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Wanderlust Wednesday: Cuba, Compassion is a universal language

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

Today’s Wanderlust Wednesday post, is by guest writer Talya Meltem. Talya is cofounder of the TWI Hippies  blog.  In her article, she shares her experience of visiting Cuba.

We made it to Cuba. Our lifelong dreams of seeing the famed colourful old time cars and Spanish colonial architecture of La Habana Vieja (Old Havana), had finally came true when we stepped foot onto Cuban land, last Friday. It was hard not to stare at the beautiful people, or tune into every word that we recognized as vocabulary from Spanish Class years ago. We were greeted by two friendly taxi men, holding up a sign reading: “Lori Speirs.” By this time it had started raining cats and dogs, and even as they kindly helped us get into the cab without getting wet, it still hadn’t hit us that we were really in Cuba.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

Our driver sped down the rainy highway, zooming past the gorgeous, lush greenery of trees and mountains. For 38 minutes, I had to endure the irrational thoughts of us driving over other motorcyclists and kept squeezing my eyes shut thinking that we were too close to the other vehicles coming from the opposite direction. Upon reaching our destination in Cojimar, my relief at being able to get out of the car was short-lived as I began to worry if we had made a big mistake by selecting our stay with Airbnb.com in a place that we had never even heard of.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

I was soon comforted in knowing that Cojimar is actually a safe place to live. Our hosts were very lovely and helped arrange cab drives for us to the various spots on our list of places to go. They even cooked breakfast for us every morning! It was so nice to wake up to a hearty meal to start our day.

My first night was restless due to a dreadful sore throat that grew into an unwanted flu throughout our time in Cuba. “Why on earth did it have to happen this weekend?”, were my thoughts exactly. Regardless, I pushed myself as we scoped out the land for our upcoming project. Time was of the essence since we only had 4 days to document that which was necessary. It was very hard for me to enjoy Cuba the way I had hoped. I am not sure if it was because of my “flu-blues,” but Cuba was a very depressing trip for me. Yes, I had reached the climax of the several years build-up of wanting to visit this land. And yes, the scenery of the “City of Columns,” closely resembled what I had imagined. But it was the people that broke my heart.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

Most of the people didn’t know anything different, and the things that stood out to me were just normal life in their eyes; the deteriorated homes and ram-shackled roads were incongruous amidst all the beauty. Yet you’d see the happiest daughter and father going for a walk or a young couple falling helplessly in love in these circumstances. It was the poverty that was hard to witness.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

Everyone was eager to make the extra buck. Before I could snap a picture of an old lady in her traditional dress, smoking a cigar, she put up a finger and said “1 CUC” (which is equivalent to USD$1). While dining at a restaurant, a round of applause was not sufficient for live musicians. They would walk around asking “Tips for music please?” And could I blame them? No. But, it was the rawness of a bike taxi man that annihilated every beautiful thought for a moment, when he spoke about wanting to provide for his daughter.

In doing some research for our project, I asked this nice man, Julius, if he ever felt oppressed. “That is a good point,” he said. We told him that it was okay to speak in Spanish and that we would get the recording translated later. Although we could not understand his verbal response, we could feel his heart. Compassion is a universal language. Holding back his tears, he then told us in English, that he would work all month for the government and only make CUC$30, which is exactly what he made within the 3 hours he transported us. This educated man, who spoke near to perfect English, traded in his job with the government to taxi tourists around because he needed to earn more money for his family.

While I am glad to be back home, because there is nothing sweeter than your own bed while recovering from being sick, my heart still hurts for Cuba. I have returned to Cayman with loads of questions and many prayers. I thought that this would be another fashion post, about what we did and how I dressed, but in reality, it couldn’t have been anything else except the true impression.

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies

Photo Credit: Lori Speirs, TWI Hippies.


Guest Writer: Talya Meltem, cofounder of the TWI Hippies blog

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