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ub's cuban odyssey
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UB's Cuban Odyssey
Robin Lehrberger, 24, received her master of urban planning degree from UB in September and has applied to the Peace Corps. "My part in the project was to map out the current social aspects of this small neighborhood of Casablanca. What we were analyzing was a special neighborhood that under free-market circumstances would be ready for development. But in a communist country, we wondered what the government will do to take advantage of those characteristics. It has a lot of potential as a tourist area and tourism is one of Castro's big emphases right now."
While Lehrberger had a terrific time exploring Havana with her fellow students, she was dismayed by the sexual harassment she experienced in the streets during solo expeditions. "Sexuality is pretty explicit in Cuba. As a woman traveling alone in a foreign country, I definitely felt that Cuba is a society typified by male dominance. You got called a lot of names if you were walking alone. I wanted the freedom to get out and explore on my own. If I was walking with a man, then it was perfectly fine."
Still, says Lehrberger, of Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y., there were many positive experiences. "I found a Jewish temple; there's open expression of religion now in Cuba. That wasn't the case six years ago. Now that Castro has [permitted] open religious practice, people are more at ease about expressing their religious views. I think there's lots of spirituality in Cuba that has been kept quiet. I think people find hope in their family and friends and they have faith in better things to come."