By Erin T.
10 Aug 2008
I took these photos in 2003 when I was in my second of three summer working with a travel program based in Havana. Looking back, they are a great metaphor for my experience. A good reminder to embrace depth.
Born in the United States, we all have an opinion on Cuba, whether it be conscious or subconscious. Perspectives have creeped into our psyche or been hurled 90 miles an hour into our brain depending on the point in history we've witnessed.
Traveling my first summer was the practice of rebuttal. My desires to see a different side of Cuba created a perspective that picked up on all the positives. I loved a city without McDonalds and Nike, with restaurants in people's homes and taxi drivers who could engage in heady conversations about education and health care. I embraced the music, the movement, the life force of the city.
My second summer, I saw more limitations than I allowed myself to see the summer before. I watched T.V. and saw 5 hour Fidel speeches. I met locals who were in line to immigrate, and heard their reasons. I drove around with a cab driver for 3 hours trying to find a way to pump up a soccer ball. I saw concrete housing mirrored after Russia that didn't fit the weather needs of a tropical climate. I ate a lot of cabbage.
My third summer, I embraced the grey. I opened to the good and bad...the multi-faceted depths of this country so similar and yet so different than my own. And in embracing it all, I learned how powerful life can be when I open myself completely.
The surface of these buildings show everything. It is hard to see what layer went over what - it is just all there. Not covered up. The bright, the dilapidated, new and old, clean and dirty. And the mix of colors is beautiful, in their own complexity.
Five years later I see the life lesson Cuba taught me. My experience of Cuba then relates to my experience of life today. Embrace the grey, see the intricacy that lies with in you, and me. Life is more beautiful that way.