Tuesday, October 7, 2008

¡Saludos Boludos!

I am writing to you from the land of boludos, che, chamuyeros, chetos, parillas, and porteños. In order words, I am back in Buenos Aires, and I couldn´t be happier. In the next week I´ll reconnect with friends, find a place to live, stroll the streets of my Buenos Aires querrido, stuff my face with Cumaná, and dance all night at Plop. I will update you on all of that in due time, but first I have a promise to fulfill.

Many of you have asked to hear "all about Cuba," and I think my initial post left many of you scratching your heads or concerned (however I´m glad to see that at least a few of you got the joke). Rather than explain it, let´s just move on. I think for many of us, Cuba holds endless mystery. Few countries have survived the cold war, a missile stand-off, a CIA-backed invasion, dozens of attempted presidential assassinations, sporadic acts of terrorism, and a strict US-trade-and-travel embargo, especially countries whose leaders boast (quite forcefully) of revolution and socialism so close to United States soil. For those of us who like to consider ourselves ´travelers,´ Cuba is in a class of its own. It´s forbidden and therefore intriguing. Cuba is the land of salsa, mambo, Hemingway, mojitos, daiquiris, resistance, and above all, perseverance.

I´ll be honest--to date Cuba has been the most difficult place in which I´ve ever travelled. Nothing I had read (and I had read quite a bit about Cuba) and no one with whom I had spoken (and ya´ll know I like to talk) about Cuba adequately prepared me for this country. There were many times I felt frustrated and that frustration turned to anger because I thought that every moment in Cuba was supposed to be adventure-filled and spectacular. A few afternoons I felt lonely and helpless even, and I slept for hours locked away in my private, air conditioned room. There was even a day I thought about changing my ticket and flying to Buenos Aires early.

It wasn´t until two days before I left that I added it all up--frustration, anger, loneliness, helplessness, irregular sleep--and realized I was experiencing the classic symptoms of culture shock. I had only experienced culture shock once before and that was upon returning to the US after studying in Argentina. Never had I been culture shocked in a foreign country. The reason? I can´t be sure, but I think it is because I usually do a fairly good job of clearing my mind of expectations when I arrive in a new place. If I expect nothing, than I am open to everything, and ready for anything. But I realized that I was so determined to fall in love with Cuba, so eager to connect with Cubans, to see their country through their eyes, that I didn´t recognize all the expectations I carried with me. So there I was, culture shocked and only a marathon swim away from the Florida Keys.

I don´t want to lead you to believe my trip to Cuba was a bust, because it was anything but. It was rewarding, refreshing, adventurous, and enlightening. I learned years ago that we learn and grow the most when we are uncomfortable, which means that I do not regret even the times I found most difficult. I just want to be honest, and I am going to write about all of my experiences in Cuba, not just the travel brochure moments (which don´t come too often considering my travel style). My first blog will be a series of shorts from my journal beginning at the beginning and ending at the end. In that way, I can write about Cuba from many different angles, and then expand on a few themes in later blogs.

As far as photos go, I hear you all clamouring, but I can´t upload them until I have my computer, which is currently in transit to Buenos Aires. Once I am able to sort through all of them, I´ll put them on my Flickr page, and let you all know.

As always, I love hearing from you all, either through email, gchat, or through comments on my blog.

much love and many kisses


p.s. maybe i should just say that all of this is based on what i THINK cuba would be like if i had actually been there.

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