We returned to Havana for our last night to find that the casa we had previously stayed in was full.
So we began traipsing around the streets of Havana Viejo looking for a room. After checking out a few that just didn’t feel right, I found myself standing in front of a door with a small, printed sign that read ‘La Terrazza.’
I pressed the buzzer, then heard a voice from above.
A woman was leaning out over the third floor balcony, dangling a key from a piece of black wool and instructing me to catch it.
She dropped the key.
I didn’t catch it.
I picked it up of the grimy street, inserted it into the lock and let myself in, while shouting to Tyrhone (who was a across the street looking at another place) that I was going up.
Two flights of stairs later, I found myself in the home of Christina and her daughter, also named Christina. They were having guests over so another woman, an older man and a young boy of about two years of age were all squeezed into the small living room.
They greeted me warmly and the older Christina led me up another flight of stairs to the room they rent out to visitors.
‘The terrace’ the place was named after was tiled in a colorful mosaic and the room was more like a small apartment, complete with a kitchen, dining area and bathroom. All spotlessly clean and extremely private, I agreed to take the room on the spot.
Christina broke out into a wide grin, her pride for the lovely casita beaming through cigarette stained teeth. She went into the cocina, retrieved the bottle of rum stashed in the fridge and tucked it under her arm with one swift movement, then lead me back to the living room to take down our passport details.
By this stage Tyrhone had found his way up to the room and was happily ensconced in icy cold air conditioning while I finalized the formalities.
I sat at the dining room table while the young Christina copied our passport details into her ledger and the old Christina busied herself in the kitchen (perhaps looking for another place to hide the rum).
Then she yelled out that she was making coffee and did I want want one, to which I responded with a definitive, “Si, por favor!”
She soon placed an espresso sized cup of strong Cuban brew in my hands, which rattled in a tiny saucer.
I took a sip and felt the caffeine and sugar move through me with a jolt. It was deliciously strong and way too sweet, but the gesture made me feel so good. It was the first time someone had offered me something that didn’t have a price tag on it. Of course, we were renting their room for the night, but there was something about the Christinas that made me feel like they were very different to the people we’d met so far.
While our previous four nights had involved having meals, drinks, tours and transport shoved down our throats, old Christina didn’t even cook dinner for guests and directed us to the local tienda instead of offering us things to buy.
She did, however, make Tyrhone one of her ‘famous’ coffees and watched with glee as he took his first ‘hit.’
That afternoon, when we returned from a long walk around the artisan market, Christina was taking in her laundry which was strung up outside our casita.
When we commented on how pretty the terrace was and what a good job they had done on it, she proceeded to give us a tour of her potted plant garden – detailing the medicinal herbs and plants she grows and uses for day to day ailments like joint pain and indigestion.
We then had a conversation about the Cuban medical system, her family and life in general.
It turned out that Christina was quite the character and had plenty to say about Cuban life, tourism and even the annoying touts. She said she didn’t want to be like that – only talking to people for money, and that it was friendship she valued most.
That night we had dinner at our favorite restaurant again – Habana 61 – which, as luck, or fate or Divine freaking design would have it, was two doors down from ‘La Terrazza.’
La Terrazza is accessed by the black door on the left…
We feasted on lobster and freshly baked bread and laughed about the experiences of the last five days.
We both admitted that while Havana had initially rubbed us the wrong way, we would be sad to leave the following day.
The contradiction of Cuba was that it was really difficult, but it’s abrasiveness had softened us toward it rather than hardened us.
The next morning, young Christina rang for a cab to take us to the airport. A brand new, registered taxi with air conditioning arrived to transport us, and I had to laugh at the range of experiences during our short stay.
The trip had reinforced something which is becoming more clear as I get older, which is: it’s all good.
‘Good’ experiences, ‘bad’ experiences, challenges, joys – it’s all serving us to be more open and more alive.
Even though I don’t enjoy continually coming up against myself – my ego, my judgement, my insecurity, my fear – it has served me enormously to put myself out there in order to learn and grow.
Travel isn’t meant to be comfortable and neither, I believe, is life. No-one seeks to be uncomfortable and have their prejudices, ideas and beliefs thrown up to be examined, but it is actually necessary in order to evolve.
Some people who read my previous posts about our trip have said, “I wanted to go to Cuba, but now I’m not so sure.”
So I’ll say it again – the purpose of life or travel or any endeavor is not comfort. One of my yoga teachers says, ‘Life needs pressure – to transform the lump of coal into a diamond’.
We all seek comfort – it’s the ego’s survival instinct – but the paradox is that there is really no security in comfort. Life is dynamic, moving, evolving; never stuck or solid.
My judgements about Cuba weren’t actually about Cuba – they were about me.
When I began to accept the things I didn’t ‘like,’ they didn’t seem as prevalent. The same process applies to the things about myself which I deem ‘bad’ or unacceptable.
Life is always offering me opportunities to let go of my old ideas about who I am and it’s one of the reasons I travel – not to escape from life but to evoke experiences that encourage my evolution.
And while it is scary, uncomfortable and confronting at times (joyful, exhilarating and blissful at others) I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way.
Thank you, Cuba!
Join me and a group of fantastic women for the ‘Journey to Shine’ retreat on the gorgeous island of Holbox, Mexico in April 2016!
Save on pure essential oils in November with amazing offerings from doTERRA, the company I advocate for!
Check out Tyrhone’s latest flying video!