By Alina Buzgar, Editor-in-Chief
If you were wondering what Rugby, Cuba and Thunderbird have in common you would have gotten your answer this September when 40 people, most of them T-bird Alumns, went there. We set down with Chuck Hamilton ’91 to find out more.
How did you guys come up with the idea?
With the reestablishment of educational tourism licenses, we felt it was time to revisit Cuba, the destination of the Thunderbird Old Boys’ first overseas tour in 2003. It was a friendly rugby tour. Rugby tours are a tradition around the world. We played two matches; Tuesday and Thursday, against the Cuban National Team. The best players from the three rugby clubs in Havana. The first was a 22-12 loss and the second was a 19-5 loss. These were actually quite close, considering we as a club had never trained or played together.
Apart from Rugby, what else did you guys do?
We arrived in Havana September 6, after gathering in Miami the night before. We went to the famous Buena Vista Social Club the first night and had our first rugby practice in the morning. Our first game was on September 8 and the next day we got a chance to visit Fabrica de los Tabacos (Tobacco Factory), walk through Old Havana and visit other sights like Plaza de la Revolución and Memorial de José Martí. Our second match was on September 10 and after that we enjoyed Cuba for two days, we went to brew clubs, beach resorts, and walked around a lot.
Was it difficult to organize the logistics like entry to Cuba?
Not too difficult to organize. As Thunderbird no longer held the educational license, I needed to find an organization that did. I contacted retired T-bird Professor Vega, who directed me to her former assistant, Elyse Leeds Acanda. Elyse gave me the name of her sorority sister and George Mason classmate Michal Malur, who had organized more than a few people-to-people educational trips to Cuba.We had 40 people on tour: 22 players and 18 supporters.
Where did you guys go on tour before?
Cuba 2003, Argentina 2005, Iceland 2011, and Croatia-Montenegro 2013.
Are you planning to organize this type of event again?
We try to do this every two years. This gives people time to save up in terms of money and vacation time. The next target is expected to be the Benelux countries. Our next event will be our annual RAW (Rugby Alumni Weekend), a tradition going back to 1983. RAW is usually the first weekend in March, but will coincide with the Thunderbird 70th Anniversary so we moved it to April 7-10, 2016.
Do you have a message to our readers?
“Keep your passports current, and start funding your own ‘tour fund'”.
Participants: Rich Bonaccorsi ’86, Bill McColl ’86, Katsuo Takeda ’86, Rich Kennedy ’91, Chuck Hamilton ’91, Craig Hammond ’12, Oscar Quinonez ’06, Thomas Johnson ’10, Henrik Lauritzsen ’09, Patrick Stewart ’11, Dawson Beattie ’94, Gordon Harris, Matthew Laskowski, David Olsen, Thomas Hoban, Paul Passino, Paul Mulligan, Jacob Dean, Mac Costas, Erich Meinhardt, Scott Mitchell, Ken Worm, Laurel Worm, Stephen Bisogno, Vickie Lee, Tom Peak, Ginger Peak, Julie Quinonez , Karene Lauritzsen , Betsi Roach ’91, Lisa Totino ’97, Patricia Clackley ’11, Binita Choksi ’00, John Quattrochi, Yaya McColl, Don Hamilton, Susan Hamilton, Evelyn Harris, Richard Espinosa, Keith Wewe.