I celebrated my 22nd birthday a couple days ago. I was reminded of the closeness of love, the universal language that supersedes all darkness and transcends physical borders. Though separated by distance from my family and friends back home, I was still surrounded by so many people who have come to know and care for me over the past two months. My Cuban family planned a surprise birthday dinner, and invited the other students and directors of Spanish Studies Abroad to join. It was a true glimpse of the heavenly community that is promised to me, and I am thankful to have experienced it.
The halfway mark of the semester has just recently passed, and I can hardly believe it. With the changing time comes the changing weather, and it’s evident in the increased amount of rainfall and lowered temperatures. I am reminded of the beauty of change, the loss that accompanies something once-familiar, but the gain that comes with becoming a new creation. Here in Cuba, this concept is a bit muddled to me, as the cultural context is different. I have been challenged and unsettled lately. I find myself entering a stage of critical analysis, of slight hostility, of weariness. I understand that being abroad introduces a whole host of issues, and it is simply a matter of accommodation and willingness to be flexible. I can’t help but feel burdened by the brokenness all around me. I see joy and resiliency, but I also see it as a façade of strength that shields pain, hardship, and spiritual bankruptcy. I am amazed at how real courage is here.
Living amongst and knowing the Cuban people has been an undeserved gift. I am far from worthy of being invited into their stories, a mix of the history of humanity and present-day challenges. Yet, I am still invited to the table. I am given a spot to sit, a reserved place that remains the same day in and day out, regardless of my own failures and shortcomings. I may not always have something to contribute, but I am guaranteed to leave fuller, more whole, better somehow.