It’s interesting slouching in a hard-backed wooden chair, wearing a black scarf and my roommate’s hoodie, surrounded by ivy and white Christmas lights while attempting to conjure memories of my one week stay in Cuba six weeks gone. I’m in Toronto, I’m outside, it’s September and the heat of Havana’s pavement is so far away. My nose is cold and the sky is black. It’s 8:27 pm.
Cuba was a last-minute decision and Havana was a weird mix of a focus and an after-thought. This happens sometimes when I travel – I become ambivalent. Riding the present while concurrently possessing some sense of duty to the trip. Thoughts of what I should be doing, of what I may regret if I don’t pursue and the ever potent luxury of just saying, Fuck it. The present is good. Why try to be linear about any of this? Adding travel partners to the mix sometimes dilutes the focus and leaves me wondering What the fuck just happened? Cuba was like that for me. I realized I’m apt to travel differently than others – the moment becoming clear when a companion exclaimed “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity” after I stated that I wasn’t doing something I had planned to do. And there it was – the realization that, as I’m currently writing this, I suspect there are few times in the current manifestation of my life where I see anything pre-planned that way. Once in a lifetime for me generally flows with the present. The pre-planning, that’s foundational, functional and oh so apt to seduce, charm and to disappoint. It’s enveloped in expectations, not the truth of the present moment. Havana was this way for me. My preliminary exuberance became diluted by moments of apathy and agitation.
I witnessed beauty in Art and darkness in The Hustle. I picked up on lies. Prices that were quoted became doubled. Two copies of menus – one for the street and one inside a restaurant’s doors. I felt the heat of fire that danced in various forms in the eyes on the streets. I shared laughter. I was treated well.
I spent two days, zero nights in Havana. It wasn’t that Havana isn’t what I consider a great city – my perception has simply changed after spending four years in Thailand. I’ve come to believe that everything good, bad and in between in any given environment will exist in another, just the forms it all takes may differ. This, I realize may affect how I travel. It seemed to in Cuba.
And so there was Havana. Her inhabitants going through their days hosting thousands upon thousands of tourists on government approved tours throughout the year. Hordes of people taking the same photos day in, day out, exclaiming about the same sites while being hosted by government approved tour guides politely feigning interest. I understand why this exists. It just wasn’t the path I was meant for.
The highlight of my time in Havana was spent at Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym. I decided not to train. Rather the afternoon was spent filming and photographing the regimen, discussing fight sports and heart with the boxers and lastly a bit of trading techniques and salsa dancing in the rain. More on Rafael Trejo Boxing Gym in a future post.
Monday, September 9, 2013