i have big news to report. after long time of remaining stationary i will be heading to Guatemala for a 4 month education and adventure!
there is no plan merely some ideas, including but not restricted to:
(maybe a week for my padi in the bay islands, honduras, but that's assuming i will be able to find the time)
it has been ages since i stuffed my backpack and took off with no direction other than a plane ticket. since buying this latest ticket i have been bursting with excitement.
i am exhausted and have to go. i apologize for such a boring a limited post but i felt it was important to share on my travel blog my impending travel adventure!
Sunday, December 27
Thursday, December 3
my second week in havana was spent in what they call 'a casa particular', that is a private residence that is given a permit by the state to let out rooms at modest prices (at the time approx $25 a night). in my opinion this is the only way to see havana. living in the "muck", with the noise and the splendor of gritty central havana. i cant say all would enjoy this step down in comfort, for example mom and dad, you wouldn't find the accommodations as fantastic as i, dad would say "i cant sleep in the bed, it is too soft (cause it is)" he certainly wouldn't be woken up by the clamour of urban havana life but mom definitely would. you, and probably so would he (that is present day dad, not the guy would tramped around the world) would be very uneasy in the streets after dark. there are no street lights to speak of and there are many a cuban loitering about at all hours of the day, either playing dominos, debating baseball, drinking or most often doing all three. i call these streets home now and corners my hood (i don't use that term but it really seemed to fit). once you learn to politely ignore or joke with the constant barrage of "hey, 'scuse me, where u from? you want to buy cigar, monte cristo? special bottle havana club?(the local rum which is actually distilled in the original bacardi tanks that were left here at the time of the revolution)" you can find the charm beneath hard facade.
one of our first nights in central havana, when Isa (my flight attendant friend who joined me for a few days while in havana) and I were walking home from a family's home (a mother, yuri, and her 2 year old son, harlan, i had all but adopted since arriving there, a family i continue to correspond and assist today) who had prepared an amazing feast for us (this really touched me, people with NOTHING material sharing all that they had with two comparatively rich people from canada. this is not restricted to cuba, all my travels that have taken me through developing countries i am continually amazed and touched as the poorest of poor families invite me into their home and share all that they have with me. in indonesia i think i almost ended up with a young bride, but i digress) let me set the scene, it was around 12:30 and we were walking through the streets with confidence and purpose believing to be in no real danger (later in the week i heard more than a few stories of backpackers getting rolled late at night in that very neighbourhood!). as we walked though the streets i hear the familiar, "hey where you from?" there were 8 or so cubans on the dark corner, playing dominos (of course).
them: "oh canada! toronto?"
me: "nope" suffice to say i would normally be a bit more congenial but we were both tired after a very long day and were keen to arrive back to our casa, a mere 2 blocks away.
them: "vancouver?" it is also worth noting that the more knowledge they have the countries people visit from the more likely they are to get money from them.
me: "nope" isa is quietly asking me to shut up and stop encouraging them, remember it is very dark out.
them: "ok, ok, where you from?"
me: "ottawa" to that i hear,
wtf!, with this i turn around and walk closer for a better look and wouldn't you know it there is a guy, esslay, i met earlier in the week while out shooting (pictures). we had struck up a conversation about some sexy dutch girls near by and soon after we were sharing a bottle of rum and a couple of monte cristos on the malecon.
his gang of friends called us over and two gave up their seats so now we were playing too! not knowing how to play it must have been rather comedic to watch as we both had "coaches" who were quite literally selecting which blocks to play, i with the help of Havana Club ($3 a bottle, me and isa were glad to pick up a few bottles for the game) i was not catching on that fast apparently there are odds and other confusing factors that impeded my ability play, that coupled with my extremely limited knowledge of spanish, had me placing the pre-chosen blocks on the wrong part of the board with much animation. my coach's english was about as good as my spanish and kept repeating "take it easy, take it easy" and "eat it" (i think he meant block but i can't be sure), my response, "taking it easy, taking it easy". after two poor showings if i managed to play all my blocks, in my usual boisterous manner i jumped up careful not to knock over the board which was resting on our four respective knees. the hours passed, the rum was plentiful and laughs abound! the party continued from some time until just before 5:30 am actually when Isa could contain her bladder no longer and was unwilling to walk up the dark street and relieve herself in the doorway as my drunk and jolly (i use that word as she was round lady) domino partner had done twice since we joined their game. the first time it happened or the first time i noticed, i couldn't quite identify this noise close behind me, as my curious nature demands i turned around to see, much to my surprise/dismay i saw a large woman squatting some 6 feet up the road for me, she had not opted to find a doorway rather she was contently relieving herself on the sidewalk and happily i was slightly uphill! so we said our goodbyes but our new crew wouldn't let us walk back to the casa alone for fear of robberies, this really made me question my earlier decisions to walk around havana after dark unburdened by fear or even apprehension. oh well, live and learn.
luckily for me that was just the beginning of my time with my new friends. after going out i could always find them playing dominos and i was always invited to sit and play. those early hours of the day were some of the most lively and interesting of my trip. i was blown away on my last day while waiting for my taxi to the airport, the crew showed up to my casa and gave me a set of old dominos which i still have today.
Wednesday, December 2
our days are filled with excess and we see it as the “end all and be all”. the all mighty dollar and the ever-ticking clock! to name a few of our self-imposed shackles. for years i to was obsessed with the trivialities of life chasing, unsuccessfully, happiness though the amassing of material goods and the accumulation of wealth. it wasn't until i left the "rat race" that i began to realize that there was more out there in the world beyond the trappings of western society, nay a consumeristic illusion. if happiness wasn't in money and things, were was it?
i ended up in havana having decided to see whether photography for me would continue to be a passion or if i could transform it into more. one day while walking about with my camera in hand i met philippe a fascinating italian man with an inspiring story. i was walking through a vibrant and colourful neighbourhood oozing with the afro-cuban culture. the walls were painted in rich colours with spanish sayings and strong shapes. littering the alley were modern art sculptures that drew me closer for observation. in fact there were so many and they are so finely merged with reality that a few trips through the space and you are still likely to miss some of the creations. sitting on a bright red bench amid the colours and textures was a rasta looking guy contently typing away on an antique green typewriter. it all looked unreal. my curious nature had me sitting on the bench and i struck up a conversation. he possessed a strong energy and exuded grounding calm. i learned that he was on an exciting journey, physically and spiritually. starting in anchorage alaska he has made his way south with his ultimate goal in mind, argentina! after spending 10 years in the telecommunications industry in italy, realizing that happiness was not achieved through financial gain and amassing material possessions he quit his job, discarded his techno gadgets and set off on an adventure to discover himself and the world. as he made his way south he was struck with the urge to write a book, not on his travels per se but on his emotional experiences and his connection to the earth. buying a typewriter his thoughts were put to paper. physically weighed down by the antiquated machine his was lighted by the process. we chatted for a short amount of time, especially in the context of our time on the earth but that does not lessen the impact he had on me and, i think, the impression i left on him. inspired by his sense of adventure and his desire to see and do more than the vast majority ever dream of let alone do.
since meeting him in havana 1 year ago phillipe has finished his epic journey from pole to pole, or as close as one can get in an old toyota corolla. i won't claim that all i've achieved in my personal journey of understanding is attributed to his meeting, a 20-minute conversation with a stranger. but i'd be a fool to ignore the impact of our meeting in my evolution of understanding. as we are continually on this road of life it ultimately amounts to our collective experiences varied in importance and impact helping to guide us as we continue on our way.