Sunday, October 31, 2010

Back from Cuba again!

I've just returned from spending ten days in Cuba doing research with educational specialists there. The island continues to struggle under an economic blockade by our government here in US, one of the results being an extremely limited amount of internet access. I'll slowly add my reflections on Cuba to this site, as I have time to do so. Reflecting on my research experiences in Cuba is never a simple matter. The personal and the academic and the educational become blended in a way that makes articulation difficult, but here are a few thoughts I sketched out as my plane was getting ready to depart Havana this morning...

In his work, the Cuban artist Fuster often uses a crocodile to symbolize Cuba. For my own reasons, I find it an apt visualization. To truly know a crocodile is not only to read about it or to see photos or videos, nor is it only to talk to those who have met one and understand why they love it or hate it. To know the crocodile is not only to touch it when it is gentle, sleepy, or playful or when its thick skin seems smooth and pliable. To truly know the crocodile one must also know it when it is angry or ill, when its skin is parched dry and rough and crackles in the sun, when it bares its teeth even to its babies and closest friends. To really know the crocodile one must form a relationship to it and reflect upon that relationship continuously while passing time with the crocodile.

So it is with Cuba.

My time in Cuba, two and a half weeks over the last two years, has significantly altered my perceptions and ways of being, as a researcher, as an educator, and as a person. Cuba is for me both intellectually and personally reinvigorating. Each time I leave Cuba, I do so with both greater hope and greater realism about what it takes to make this world a better place. I find links between who I am as a person and my work and my research and my role in the world. I more enthusiastically embrace my responsibility to form and demonstrate a link between theory and practice so that each informs the other, to break down barriers to knowledge and inequality, to participate fully in life on all levels. My greatest lesson has been to begin asking more questions, listening more patiently, and embracing and building more integrated approaches to being a life-long learner.

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