To bare honesty, I knew nothing of Cuba going into my trip. I had heard of a man named Fidel Castro, and my idea of Cuba was one of skepticism. That is all. I went into this adventure completely blind.
I see this as an offering. The ability to have a completely open and new mind, to learn and gather my own thoughts and opinions. My curiosity and eagerness to ask all the questions and learn as much as possible sat my soul in the hot seat.
I was desperate to find out about these people, excited to dive into their world. I wanted to talk to them, walk into their homes, eat their food. I wanted to laugh with them and cry with them and put myself in their shoes, even if just for a tiny moment in time.
We did this and so much more. We drank coffee with them, listened to their stories, broke bread with them, watched sunsets together, prayed with them, sat in their homes and simply listened to each other.
The stories to come in the following weeks will tap into each heart and soul I met. But for now, I will state my facts, 3 of them, from the eyes and soul that I measure with. The reality of what I felt, in the path I followed to meet Cuba face to face.
Cuba is stepping back in time. You first see it in the buildings and the colorful 1950’s cars. It is like taking yourself back to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. You can visualize the movie stars, traveling in luxury to a foreign island, dancing and laughing among palm trees, coast lines and vast skies. Catching a late-night ride in a red Cadillac, top down, with shouts of joy at the islanders passing by.
1960’s styles of Chevrolets in teal, yellow and pink, bounce up and down the roads, dropping people here and there and all over the place. Always horns, always hollering. But in joy and assistance, for Cuban people look out for each other.
You can see the gorgeous architecture of palace style homes with large columns, painted in what was once white or bright, pastel colors. Exquisite marble interiors complimented by colorful Spanish tiles. The steep hills of Havana lead you to the coastline, splashing against a cement wall or to downtown where the city people gather, for a tasty treat of ice cream.
In Havana, there is a long line of hundreds of smiles wrapped around a building that looks to be a circus tent, in the middle of a park. It’s a dome tent, shades of blue and white, different from the red tents in America. I wondered if there was a ride inside.
My husband and I, paying no attention to the barricade in front of us, weave our way towards the center of the tent. We are soon stopped by an official with a stern face. With no need for words, as we are obviously not from Cuba, he points us back in the opposite direction.
We soon learn form a local that the long, Disney World style line is for ice cream.
For $0.25 you can enjoy three large scoops of ice cream in a boat sized dish, for yourself and buy a few more for your entire family. It is simple. And it is fantastic!!
We did not stand in this long line. For we were Americans, on a mission. No time in our day to stop.
Cuban people take care of each other. They are not out to differ; they are out for peace. They all have places to be and things to do, and believe me, at times they are in a mindless hurry, just as we are. But they are kind. They do not point fingers or cause a fuss. They are a family. The entire island.
It is safe here in Cuba. I feel a sense of gratitude that we are here.
They are kind and assistive and happy to have some Americans on their land.
“How long you stay?” one asks, as we stroll downtown. “We are happy to have you here in Cuba. Would you like to come to our Salsa Festival tonight?” My heart skips a beat. Oh, the fun of a real, Cuban Salsa Festival. The man is honest and inviting. He smiles and begins to give us directions. I break the news that we cannot attend because of other plans. This doesn’t faze him in the least, he smiles back in gratitude.
“Thank you for visiting Cuba. I hope you have fun,” the man says, in his best English pronunciation but with a beautiful native tongue in his words.
Everywhere we go is like this. Into their homes. Into their churches, their cars, their life. They speak with gratitude and eagerness, to share their past and for us to share the hope of their future.
We visited with Buddhists, Methodists, bus drivers and bar tenders, all of them having a heart for the greater good of their own people. All of them. They were like a rehearsed dancing circus of people. All types of folks, different skills and directions, but one common goal of making it through life together.
Which brings me to #3…
God is bigger than big in Cuba. You can see the Lord and you can feel Him.
God is making a wave of gathering up His people and sending them back into their community to find those that need him. They are a Holy people, disciples, meeting in homes and tiny churches and desolate places we Americans never find ourselves. They worship and sing and will anoint an American with oil in a New York minute. Then they depart. Full of power and joy to do the good work God has called us to do, to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
If God is so present there, and we are in the Land of plenty here, then why is it harder to see Him?
What if plenty isn’t what we have, but what we share?
Maybe plenty is in people. Relationships, generosity, our time, two listening ears, a smile, eyes that see and a heart willing to give.
Cuba is far from the land of plenty. Common everyday goods are hard to come by and for the most part non-attainable. Rations are still delivered to families in the form of rice and beans. If you want any fresh items such as eggs, fruit or vegetables, you can only hope they have them that very day in the downtown market. But what I saw here is togetherness and joy among the hearts of the Cuban people.
They have soul. They have peace. They relish in the best of what life has to offer, people.
How long do we stop our daily walk of life to savor and rest in the people around us?
Cuba has much to share and much to teach. Cuba taught me that people really do matter most.
Our plenty is in the giving. Giving in to people around us, in the hopes of seeing that our plenty as enough.