Celi’s Feet in the Cuban Sand

SYNOPSIS:  Celibeth’s reflections:  

Of all the places on earth to visit, abroad and here in my own country, I can honestly say that traveling to Cuba was never on my radar. A chance trip with my WCC Spanish teacher in 2001 introduced me to this place of so many different looking people, smells and sounds…everybody seemed to smoke cigarettes and the cars emitted diesel fumes that would make my friends back home insane. I had not yet travelled to New Orleans at that time, but when I was there years later the broken concrete sidewalks and the exposed electrical wires and cables sticking out of the sides of buildings, also the smells of food and cedar wood reminded me of Habana. And it’s not even so much all those sensory triggers that hail to my psyche exactly…it has more to do with the way regular people look you in the eye when you pass them on the street. You won’t get an Hola! or a ‘Buenos dias’ from all of the strangers you see, but most.

I got lost in Vedado early one Saturday morning after being swept up in the thrill of seeing an international Triathlon taking place on Linea…  I remembered no landmarks as I was too busy looking for an open tienda (shop) to buy water and watching the cyclists speed by with their spandex suits and shiny bikes.  I was walking in circles and after meeting a guy at a bus stop (lucky for me the bus was not on time as usual) for the second time, he basically took me by the hand and showed me home (I sort of knew the address but had no map and was very thirsty by this time) Of course he invited me to meet him for a drink at a neighborhood place, which I declined as it was 10:30 AM and juice and coffee were on my mind, but he was my friend now. We went back to meet him, explained the situation, gave a gift of Detroit Tiger’s paraphernalia and parted. This happens all the time.

I don’t exactly fit into the landscape in Cuba, physically anyway….being tall and blondeish makes me a target for many hoots and hollers, but I counter back to the question of ‘where you from?’ sometimes with ‘guess’ (adivina) or ‘where you from?’  It’s not a game actually but how I am in my real life wherever I am. It’s the sense of humor my dad instilled in me…a mechanism if you will, to deflect or whatever. The point is, for reasons I understand better after this recent visit that I feel at home on this Island. People still talk on the phone to each other. People drop by friend’s and family’s homes. There is always time to strike up a conversation with whomever you meet. These are the important components of who I am and how I still wish things were in my life. How often do you want to call someone up and right then, talk about your issue, but you fear (wait, you know) they won’t pick up? Sad.

When I first came here for the 2001 trip and the subsequent trips after, I brought with me my US/tidy/western sensibilities and I did my best this trip to leave all of that at the border. This time with ET was different. I was older (much). I had friends who lived in Habana, (Roycito, Gina and Roy Sr. are my family now).  The combination of being away from the American news cycle and the cold weather, to seeing Cuba again with all it’s richness and difficulties, and how things have changed but also not changed and seeing the amazing art scene (I have a project in the works thanks to Leo and Tomas and Alicia and Adrian and Esther at the Gallery ‘El Ojo del Ciclon’) and the vibrant, totally cuban creative identity at work has inspired me once again. So, I gotta get busy and figure out how to get back there!

Traveling with ET made it possible for me to really enjoy myself and get a deeper understanding of the amazing culture and history of Cuba. I saw sights I probably would not have visited on my own. She knows how to navigate most all situations. Her experience and common sense taught me a lot! And after a month…we are still sisters and great friends! 

Poco a poco. No prisa! No prisa! 


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  1. Sounds like Cuba is your sort of place.
    What is this you say about ET having ‘common sense’!!!!? LOL