Day 7: January 8th, 2020

Oh, the things I’ve learned in Cuba. Mainly a few reasons why I’m glad to live in the US of A. We often take for granted the simple things like going to a hotel and automatically having access to free Wifi. My group and I had the opportunity to explore new places and food. I know we are all tired of chicken, beef, pork, and vegetarian food, though. I have already informed my mother that I will not be eating any pork, cheese, potatoes, or rice at least until Easter.


The culture in Cuba is as rich as their desserts, which they insist on having after every meal. Their welcoming personalities are everything. One thing I can say, if you are an American female and feeling ugly, take a trip to Cuba! The men will love you and will hype you up to no end. I can say that I will not miss the aroma of coffee and cigarettes. Yes, Cuba loves their coffee and cigarettes. But Cuba does not love toilet seats nor toilet paper. Or decent size towels for that matter. It takes 10 of their hotel towels to make an adult size towel.


Speaking of towels, I would like to take a moment to discuss one of the most common highlights of the trip, the beach day. On January 8th, 2020, the team traveled to one of Cuba’s most popular areas: Varadero. Varadero holds a very beautiful beach, which is lined with a strip of very expensive luxury hotels. On the day we went, the beach was very windy to the point of almost being cold. The ocean was a beautiful shade of turquoise blue, but was not safe to swim in because of the high tide. The beach and ocean were bordered by these large beautiful rocks. Needless to say, this was not an average beach day but more like a photoshoot. Some of us enjoyed books, built an official iMedia sandcastle, napped, or just simply goofed off. Others took note of their angles and played model for a day.


This small Cuban town also holds a small shopping mall and market of endless souvenirs. Everyone shopped and obtained all sorts of trinkets for those close to them. This market was for sure one part of Varadero that ensured that the trip to Cuba would truly be unforgettable.


Héctor and Mederos are complete opposites, but both of them love to talk. Mederos is a true lady’s man while Héctor is happy and content with his wife and family. We lost the soccer game, (as I predicted). Héctor talks a lot, but I guess it works in his favor.


One of the most memorable events was having the opportunity to explore and experience the wonderful cultural traditions of the Afro-Cuban people. I will forever remember their stories and talents. Overall, I am forever grateful for this great experience in which Cuba has provided for me.  

-Hyllary Bell, Photographer for Arte de la Finca

Day 6: January 7th, 2020

Today was very exciting I must admit, and very different than the others. Today both of the Elon Cuba groups joined to learn about each other’s various fly-ins projects. I watched many of Elon students interested in learning and gaining more knowledge of Cuba art and culture. 

Both Cuban groups started the day with breakfast at 7:30. We left the hotel at 9 in the morning to head to Héctor farm. Once we got there all of all the Elon students split into small groups to tour the farm. Everyone as a whole spent an hour touring the farm and seeing all the art and goods that the farm offered. 

Once the tours were finished Héctor said enthusiastically “Now let’s play soccer”! We all walked to the soccer field as a whole and Elon students team up against Héctor’s friends and family. The game is very entertaining. Both teams seemed to enjoy the game very much. A few remaining Elon students that did not decide to play including myself cheered from the sidelines. After the soccer game was finished we all headed to the dining area and enjoyed another great flavorful lunch. 

After lunch, we made our farewells and all got back on the bus heading to the Afro-Cuban pop dancing ally. There we met a family of Afro-Cubans who practice the traditional African dances from their ancestors. They wore very vibrate colorful clothing and played various instruments as they sing and dance. They invited us to dance with them. I enjoyed dancing with them a lot. After we all danced we said our goodbyes and both groups separated to end their day. 

-Tehya Jackson, Videographer for Arte de la Finca

Day 5: January 6th, 2020

On our final day of shooting, we walked around Héctor Correa’s plantation while learning about how he harvests coffee. Correa’s strong brew has been one of my favorite parts of the trip, so I was glad I got to write about the day where he showed us where it was grown. 

We had to leave the farm early on Monday because Jesus Alberto Mederos wanted to have us over to paint in the afternoon, so most of us just ate a passion fruit and/or a banana for breakfast.  

Clara told us that people drink the juice out of the fruit and eat the seeds, so I thought I could stick a small straw from the juice box our tour guide Linette gave us and eat it that way. After 20 minutes of seeds getting stuck in the straw, I realized this would take forever and decided to eat it by using the straw as a spoon. 

Once we got to the farm, Correa served us sweetened coffee from his thermos in ceramic shot glasses that he and his family made. While I still prefer his coffee black, it was still very good (especially since we did not get coffee before leaving the hotel).

He then took us to see his son’s farms. I was lugging a tripod around with Teyah’s camera bag and writing notes for this post while he explained it, so I might not have heard everything he said.

However, I heard most of it and it was fascinating to see the land Correa’s plans to build houses for his sons on in eight to ten years. As always, hearing about Correa’s passion for farming was great and I loved how he kept describing each field as a “miracle” and himself as “Jesus”.

When we got into the section where Correa grows his coffee plants, he not only gave us an explanation of why the fragile but more savory arabica beans make better coffee than the robusta beans, he also gave us some of our best interview footage.

Here, Correa explained that his coffee plantation started when he and one of his friends found a bunch of secret coffee plants sown in their yard.

This happened during a time when Cuban mountain coffee was not as legendary as it is today, but anything past that is information that can easily be found in our videos of him on our project’s site. It is a great story and explains a lot about why coffee is one of his favorite crops.

When we returned to the front of the farm, we filmed our final interview with Correa where he explained why his farm is called “Coincidental Farm”.

This is another great moment a blog post could not do justice, so visit Arte de la Finca’s website when it is online to hear the whole story.

We left shortly after lunch for Mederos’ studio. Lunch, as usual, was awesome and the squash mash Correa served was one of my favorite foods of the trip. However, I do not have any photos since I was too busy eating it.

Once we were at Mederos’ studio, we were quickly served bottled water and espresso. I loved the coffee (as I usually do) and by the end of the trip, people started calling me “Big Bean” for always drinking it black no matter how strong it was.

We then took turns painting a few strokes of the Cuban flag on a painting that Mederos wanted to give us and that was our day.

-Ethan McElvaney, UX Designer for Arte de la Finca

Day 4: January 5th, 2020

Today was our second day at La Finca Coincidencia, and one of my favorite days of the week. Yesterday was a great introduction to Héctor, the farm, his family, and the philosophy they live and work by. That general information prepared us to get more specific and dive into pieces of the farm. 

We started the morning in the ceramics studio. First, we interviewed Héctor Manuel, the youngest son, about the pottery. Afterwards, it was time to get to work. I was so happy to be the one from our group who had the opportunity to get on the wheel and make a vase with Hector Manuel (picture of the vase below). I was transported back to the art camp I spent seven summers at. Ceramics was always my favorite class and this made me want to spend more time working with clay.

After eating one of the best lunches ever, we all switched gears. We visited another section of the farm and another one of Héctor’s sons. The middle son, Pedro Hector, taught us about the beehives. Not only did we interview him and observe his handling of the bees, we were all given a chunk of honeycomb and we tasted fresh honey! I’ve never had honey straight form the hive before and I don’t know how I’ll ever go back. Can’t wait for another day at the finca!

-Juliet Goodman, Art Director for Arte de la Finca

Day 3: January 4th, 2020

Today was our first trip to La Finca Coincidencia. I enjoyed the hour ride through the countryside of Mantanzas. There were beautiful views of mountains and fields. We would occasionally drive by a horse and buggy. When we arrived at the farm, Héctor Correa and his wife, Odalys, joyously greeted the group and showed us a magazine article he was recently featured in. He was very excited for this project and made it clear that he wanted the group to not only be recording him, but also to be involved in the activities on the farm. 

We were served a delicious and hot tea prepared by Odalys. The tea had multiple ingredients all from the farm. Some of us were dealing with sore throats, so this tea really hit the spot. Héctor explained that the tea is very natural and healthy, and that all medicinal remedies come from the Earth. He gave a brief summary philosophy of the farm and life. During this, he stood in front of a sign that states “The man did not build the web of life, he is only a thread.” This quote serves the entry of the farm well, as it accurately depicts Héctor’s view of life. The videographers captured b-roll for the next few hours. It was so much fun to explore some of the art on Héctor’s farm. Plus, the landscape was beautiful and peaceful.

The group gathered for lunch along with Héctor. We were served watermelon juice, butternut squash soup, black beans, rice, yucas, pork, eggplant steaks for the vegetarians, and various greens and vegetables. We were served a phenomenal sweet coconut and cheese dessert with coffee, and finally, the best bananas that anyone in the group had ever tasted. Seriously, I don’t think I will never eat a grocery store banana again. All of the food was fresh from the farm. Everyone in the group agreed that it was our favorite meal so far in Cuba. The best part of lunch was jamming out to some American classic rock while Héctor and the group sang along to the songs. Randy Piland, Héctor, and the translator/ tour guide, Linette, were reminiscing about the time period of the music. 

We ended the day on the farm by interviewing Héctor and Odalys about the history and the philosophy of the farm. Héctor explained that his family plays just as much of a role in the farm as he does. His wife, Odalys, stated that she wants the younger generation to understand the way of the simple life that they live because the younger generation is most likely to receive and spread the message.

-Anna Sizemore, Web Developer for Arte de la Finca

Day 2: January 3rd, 2020

Today was the first day of shooting and whew chile I’m tired. Tehya and I were shooting all day. It doesn’t really feel like a vacation or study abroad trip for us because our eyes are through lenses all day. We missed most of the information in today’s tours because we were busy shooting and getting b-roll.

Tomorrow we will be heading to the farm. I’m excited but anxious because I already foresee another draining day. We walked around for a bit in our free time but tonight, Tehya and I stayed in. We wanted to go out with everyone but it’s in their best interest we don’t because work would be subpar.

Tips for the Fly In Videographer:

  • Have batteries on batteries and memory cards on memory cards – You want to be as equipped as possible with these things because the camera is always rolling…literally. You don’t want to miss a great shot because of a dead battery or full memory card.
  • Have a TRUSTY  camera assistant – you are not an octopus. Your two hands will be on the camera at all times. Having that extra person to hand you equipment, carry the tripod, and just talk to makes a difference in these long days.
  • Organize the clips and footage as strategically and early as possible – The more work you get done early the less will back up later. We organized our clips by date we recorded them. We also organized them based on the memory card order (ex: card A, card B, etc.). We had audio placed in another folder. In retrospect I make have organized the clips by date, memory card order, then if the footage were B-roll or interviews (A-roll). The more organized the easier it will be to find things.
  • Take YOUR break – this is a very physically demanding job. When you feel like you need to take a break. Take 5 or 10 minutes to regroup, sip some water, or take in the experience. Some times after filming Tehya and I did not touch any work after we backed up clips. We wanted to enjoy our fly-in on the personal side as much as we would benefit from on it on professional side.
  • Involve your other classmates – Even though not everyone will be touching the camera, invite them to help find cool places to shoot or nice ideas to incorporate. After all, this is  a group assignment.

As far as the tours concerned we took a tour of the Museum of Pharmacy which was at one of the oldest pharmacies in Matanzas and some place that has importance to Cuban culture and its relation to Spain. The pharmacy had many original things from its previous existence as a working pharmacy. We also visited the artist that was the focus of the project last year, Meduras. His spot was very cool and open.

This is the second day without Wifi. I can get some messages from Nia (my best friend)  but as far as everything else – zero..

I’m not trying to rush this experience but between not having any wifi, knowing the amount of work ahead of me, and the lack of fun I’m having – mail me back home. Having Tehya here as the other video person does make the work more bearable.

I hope everything goes smooth tomorrow because I want to enjoy the rest of this.

Time to hit the sheets.

-Arlette Hawkins, Videographer for Arte de la Finca

Day 1: January 2nd, 2020

My alarm went off at 3:45am and by 4:30am, I was fully packed and ready to go. At around 5:00am, our group was gathered at the Southwest terminal in Raleigh where we distributed photo and video gear that was to be either checked in or carried onto the plane with us. Luckily, all the gear was well packed and organized so that there were no questions as to where items were or what we were responsible for. Out of the two iMedia groups traveling to Cuba, there were a few who have never travelled out of the country or on a plane before, so this organization was crucial to ensure that the process went smoothly.

After flying to Fort Lauderdale, we had a couple hours to eat something and prep for landing in Havana. Traveling to Cuba requires some extra steps and paperwork, so it was best to be prepared. Professor Piland gave us a rundown of what to expect in the Havana airport and to be ready to answer questions about our purpose for visiting Cuba and the gear we have with us. Ready for anything, we took off from Fort Lauderdale and flew over Miami and The Keys. Before we knew it, we started or descent into Havana; it’s easy to forget how close Cuba is to the United States!

What happened next was honestly surprising. We were expecting a chaotic and possibly stressful customs experience in Cuba, but the place was fairly calm. There weren’t many other flights coming in with us and we were the largest group in the international arrival terminal. We all went to our kiosks to show the attendant our passports and visas. After explaining that we were a group from a university visiting Cuba for educational purposes, my passport was stamped and I walked right in.

Up next was the security scan. Small scanners and security x-ray belts for luggage were lined up in a relatively small room that had two baggage claim carousels. Professor Piland and Dr. Copeland were in front of me and I watched them go through the security scanners and open a box that contained some camera gear and lighting equipment. They explained to the young woman in uniform that there was a group with equipment coming through behind them, so I was ready to open up my own camera bag so they could search what was inside. After going through the scanner, I waited for her to open my bag and begin asking questions. I stood
there waiting, she also seemed to be waiting. After a moment or two she asked if I was going to take my bag or not. Surprised, I grabbed my things, thanked her, and went on my way without being thoroughly searched. The whole process was so easy!

Eventually all of our bags came through the belt and we were officially in Cuba and ready to go. We exchanged our money into CUC’s (the tourist currency in Cuba) and met our guide, Linette. She’s wonderful. We then got a quick bus ride through Havana on our way to Matanzas. Although I was exhausted, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the Cuban countryside during that ride. We drove past some amazing views and got our first glimpse of life in Cuba. Classic cars are everywhere and primarily used as taxis. In one moment, a 1956 Chevy Bel-Air would zoom past our bus and move around a family in their horse-drawn buggy. If you looked down a side street along the highway, you might see more horse-drawn carriages, classic cars, stray dogs, farmers, houses, and fields. People were collecting fruit from trees or cutting grass with machetes. The countryside was lush with green tropical vegetation and trees with rolling hills in the background. As we entered Matanzas, the sun was setting and we were exhausted. Today was a long day but we are excited to hit the ground running tomorrow!


-Michael Hemstreet, Project Manager for Arte de la Finca

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