FRIDAY, MARCH 23 - 10:33 AM - (from Calvin Hughes) - The long, arduous journey into Cuba was grueling, but expected. We were warned to anticipate long delays and searches at the airport. I thought this process would take maybe one or two hours. Turns out, retrieving our luggage took three times as long as our flight from Miami which lasted less than an hour. At Jose Marti International Airport in Havana, I was able to take in the moment. Listening and looking around at Cuban families and tourists who couldn't wait to see their families patiently standing in front of the airport. They were three to four rows deep. The reunions were filled with such raw emotion. Everyone cried, hugged and cried some more.
There is a lot more to say but I'm being summoned to a meeting with Cuban officials to inform us about our journalistic "boundaries." Stay tuned.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 3:27 PM - (from producer Michelle Lacamoire) - The reality of travels to Cuba: It takes 45 minutes from the moment the plane's wheels lift off the ground at MIA and land in Havana, but it takes the entire day to make it happen. Checking in takes four hours. You have to wrap what you take and then form the long line to check in. Then there's the long security checkpoint and then the wait for the plane and the crew. Our flight is delayed. That is nothing new for flights to Cuba. We were supposed to leave at 3pm but it's 3:20pm and the crew has yet to arrive. With all our equipment, I envision us in Havana's airport for a while too. Again, 45 minutes to fly there... an entire day to make it happen.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 2:35 PM - Calvin sent in this video blog before the Local 10 plane took off for Cuba.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 2:03 PM - (from Calvin Hughes) - It's hard to believe the day has arrived. The Local 10 news crew including Rudy, Bill, WPLG News Director Bill Pohovey, Jen and I are hours away from landing in Havana, Cuba to cover the Papal visit. We will be the only local news crew from South Florida to cover this historic event! We understand an entire community will be clinging to our every word. And, within that same community, we will have those who will disagree. Their voices will not be ignored. Unlike Cuba, South Florida exiles are free to express themselves with various outlets. I look forward to reading and hearing their opinions. However in their native land speaking freely comes with a high price so I'll have to read between the lines for the next several days. Listen to what's not being said. And relay the images many in South Florida can't see, smell or touch. What a challenge.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 1:54 PM - (From Jen Herrera) - Sitting at the gate now its finally sinking in that this is happening, we are going to Cuba. This is so exciting professionally, despite the fact that I was in tears this morning kissing my girls good bye.
It's also exciting because I'm going back to the place where my family is from. My father was born in Cuba and came to the United States in 1953, but he went back every summer until 1960. Up until now I have known very little about my father's side of the family. Now I know my grandfather made a huge sacrifice when he left everything he had ever known to give his wife and children a better life in the US. I hear the home where my dad spent many summers is still just outside of Havana... I can't wait to find out!
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 1:07 PM - (from Jen Herrera) - Check-in complete. $316 baggage charge, not nearly as bad as we expected considering all of the equipment Can't wait to see how bad it is on the other end. Interesting tidbit; like so many things in Cuba, they don't change the clocks the same time as the rest of us. It's an hour earlier in Cuba until they "spring forward" in a few weeks.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 12:08 PM - As she and the Local 10 crew prepare to leave for Cuba, Jen Herrera put together this special "Behind the Curtain" video to show what a task it is to leave the country
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 11:53 AM - (from Jen Herrera) - And so the journey begins. Our crew arrived at Miami International Airport the required four hours before the flight to Cuba. It's always amazing to see the lines of people checking in for the flights to Cuba. So many people traveling for so many reasons. We've met people going to see the Pope. We've met people going for vacation, but mostly we met people going to see family. And they don't go empty-handed. The four-hour check-in is due to the massive amounts of luggage people take to Cuba. Everything is wrapped in green plastic to ensure everything inside the bags on this end makes it to Cuba. We've seen plasma TVs in the luggage. You name it, someone is bringing it for a family member. The long duffel bags loaded with supplies are so common they are called gusanos, or worms, in English. Anything over 44 pounds costs extra. Prices depend on whether it's food or medicine which is cheaper. Gift and clothes cost more. We have 100 pounds of TV equipment and are just waiting to see how much we will be required to spend, but it won't be cheap! More to come.
THURSDAY, MARCH 22 - 11:30 AM - The Local 10 crew travelling to Cuba is now at the airport, waiting to board their plane. There is a lot of anticipation ahead of the trip and the crew sent these photos before they fly off.