Reporting From Cuba

Member of International Press Team Recalls Day 1 on the Island

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By Paloma Rives, Special Envoy

SANTIAGO DE CUBA, MARCH 28, 2012 ( On our first day in Cuba we had to rise earlier than usual. Yes, even earlier than the day we arrived at the airport at 5 am and, of course, much earlier than the start of the Mass at 5:15 am. 

It all began when we arrived in the Center of International Communication (Press Office) of the hotel, after the Mass in Antonio Macedo Park.

To tell the truth, it was absolutely incredible. When we opened the doors of the Press Office, we saw an area with all the necessary tools for news coverage of an event such as a papal visit.

There were many tables with the latest computers, available telephones and an endless number of individuals with cards indicating that they were part of the organization. 

We asked for information on the Wi-Fi signal; with much amiability the staff gave us the card with the user key and password to connect ourselves. “It’s free and of unlimited use,” they said. 

Exactly what we needed!

Once seated to begin our work, we connected our personal computers to send all the news immediately.

We entered the data but were unable to enter the Internet. No doubt there is a mistake, we thought. We tried once, twice and then again, to no avail.

Returning to the information desk, we met fellow journalists with the same problems. How can we get in touch with our countries on the Internet?

It would not be as simple as we first thought. Of this we were certain.

After hearing some arguments in Italian, in German and here and there in French, the staff told us they had to reissue our card and all would be solved.

Another attempt: little by little (literally) we were connected to the pages we needed. I repeat, little by little.

It was already quite late at night. We were told that between 8:00 and 10:00 pm we had to pay for the hotel, to avoid complications the next day when we went to the airport.

It was minutes before 10:00 pm and we had yet to finish loading the photos and the other pages. Rush!

First we had to change our money into pesos and then go to Cubatours agency to make the payment we mentioned.

We finished after 11 o’clock at night. We went again to the Center of International Communication. All the places were taken. We asked if there was Internet in the rooms and we were lucky, because the signal covered up to the 8th floor, which was exactly where my room was.

I was able to get connected, but Skype, Facebook video calls and other applications were blocked. I could only send by e-mail, but it did not load. The only solution was to use the Internet when there was less traffic – at 3:00 am. Oh well, our next appointment was for 5:45 am, so there was time.

Once awake and dressed we closed our bags and began to transmit data. We realized we were hardly “alone” on the Internet, but we succeeded. Although we did not finish loading the photographs, we got to Mass on time.

I did say, we had to rise earlier than usual. 

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