One crazy day in August/September 2019, I got home and searched Google for flights to Cuba. I had heard many a peer talk about a past trip to Cuba and how it was a unique experience. I decided to book a trip…, say 1 month away. If I ‘came to my senses’ and thought differently, I could very well forgo the cost (initially about $250) and stay in the safety of my routine; maybe just go to a salsa-dancing in my choice of local venue with a Spanish name.
… fast track and I was at the balcony of La casa blanca in a conversation using my then only 30 words of Spanish!
From the very americanized part of San Juan, the tourist traps, the various clubs and random cars carrying speakers playing music ‘just like that…’, to the Caribbean roots and the attachment to Spain, there is a little of everyone in this place and so much for everyone.
It could be that I have become so good at assimilating, or I am taking the whole idea of minimalism and going with the flow a little too seriously, but I was able to easily get myself from the airport to my the AirBnB. Being that this is essentially part of the U.S made it a little comfortable, and a little uneventful. My phone did not even give me the customary welcome and alert about local telephone tariffs! I felt cheated to have flown this far only to be in the U.S. The fact that I had some left-over work and a call from a colleague on Saturday mid-afternoon made me wonder if I was squandering my time.
Leave that aside, I was able to get myself back on track. I walked around the corner to the supermarket and felt a little like a local, and a little disappointed that no one wanted to speak to me in Spanish. What? I paid for this trip to come practice the language and culture only to repeatedly run into english-speaking people? I did some groceries, made myself a meal, got ready, and walked around the block to discover the ocean.
In the days that followed, I went Salsa-dancing and discovered the night-life, I walked several miles to viejo San Juan and reflected on many things on my way there and back (I might one day start adding audios to these posts), mingled with tourists and locals, joined Edwin on a bike-ride around the island, and even drove all the way to Ponce and back to the airport. In short, I made my way around this island and it charmed me. …staying true to its slogan!
This has to be the first step ahead of many to come. I have been talking about this for more than 10 years and so I am breaking the longest trail of excuses and procrastination.
I took time to ride a bike with Danys who was just launching his bike-tour business in Cienfuegos, Cuba. I was his very first customer and his new bike (intended for me) had a slow puncture. He inventively found a solution (Cuba creates necessity at every stage and fosters ingenuity). This experience added to the feeling of camaraderie that I generally got from the cubans that I interacted with over the 4-5 days. I rode around the many neighborhoods of Cienfuegos and feel like I was going back to a place that I already knew, but for the first time.
De verdad, “Cienfuegos es la ciudad que más me gusta a mí”