Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Kindness of Strangers

I've taken many adventures over the years, and the one consistent thing in all of them is the people that I meet. Like Blanche DuBois, I live for the kindness of strangers. They are strangers only until the moment we meet. Then, they become friends, if only for a very short time.

They succeed in changing my life for the better. We meet. We laugh. We talk. We share an experience and then we move on., both of us changed, hopefully for the better. But I can only speak for myself.

Taking a sun break in downtown Havana

With one exception, that being Marie, I may never see the people in our group again, nor our tour leaders. However, I know that should one or all of us come to stand on the same earth once again, we will be friends, never missing a beat.

Marie is a constant in my life. We have been friends for more than 20 years. I am very happy to have shared this adventure with her.
Marie and the Cigar Lady

The people that I met in Cuba stay real for me because I save the things they touched and gave me, like the thank you note from our hotel maid, that I didn't realize that I saved. There was a woman who gave me a Cuban Peso for luck as I browsed in a bookstore. She told me to keep it close and then disappeared back into the crowd. The Peso is in my pocket now.

The band at Tocororo a Paladar that I really and truly plan to revisit. They treated us like homies out for a night of food and fun. We laughed and sang along with a very talented group of musicians who made us feel at home. They autographed a CD of their music for me.

Joseph, no last name, a student at the University with whom we talked politics and social issues both US and Cuban. American politics. Thanks to Joseph, Mitt Romney will forever be called Mitt RocK-ney by me. Even now the misnomer brings a smile at the memory. Fancy that, finding an Obama supporter in Havana. According to Joseph, President Obama was the man of choice by the people.
Outisde Lazaro's Papier Mache House

The notes and proffered email address from Alberto Faya, a famous man in his country, a performer, TV personality and teacher, who left me with a thirst and hunger for learning “history without the holes” punched into the story fabric by wannabe larger than life, Europeans, fearful and disdainful of indigenous peoples they seemingly conquered.

Said Faya, it may seem like they erased Africans, erased slaves, erased the indigenous people, but they really didn't and Cuba is proof of this.

Entertainment outside El Morro Castle
Pro Danza Dance Company

Preserving culture is preserving life,” Faya told us, and he drew the parallels and connections allowing us to see history in total, for the first time. I struggle to explain to you what his short lecture taught me or how it made me feel, except to say that I want more of it. I finally exhaled in understanding what it was that he said.

During our entire time in Cuba, Marie and I never saw another Black American and it was okay. Not finding Black Americans anywhere but the USA is pretty much the norm in my travels and Marie's too. We talked about it. We are troubled that American Blacks don't travel and don't seem to want to. Both of us talked about how we were greeted with perplexed stares and silly questions after revealing that we were going to Cuba. The first question from our acquaintances, family and friends was always “why?”

We say, “why not?” If they did travel, it would help make the cosmic connection that “we” are not alone in this universe, that slavery, never did define “us” as a people and that “our roots” run so deep that we will never, ever be eradicated by any so called conqueror who fears “our existence.”

The people of Cuba are our home, our familia.

More to come...

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