I’ve been thinking about Cuba a lot since my return; it definitely changed me. I had been told countless times before my departure that study abroad “will change your life” but until I have been able to reflect on my experience since returning from Cuba, I hadn’t realized just what an impact those 2 months abroad have had on me. Cuba challenged my perspective on many things such as health and healthcare, privilege, and the distribution of wealth. I have left with more questions than answers and have left behind both unfinished adventures and continuing relationships.
I miss it a lot. I especially miss it because the island and my experience there seem so far away, so removed from the routine and hustle of my life in the US. Remembering it feels almost like I’m watching a movie; even though I know I experienced each memory, it’s like watching a different character acting out a vaguely familiar script. I miss the people I met more than anything. Luckily, I have been able to stay in touch with some and hearing their voices and speaking in Spanish allows me to hold tighter onto the place and people that shaped my home for those short eight weeks. I miss the pace of life there where you can stop to talk to someone on the street or take impromptu adventures because not every minute of every day is scheduled and regulated. I also miss the little things that became staples of my life in Havana and particularly the small but meaningful moments that I have come to treasure. Here are some of the little things that now that I’m gone, I realize are the big things:
- 1. The Malecón. I miss sitting on the wall chatting with friends until late into the night or just laying back in silence and listening to the waves lap against the rocks while looking at the stars.
2. Raggaetone: the bass heavy, reggae-hip hop musical genre that was ubiquitous in Cuba. I miss sticking my head out of the window of a macchina (going well over the 80km/hr speed limit) as reggaetone blasts through its tiny speakers and the entire frame of the old car shakes from the bass.
- 3. The view from my shower. I was staying on the seventeenth floor of our casa particular and the views of surrounding Havana from the windows and balcony were spectacular. There was a window across from the showerhead and there was nothing like showering and looking out to a breathtaking view of the city seventeen stories below.
View from the seventeenth floor of our casa particular
4. Evitia, the 84 year old Cuban woman who lived with us and was our “abuelita.” One time she woke me up from a nap just to give me homemade caramel flan. Whenever we would go out for the night she would dance around in her night gown singing “cha cha cha” and tell us we looked beautiful.
- 5. Adorable dogs everywhere. Stray dogs of all shapes and sizes roamed the streets and although we were warned not to pet them, I’ll admit that I caved a few times…
6. When a Spanish word came more easily to me than an English word.
7. Dusk in Havana. My favorite time of the day there because the colorfully painted homes and buildings would become bathed in soft, golden light so that the whole city appeared to be glowing.
8. Cheek kissing. At first I was averse, I didn’t know how to do it and wasn’t sure if I should make the kissing sound, just touch cheeks or actually kiss the recipient on the cheek but I eventually got the hang of it and came to appreciate the greeting.
9. Ten peso pizza. Nothing beats the combination of the soft, warm dough, sweet marinara and questionable yet deliciously gooey cheese.
10. The Havana master’s team. The group of 30-80year old swimmers who became my training partners and took me under their wing so that I felt like I was part of a team (see “Nadadora Sin Piscina” post.)
11. The people. I met so many kind, friendly and interesting people who had so much to share. They truly changed my life and are the reason I know I will be going back.