Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 13)


Photo: Sylver Blaque/Havana, Cuba

There was a show going on in the mercado.

People wearing bright colors and headwraps, pointed hats, cowboy hats, Cat-in-the-Hat style hats.

Faces decorated with painted designs. Piercing calls from day-glo lips.

Walking on stilts, dancing on stilts, slapping stilt-mounted bongo drums, effortless twirls on stilts while swirling large sections of brightly colored fabric.

A colossal fuschia dragon head with bulging yellow eyes, cavernous black nostrils, and knashing white fangs.

All eyes, we sauntered through the cobblestone streets of the mercado, passing all manner of Cuban life…

Boys playing a boisterous game of soccer with a deflated basketball and tattered, homemade goal net with more holes than net…

Women leaning out of high apartment windows hanging laundry…

Jineteros aggressively hassling tourists…. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 12)

cuba-maleconOur next stop was along the Malecón, an impossibly long, low cement wall separating the Gulf of Mex from a broad Havana boulevard.

The ocean was incredible! Shades of aquamarine and turquoise to rival any ocean I’ve seen.

And everywhere, people.

People walking up and down the Malecón boulevard. People walking atop the wide seawall, stepping around those sitting or laying. People in bathing suits or snorkel gear climbing over the wall, carrying fishing poles or nets. People leaning, eating, kissing, reading, napping, dancing, talking, daydreaming over the rolling azure Gulf…all atop the expansive Malecón seawall.

I wanted to jump out of the bus window, and join that wall activity!

Thankfully, the bus stopped and we were let out to experience the Malecón for ourselves.

¡Que fantastico!

Cuban music greeted us, different songs at once from an old portable radio to the left, a harmonizing group of street singers to the right. The music was infectious; I couldn’t help rolling my hips a little bit to the rhythms. ¡Adoro la música Cubana! (I adore Cuban music!)

At the wall, I hopped up and sat facing the ocean. The salty, wet spray felt heavenly and coated me with cool defense against the heat of the day.  Overhead, the whitest, fluffiest clouds I’ve ever seen hung motionless in an ultramarine sky. Below, rollicking whitecaps crashed against moss-covered boulders below my dangling legs. Continue reading

Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 11)

Cuba 2005

cuban-soldiersOct. 9 (cont.)

There were 4 or 5 small guard houses at different points around the cement lot, each with 1 or 2 olive-uniformed, gun-toting guards standing before them.

This was the Cuba I had learned about in the States.

Olive-clad soldiers with guns…intense, intimidating, threatening expressions portending torture to come.

Feeling brave (and safe, because I was in a group with a Cuban at the helm), I decided to approach one of the scary guards for a photo. As I got closer, the soulless expression on his face made me hesitate. He looked deadly. The gun on his hip looked more deadly.

Especially when he put his hand on it.

And eyed me like a target.

evil-eyesThose eyes transmitted an unmistakable warning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an aggressively threatening expression outside of actors in movies. And in movies, of course, those expressions are always directed at someone else.

Not me.

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Diary of an American Girl’s Journeys to the Forbidden Land (Excerpt 9)

Cuba 2005


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Trinidad, Cuba

Oct. 9 (cont.) 

Other impressions: Cubanos walk, ride ancient bicycles (whole families on one bike – how do they do it?), stand on roadsides holding out an arm for a ride – and most cars actually stop to pick people up. Amazing!

No serial killers in Cuba??

Bus stops – every bus stop we passed – had long, looong, loooooooong lines of Cubans waiting with a patience I’ve never before seen.

Any American would be furious, outraged if we had to wait on lines that long every day. There’d be an uproar, boycotts, demands for change. But here, as we passed these endless lines (and not just at bus stops), all I saw was resigned placidity.

It was really something to see.

I so badly wanted to get close-up shots of individual faces, to see if there was maybe a hint of impatience, exasperation, anger…anything roiling beneath the quiet tolerance.

Unfortunately, our big yellow bus was always on the move, bumpity-bumping right past the most interesting photo ops.

Ah, group trips. Gotta luv ’em. (Not!)

But, omg, the cars!


Photo: Sylver Blaque / Habana, Cuba

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