By Avra Shapiro, Public Health in Cuba, Summer 2012
Here I sit, anxiously making pros and cons lists for various items with fellow Cuba go-er Amee. The truth is, we don’t really know what to eliminate because we don’t know what will be accessible and reasonably priced in Cuba. And frankly, we can’t wait to find out. How does buying shampoo work? What about medicine? Will Cuba have the type of medicine we have here? What will be the process for getting it there? I am filled with questions, and despite the various guidebooks and readings I’ve been exposing myself too, it will take truly living there to gain an understanding. And what I’m even more excited for is the new questions I’ll have once being there.
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to meet Dr. Paul Farmer a couple days ago before he gave the commencement speech. I attended a question and answer session and all the global health minors were invited. It felt very fitting to meet such an important figure in the global health world right before embarking on this adventure. At the session, someone asked the question of what mindset he should have when abroad, as he was leaving in a couple days for Haiti to develop a new technology. Dr. Farmer’s response was a powerful one: He said that Americans go abroad with a certain mindset. We are always taught we are the best, the greatest, we should make our voices heard and empower ourselves. But, Farmer explained, we are all already empowered. That much is clear. So, when we go abroad, we need to DISempower ourselves. We need to become small. We need to be good listeners. We need to help where is needed, and not where we think it is needed.
I hope to embrace this idea of ‘dis’empowerment on the trip. This does not mean not asking as many questions as I can think of, nor not embarking on adventures and seeing and doing things I’ve never had the opportunity to do before. It means that, excitement and eagerness to learn aside, I am a guest in a country and I need to act like one.
That being said… WOOHOO!!