Mano y Mano

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As the pilot announced our initial landing into Havana, I opened my window and couldn’t help to get emotional. I was excited, it was a dream come true to finally visit Cuba, but still the tears that started to well up in my eyes took me by surprise. I joke that I am as much a citizen of the world as I am a citizen of America. I say joke, because who seriously is like “Yo, my citizenship is to the world.” Kind of pretentious, no? But my feeling for Cuba is truly a feeling of being a citizen with no borders.

I grew up as a kid thinking Cuba could be a bad or scary place. I could not go, so that must mean it is no good. My parents never put this in my head, it is just what I gradually learned. When I became a teenager of course those feelings left me but I just assumed I would never be able to visit. As I got older and learned more it became an obsession of wanting to get there, and finally I could (Thanks, Obama). I wondered if there would be hostility, although every Cuban I have ever met is the most social and welcoming person around, I still wondered if the people living in Cuba did not want us there. What I learned is that so many of them felt the same sentiments that I did, the not knowing and the wondering. Lucky for us they were excited for me to help with their English and were more than kind in putting up/ helping me with my broken Spanish. They were eager to answer questions about their country. They welcomed debates and ideas and different experiences. The Cuban people are in a league of their own

When I was landing I thought to myself how only a handful of people (ahem, men) have taught us what countries are good and which are bad. Politicians in America, Cuba, and all around the world want to decide for their citizen what they can think about another country or culture. If it works into their agenda the country is good, if it does not it is bad. It is a tale as old as time, and it will never stop. It is up to us as travelers and citizens to want to have these experiences and make up our own opinion.

While walking around with one of our tour guides, Joe, he said to me “isn’t it funny how only a few men could decide the fate of our relationship for so long. The rest of us just want to talk and know each other.” I of course agreed with him. From there we kept walking and talking, shared drinks, food, and laughs with people from around the world. It was a good day.

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*Photos of me by Taylor

** Itinerary based posts coming soon!