The Most Fabulous Thing I Learned in Cuba
President Obama is visiting Cuba, so I thought I would go there before him just to make sure everything was Ok for him to visit. As it turns out, Cuba is a truly beautiful and welcoming place. It is a country that is timeworn with hints of extravagance. It is dilapidated but dignified, and frustrating, yet warm and hospitable. Allow me to explain. When planning a trip to Cuba, all of the travel literature encourages guests to stay in casa particulares, which are essentially Cuban air b&bs. You book them online, and since internet access in Cuba is pretty nonexistent, you might not get an official confirmation. My friends and I found that when we arrived at some of our casas, another tourist had arrived earlier than we did and snagged our room. What? Is this normal? Yes! However, we were pleasantly surprised that the host always escorted us with a smile (and perhaps a quick shot of rum) to their neighbor’s casa, who then welcomed us with open arms (and sometimes more rum.) This experience was my first of many indicators that most undeniable, obvious and fascinating characteristic of this county is the culture of camaraderie. The people support each other and help each other in so many ways that demonstrate the quintessential qualities of a community. We travelled to many regions of the county and we quickly learned to ask questions like, “We’re headed to Trinidad and need a place to stay. Do you know anyone there?” On a side note, given my limited but brave Spanish skills, there were times when I may have actually asked, “We’re headed to Trinidad. Do you know where I can find a ride to Wegmans on a unicorn that shoots sparkles out of its ass?” Undoubtedly, every Cuban we encountered, had a friend hundreds of miles away, confirmed us to stay with that friend, and booked us in a 1952, mint-green Chevy to get us there. I decided to call these cars CUbers. Throughout one of my rides, we stopped several times on the side of road to pick up passengers and drop them off at the next town, sometimes hours away. Often times, the driver greeted his new passenger by name, and sometimes he was meeting his new amigo for the first time. Imagine driving down 93 and stopping every 15-25 minutes to pick up and drop off random passengers! During our rides, it was so interesting to see timeworn but still visible anti-American propaganda posted on billboards, yet the people of Cuba represented a clearly opposite sentiment. The culture of community and cooperation in Cuba is remarkable, and although it may be the only way for the people to truly succeed and survive there, it is still genuine, heartfelt and automatic. This caused me to reflect on the Public Body community. Not only has the crew of rockstars come to support each other 100% in our fitness journeys, but our relationships have grown outside the boundaries of Public Body classes, much like the relationships in Cuba span the entire island country. Oh, and they were fascinated by my Public Body swag which was certainly a bonus. (Note to self: bring Public Body t shirts next time to give to the people.) So, as I start to plan our upcoming fitness weekend in Provincetown and the spring and summer outdoor sessions, one thing that this trip to Cuba solidified to me is that the community, the family, the camaraderie that just happens naturally with Public Body will never be negotiable! The feeling that I have for the Cuban people is the feeling that I hope everyone feels during their Public Body journey with their new #publicbuddies. As our trip came to an end, my travel buddy overheard an American tourist at the Havana Airport complaining about the methods for boarding the plane, the time it took to get on board…and pretty much everything! She was likely unaware of the pre-boarding for several elderly travelers and some who needed physical assistance from the airport employees. She represented the complete opposite of the magnificent Cuban culture I had grown to adore. Look out Cuba, there are more where she came from (sorry!) but I can guarantee that they will not be wearing Public Body t-shirts! If you decide to head to Cuba, fee free to reach out with questions!
Peace, love and burpees!