There are moments in everyone’s life where one questions everything. This morning I had one such moment as I sat on my toilet with liquid traveler’s diarrhea shooting out of my ass and pieces of the ceiling falling on my head from the leak upstairs that no one can find. I leaned my head against the wall and thought to myself, “What am I doing? What on earth kind of crazy person am I to uproot my comfortable American life completely and move to a third-world country to find myself?” But then I remembered.
I have been here just about two weeks and I’ve already been welcomed into the most beautiful Cuban families a girl could ask for. I’ve been fed warm meals and rum and danced in their living rooms. I’ve walked along the malecón after midnight and sat beneath the José Martí memorial discussing life with friends. I’ve sat in with multiple bands and have been invited to play again with others. I’ve danced on stage with Azúcar Negra. I’ve had amazing piano lessons and have already learned invaluable lessons that will improve my playing. I’ve gotten lost in Centro Habana. Multiple times. I’ve sat with mobs of Cubans on benches in parks trying to connect to wifi. I’ve discussed life in Cuba with everyone I meet and each word opens my eyes a bit further.
Cuba isn’t really very different than I dreamt it would be. I’d already prepared myself as much as a person could. But now it is real. Until I had breathed in the wet, salty air and stepped in dog shit on the street and felt the penetrating eyes of every Cuban I pass with my yuma presence and found pieces of the ceiling in my hair, I never was going to truly KNOW. And I still don’t really. I will never be able to truly know what it is to live the Cuban experience, because when these four months are over I get to fly back to my safe little American home and continue my life there.
The biggest thing I can say so far is that I am humbled. I know I wasn’t coming in like any other oblivious tourist with their big sun hats and khaki pants complaining about the thin toilet paper. But still. I am an American and I think the only thing I can do is offer myself with deep, quiet respect and just listen. I don’t know yet where my place is in this complicated story between our two countries, but perhaps I can play my tiny part in just being here soaking it in. After all it is art and culture that brought me here in the first place. And this place is overflowing with rich and beautiful artistic creations.
One thing that has fascinated me, though, is the fact that every young Cuban my age who I’ve talked to so far is completely over Cuban music. That is the music of their parent’s generation. The young people all listen to reggaeton and American hip-hop and pop. This doesn’t exactly surprise me, but it does make me laugh to realize that even here my musical passions are not common with my peers. I guess I’ll just have to make my own path. Lucky for me, I’ve already had a lot of practice with that.
I think that’s going to be the end of my rambling for today. At least now you all know that I’m here, I’m alive, and I haven’t been abducted or gotten married to any Cuban boys. I am here doing exactly what I needed to do, learning about myself and the world around me and I’m thinking about all of you back home often. The endless search for wifi connection here is a daily struggle, so I won’t make any promises about when my next blog post will be, but I will check in again soon. In Cuban time, that is. Besos.