Pheeeeewwww! Have you guys ever felt unmotivated? I usually have lots and lots of drive and focus and energy. But not so much lately. I had grand visions of having this-here post written and uploaded to the blog the week after the first Cuba post. It is now almost two months later. What?!!!!! (Insert continuous eye rolling here.)
These last two years have really wiped me out . . . Physically, mentally, and monetarily. I have not gone into the cost breakdown of what I spent repatriating and moving back to the United States. I try not to think about it, generally. But I expect it would be informative to some of you out there, so I might go into it in great detail someday. But today is not that day. Just keep in mind that I repatriated in the same summer that I finished a 4 year MFA program at MICA. This is not an advisable thing to do, so don’t do it. Please and thank you.
I’ve also had a lot of naysayers appear in my life over the last year or so, really since I moved back to the United States. Trying to ignore them or refocus my attention elsewhere has been a challenge. Part of the reason I went to Cuba was because I really just wanted to get away. It was not in the budget, nor did I really have the funds to do it. But I had to get out. And going to Havana helped me to recharge and figure out my next couple of steps (namely going through with another move and embarking on a PhD program at FSU). Lemons out of lemonade, right? Regarding my life and the decisions I make, I try to keep the following two Danielle LaPorte quotes in the back of my head at all times . . .
- Approval is mine to give and no one else's.
- Joy is what happens when you face your soul.
Emotionally, it’s a big adjustment to come back to the United States. I mean, I’ve not even been back in the States for a full year yet. This emotional adjustment is something that is really, really hard to explain to people who have not lived outside of the US. And people who have not experienced this sometimes say the worst things to me in an effort to make me feel better or “snap out of it”. But there is a great sense of loss felt when repatriating, and this great feeling of loss is still very much with me. Perhaps I will write a blogpost about all of these feelings and experiences soon.
Alas . . . Let’s move on to Cuba, shall we? There are so many pictures in this post, guys. So, so many!!! And they are all lovely, so I couldn’t edit out any of them! The light! The color! The energy! Heeeeeeerrrreeee we go!!
By our third or so day in Havana, Anjali and I felt comfortable with the lay of the land and could easily navigate ourselves to and from wherever we needed to go.
Our mid-week activities consisted of spending a day traveling to and from Old Havana via one of the egg taxis or walking around all over the place. Another day we went to Hemingway’s house, which was gorgeous and a bit out from the city. And on Thursday, we spent the whole day out in Viñales Valley! Hooray for the countryside!
The architecture in Old Havana was brightly colored and gorgeous. And the streets were crowded and tiny. There was never a time where we weren’t eating the most amazing foods and listening to the most incredible music!
I mentioned the old cars in my previous post, but now we were beginning to really see them all over the place. “Honey of a car”, I would say to Anjali every time one passed us.
And at one point, as we walked back to our villa, we found ourselves stuck in a torrential rain storm. If that wasn’t bad enough, as we stood in the pouring rain waiting to cross the street (or catch a cab, whichever came first), a giant wave crashed over the wall that we were standing near and drenched us even further. I found this hilarious. But I had also been drinking mojitos and piña coladas all day.
The next day, we went to Hemingway’s house. I wasn’t quite sure why this was a thing until I got there. For one, it was out a bit from town. So the drive was interesting and traversed us through all sorts of little neighborhoods. I had the most fun taking pictures out of the cab window. The colors that people were wearing against the colors of the buildings just sort of made my mind explode a little bit. I may have even had drool coming out of my mouth at one point. I just love color so much . . .
Another thing that fascinated me was that Hemingway’s house was super crowded. There were busloads of people there. None of us were allowed into his house, but could just peek in through the doorways. There were animal heads everywhere. There were bullets and guns laid out on his desk. A newspaper on a bed mentioning his wife’s death. All the rooms neatly arranged. A log of his daily weight written on the wall of his bathroom. There were remarkable paintings in every room, books everywhere, and lush gardens. And the most gorgeous pool area near his boat. We saw it all in person and it was incredible.*
*For those wishing to have a closer look, check out the movie on Netflix called, Papa Hemingway in Cuba. They utilize the house and gardens and it’s truly exactly as it is. And the movie is wonderful!
The next day we went on an adventure out to the countryside. We took a two hour cab ride to Viñales Valley. This day was my most favorite day of our entire week! It was so beautiful and green and filled with the most awesome views.
Our first stop in the countryside was at a tobacco farm. We bought gifts for our families and had a funny exchange with a man that ended with us buying 20 cigars for $40 (but really we only got 15 - always count your purchases on the spot). We smelled the inside of a barn that had hundreds of tobacco leaves hanging out to dry. And we watched a man hand roll a cigar.
The next stop was at this mural painted on the side of a rock hill. It was painted in stripes and was ginormous! If you travel to Cuba, you must visit Mural de la Prehistoria. I’m not even joking, it blew my mind.
After a couple of nonalcoholic Piña Coladas (not by choice, but because we didn’t know we were supposed to use the bottle of rum that was slammed down in front of us to fill our drinks with booze to our liking), we went to a cave. We walked down into the earth and saw lots and lots of stalactites and stalagmites. At the end of our caving experience, we took a little boat trip through water that was collected in the bottom of the cave. This is how we exited our caving experience - it was gorgeous! After purchasing a few more things for family and friends, we headed off for our fourth and final stop in the Cuban countryside.
Our final stop was an overlook that gave us a panoramic view of this beautiful valley that we had been galavanting in all day. I vowed at this moment to come back one day and have a tiny house somewhere on this land, with a little garden. And that’s where I would live until the end of my days.
We arrived back at our AirBNB sometime between 5 and 6pm. By 7pm, we were having another fabulous meal at a new little joint in our neighborhood. It was so yummy! We wanted to go back at some point, but there was no time.
Please stay tuned for my final post about our trip to Cuba, coming up next week. And after that? An awesome interview with my long time acquaintance and art teacher extraordinaire Courtney, and the magical things she does in her art classroom to inspire her littles! Go. Make. Fun.