Chapter 2. "SERENDIPITY"
………As time stood still at the park, I was suddenly back to feeling at peace. The sudden urge to connect to WiFi was gone. I was present in the moment. I decided to continue to see the beauty of Havana as the sun set. The streets were narrow and full of lively people outside. The kids were playing soccer, chess and conversing on the streets. The graffiti all over the buildings captured my attention. As I followed the art I stumbled upon a soccer game. The kids were playing on the concrete and this looked competitive. The kids were smoking cigarettes. My lonely self started a conversation with them. I interrupted them and told them they were too young to be smoking. They looked at me like “who the eff are you?” The kids asked where I was from as if I were an alien. After telling them I was from the good ole’ U S of A they said they would be my tour guides. At this point this was my safest bet.
Off we went until it got dark. The boys 18,16,15 and 7 were friendly and enthusiastic. We roamed around the neighborhood and they gave me a few tips on the ins and outs of the “barrio” I was staying in. We shared our thoughts and dreams. The kids had big plans for their lives. As each one talked about their futures, their was a glow in their eyes. I was intrigued to know their thoughts on their country’s government and how it played a huge role in what they COULD do. The 7 year old explained he is moving to Florida when he gets his Visa. His father was living in Miami, and he couldn’t wait to see him. He loves soccer and wants to be a professional soccer player when grows up. His passion and confidence as he told me his dreams was like nothing I had seen before. I told him HE COULD do whatever it is he desires. I told them one of my favorite quotes of all time “IF YOUR DREAMS DON’T SCARE YOU, THEY’RE NOT BIG ENOUGH”. We all shared our thoughts about overcoming adversity in order to succeed. These “kids” had it down. And it’s a shame of their situation.
This definitely was the 60’s. Before cell phones, you were trusting that the time and place you were meeting someone would be RELIABLE. I got to my casa and my host mom was on the balcony. She rushed downstairs and hugged me. She was worried, it was dark out and she thought I was lost. Me lost? A foreign young woman naive and never been to Cuba before? Nah! I told her about my encounter with the kids and to not stay up and worry about me, I would be OK. As I laid in my new bed that night, I couldn’t help but to think my encounter with the kids was a series of serendipity.
I woke up the next morning with a different attitude. I was beyond grateful. I followed my usual morning routine; listing at least 10 things I am grateful for that day. I listed my usual and included "meeting my new cuban friends on the street". I walked into the kitchen to find my "host mom" setting up what seemed to be a breakfast buffet. She served me nothing but carbs. I was used to bacon and eggs for breakfast but, this would have to do. After all, RULE #1 of being a foreigner; YOU ALWAYS EAT WHAT YOU WERE GIVEN. I was served black coffee, pastries, fruit, and 4 baskets of bread. ALL CARBS! My host mom explained protein was hard to get, expensive, and sometimes full of bacteria and unfortunately bread was what they normally ate to keep them full longer. She sat with me as I ate and she asked more about what brought me to Cuba. After I explained my situation she couldn't help but to
admire my bravery. I nodded with confidence but deep down inside I didn't mention I was scared to death, making the most out of my trip. I finished most of my BREAD n' breakfast and headed on out for my first full day of adventure. BUT FIRST, check in with WiFi. I checked in with my loved ones and informed them of my disappearance till I get back online that evening. As soon as I disconnected, I realized I enjoyed being away from our available lifestyles back home. We are on our phones all day long, talking, browsing through social media, and simply always readily available when someone is trying to contact you. I began my day by walking through "EL PRADO", which is a popular walkway in Old Havana that is in the middle of the beautiful hotels. As I walked through the streets I couldn't help but to stick out like a sore thumb. But to my surprise everyone was extremely friendly. Men, women, kids... all smiled and waved at me. I felt like a local celeb. I had people coming up to me giving me compliments and asking where I was from. I told everyone I met I was from "Mexico, City", they loved Mexico and disliked Americans. My Spanish came in clutch. I began walking down the most popular tourist street in Old Havana "CALLE OBISPO". It was unreal. Musicans playing their instruments, singing, and dancing. It
was a festival every day down this busy street. I was pulled into dance by one of the musicians and I busted out my salsa moves. It was 11 am and I was already having a BLAST. There was souvenir markets down this street with beautiful vibrant paintings, hand made pottery, jewlery toys etc.... you name it...they MADE it. I was down to $90 CUC after a my cocktails the night before and I spent $5 on souvenirs, after all I NEEDED a memory of this trip. I had no one to take my photos, I decided to ask random Cubans to take my picture. I HAD to get a photo with the gorgeous cars, and although I risked my phone being taken from the random person I asked...YOLO.
I had 8 hours till it was time to meet up with my new Cuban buddies. The day was filled with endless opportunities of what to do but where did I start!? I walked down the streets with confidence pretending that I knew where I was going. In reality, I had no clue and I didn't know what I was doing. I just kept applying another one of my all time favorite quotes I live by: "FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT". There was something exciting about being a foreign country, no phone, no friends, no clue where you are but FIGURING IT OUT. And at that moment I realized how being UNCOMFORTABLE is a beautiful thing.