CERVEZA FOR THE SOUL - EMBRACING THE LOVE IN CUBA
A little something was missing from my life and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Don’t get me wrong - my life, on paper, is pretty good. Hubby is a sweetheart, I have two little darlings, and a satisfying job. All that seems to be missing from this picture is the white picket fence.
In reality, what was really missing was a little bit of me - a little part of my soul. I figured that out a while back as the hectic pace of life seemed to overwhelm me, but fortunately I have a fix for everything. So I set out with resolve to find that soul. I looked for it everywhere - at the gym, but that treadmill and the endless plodding and sweating brought me no closer to finding myself. At work, my eyes glazed at the scrolling numbers on my monitor and I forgot to keep looking. And those rare moments round the campfire with a sleepy-eyed kid snuggled close were so close to perfect, but oh so rare.
I’m happy to report that that was then. I finally found my soul after a single day of reckless spontaneity and a phone call to confirm my enrollment in Trina Kosters fabulous PhotoCuba Workshop. Just to set the record straight, my single reckless day of spontaneity followed weeks - no months - of slow and ponderous deliberation, and multiple confirmations with my husband that I would go … or maybe I wouldn’t. Still, my lost soul stayed hidden until I was most definitely committed to the adventure, and my feet were firmly planted on Cuban soil. That is when that missing soul began to slowly creep along my limbs and warm my heart.
My first introduction to a Cuban was to the delightful German (pronounced ‘her-man’) Portundo - artist, professor, Director of the Chiverico Art Gallery, and co-instructor of the workshop. German shared stories of Cuban art, culture, education and lifestyle. His insight brought me closer to an understanding of the subjects I would soon be photographing, and his eloquence was only slightly upstaged by his “Kiss my (Nike) Airs” T-shirt and white leather and buckled ‘pimp’ boots. German was asked what he loves most about Cuba and his answer was the same as we saw all around - there is always a fiesta, and he loves his family - they are his anchor. At this a little warmth crept into my heart.
A walk around the town of Chiverico with camera in hand showed me more of what German had revealed. Family, friends, pets, relationships - it’s all number one in Cuba. I could see it in the children. From shy smiles to waves, and cheeky grins, these kids were so full of life and laughter. Most revealing though was how each stealth attempt at photographing a heart-warming parent-child scene played out. ‘Un photo por favor?’ was met each time with a wide smile, and rearrangement of the natural scene into stiff poses. Clothes were straightened, hair smoothed, dirty face spit-cleaned and proud mama stood beaming beside her child. I saw first-hand what matters to these parents and I shared their happiness in the proud moment.
I was fortunate to be in Chiverico on a most special night that brought together both fiesta and love. Valentine’s Day in Cuba is a day when everyone shares and celebrates love - of family, friends and life - in one big fiesta. I knew I could not miss this event and I made my way into town with some fellow travelers to join the party. It turns out that Cubans have weaved their values and priorities into every aspect of their life. Everywhere on park benches around the town square were families - proud mums and dads, babies and little kids. Older kids gathered in groups, giggling girls in one corner, little boys of 10 or 12 showing off with cartwheels and stunts in the other. A couple of old guys shared a joke, and my group of out-of-place looking tourists toting cameras comfortably intermingled with villagers met earlier in the day. The fiesta was underway, and everyone was welcome as long as you came with a smile and an ‘Ola!’ for every passer-by.
The sad day came when ‘PhotoCuba’ was heading out of town. A night of reminiscing was in order, and as we rested our weary bodies by the pool, the Cerveza began to flow. Perhaps lying prone on a lounge chair by the pool did it, or perhaps it was that last round of Cerveza, but the aching in my travel-weary muscles slowly ebbed away. Likewise, as the night wore on and sounds of another fiesta wafted up from the village, a little of the weariness of a hectic life was erased, leaving a little space for that lost soul to creep back.
I saw that the heart-warming love of the Cubans had spread a little when we were finally bundled into our bus and the resort owner and other guests treated us to a rendition of ‘Na-Na-Na-Na Hey-Hey Good-bye’, followed shortly after by chants of “More rum for us!, More rum for us!” …
Ok, so looks like us tourists have a little work to do embracing the love, but as that plane touched down back in Canada, I knew I was coming home with a little more soul, and a renewed outlook of what really matters in life.
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