In his career as a biology professor and orchid enthusiast, Lawrence Zettler has shared space with alligators and poisonous snakes to get glimpses, and whiffs, of his beloved specimens.
But in early August, Zettler and fellow Illinois College professor Steven Gardner faced dangers of a different kind — paperwork and bureaucrats. They traveled to Cuba to research orchid preservation on the island.
After numerous delays, plus a persistent trio of Cuban government workers at the airport who questioned the professors three different times for a half-hour at a time — “You’re here to look at orchids?” one imagines them saying — they were able to continue their visit.
“My first impression as we stepped into the hot, night air and I saw two old 1950s cars was, ‘This is real. We are here.’” Zettler said.