Cuba – An introduction

03

I was remiss while in Cuba. Every day held mind-boggling adventures, situations and encounters. And did I write any of it down? Nope. None.

My first excuse is that the adventure befell me so fast that I hardly knew it was happening until I was back from it. Back in January, I was laying in the back of a friend’s pickup truck, getting a ride to a trail-head, when the handsome Viking laying next to me asked “Hey, do you want to go to Cuba with me?”

I knew. There was no need to think on this one. My decision was a process of watching myself say yes rather than pondering the ridiculousness of this proposition – wait! wasn’t I supposed to be earning money to hike the Appalachian Trail this year? Well, yes, but I’m also the girl who charged a trip to India and the full tuition of a Yoga Teacher Training on a credit card only 3 months before starting the Pacific Crest Trail. At least, I’m consistent in my insanity. 4 days later, we were flying from Mexico to Havana on one-way tickets (because Vikings travel best by sea, and this one was certain we would be coming back by boat – we just had to find a boat).

My second excuse is that Cuba baffled me. It was never on my radar or wish list, so I knew nothing about the country except for a fleeting crush on Che – based mostly on the movie “The motorcycle diaries” – which had nothing to do with Cuba – and, of course, cigars, mojitos, 1950s cars and salsa dancing. By the second day, the omnipresent propaganda – Viva La Revolucion! – had already informed me that I was missing the point. It took the whole month we were there, piece by piece, for me to even begin to wrap my mind around Cuba. And even today, I certainly don’t claim to understand it. I just learned to navigate it. During our travels, we met Cubanos of all types. I believe that among them were a few key individuals who, collectively, paint a more accurate picture of the country than any I could even attempt.

My last excuse, before I actually tell you about these wonderful people, is that Cuba was a moving target. “We have to go NOW,” Miles (the Viking) said “because it is about to change, and I want to see it before it does.” It was actually changing as we experienced it. The Cubanos and Cubanas I am about to introduce to you probably already no longer exist, changed in part by the very fact that we met them – we, the Americans with the backpacks who sleep on the beach, hitchhike in the back of dump trucks and refuse to be funneled to 5-star all-inclusive resorts.

In the order in which we met them, I would like to tell you about Lester, Gorge and Milton (all in Havana), Blanca, Lilly, Daneel and Daneel’s son, James and finally Hugo … This might take a few posts (and some of the names have been changed).

For an overview, also see the email I sent to my Dad the day we returned Stateside.

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