I’ve been feeling rather grumpy lately, and just figured out why; I have Cuba on my mind. Not the “all-inclusive” this beach could be anywhere in the world Cuba – I need the living, heart pounding, take your breath away Cuba. The Cuba that prompted my son to ask how people with so little could be filled with such joy.
Havana is like no other place I’ve travelled. Evidence of the revolution; images of Lenin and Che Guevara , bullet scars, socialist slogans, and meandering lines of residents waiting patiently outside government stores for state supplied rations of rice, beans, and rum – are nothing more than a small chapter in Cuban history. A 16th century Spanish fort stands guard over Havana’s harbour; the shells of giant sea turtles float in the murky waters surrounding it, centuries old refuse alluding to lavish meals of Spanish rule. Taxi stands filled with pre 1959 American cars compete with horse drawn carriages for tourist dollars. Remarkably clean streets do little to hide the crumbling façades of Spanish colonial occupation. Gorgeous building held together with chicken wire and cinder blocks. Ballerinas from the National Ballet spill onto the street, mindful of the broken pavement and uneven curbs. Open air markets filled with books, soviet era propaganda, old movie posters, and art. A meal of chicken, potatoes, and beer for $2.00 as night falls and the air fills with music.
Cuba stole my heart and I need to go back. I long to be stuck in time, surrounded by remarkable people who when given lemons made lemonade. People who persevered, improvised, and never forgot how to laugh and sing. I don’t for a second believe life is all roses, but know Cuba is a special place with people I admire. At the moment my only wish is to fly to Havana, get on an ancient train complete with a roll of toilet paper and coffee mug as none are provided, and travel the 500 miles to Santiago de Cuba. The train will likely break down along the way stranding travellers for hours, hopefully days. I can’t think of anything I would rather do. I have Cuba on my mind.