Steve and I just got back from our trip to Sol Cayo Guillermo, on Cayo Coco in Cuba. After a blissful week of suntanning and frolicking in the waves, we were welcomed by freezing rain and snow (it's April 25th. Gimme a break). However, we were also welcomed with a phone message telling us we have secured a seasonal camping spot at a favorite campground on the north shore of P.E.I. So hopefully more kayaking and beach days are just around the corner! It's hard to picture right now, as a blanket of snow is covering my front yard, but move-in day is june 1st so I hope the white stuff takes a hike real soon and doesn't come back til next December!
So just for fun I took a copy of A Song For Josh to Cayo Coco. After a few days I mustered up the nerve to write a note in the front cover and deposit the book on a table just outside the main lobby at the resort. The note welcomed the reader and asked him / her to send me an email telling me where they found the book. I then asked the reader to share the book with someone else. I wanted to see if it would go on its own journey, perhaps leaving the resort at some time and making its way around the world. I posted a note on the Sol Cayo Guillermo Facebook page, just to let folks know that the book may be at the resort and perhaps to look for it (I discovered after the fact that there is a sharing library for avid readers who run out of books to devour on the beach!). I thought the book might end up at the sharing library because the woman who picked it up was a Cuban gal from Guest Services (I watched! I couldn't help myself! Steve and I were playing ping pong and my eyeline went straight to the table where I'd left the book). I hope she didn't throw it out. I know her english language skills are challenged so I can't see her reading it - (I know this because one day I went on a quest for towels and I spoke to her!). Soooo - at this point I haven't received any messages, and maybe I won't, but I had fun playing this little game so I think I will try it again. Every few months I'll leave a copy at a coffee shop or something and see what comes back to me! What's the point of writing books if you can't have some fun with them? Has anyone else out there tried this?
On another note, the experience in Cuba was our first southern trip. It was surreal - a rocky start because we had cockroaches in our first room, and then the second was freezing because the air conditioning refused to turn off, but the third room was divine, a true beach cottage shelter just steps from the beach. I discovered that there was much more to a vacation like this than lying on the beach and soaking up the sun. We kayaked, played in the waves, took a catamaran trip to an incredible life-changing snorkelling adventure (Finding Nemo, anyone?), did an excursion into a town called Moron (they still travel by horse-drawn taxis there!), drove speedboats into a Mangrove populated lagoon, met little rodents called Uteas (I didn't even know these existed - so cute - mostly blind and can't swim yet they live on trees in a lagoon!), and saw the most amazing professional dance troupe perform night after night. I also discovered the pure simplistic joy of a smooth pina colada and then a relaxing spanish coffee.
Most of all, I enjoyed meeting the Cuban people. I was literally in tears while watching the show the last night at the resort. We were sitting in the little rustic theatre in tank tops with people from all over the world, families and couples, watching the Cuban dancers perform a show they called Fantasia. It was a magical portrayal in dance of many Disney hits - Aladdin, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 101 Dalmatians, The Lion King, etc. At the end, the group did a dance number to "It's a Small World After All." Around me were Brits, Austrians, Germans, Canadians from everywhere (some of whom became friendly acquaintances we looked forward to seeing around the resort each day), and more. Yes, we were all in an elevated world - a paradise of sorts that was insulated from the real Cuba, I know that - but still, we were sharing our weeks of holiday with others from outside our regular bubbles. The Cuban people made the experience special for us. I did a fair bit of research before the trip and I knew the resort workers were considered some of the highest paid people in Cuba, and some of them had better jobs than others - e.g.. the sailors taking tourists out on catamarans versus the waiters or maids - but life is like that here as well. I don't want to get into questioning the fact that I was at a resort being 'catered to' by others. There are inequalities everywhere and, from what I could see, the Cuban people seemed happy and friendly - they were like a family. I'm sure they experience the same frustrations, etc. that we do, with each other and with work. But overall they were kind people who sometimes seemed really glad to see me (I was so happy despite my sunburn that I was wearing a perpetual grin the whole time), and that, in some ways, made the trip for me. By the way - I was genuinely glad to see them too. Eg. the omelet guy, the pasta guy, a waitress, the bartender who introduced me to Spanish Coffee.
In summary, I did not expect to miss those people when I came home. But I do - they were a part of the whole experience. It must be hard for them to see people come and go every week - but then, I know of tourists who go back to the same resort year after year. I can see why. One day at breakfast I watched as an older man trooped happily into the restaurant and greeted a waiter with a huge grin - the waiter was obviously thrilled to see him, and they hugged each other effusively. I also saw some sad partings.
I guess my point is that it really is a small world. I love that people can come together from all kinds of backgrounds, from such varied life experiences (I know lots of 'well-to-do North Americans who suffer greatly, for lots of reasons), and become true friends. I am a watcher - I was witness to all kinds of heartening interactions. To me - those experiences made my time away to recharge more than just a simple 'trip to the beach.' Cuba is so much more than that. It's beautifully maintained fifties cars, horse-drawn taxi cabs (the real thing, not just a tourist thing), it's waitresses who bring leftover pumpkin soup home to their three year-old daughter, it's a gentle sailor who calmly teaches a claustrophobic mediocre swimmer to breathe from her mouth so she can experience a mystical, captivating undersea world by a coral reef, it's that smile from a Spanish speaking bartender when he hands you the spanish coffee you've started to look forward to each day. It's a ballet rock-opera by - and IN - the moonlit pool that leaves you breathless.
I must go, reality calls. But I ail be sustained by my experience at Sol Cayo Guillermo for the rest of my life. I hope I get to experience it again someday, all of it (maybe not the sunburn, ouch). And I hope you get to experience it too.
'bye for now :)