Patina o Muerte

Patina o Muerte

Last Wednesday was a good, good day. Kade is doing his project on recreation in Cuba, so it was only a matter of time before running into the ninos, the skate kids Mi les befriended who were the inspiration for Cuba Skate.  I hung back and searched faces while Kade chatted them up and started taking photos.  At first they seemed suspicious of us, but as soon as one kid saw a picture where he looked good, the entire mood changed.  Suddenly no one was lounging in the shade, sitting on boards or staring lazily at the rollerbladers.  Everybody was up and showing off, doing tricks and mugging for the camera.  As Kade found a few guys who speak English, a familiar lanky Cuban skated up: Yordi. There was no question it was him.  Oye, Yordi.  He stared at me like I was an alien trying to take his wallet.  Que bola, asere?  Now sure I wasn’t addressing him by accident, he squinted at me for a minute.  The look on his face changed from suspicion to Holy Shit pretty quickly, and I got a big hug and a how’s everything?   Suddenly we were talking plans, and this place feels a bit more normal.  A bit more mine.  He skated around, vogueing for my pictures and flirting for the camera. Yordi looks so much older.  Head of big blond curls, distinct angular face, still rail thin.  He’s clearly looked up to, and he has even more swagger than before.  I’m sure there are more tattoos, and more skipping school.  It’s amazing to me how skaters have the same swagger, no matter where...

Return Traveling

I never meant to be a return traveler. The allure of more and more exotic passport stamps is pretty strong. Almost as strong as the allure of new and different countries. But at this point, I sit firmly in the category of a return traveler. I went to France in 2006 and returned in 2010. I went to Egpyt for six weeks in 2009 and returned for a long weekend in 2011. I went to Cuba in 2010 for three months and returned in 2012 for a month. I went to the Dominican Republic in 2011 and went back six weeks later. I have been to Canada and most of my domestic travel spots countless times. It makes sense that I’ve become a return traveler. In many other ways, I am not like the typical traveler, or travel blogger. I prefer my stays to last a month at a minimum. I almost always speak the language. I research the history, culture, and politics heavily and before and during my stay. This is just another way of settling myself deeper into the places I go. One value is that I get to see the changes. Pre- and post-Revolution Egypt look incredibly different, and I loved seeing how the place and people had changed. The progress in Cuba has been amazing, and I’ll be writing about it more later on. With the Republica Domincana, the two trips were close together but that meant everyone remember me. I had the great experience of keeping my promises and seeing Mata during the rainy season we had heard so much about. France is just a second skin,...

Incomunicado

I never truly thought before about how disconnected Cubans are.  Perhaps because I was too preoccupied with my own lack of communications.  Or because that narrative is so ingrained that all I learned here last time was about the opposite of stereotypes.  I found out they watch House and Gilmore Girls.  They know America’s music and politics.  These are not people who seem isolated.  But the last few days, we’ve been trying to negotiate phones and internet for the group.  Phones are not going to happen for the leaders of the group.  There’s a lot of legislation about phones, and they end up being cost prohibitive anyway.  90 CUC to set up the line, 20-30 CUC for the phone, and then there’s the minutes!  What Cuban has that kind of money? Last time I was here I was very lucky with the internet.  We had wifi in our home and at school.  It was slow, but I was able to email and google voice chat every once in a while.  All of that was free and in the two locations we went to most frequently.  This time, we have to pay 10 CUC for an hour’s worth of internet on one of Habana Libre’s computers.  Today we just now figured out how to get the internet on a couple of laptops at the Jose Marti center where we take classes.  It’s a landline, it’s slow, facebook, twitter, Skype and WordPress are all blocked.  If I were a Cuban with a question, where would I go?  The books sold at the Plaza de Armas are as old as dirt.  Getting to the internet is incredibly...

Aesthetics and Lectures

There are some beautiful photos coming out of this group. Some, though, don’t look like the Cuba that I know. Not that they’re going to new neighborhoods or meeting new people. Rather, some students are so good with their tools that they can manipulate a country (and a people and even buildings) I know so well into an alien landscape of pure, distilled beauty, often divorced of any social, political or economic reality. Cuba is just too important to me for that. I hate that for an American, there is no place to consume valuable, accurate news about Cuba. You can read the nostalgic memoirs of Miami Cubans, dipped in vitriol for Fidel. You can see the photos online of cigars, old cars and the same few Cuban workers dressed in colonial costumes. You can read Yoani Sanchez’s pissed prose, or the blogs of a few dedicated gringos. You can read the old fiction of Hemingway or Graham Greene. But where does an American turn to hear what regular old life is like for the majority of Cubans? After I came back last time, a couple of my dad’s cousins asked me, while we were doing the MS Walk in Porstmouth, NH, what a couple of guys like them would be doing if they were in and from Cuba. That is the question we need to ask ourselves about foreign countries, instead of reducing everything to sexualized or demonized stereotypes. I guess if I felt like Cuba was a well-covered topic, I could go for pure aesthetics. In Boston I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I value seeing...

If I Wrote for Thought Catalogue, this is what it would look like

Paris is like that first love that will always hold your heart. You two can fall easily back into each other’s arms, where everything comes quickly, lasts long, and feels right. Canada is like that guy from your hometown that you paw around every once in a while just to feel alive, or to remember how it felt when you were sixteen and everything you did with him was new and dangerous. You may go back every once in a while, but honestly sometimes you get more out of not even bothering. Egypt is like your first time: different for everyone. But no matter how you found it, it will always have a grip on you. It will always make your pulse quicken and give your stomach a jolt like an electric shock. You may wander back when you’re not sure what else to do, and while it may welcome you back, it could just as easily chew you up and spit you out. You will always wonder what if, and Egypt will always be there to remind you and tempt you. Benin is like a bad fling: been there, done that, no regrets and no returning. Unless it was for a really good reason… Greece was like finally getting with the most popular guy in school and not really getting it. What’s all the fuss about? I was too tired and busy from the pursuit to even enjoy it. And anyway, shouldn’t he come to me?  Maybe someday it will be time for a reunion… Cuba is that guy your mother wanted you about. Some call it abuse;...

Tightlipped

Those who know me and read this blog have noticed that there are usually two reasons for me to go quiet: I’m incredibly stressed and busy, or I can’t possibly keep my mouth shut about a new potential opportunity. This time it may be a bit of both.  I’m graduating in May, which brings with it a job hunt and certain anxieties about friends moving away, finding a place to live, and paying off bills.  Granted, I’ve been rather laid back about the whole thing, but that doesn’t make it go away and that doesn’t make people stop asking me about it. On the bright side, I’ve been having beautiful, magical transportive dreams of crumbling colonial facades, cramped, sticky rooms bursting with tambores, and of course, that living creature that is the malecón. See you in May, mi habana! Share this:Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...

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