At  the Monday noon luncheon meeting Rotarian John Cook (photo) treated club members to a slideshow of a November 2012 trip to Cuba.  John and his wife Joan, co-owners of Travel Discoveries, Ltd. in Kentland and Watseka, led a group of 30 travelers on a seven-day trip leaving from Chicago to the Republic of Cuba.  Cuba, an island country which lies only 90 miles from Florida, was visited by Christopher Columbus in 1492 and claimed for the Kingdom of Spain.  In the 1960s, after a turbulent history and a revolution, the island became the Republic of Cuba, a communist country first ruled by Fidel Castro (now 87) and more recently by his brother Raul (now 85).

In the early 1960s, when the Soviet Union was helping Cubans establish missile bases on the island, the United States didn't exactly approve and leveled sanctions on Cuba that still exist to this day.  The sanctions have effectively limited progress and restricted the lives of Cubans, and consequently a visit to Cuba is a trip in effect into a different world.  

Recently the political climate has begun to thaw.  For the last year and one half Cuba has opened its borders not to tourists from the U.S., but to "study" groups that are allowed to take educational tours. Citizens from Canada or Europe had already had the opportunity for Cuban travel with fewer or no restrictions. Collette Travel Service, the company that organized the trip, has to apply to the Department of Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for renewal of its license to operate tours in Cuba.

The  trip was well received, and the Cooks are planning to take another group to Cuba next year, January 19-27, 2014.  There are travelers who have already committed to going.  The tour will be longer (nine days) and instead of staying just in Havana with day trips, there will also be a three-day stay in Trinidad, and a  greater chance to see more of the country. 

Would you enjoy strolling the cobblestone streets of Trinidad with its pastel-colored houses or visiting a former sugar factory and estate in the beautiful "Valley of Sugar Mills"?  How about taking in the Bay of Pigs Museum in Playa Giron for a history lesson or examining the home of Ernest Hemingway, Finca Vigia (Lookout farm), where the author lived and worked from 1939 to 1960?  Would an evening cruse through the streets of Havana in one of the antique American Cars from the 1950s (yank tanks) be your idea of fun?  If any of this has aroused your curiosity, you should contact the travel experts, John and Joan Cook, at (815) 432-6121 or (219 474-6666.

On Saturday, Feb. 16, the Kentland Rotarians will be serving a Pancake Breakfast from 6:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. at the Trinity United Methodist Church in Kentland (adjacent to Cast Park).  Tickets can be purchased at the door or from Rotary Club members for $5.  Children 3 and under are free. Come and visit with your neighbors and help support Rotary projects. 

Brandt Stum 

Kentland Rotary Club