By Danie B
The people, the culture, the pride is all contagious. Cuba’s charm tickles you from the bottoms of your feet, forces your hips into a salsa, and causes your smile to beam brighter than the sky’s brightest star. It’s like Cuba is a fine suitor, who hypnotizes you into a never ending trance and before you know it, you’re hooked forever. It’s a never ending high, it’s a feeling of freedom you never knew you didn’t already have. I spent three days in Havana, and I must say that those three days changed my life forever.
As I look out of the window of this plane, I’m wondering how this came into being. How did I get here? Dyron and I are on a plane that’s about to land in Cuba. Wow. We land and butterflies about the adventures the next days will hold are fluttering in my tummy. “Well this is it,” I think.
We get off the plane and there is no terminal, just pavement. As we walk on the actual runway into the building, I see the Cuba I read about – poor, impoverished; it literally looks like it’s suck in 1959.
The customs facility is small, quiet, and dated. There are workers or guards on watch. We line up and wait to get our visas stamped. Looking around, I’m getting some stares so I know it’s quite obvious that I’m American. (Plus we just got off of an American aircraft, so yeah, it’s beyond obvious). It’s finally my turn to speak with the customs agent, so I step inside and hand over my passport and visa. The agent makes me take my glasses off for a picture. He stamps my visa, and then I go to the next part where we sign over the paperwork we completed earlier on the plane that states why we’re visiting etc., and then it’s time for baggage claim.
As I watch the bags on the carousel, I’m again reminded that this is NOT the US. Instead of suitcases, it looks like people have packed their clothes in black trash bags taped together with duct tape. I now have to pee like crazy so I go the bathroom. There’s a girl sitting there, and she’s on toilet paper duty. She hands me two pieces of tissue, four squares each, and I go into a stall. The toilet looks like it hasn’t been flushed in maybe a month. Flies are everywhere. The door won’t close so I have to squat and hold the door at the same time. I try to flush the toilet. It doesn’t work, so I hold my breath, do my business and exit. I wash my hands and the same girl has given me a couple more squares of tissue to dry my hands. I feel bad that I have nothing to give her. We still haven’t exchanged our euros for Cuban money. I give her an uncomfortable smile, and she smiles back.
We get out bags and head outside of the airport where there are a ton of people. They don’t look like they have too much money, and the expressions on their faces are dismal. I do, however, see two smiling faces in the crowd. I didn’t know it then, but those two smiling faces would teach me so much about the place they call home and become my new friends. Their names are Yoan and Vladmire. We shake hands and embrace and they tell us to follow them. We walk past a line of classic cars. It literally looks like something out of a Discovery channel documentary. Well, I guess this is Cuba! We hop in a 1950-something taxi to go where we’ll be staying.
As I look out of the window, there’s a ton of pro-Castro billboards, classic cars and just flat out beauty. You can literally feel the culture in the air that’s sweeping across your face. The ride was maybe 20-30 minutes. We passed the sports complex, the infamous Plaza de la Revolución, and the murals of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro in Revolution Plaza.
We get to our home that doesn’t look like much on the outside, but once we get inside, WOW! Exquisite tile, flat screen TVs, expensive couches, air conditioners…what? They show us to our rooms, we put down our luggage, and in that moment it hits me that Cuba is richer than I could have ever imagined.
Check out the pics below!