I leave for the United States in less than three weeks. It feels crazy to even know that I’ve almost completed a semester here in Cuba, because it sounds like something that would be a part of someone else’s life, and not my own. In the past month, I have come to a greater sense of self than I could have ever foreseen or anticipated. Apart from a third (maybe fourth?) visit to the hospital due to some brief food poisoning, my time in this country has continued to be one of forced growth and new experiences. I look at my Cuban family with fondness and nostalgia, knowing that when the time comes for me to depart, I will desire to leave a part of myself with them forever. It’s true when they say that company makes all the difference.
I have taken a lot of time for myself since living in Cuba. This time is normally spent sitting on the third floor of the house, on the balcony that my roommate and I share right outside of our room. I’m nearly eye level with the building across the street, along with the tops of the palm trees and some telephone wires. Sometimes I crane my neck to see if there’s anyone sitting on their own balcony, smoking a cigarette, talking with a friend, or simply watching the movement of life. I’ve found that in this time alone, my thoughts have somehow slowed down—not completely calmed, as anxiety often gets the best of me, but enough so I’m able to think without rush. I think this embodies the pace of life in Cuba. Time is without boundaries. Time is spent well.
The value of quality time spent together cannot be underestimated. Although the concept of time is slightly different here in the Caribbean, the heart of the matter is the same. Despite personal hardships related to feelings of loneliness, homesickness, alienation, and weariness, I have been shown some of the most honest and transparent type of love. This love is not sugarcoated; it is not ingenuine; it sometimes comes with impatience and misunderstanding, but it fights to the end. It is worth the victory.