**Disclaimer: I am not a political person. This is not intended to be a political post. However, I realize with our current political climate and the polarization of so many of us in our country, that this post may come across a bit political. I don’t apologize for my views, for my OWN TRUTH, but please know that I realize and respect that everyone does not look at the world the way I do. We all have our OWN TRUTH’s, and that is exactly what this blog post is about. So, let’s get started on talking about what that looks like…….
I just got back from a great 3 1/2 days visit to Havana, Cuba. Now, when you think of Cuba, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? Old cars perhaps? (I found this to be the case when talking to most people before and after my trip, which is why I chose the photo above as the photo for this blog)….Communism perhaps? Fidel Castro? Cigars? Ernest Hemingway?
I have had conversations about ALL of those listed topics above with different people before my trip and since I have returned. It is interesting when you tell people you are going to Cuba. Some are very interested and say they can’t wait to visit one day as well, and then some become a little passive aggressive in their conversations about traveling to a place like Cuba (this is where I insert my all time favorite back handed compliment…“that will be so fun...for YOU, but not me”…. *insert eye roll here whenever anyone says that to me in any situation*…..anyway…..and then there was this one guy who actually confronted me while I was getting my hair done at my salon about how could I feel good about giving money to communists and asked me why I would ever want to go to a place like Cuba!! Keep in mind, I had never met this man, he strictly overheard me telling my hairstylist about my upcoming trip, and that somehow gave him the permission to spew his hate towards me and berate me for my love of travel and interest in ALL cultures. Yeah, again, I respect that we each have our own opinions, but if you are an asshole (whether a right leaning or left leaning asshole), you get NO respect from me.
Flash forward to actually being in Cuba……it is a beautiful country. In parts. The landscape and natural coastline is beautiful. The water is a beautiful shade of royal blue. There are some beautiful renovated buildings that remind me of some of the most beautiful streets I have walked in Rome and Paris. But then there is a lot of deteriorating and crumbling buildings. Cuba has a lot of poor areas, where people are living in terrible conditions. Electricity wires are exposed and hanging low. They are still on monthly food rations, and anything extra is just not possible, unless you have the money to pay for more. And just like most of us think, Cuba is a country locked in a time warp.
Yes, the old cars are everywhere. Most of them have been maintained beautifully, but a lot of them have not. When driving down the road, you will have an old Chevy, next to a bike taxi, next to a motorcycle with a side car, next to a horse and buggy, all in the same lane…..it is quite strange. It is pretty much like whatever you can find to get you around, get on it and go. There are no rules.
And the food. Let’s talk about the food. I had it in my mind before our trip that I would be eating delicious, spicy food at every meal. Food that was full of different flavors and spices. Well, I am not sure if I got that impression from movies I have watched or my trip to Miami, but this was definitely not the case. In fact, what food was available was actually quite bland. And I say food that was available, because even though my husband and I were always given these beautiful, extensive menus when we sat down in a restaurant, inevitably there would actually only be one or two items available. EVERY TIME! By the third day in Cuba, we didn’t even look at the menu, but just asked what they had available that day. It became funny to us. It was just part of the charm of traveling outside our usual comforts, but also another daily reminder on just how limited the Cuban people are for resources.
The Cuban people are so very welcoming and kind. Very eager to talk about where we were from. You can see it in their eyes that they are ready for people to get to know them. They crave the interaction of the outside world. Even the ones that don’t speak English (and neither my husband or I speak Spanish), you can see it in their eyes. My husband and I had several conversations with people who spoke broken English about their life in Havana, and their hopes and dreams. And guess what? They are just like any of us. They are working hard for their families. They love to hang out with their friends and family. They are interested in traveling to other places (yet, still not easily possible), and they have an intense love for music. You will find music on every corner in Havana. It is quite lively and exotic. My husband and I felt safe as we explored the city. In fact, more safe than some places in Europe that we have walked at midnight. There is just an overall vibe of calmness and happiness, even in the midst of the current economic status of the country.
Now, to the core message of this blog post……
And then there I was….standing inside the Revolution Museum in the center of Old Havana. This is a museum dedicated to Fidel Castro’s rise and ultimate ruling of the country for so many years. And it is very Anti-American. Of course it is. This was and is THEIR TRUTH. The museum tells a very different story about the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis than the one I had ever heard. But it is told from their point of view, or more accurately, the version told by a government led by a maniacal man. And the common people bought into it. Why? Well, why wouldn’t they? For the most part, back then most of the country were uneducated and poor farmers. They were given a version of our country, over and over, that was not positive. They believed we were poisoning their crops and livestock. Well, they believed a lot of things. Some of it true? Possibly. I don’t know. I think war is an ugly and devastating thing, and sometimes ugly and unheard of things happen in wartime. But whether or not it was the actual truth of what was (is) happening, it is the only thing they knew…so why wouldn’t it be their truth? It was uncomfortable however. I left that museum feeling uneasy. I am a very proud American, and reading terrible things about your own country is a hard thing to take.
However, the longer I let it sink in what I had just experienced, the more I thought about how what any of us believe, no matter what country we are from: We all have our own truth.
If one is raised in America and never travels, how can they know what it is really like in other countries?
If one is raised in Europe and never travels, how can they know what it is really like in other countries?
If one is raised in Asia and never travels, how can they know what it is really like in other countries?
If one is raised in the Middle East and never travels, how can they know what it is really like in other countries?
If one is raised in Africa and never travels, how can they know what it is really like in other countries?
People are people. I have traveled to many countries, and I can honestly tell you that people are people. And people are NOT their government. The average person in any country is NOT their government. They are people living their daily lives, doing the best they can to take care of their families, and interested in what’s happening in other places in the world.
Of course, then there are those people in ANY country who choose to hate just because. Because of the unknown. Because it is different. Because of being uncomfortable with what is out of the “norm” of what they have ever known.
And then there are genuine reasons to dislike certain things in cultures. I don’t like oppression in any culture. I don’t like the fact that several countries limit women’s rights. But does that mean that I dislike ALL people from those countries? Absolutely not. Again, the average person, no matter where they are from, is not their government.
Those of us who do travel, and have the knowledge and freedom to ask questions, have a great responsibility I believe to help share the fact that any person, of any culture and country can only have their own truth. The truth shaped out of what they have been exposed to. What they have personally experienced. And so, if that is what they know, is their truth wrong? Is our truth wrong?
In my heart there is no right or wrong when it comes to our truth. Where the wrong comes to play in my mind, is when we hurt others in any capacity, strictly because their truth is different than our own. Or when we deny others the freedom to own their own truth because then it makes us question our own. The beautiful thing about life is that there can actually be many “right” truth’s out there. We are all made to think and act differently, and instead of using those differences to hurt one another, I choose to view them in a loving light. I choose to travel to those countries and cultures to learn more and expand my own truth. I will always choose love, no matter where I go.
So, as I reflect on my trip to Cuba, and even my visit to the Revolution Museum, I realize it does not change my truth as a proud American. It has just expanded my compassion for other human beings, and I am so thankful the Cuban people allowed me to experience their culture and their truth. I add it to my collection of memories and to my soul experiences.
Whew…..that was a long one, wasn’t it my friend?! It has taken me a while to put that into the right words. I hope it came across the way I intended, as I am not out to hurt or offend anyone.
As always, written with love from me to you,
My friend Nicole gave me this daily calendar for Christmas. Some days resonate with me more than others, and today’s message is one of those “Calendar, I Hear Ya” days!! 😉
When we think negatively or meanly (is that even a word??!!) we feel bad physically inside and out…..but when we think positively and lovingly, it gives us a little skip in our step, and an overall feeling of happiness and healthiness.
How are your thoughts making YOU feel today? xo
Friends, I have been wanting to sit down and write my blog about Cuba for 2 days now. I just can’t seem to find the calmness and focus needed to say what I want to say. Every time I sit to write, my mind races and too many distractions come in. I will listen to my energy and know the right time will come to let the words out soon. I say this to you because if you are feeling similar in whatever endeavor you are trying to accomplish today, I want you to know it is more than okay to just sit it out….breathe….take the pressure off yourself….the time will come.