you can't put an embargo on my love

I love Cuba.

No, really. I love it. Not in the sentimental way I love Laos or the kind riddled with nostalgia like England. Nothing like the unconditional/soul mate/home kind of love I have for New Zealand. But, I love Cuba. In a crazy, weird, strange kind of way. Because it isn't afraid to just be what it is. 

Cuba is gritty, unapologetic, and authentic-- the things I crave. In people and places. In life. 

It's off the radar with almost no internet available anywhere {this is posting thanks to JetBlue Flyfi while I'm en route back stateside, hopefully}. The food is decidedly unexciting and uninspired {again, this will all be written about soon}. Alleys look like parts of South America and Europe and smell like piss and churros. The language barrier outside of the tourist bubble Plaza de Armas is challenging. The sidewalks are either cobblestone or crumbling. What I'm trying to say is...

Cuba is more than beautiful balconies, classic cars, and lush landscapes.

I have spent nearly a week in the sunshine {and off/on rain showers} of Cuba. I've written a lot since I first arrived in Havana. I've filled an entire Moleskin notebook, in fact. There are going to be a slew of lengthy blog posts covering Cuba. But, I wanted to kick all of it off by explaining what Cuba was like overall for me. And I keep coming back to the same word: wild. 

The first night was a bit hard despite being super equipped to handle it all. I couldn't find a place to eat in my neighbourhood, which was on the far side of town. The language obstacle was much larger than in the centre of Havana. A bird shit on me. I crossed paths with a black cat. I tripped over the sidewalk a lot. I couldn't figure out the key on my door and thus was locked out for a solid 30 minutes in the pouring rain as the sun was setting.

I've wanted to go to Cuba forever. So once I stepped off the plane and into the humidity {not quite on Lao level, but close} I felt prepared. I had done heaps of research and taken plenty of screenshots of maps, etc. I used all my tricks so that when I landed in the land of limited technology, I'd feel ready to take it all on. But after the first evening, as beautiful as it was, I wondered...what I had gotten myself into?! 

The next morning, however, it all fell into place. I felt thriving. I slipped back into the itinerary I set for myself. I walked everywhere I needed to go and switched to my next casa particular {homestay} without a hitch. Everyone I met was kind, friendly, and helpful. I never felt unsafe, though the men in Cuba are incredibly handsy and I've never been hit on so hard or so often anywhere else in my life. Fresh on U.S. soil, I'm already thinking to myself... happened in Cuba?!

I came to Cuba in a sort of strange mind-space. Still sorting visa paperwork for my move, getting unexpected news about someone else's plans, an early morning flight, and continuing to finalise my travel plans for the rest of the summer/year. I think it's been so full-on that when I came to Cuba, there was a wildness in the air that fell over me. No WiFi, just me and my overwhelming thoughts and feelings {so many feelings}. Whatever that wildness was made up of, it's unimaginably hard for me to put into words. Some places are just magic, and sometimes that magic drives you to shake it all up. 

I smoked my first Cuban cigar with a man named Quito on his family's plantation {I'm not a smoker and had never actually smoked any cigar previous to this, but more on this later}. I ate fresh mango under a tree while it rained. I wrote at the same cafe that Ernest Hemingway frequented for inspiration. I rode a horse named Ricardo through the Vinales Valley. I got kissed by Felix, a 27-year-old Cuban cowboy, in the rain near horse stables. I danced at La Floridita's and a group of Australians tried to convince me that kiwi men aren't on their level {I used all my debate tactics}. I ate churros for dinner {a lot}. I drank mojitos with real Cuban rum fresh from the farm {I haven't been drinking and my appetite has been none, so you can imagine the headache after}. I learned how to salsa at professional, private lessons. Guys, I let loose af. 

Cuba was wild. I was wild in Cuba.

I'm re-packing my bag and I leave for London on Saturday. Life is a ride. I'm learning to balance letting it happen and making it happen. A friend put it best, 'Give it a chance.' And I think what he meant by 'it' was 'anything.'  

That's what Cuba was like for me overall as an experience. I gave anything a chance and found a balance between 'letting' and 'making.'