Here is the one photo I have of myself in Cuba, folks. I hold the camera, so I almost never appear myself.
Now that that’s out of the way…
When you take any trip, really, people want to hear about it when you get back. In my experience, the vast majority of people want to hear about 38 seconds max – just the highlights. Some people – close friends, perhaps your parents – have patience for and interest in hearing more. I have found this out the hard way, usually by oversharing and watching my listener’s eyes begin to glaze over at my unending enthusiasm for place X or place Y. It feels a lot like the “…and one time, at band camp…” phenomenon so famous from American Pie, for those of you in my generation who were around for that movie.
For this reason, I have become accustomed over the years to, in a sense, “curating” the more interesting or funniest or intriguing moments from a trip and presenting them to interested parties as a sort of verbal highlights reel. (I do not respect this same restraint when deciding which photos to share, I figure people can take them or leave them on their own time.) I’m not sure why, but this is proving nearly impossible to do with my experiences in Cuba. I have such a mosaic of moments and images and people and places in my head, that I’m having a really hard time narrowing it down to a logical narrative to share with people who ask about my trip. Is it because Cuba is a place so unlike others I’ve visited? It’s geographically closer to the U.S. than nearly any country I’ve been, but so challenging to get to (legally), so different upon arrival, so caught in a historical time warp in many ways, (not exclusively but) largely because of the U.S. embargo and resulting effects… It’s such a complex place, historically and socially speaking, and our experience was not a typical tourist one.
I guess one good place to start is just to express my gratitude to everyone involved – to John, for coming up with this program idea in the first place…to Leo, who picked me up at the airport and spared me the hullabaloo of money-changing and taxi-taking in my first moments on Cuban soil…to Cecilia and Pepe for hosting us for a great dinner, and (insistently but unsuccessfully) hunting for limes for moijtos…to Berthica and Dúnyer and Pedro and Adriam, for traipsing around the countryside with us, pointing out different places and people related to Irish history and clambering over walls in ruins for an authentic experience…to Kilian for organizing CeltFest Cuba and inviting amazing Irish and Canadian musicians to teach workshops and play sessions every night…to the musicians for sharing their prodigious talent…to Joan for being a flexible and enthusiastic program buddy…to Parra for opening his home to us and sharing war stories with me…the list could go on and on.
And I promise that as I process and figure out what I think about what I think…you’ll be the first to know. But prepare for some oversharing. : )