Habeneros

By Dominique Lawson

On our trip to Cuba, I hope to observe the Habaneros from afar but also gain the opportunity to interact with them on more than one level. It’s clear that I will be able to interact with them on a professional level, but based off of readings, these interactions are superficial. Many of the workers will tell you anything or do anything to gain business and I would just like to see their normal interactions. Because I am a traveler, it will be difficult to completely weed out unnatural interactions but I feel that observation will come into effect in this aspect. From afar, I can observe the interactions between Habaneros and the business that they receive from other Habaneros as compared to what may happen if another traveler comes up. From a personal standpoint, I hope to make a connection with at least one of the Habaneros individually. I would like to hold a full conversation with them in the language. I believe that they will help me expand my vocabulary because the Cuban people are very intellectual individuals. I would like to have a conversation just to see where it could go. I would like to learn something new about the culture and about myself. I have reason to believe that I may be accepted more than others in my group simply because of my skin color. 12 percent of the population in Havana is black. This could work to my benefit on making a connection both personally and on a professional level. I am also excited to see the differences between the way that the Habaneros interact as compared to how people in our own country interact. From readings we’ve learned that the people of Cuba are very confident and hold no reserves. They are also a touchy- feely culture where the U.S. is hands off. It will be a big change, but hopefully not a culture shock since I’ve already begun to prepare myself for it. It’s said that they will embrace those that they do not know as one would a long-lost friend. It’s also said that they do not judge but instead take people at face value.

Based on previous travel experiences, I know that it’s hard to not be a tourist and submerge yourself into a culture. Another goal I have that ties in with observing and learning more about the people of Havana is to not only go to tourist locations. I know that Cuba isn’t the safest of places, so I won’t be wandering the streets by myself but I would like to visit the local eateries and shops to contribute to their economy and get a closer look at what makes Cuba tick. I think it will bother me to see the people that work so hard gain so little. Although I know they are comfortable in their lifestyle and happy people, I feel that it will affect me in some way. Knowing that the average person will only make about $14 in a month is disconcerting. On one hand I wonder how they can live and on the other I’m amazed that I haven’t tried to cut my own costs down to see if it’s possible for me to do something similar. I feel that being there will put me in my place as far as petty spending goes because it will teach me to value the dollar a little bit more. The people of Havana have many lessons to offer me by merely existing.

In some ways I want to try to live a Habanero lifestyle. If given the opportunity, I would like to gather around the TV to watch a telenovela. I would like to play dominos midday just to pass the time or kick back in a rocking chair if given the opportunity. I don’t believe that we will enter too many Cuban neighborhoods where these activities are taking place but a girl can dream right? I feel that we will be transported back in time in some ways due to the older cars and run-down buildings. It seems like it will be like we’re starring in our own movie but in a more realistic sense it will be like a new life.

Although I haven’t made it to Cuba yet, I’m excited for what it will bring. The thought of the environment alone is enough to make me feel calm. I feel as though I’m about to discover a side of me that has been buried deeply. Cuba is calling me. It sounds like home and I haven’t even made it yet. I cannot wait to start this project and fully grasp what I’ve been reading about first-hand. The anticipation is killing me but there’s only a few more weeks left until we meet.

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