Since arriving in Cuba I had been battling a serious love/hate relationship with the country. I had always anticipated that I would love everything about Cuba, but I didn’t. There were some things that I found confronting, confusing and at times frustrating.
One thing in particular was the language barrier and that was purely my own fault. I had managed to get my way through situations while travelling through Guatemala and Mexico with my limited Spanish, but Cuba was not allowing me to break through. The accent and the way the Cubans spoke was different and I struggled to understand and converse, which in turn left me travelling completely on the outside of the culture, something that I really didn’t like.
But with every hate, there was a love, and in Trinidad it was salsa! You didn’t need to understand Spanish to be able to dance and I was taught by some of the best teachers you could ask for – the Cuban locals! We danced at every opportunity we had – on the rooftop terrace, the steps of casa de la musica, in the streets, and at the incredible cave nightclub. And when the night was over, we slept and woke up ready to do it all again.
One of the things I realised on my first night in Cuba was that the people spent a lot of time on the streets, and it is even more evident now as I look back on the two weeks I spent there. It’s not that they were homeless, they just enjoyed being there – things happened on the streets.
It was where you sat and played checkers with your friends, where you stood for hours chatting with neighbours, where you waited for people to arrive home from their day, where you watched and whistled as beautiful women walked by, where you drank, ate, danced and simply sat and watched the world go by. And on my first night I did exactly that. I sat with the strongest rum and coke of my life, mesmerised as I starred down onto the street and watched what was happening around me. Kids playing, cars and bicycles streaming past, music flowing, people talking, laughing and gathering together as the heat of the day faded.