El Hombre Cubano: The Cuban Man part 1

El Hombre Cubano: The Cuban Man part 1

Talking to strangers!

“Rhythm” Photo by Kim Nicholais of Nicholais Photography

“Don’t talk to strangers!” That is the one thing we have all been taught in the US, since we were young children? “Don’t talk to strangers!” And as a woman we are doubly aware when a strange man approaches us on the street, we quickly move away from the threat. Yes, any man is a potential threat to our safety, this is how we walk around the world, on guard and constantly accessing our safety. Always having one eye on the exit or knowing how we can get out of this situation in a hurry if we have to, or our panic reflex kicks in when we see no way out. So, if you are a man reading this, you should understand that most women operate with our personal safety as a first priority when meeting a man on the street.

One-two punch: Coming from New York City I have to rely on my gut instincts when a stranger approaches me on the street or subway platform, mostly innocent usually looking for directions, but sometimes they are looking to sell you something or want to ask for a donation, and on the rare occasion are sometimes crazy, so being from New York I have developed a one-two punch on how to handle these moments. You have 1-second to get me to pay attention followed by another 2-seconds to get to the point, within 4 seconds I have already begun to walk away with a gesture of the hand. This seems like a pretty logical approach to a strange man on the street, yet in Cuba I walked with a strange man for hours through the streets of Havana and it was wonderful.

My reason: While in Cuba I decided to take music classes because they are well know for a certain style of guitar and percussion, I opted to take both classes and the interesting thing about going to Cuba, you have to declare out of 8 reasons, why you are traveling to Cuba. So in having to declare why, ‘Education,’ it made me really think about why and what I would like to do there! I found a great music school, not a huge school, but a great place for lessons and in the middle of suburbia, I will post on the music lessons later, but this post is about El Hombre Cubano: The Cuban Man.

Un-guard: While walking back from my percussion class and thinking to myself, ‘wow, I am plugging right in and taking music lessons in a foreign land and I am getting around Havana by myself!’ Then a strange man walked into my life, literally. Isn’t this the premise of all romantic novels?

“Hola” a man began to walk beside me. He was dressed smartly, all white for the heat of Cuba, white polo shirt, white chino pants, and white converse shoes. He was probably about 60 years of age, tan with graying hair. At that moment, I remembered what my tour guide, Andrés said the day before. ‘In Cuba, it is not unusal for a man and a woman to strike up a conversation in the street and walk together.’


“Habla español?”

“Um pequîto español.”

Oh, um pequîto înglish!” although my initial reaction was to quickly dismiss him and walk away from the situation. I thought, well, I have to walk for another 10 blocks, what is the harm in us walking down the street together and practicing our languages. So, we began walking and talking in our Span-glish.

Leonardo is a percussionist, how amazing I thought. There is no way this man could have known, that I had just come from a percussion lesson. This is about the moment, that I switched from being concerned for my safety to the Universe intending us to meet. He began to show me tips immediately and wanted me to show him what I had learned. Of course, I had to fake what I remembered. He shared with me his gigs and said he is usually sleeping at this hour because he plays pretty late, but he decided to get up and walk the city today. He said he was playing tonight at the Buena Vista Social Club. As a musician, you have hopefully at least heard of the Buena Vista Social Club. He really had my attention at this point. What are the odds, that I would meet a percussionist in the streets of Havanna who was going to play a gig tonight at the Buena Vista Social Club? I was excited at the thought of actually getting to see some great music in Havana because up to this point we had not been able to find the right spot. He pointed out that there was a fair going on down that block and then he said,“Have you been to Rumba Street? The Afro-Cuban block?”

 “Barberia” Photo by Kim Nicholais of Nicholais Photography

Follow Me: I hadn’t remembered it by name, but when he mentioned the Afro-Cuban block, it clicked, we had just been there the day before, so I also knew it was not far from our Air B&B. “Today, they have a percussion and dance class for the tourists! Let’s go see, I will take you!” In these moments, when presented with a ‘follow me’…my guard returns for a moment to access the situation. I knew Rumba Street was not far from our place, so I knew I could navigate my way back if need be. So before you know it, we took a quick left and we were walking to Rumba Street together. I should also say, that I generally have a good sense of direction, although I was never a girl scout. So I knew when we took that quick left, we were literally walking the parallel block to our place, so I always had my beckon calling me back, like the North Star. I also should say, that I had a sick friend at the house, that was recovering from food issues, so I did want to get back and check on her too, so knowing where I was, was important to getting home quickly.

So this man had long passed my one-two punch and I had a moment, where I thought, ‘this is really happening, I am walking the streets with a strange man in Cuba, I must be crazy!’

I intended to tell the whole story today, but in words, it actually does take quite a bit of time to convey a good story, so like you, I must get back to work. What happened with Leonardo is literally what you read about in novels and I hope I can do the adventure justice in my story, so please tune in tomorrow for the second part of “Talking to Strangers!”  subscribe to our blog for updates

“Old Habana” Photo by Kim Nicholais of Nicholais Photography

Hola from Cuba- (Universe Is Calling From Cuba, part 2)

Hola from Cuba- (Universe Is Calling From Cuba, part 2)

Photo by Kim Nicholais http://www.nicholaisphotography.com

“Did you see my phone? I can’t seem to find it.” I said to my spouse Kim. “No.” And we both began looking for it, with every turn of the suitcase my heart sank a little deeper. “I think I left it in a taxi last night, I saw a black object on the seat when you were getting out of the taxi and when I looked back it was gone, that must have been my phone, and it slipped into the seat or on the floor at that point!”

The pacing begins, “no, no, no, no I couldn’t have!”
But it was true. I left my phone in a taxi, in Cuba, and we were packing to go back to the US today.

All the pictures I took of our whole vacation in Cuba, gone. The music lessons I took and recorded, gone. The audio recordings of music and fun times in Cuba for the podcast, all gone. Not to mention how my life will be effected when I get back to the US. I need a new phone, but thank God for the iCloud I had a back up of contacts and apps. But the vacation, my life changing moment in Cuba, all gone.

I broke the news to the Potato Mafia, the 5 other girls we were traveling with. They all realized that all the pics that I had been taking were also gone, but somehow in life you motor on.

We headed to the airport and I called Andres, our guide to have him look out for Cesar and his car. I didn’t have the taxi number, but I had a lot of details that it wasn’t impossible. Driver’s name: Cesar, handsome, tall and thin, with longer black hair on the top, that flopped to the side over his shaved sides. Car: 1955 Chevy Belair, white and dark pink exterior with pristine white interior covered in plastic, so well taken care of, with suped up interior lighting.

The whole journey home, flashes of pictures and moments would pass through my mind as I remembered what I lost on my phone, but I did appreciate, as all the girls were logging onto the wifi on the plane that I was still unplugged. The lack of internet in Cuba was easy to keep from checking my phone every 10 minutes.

In returning to the city. I somehow figured out how to use an older iPhone we had as my new phone, since I was still paying for the current phone and it seemed a bit more manageable to know that I wasn’t going to be out of pocket for the loss. However, in order to get back on line with texts and phone service I had to go to ATT.

“Hello I’m Dennis, how can I help you?”

“I just returned from Cuba where I lost my cell phone and I need to activate this old one.”

“I just returned from Cuba.”

I took a second at him in. I recognized him, he was on both our flights to Cuba.

“You were on both my flights Thursday and Monday!”

He said, “JetBlue 242?”

Incredible. The universe seemed to seriously be in my favor and I really started to think there was a strong possibility that I might get my phone back. Not that this man had anything to do with my phone going missing or even knew the taxi driver. It just seemed, as a friend put it, ‘The Universe is looking for you!’

What are the odds that I would find a man from our flight of 200 people in NYC with over 8 million people? We wondered at the coincidence for a moment and he helped me set up my old phone. I was whole again, or atleast technically speaking. I briefly wondered as I wandered at the possibility of getting my phone back and put the powerful phrase out there to the Universe, “I will get my phone back,” this was Friday.

Sunday morning we woke up and were puttering around the house and I noticed I had a new comment here on Medium, someone needed to talk with me! I didn’t recognize the person and I thought, oh perhaps they wanted to use my article on Cuba or had a differing opinion than mine on Cuba. Since Medium was new to me, I thought this more likely. After checking in, I did what most Americans do, I bounced to another social networking site and I see the same name pop up in my “add new friend” on Facebook. I clicked on the image of the person to her profile and I yelled to Kim, who was in the office.

“Kiiiimmm, come here!” and she rushed in. “Look at that picture!”

“Cesar, that’s Cesar!” she screamed. Yes it is Cesar and I see there was a message that they have found my phone. Somehow with a locked screen, probably a dead battery, and a phone on airplane mode, they were able to find me on Facebook from another country, that has a lack of internet and infrastructure, they found me! “Hola, from Cuba!”

Hola From Cuba! Photo by Kim Nicholais

This story is still in progress, so I leave you with that. Anything is possible and all of this was less than a week of me losing it. Technology made this possible. I think of this and I really start to see the possibilities of connecting the world with technology. I see the benefits of keeping my Facebook profile, that I have been vacationing from this year as I have tried to dive back into my own personal life, I see how I can maintain relationships from afar and how I can even begin new ones from one country to another, no this technology isn’t new any more, this has actually been around for awhile, but I bet you thought Cuba wouldn’t know about Facebook!!! It is also not only the younger generation, our host Mildred somehow figured out how to rent her home via Air B&B and she is consistently full. Cuba is not that far behind, I expect true greatness to come from Cuba and I have a feeling it is going to come first in art, which we have heard through their music such as Buena Vista Social Club. Cuba celebrates, educates, and trains their artists to be the best and to focus, I have first hand experience with this, which I will account later, so follow for more stories of Cuba.