things i don’t want to forget about cuba

In December of 2018, I had the extreme pleasure of taking a cruise with one of my best friends (and two of her closest friends from college) that docked in Havana, Cuba for one day each.  The world feels large and unconquerable when you survey it swaying in the middle of the ocean, but I am grateful for the opportunity  to experience a day in Cuba, where a rich dichotomy of old and new, preserved and persevering, melt together on the city’s streets.  Below is an entry from my journal, penned on December 14, 2018, aptly titled (you guessed it) “things i don’t want to forget about cuba”

  • Driving past a residential area and looking up to see a young boy playing his saxophone on a high balcony.  (His scales needed some work.  My parents always made me practice outside, too).
  • The casual body language of street performers standing around an ancient aqueduct between performances.  They are sweaty and on stilts, yet somehow slouched over  – who knew this was possible?
  • Cruising in a red Ford 1953, feeling my hair on either side meet above my head and remain in unruly knots as our speed settled.
  • The gentle honking of these vintage cars at one another, a friendly acknowledgement, and the glaring light of stoplights counting down how long there is until you may stop/go once again. 22…21…20…
  • “Stray” cats and dogs who have been adopted by the city: bathed, fed, tagged, named, but ultimately left free to come and go as they please.
  • A painter’s palette spilled unto the city’s buildings: bright tones that simultaneously clash and create cohesion.
  •  The taste and texture of the sugar (sweet and so very granular) at the bottom of my mojito.
  • Looking up at the awe-inspiring Christ of Havana by Jilma Madera, which at one time was the largest (66 feet tall and assembled in over 60 pieces) sculpture created by a women.
  • Tapping my foot to the beat of bongo drums played in “the bar in the middle of the street” — where the mojito was (allegedly) created.
  • Reading the walls of the aforementioned bar – not an inch of wall exists without inscription.
  • Smelling cigars waft through the air whilst waiting for a cashier’s acknowledgement to purchase some of my own.
  • Walking past a classroom with open windows and seeing children resting their heads on desks as they wait for the lesson to resume and shoving one another mischievously when they realize they have caught the attention of onlookers.
  • Venturing in the dark in search of the perfect commemorative postcard and being able to navigate back to the port by memory (an exercise in recollection sans Google Maps and a true rarity for me).
  • Looking at the city’s lights from the ocean at night.
  • The cleanliness of the streets.
  • The welcoming and gracious attitude of our tour guide, Rodney.
  • Hearing stories from citizens about the amount of people they have taken into their homes – choosing overcrowding over homelessness for their peers.  There is a keen sense of togetherness that sits in the city’s air.

bridget

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