around. The students led the groups, showing the participants some sightseeing spots and explaining the history of Habana Vieja and the area's buildings and monuments. The places they visited included a cathedral, a fort, a hotel, and a public square: the Catedral de San Cristóbal de la Habana, the Castillo de la Real Fuerza, the Hotel Ambos Mundos, and the Plaza Vieja. The tour concluded with lunch, where participants tried Cuban food and watched a performance of Cuban and Spanish dances.

Photographs of Asakusa in the exhibition of Sanae Numata.
For the exchange event, everyone then made their way to the Casa-Museo de Asia, a museum and educational facility devoted to providing a platform in Cuba for Asian culture. The Casa-Museo houses temporary and permanent cultural exhibits, and offers courses on Asian culture as well as language courses on Chinese, Japanese, Hindi, and Farsi. The Peace Boat participants got to see a temporary photography exhibition being held entitled Asakusa Monogatari: Relatos de Asakusa, featuring photographs of the Asakusa district of Tokyo by Japanese photographer Sanae Numata.

The participants and students showing off the paper cranes they made.
After an introduction of the Casa-Museo by the director of the facility, the Peace Boat participants brought out activities and games from their own countries for the cultural exchange. Japanese calligraphy was especially popular, and some of the Japanese participants taught the Cuban students how to write their names with Chinese characters. Another popular activity was origami, and the students practiced making paper cranes, boxes, cats, and so on. Participants from the United States and Singapore introduced team-building games meant to inspire friendship, including a series of games to practice communication without using words.

The students and participants posing at the Plaza de la Revolución.
For the last part of the exchange tour, the students and Peace Boat participants went together by bus through the rest of downtown Havana, going through Centro Habana and Vedado towards the Plaza de la Revolución. Cuba suffered widespread damage at the hands of Hurricane Irma one month prior to the exchange, and Havana experienced flooding and seven fatalities, some the result of historic buildings collapsing during the storm. A tour guide on the bus explained the extent of the damage, and also introduced some of the history of Centro Habana and Vedado. Arriving at the Plaza de la Revolución, participants got to see the giant murals of Camilo Cienfuegos and Che Guevara, and the buildings in the area which house the Cuban government. Finally, the Peace Boat participants and students gave farewell greetings and thank-yous before going their separate ways.