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ub's cuban odyssey
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UB's Cuban Odyssey
Bill Gates, 25, a UB graduate student in architecture and urban planning, notes that each student was responsible for different aspects of the Casablanca study project. "Because of its location right across from Old Havana-it's a small fishing village in the context of a major city-it has not been touched by tourism in the way that Havana has. So there are two different lifestyles separated by a quarter mile of bay. We identified it as ripe for gentrification. The views of the cityscape are spectacular and the neighborhood will likely be taken over by developers. Something very precious then gets lost."
Gates, of Staten Island, spoke the least Spanish among the participants but was undeterred in trying to meet and converse with Cubans, especially those with a penchant for chess. "The third day, I went to the Havana Chess club. I love to play chess, and the people I met there became my best friends during the trip.
"For some, I was the first American they had ever spoken to. Their first comment was almost immediately to ask about which U.S. politicians I liked. They were very well educated on who's in charge in U.S. politics. We tried not to talk about politics too much, though. It seemed to be depressing or sad to them, because of the conditions in Cuba. They would tell me again and again that they had almost unbearable conditions in their lives-six pounds of rice and a small amount of sugar a month; no meat, no fish, no pork, no chicken."