Havana, Cuba: A smile through a crack


On the way to Havana, the bus stopped at this infamous piña colada shack for tourists to take a washroom break and grab refreshments. We had a choice of ordering the drink in a glass for 3 pesos, or in a fresh pineapple for 5. Of course we decided on the latter. And wow, this piña colada really was the best ever! Unbelievably rich and creamy.

Note that if you’re visiting Havana, be sure to bring toilet paper with you because you won’t be having access to any — that is, unless you feel like living life on the sexy lane, and drying yourself out in the sun and being one with nature.

La Bodeguita del Medio, a restaurant-bar in Old Havana, has become a go-to spot for tourists, as it’s been frequented by famous writers such as Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Ernest Hemingway. If you visit flea markets, you’d see numerous paintings of this bar floating around.

Visiting Havana was undoubtedly the highlight of my trip to Cuba. I would’ve loved to have spent days and nights learning and exploring, and trying new things, even in the heat. The restless adventurer in me is never satisfied; she just wants to keep moving. It’s quite unfortunate, however, that we had only a day to explore the city.

Looking in retrospect, rather than staying at a resort and basking in the sun on the beach, I would’ve chosen to stay in a small residence and eat street food and experience life as a local instead. While I appreciated my time at the resort, it was important for me to escape the confines of this gated community of affluence, this environment of false perfection, that masked the realities of the inequalities existing all around us. I longed for imperfection. I longed to witness and experience everyday life out there in its most raw and authentic state. I longed to feel, for something to strike my soul.

The highlight of Havana was our visit to a children’s school. Through the crack of a classroom door, a beautiful little girl of about six years old with golden blonde hair, smiled and waved at my sister and me. Of course, we kindly smiled and waved back at her. Moments like these — watching children learn in school and exchanging smiles with a child — constitute life in all its authenticity, and bring me great joy.

I was also deeply touched when a friend came across a boy who, instead of eating the croissant she gave him, placed it in his pocket and saved it for his family. It’s in such a split second, which is so easily overlooked, that one witnesses the beauty of life — love, patience, dedication, sacrifice. I felt deeply with him from a human being to another, and from a heart to another. Had I been in his shoes, I would’ve done the same for those I love.

As time flies, I’m beginning to truly feel in all my being that when I choose to walk through life with an open heart and mind, and to operate from a place of acceptance, understanding, and compassion, beauty is everywhere, in all people, in all places, in all circumstances. And my brief visit to Havana has taught me a great deal about myself, and what I value most in my life.

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