Having arrived in Varadero, Cuba on a balmy October afternoon, October 17th of 2012 at 3:45 pm to be exact, the 27 C ° presented us with many possibilities for fun and discovery. My faithful and adoringly excited travel partner, Conchita pointed to the cracked glass on the airport windows and the evidently abandoned repairs to one of the towers as a reminder of the “system” under which the country we were visiting operates. Cuba is, after all, a socialist regime; but the poor structural state of the Juan G Gomez airport is not only a reflection of a socialist system, as much as it is an aide-mémoire of the U.S. imposed embargoes on the Caribbean island.
Aside from some clean debauchery we had no set expectations of the Cuban expedition, and had decided to, as they say, “play it by ear”, and we did; especially, with the incessant afro-Cuban rhythms we were exposed to for our seven-day stay there. With only one night’s reservation at a local hotel, we had entertained the idea of moving around the island and visiting different cities, by any means possible, and though unsure of what these means would be, we were certain of our desperate need to know Cuba. But we did not wish to know the resort-bound utopia that most visitors to this nation erroneously describe as the Cuban experience, no; we needed to meet the people who walk the streets, and who give meaning and reason to the same rhythms to which we would march for the next week of our lives. Time seemed to slow down, and minutes felt like hours. We checked in to our hotel, and to my delight we engaged in passionate lovemaking – it was amazing, or at least for me: surely if you ask her, other adjectives may be used to describe the occurrence, but this is my book so we’re going with what I choose to remember. About an hour had passed when we decided to begin our exploration of Varadero, and unlike to the one-sided inclination of the former congress, discovering our reservations to be all-inclusive gave us both a reason to rejoice.
It was close to 6 on the afternoon of October 17th when I first visited the ocean after more than two long years; I had promised Conchita to shed a few tears during this long awaited reunion, yet none came – I was, however, overtaken by a diverse set of emotions – there was excitement, happiness, confusion and sadness. I was excited to be there, to have made it there after so long and to have the opportunity to see it all from a different perspective. I was happy, and mostly to be there with such a fantastic individual, to whom I owe the chance to be emotionally-healthy enough to have understood my excitement exactly for what it was. And happy to be able to study the experiences of those who inhabit the system, directly while sharing it with her. I was confused by the contrast between my elation and sadness – a melancholy of sorts that arose from the realization that I would not have enough time there to understand it all, if any of it. Here, I want to share with you realizations, not of a lifetime of research, but of one week; the insights that the most beautiful seven days of my last several years have brought on. I want to converse with you about simple gestures of friendship and camaraderie, of understanding and conflict. Many of the anecdotes I will share with you are of a very serious and intellectual nature while others are embarrassingly comical. As I write this, I am once again caught in a confluence of emotions that moves me away from the safe shores of my own understanding, and as I listen to the memory of lovely rhythms, the psychological cacophony threatens to remain perpetual. This is my attempt at accepting my internal struggle; it is my own revolution against self-imposed and self-perpetuating oppression, and I dedicate it to all those who were part of it, and first and foremost, to My Conchita – for having taken me there.