Well Cienfuegos has started off with a fiery start, just like the name! I love it!! The harbour is beautiful. There’s a city on one side with French inspired design, a couple of refineries on the other side and hills, hills and more hills on the third side. I have the best of everything!
As we pulled into the dock in the early morning hours, I saw a single scull and quad rowing by. Complete with a dinghy and screaming coach. I felt like I was back in England! I really want to check out that club and maybe I can get back in a boat. It’s been six years since my bum moved on a seat. Seeing them injected the feeling of power, exhaustion and absolute excitement of pulling with all my strength and that little bit more I always managed to find.
A digression, what a surprise! I set foot on the dock and was determined to meet as many locals as I could. I’ve heard so many rumours from people about Cuba and what it’s like. Many from people who don’t speak Spanish, so I’m ready to get the story from the horse’s mouth.
We step into a bicycle taxi. The driver doesn’t speak English. What a relief!! Finally, I am somewhere where locals actually live. After 12 days this brings me pure joy. I start asking all kinds of questions about his life and Cienfuegos. Juri is a lovely man who loves to laugh and make jokes. Cuba has already stole my heart. I look all around us, yep! There really are old classic cars everywhere, but wow are they in great condition! The streets and buildings are a bit run down and for some reason, it reminds me of my grandma’s hometown in Michigan. I feel right at home.
After a brief exploration and organising the boat to be here for a while, I sit outside and enjoy the sunset. The security guard comes over to talk to us. He doesn’t speak any English (yes again!!) and I of course bombard him with questions. He is equally as inquisitive about my life for most sailors that come here don’t speak English or aren’t friendly.
I have tired of the captain and before “Ben” leaves, I ask him if he can take me to a party tomorrow night. I’ve been around long enough to know what this suggests so I add that I would like to meet his friends and hang out like Cubans do. He agrees and we set a time.
After an eventful day with another local, who deserves his own entry, seven o’clock rolls around and I’m ready to go. Ben is dressed to the nines and already being a gentlemen. I knew he was the right person to ask! We walk along the malecon, which is the waterfront and he shows me all the sites and tells me about the history. Wow I am grateful to know Spanish so well!! We bump into some of his friends and he introduces me as his amiga and they are all so friendly.
We stop for a soda and as it’s still way too early for dancing, we walk back to sit along the malecon. It’s what everyone does into the early hours of the morning. I love it! We hop up on the wall and start talking about so many things. We both laugh as we open our mouths to talk about something. He tells me all about his opinion of the government and I see it in such a different light. He doesn’t feel suppressed or disadvantaged. He’s mainly frustrated about the wages. He is proud to be Cuban and to have a socialist government. He asks me what it’s like in my countries and said he never heard some of these things before. He had no idea what it was like.
More than anything, Ben wants to be a captain and a sailor, but he isn’t even mad his government won’t let him do that. I questioned the reasoning why they can’t go in boats and it didn’t make sense to me. He said, “It’s hard for you to understand, but I know.”
We go to a discoteca which has karaoke playing. I hate karaoke, but we listened at the gates for a while and they were actually really good. We go in and find some seats. Ben is the most intelligent and knowledgable 22 year old I have ever met and he tells me about the history of all the songs. He is singing along with a big smile on his face. Of course I have a big smile too.
The karaoke ends and they start playing music. Ben says that if I want to dance, I should let him know. I’m not drinking alcohol (I need a detox after 11 days with the kid!!) so I’m shy. I tell myself I’m an idiot. I’m in Cuba, the culture is to dance, so I should join in. Ben says it doesn’t matter how I dance, just move. I decide he’s right, strip off my ego and we go to the dance floor.
It’s an open air club. When I look up, I see the beautiful starry night and remember the dance party I had for one a couple nights go. There’s just a major difference. There are a lot of people with me, some watching and instead of the stars being the dance party guests, they are reminding me how I am just a small part of the universe. There are real disco balls and strobe lights and the gentle breeze is even more gentle. The corners of my mouth turn up and I let go a little more.
For those of you who know raggaeton, the dancing can be described as clothed doggy style sex. I was happy Ben wasn’t into that and we just danced along together while he sang every word to every song. A man called over to him and he waved him over. It was his friend who is a professional dancer (and amazing!!) and his friend’s girlfriend. They danced the traditional style next to us and we all laughed.
The more beers they had, the more brave they were getting. His friend told me to watch his girlfriend and do the same as her. Then he placed Ben’s hand on my hips and told him to follow him. We were all laughing and the dance competition began. Then it was the girls turn to pin the guys up against the wall and have a dance off. I was laughing so hard and the feeling of freedom and enjoyment is as strong in me now as I write this as it was when I was there. It was a beautiful moment. I love when people accept me into their culture and share it.
The music stopped, we bought a $4 bottle of rum and went to a private party on the beach, meaning us four. After some convincing, they got me in the water (it was cold) and while his friends went over to the side to have sex, Ben and I floated on our backs and talked about the stars. He of course snuck in a cheeky kiss and I let it happen. When in Cuba… He tried for nothing more and I can’t remember the last time I had been treated with such respect by such a gentlemen. It was way before his age.
After the shivering put a stop to my fun, I came out of the water and walked back to the marina which luckily was next door. After changing into some warm winter clothes, I crawled into bed with a sweet smile on my face thinking how great it was to feel like an innocent teenager again. Yep, Cuba and the lack of Internet is reminding me of what it truly means to live in the moment.