The plane is buzzing with the familial chatter of Cubans. This is always one of the most comforting moments of my journey, surrounded by a feeling of inclusion and connection, even amongst total strangers. The chatter and childrens’ voices warm my heart. I feel my eyes start to well up with tears. I feel like I too am going home to Cuba. Even though it is not my birthplace, it is the home of my heart in ways I can’t really explain. It has felt that way since the very first time I went to Cuba over a decade ago and I don’t think it will ever change. There is something in the culture and the way that Cuban people relate that feels normal, healthy and familial to me. It is a place where I never feel alone, isolated or scared to approach or talk to anyone. Closing my eyes and listening to the chatter, I feel my entire body exhale and relax.
I have no idea what I’ll be entering into there. I’ve been hearing stories about how bad the situation is. The economy is a disaster, the food supplies are a mess, the costs of everything are way up making it difficult for most Cubans to afford basic necessities and on top of all of that, the government installed a new policy for how Cubans can purchase items from government run stores which carry a lot of their daily necessities like canned goods, beverages, shampoos, soaps, personal items, etc. making it impossible for some to purchase, and at the best challenging for others. I’m a little bit afraid of what I will find there once I arrive, and am preparing myself for the worst and praying it’s better than how my imagination is envisioning it.
The pandemic has changed all of us it seems. It halted our lives in mid step and changed the course of reality for almost all of us in one way or another. Many of us can never return to what life once was for us: we’ve lost people we loved, we’ve lost ways of life we loved, we’ve lost money, energy and years of time that we can never get back: that in and of itself holds worlds of grief. We’ve endured incredible losses and it forced many of us to become something else other than what we might naturally be in order to survive these times.
In a few hours I’ll be riding through the countryside of Cuba from Havana into Trinidad. I am excited to embrace those friends who are still there and still alive and well. Many were taken with CoVid, young and old alike, and many of my friends have left Trinidad, and many others, have left Cuba completely, desperate for more opportunities at a better life than what Cuba can offer them under the current reality.
Regardless of who is left, and what comes, I know that, as always, Cuba will open it’s heart to share in the grit, the grime, the glory and the magic that is always there to be discovered. As the plane taxi’s down the runway, I give a silent prayer of gratitude wrapped in one for safe travels for all on this plane today as we return to the island we all love immeasurably.