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The Big C Words

June 29, 2016

 Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve put words onto this empty page. As soon as I got home, life seemed to swoop me up into a whirlwind of events and emotions that hasn’t let up yet. But here we are. These are some things that have happened in the past few months: falling in love, cancer, culture shock, depression, elation, family time, writing, heartbreak, planning a benefit concert, teaching dance class, more writing, playing gigs, writing a book. 

 

Let me explain. As you may remember, I was called home from my adventures in Cuba earlier than planned. At the time I didn’t share the whole story, because I didn’t want my dad to feel overwhelmed with attention before he was ready, but here’s what happened. My dad was diagnosed with Advanced Stage 4 Prostate Cancer. This came as a total shock to all of us. He is one of the healthiest, most active 65-year-old bad-asses I’ve ever known and has no family history of cancer. But there it was. And the way I found out was through a spotty internet phone call with my mom while I was in a noisy, public park thousands of miles away surrounded by urine and drunk Cubans. Not ideal. But honestly, is there any ideal way to receive this news? 

 

There was no question for me about whether I should come home or stay. Ironically, just before getting this news I’d made the decision to stay in Cuba an additional 3 months. But this changed everything. The next few days were filled with stressful attempts to get connected to the internet and find a way to get home as soon as possible. Living in a country with some of the worst wifi connection on the planet made that week extremely challenging. But it was also extremely beautiful, because in the midst of all that, I was suddenly faced with the reality of how precious each of those days were. I did everything I could possibly do, everything I didn’t have time for in the last three months. I road-tripped with friends from Santiago to Havana, I went out dancing with all of my girlfriends from school, I went to the beach, I watched the sunset from the top of the FOCSA building, I stayed up all night with a man who saw into my soul. My heart was full and open when I lifted off the ground that Thursday morning in April. 

 

But a piece of my heart was also left on the ground of that magnificent country. Coming back to life in America, and in my small Wisconsin hometown no less, was very hard. There were layers to the culture shock that I didn’t even realize were there. The first few days were sort of funny because I would notice things like billboards and packaged peanuts and the extreme differences made me laugh. But then my subconscious starting processing things I couldn’t even explain. I slept for 12 hours and then another 12 hours. My hair started falling out. My digestion was a mess. I couldn’t bring myself to accomplish anything and fell into a week of depression and Netflix binging. Of course, the stress of learning all about cancer and driving to doctor’s appointments and figuring out my life at home as soon as I arrived didn’t help. 

But slowly I started to find my place in this mad whirlwind and one of the most exciting things that began to surface is this: I’m writing a book. There. I said it! Throughout my entire time in Cuba, despite struggles with maintaining a music and dance practice regimen, and despite sickness, sadness or confusion, I was always writing. The idea of writing a book has been floating around the back of my brain for quite some time, but this trip finally put all the pieces together. Since my return, my main focus, besides family, has been turning this into a reality. This is also why I haven’t had many extra words to share here on my blog. 

 

These days have also been filled with wonderful activities like teaching a successful Cuban dance class in my Wisconsin community, playing solo gigs at several local venues where I’ve been blessed with generous, engaged audiences, and talking to high school Spanish classes about my life in Cuba. It feels great to be able to share a bit of the perspective and knowledge I gained on my travels with the people who helped me get there. My family and community is also putting together an amazing benefit concert and celebration for my dad this summer. The generosity of these people astounds me every day. Let me just take a moment to say this: thank-you, thank-you, thank-you. So, between all this, catching up on taxes and fulfilling a few straggling college credits, life has been more than overflowing. 

 

Did someone mention falling in love? Well, yes. There was some of that involved too. But for now, let’s just say you’ll have to wait for the book to get that story. 

 

 

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