cuba smoked up along the malecon

Cuba Smoked Up Along the Malecon

Drop Dead Gorgeous

Cuba was a beautiful place, full of life and color and endearing people.  I didn’t know what to expect when I first planned the trip.  If I had been going alone (which I intend to asap) it would have been less stressful, but because I was planning a bachelor party for eleven people, it caused my stress levels to sky rocket, even while I was on the trip, I felt the need to keep tabs on everyone on the trip.  In the end that was pointless.  Eleven minds have eleven ideas on everything and that makes for chaotic planning.  Thankfully I kept everyone in the dark when it came to our plans.  This annoyed some people, but who cares.  They couldn’t offer up anything that myself and the two others elected by the bachelor to put together his trip.

It’s something else being in a place that America has been at odds with for so long, and it was astonishing to see the lack of hostility in local Cubano’s.  They were inviting and treated us spectacularly.  Even when we had a couple of people on the trip, one in particular, that seemed to not care who they offended or treated poorly.  Regardless our hosts were titans of genuine hospitality.

But the struggle is there.  It’s evident in everything you see.  From the people to the countries infrastructure and everything in between.  As a Canadian said to me who has been living in Havana for close to ten years, the sadness in the eyes of the people you find when you are wandering outside of old Havana is tough.  It’s there, and all the Cuban cigars and chica’s won’t change that.

cuba smoked up along the malecon

Cuba and America sibling rivalry

The problems in America are similar in some respects, as far as poverty and lack of basic essentials is concerned, but there is something else about Cuba that is saddening and even haunting when you take the time to think about it.  This presence of eyes watching the people of this small countries every move.  Our contact in Havana informed us that for every two citizens of Cuba, there are ten working for the government.

People say that the state of Cuba is the result of Communism, but it isn’t.  It’s the result of oppression.  Of a dictatorship that still has ahold of the people even from the grave.  But at least it appears that the grasp of Fidel is loosening.  Will Cuba ever be free of Castro and his doctrine?  I doubt it.  Then again, you never know, people are resilient.

It was something else though to see eleven very American American’s traipse through Havana for four days.  One of us had been there before, needless to say, it didn’t help matters.  He spent 48 hours in Cuba previously, so, of course he is practically Cuban now.  Armed with his broken spanglish and urge to lead, he managed to offend just about every local we came in contact with from our host family of our AirBnb all the way down to his personal taxi driver that he contacted beforehand to pick him up and bring him back to the airport.  It would’ve been impressive if it wasn’t so damn annoying.

Leading by example

This is why I try to be a model example of an American when I travel to foreign countries, it’s also the reason I try to go out of my way to be polite to the homeless as well as those in jobs that are in the service industry.  Because I’ve spent many years working in a bar as a doorman and after that experience I’ve realized that people, left without someone managing them, will be selfish and cruel to those they deem beneath them or less than.

So when you go to someplace new and aren’t sure how you will be received, just know that you are a representative of your homeland and you should try your best to be respectful if for no other reason than to make your own experience better.  You open up your mind a bit and put down your guard and you will soon find that people are much more polite than you thought…unless you are coming to the US, in that case, keep your guard up.  We don’t play out here.

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