April 18, 2009

Things not seen in the U.S. #5

Or should I add….yet? I’ve been wanting to post this for a while and all of a sudden, it’s timely. When we first moved to Montreal, we were surprised with all the billboards promoting tourism to Cuba. Canadians can go to Cuba after all. In fact, Canada sends the largest contingent of tourists to Cuba each year with 666,000 visitors in 2007. Since we arrived, we’ve been trying to plot how we too could go. We tend to be attracted to off-the-beaten-path type of places so why not? Then we heard our U.S. passport could have a chip in it so the government could detect if we are in Cuba. Our luck, Homeland Security would have our as&es. So we were shelving the idea, for awhile, until the news of the week came out. Seems like it could be in the near future? Although, we’ve also been told that Americans go to Cuba often, and the Cuban immigration people just don’t stamp the passport. Hummmm. We don't always follow the rules anyway.

A couple of years ago I was on a cruise and we spent an entire day sailing by Cuba. I was fascinated. In the U.S. of course we learned of the Cuban Missile crisis, evil Castro, Communism, Hemingway in Cuba, Cubans risking their lives to leave the island and more. But we didn’t learn of it’s beautiful landscape, the culture (unless through literature) or the fact that there are five airports on the island – really five! We’ve all seen Cuba on the map, but until you go by it, it’s hard to comprehend how large it really is.  Now in Montreal when we get to hear how beautiful the island is from people who have actually gotten to go. And they bring home Cuban Rum. I’m not even a rum fan, but this stuff is gooooood. And Americans are love Cuban cigars too. Did you know the fine is HUGE if you get caught? Kind of silly when you think about it. It's a cigar. In Canada, no big deal.

So, hopefully everyone can take a page out of the playground playbook and get along – build castles in all that sand, drink good rum, have a cigar, eat black beans, bring soap for the Cuban people (who have a hard time getting it) and have fun. All this while keeping McDonald's, Starbucks, Bank of America, Dunkin’ Donuts (Tom Hortons is fine), Best Buy and Wal-Mart off the island. Viva Cuba.

A good book about life in Cuba – Cuba Diaries – An American Housewife in Cuba by Isadora Tattlin. Her life is not like the Cubans, but learns the good and bad details from the Cubans she employs at her home. I learned a lot about what Cubans go through on a daily basis. And I learned that they don’t dislike Americans – just the government. Tattlin is her pen name since we’re not supposed to know her identity.

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