Life in Havana was different than I ever could have imagined. I knew even with the close proximity to the U.S., it would be very different, I knew there wouldn’t be access to internet and these expectations were founded in my head as I landed in the country but my expectations were nothing compared to what I experienced because everything I could have thought about this country was different from actuality.
Life in Cuba is simplicity. That is what I noticed. I went to the supermarket and the entire supermarket had aisles of alcohol, milk, cereal, rice and one hamburger patty and that was literally it. I was confused as to what I would eat as a vegan but even more so, as an American, I realized how much things we have in excess and how privileged we are for that. In Cuba, you go to different shops to get your food. Bread is one shop, fruits and veggies another, meat another and when there are bigger food shops, there’s one brand of options. Toilet paper is a luxury. Everything is just very simple and basic.
Even walking during the streets, I noticed there wasn’t much of a contrast in appearance in terms of outfits. I noticed that people dressed relatively the same despite their income or job. One of the hosts of our airbnb is an engineer and makes $40 a month. He said the Cuban government wants to keep everyone at the same level and no matter how hard you work, they want everyone to stay the same. This is most of them want to go to America. As an American and living and seeing the misfortunes, and the discrimination and brainwashing, it’s hard for to me to see why anyone would want to come here but when you are in a different environment and they paint this seemingly perfect picture of this country so close yet so far, it became easier for me to understand why some these people had dreams of coming to the U.S.
He shared with us that most people have side businesses because they are trying to make enough money and the income from one job is not enough. Along the streets of Cuba, there are people who have a floor of their house transformed into souvenir shops and restaurants. They are just taking it day by day trying to make a living, there’s no corporate ladder to climb up.
One moment I thought was really interesting was on the first night, we saw so many teenagers out in the street as we walked around. Some smoking, just talking, hanging in the park and such and we were so confused as to why all these kids were out late at night. And then we realized, its simply because they are hanging out. They dont really have internet so they are actually interacting with each other. And how insane of us to be confused why millennials are hanging out with each other because we are so used to people being indoors on their electronics that we were shocked to see that. When I got back to the states, I shared this experience with my friend and she said, “How interesting that people always classify millennials. But there are millennials who are living like our parents?”
I just get blown away with how different lifestyles can be. We are all humans, but can live such different lives in different places with different languages. And when I came back to America, I was simultaneously appreciative and disappointed. Appreciative because we have access to so much and have the opportunity to climb a ladder if we work hard but the disappointed part is the ladder is geared towards those a specific type of person and we are so wrapped up in such superficial irrelevant nonsense and the overwhelming information of negativity in media. Cultures and countries continue to blow my mind and I hope to continue to travel and share it with you
all the love x movesandmountains