Cubans in Cuba have taught me that my mind was constrained by the way I thought or think. It was limited and programmed. I have been designed to think in a certain way. This effect was from lots of different influences or mechanisms that have been created and now control us.

 These mechanisms have been designed or maybe corrupted to serve the interests of just a few. We choose to continue to live this way as we believe there are no other mechanisms to live by as we adjust to live in virtually any situation or condition.

Societies have a elite and they try to stay in power, not only to control the means of production or natural resources, but controlling the way I think and feel. For a long time others have manipulated the way I think, manipulated my thoughts and feelings. Gutenberg’s printing press, television and the internet has helped but the elite, governments, finance and media have used these tools to control me further. Living here in Cuba, listening, exchanging and sharing has helped me to understand this, therefore I am trying to be liberated from it.

We are in constant search for something, anything to make us feel better, that could be to look younger, to have status, keeping up with the Jones’s, to be an entrepreneur, to be the elite, to be a somebody! Maybe we can find this in the best sports, the best foods or the best clothes, bigger houses, the fastest cars, the best music or best films or glossy magazines, or the best perfume!  We can never seem to get enough, consumerism, we are programmed for this and this is reinforced everyday.

So open your feelings and thoughts to a new or different possibility.

Cubans think, act, feel, care and work differently to anybody I’ve met in the world.

Nearly the whole of the Cuban population believe & feel that they are beautiful, they are not body conscious like the way I have been influenced by distorted images from the television, films, music videos, newspapers, glossy magazines and the internet. After speaking to doctors across the island there is little evidence of eating disorders, like anorexia & bulimia. In Cuba it is popular or fashionable for women of any age, shape or size to wear the tightest clothing possible. Currently for men, bright pink skinny jeans are very desirable to wear, I was confused and asked my Cuban sisters why, “it is like a present we want to unwrap” was the reply!  A few years ago it was very fashionable to wear brightly coloured t-shirts, the brighter the better and big buckles for belts and the classic high heels and patterned tights. Today in 2015 it is wedges (shoes) and baseball caps with straight peaks.

In Cuba, we are not exposed to the distorted or photoshopped versions of the impossible look. Dr. Becker, at the Harvard Eating Disorders Centre of Harvard Medical School investigated shifts in body image and eating practices in Fiji over a three-year period. The work began in 1995, one month after satellites began beaming television signals to the region. Fifteen percent in the 1998 survey reported that they had induced vomiting to control their weight researchers said, compared with 3 percent in the 1995 survey and 29 percent scored highly on a test of eating-disorder risk, compared with 13 percent three years before.

Cubans love to pose in front of the camera, pull out yours and they will line up to be photographed regardless of their shape and size.

Cubans like pets. Fish, birds and dogs more than cats it seems, especially huskies, they must be very hot dogs! Dogs in Havana have I.D on their collars, not sure why and better traffic sense than most humans.

Often in parks throughout the island you will see Cubans taking out their finches & budgies for socialising, hanging the bird cages in trees in the parks, so the birds can catch up on the local news and gossip!

There is little use of social media and smartphones but some use of headphones, though people do talk to each other! 

Living here I have found that all adults are responsible for the protection of all children. Cuban children are always smiling, happy and well dressed. In the constitution of the republic of Cuba it states that parents are required to love and respect their children and children are required to love and respect their parents! In the 1970s it was entered into the constitution that men must do their fair share of domestic duties, child care and house cleaning! Cuban men will do these duties but will only hang out the washing on a line after dark, as those who do are considered “under the thumb”! In the mornings I witnessed proud fathers walking their children to school, living here I have experienced the very caring relationships and strong family bonds.

Everybody hisses (impossible to express in words) and shouts at one another to attract their attention, small girls have louder voices than grown men! Cubans are very loving & caring to each other, this is shown by how they hold each other when sitting in parks or on the Malecòn. Children are happy & safe to play on the streets with each other. Notice the confidence displayed in the posture of women, they know who is in charge and control. 

Cubans have a higher value for “life” that is displayed in the driving around the island and it feels like you are always in shouting distance of a medic.

On passing state taxis say outside a hotel, every single driver will say “Taxi?”. Even with 15 taxis in a row, every driver will still ask, just in case you change your mind between the first and the 15th. I have found living here that it took around five and half months before they recognised me and stopped asking. Now they just ask how I’m doing or why I’m still here.

It is fun waiting with excited friends to get the “weekly package”, file sharing Cuban style, an external USB hard drive containing around 1TB of music, videos, films, TV shows delivered by a weekly visiting man.

There is no holding back when you like somebody. A few Christmas Eve’s ago in a town called Remedios, I was chatting in a circle of a few friends and locals that we just met when more people joined the circle. Unbeknown by me, a local girl swapped places to be next to me. After a few seconds of talking to her what happened next would be best described as like a movie scene from when Dracula attempts to bite a victim on the neck, but in this case she was attempting to kiss me, with me holding her back by her shoulders as I was not sure what was going on. Annoyed, she asked why I was resisting so I replied that I was confused and scared!

Cuban guys have to “catcall” or “comment” when in the vicinity of women, it is like breathing they cannot hold it in! I walked to the University one day behind a young lady heading in the same direction. As we passed guys on the street they catcalled as normal, I remained silent as normal. At the top of the street just before entering the grounds of the campus the young student turned around quickly and grilled me on what was wrong with her and why had I not said anything. Later we met for ice cream as I was intimidated into asking her out.

For the first time in my life I am taller than most at 5’10 and now can see above the crowd at concerts. The music this time was heavy metal so it is not all about the salsa. There were thousands of people there and it was interesting to see how much Cubans enjoy music of any type and cannot help starting to dance, or in this case head banging, at any opportunity when music is playing. They ranged from young teenagers to grandparents, its good to see a 76 year old can still head bang as well as 15 year olds!

I have lost the need for privacy in my life, life in Cuba is very public everybody knows everybody therefore it is very safe.

I can just remember growing up in Europe when we had seasonal vegetables and now here I am eating the last avocado of the season in early November and seeing an abundance of potatoes in March. Most of my food is not found in the “supermarket” but the mercado, where the vegetables are organic not genetically modified, no pesticides are used, so you get better tasting, healthier food.

I have seen changes over time, an increase on the importance of recycling and the reuse of everything. On streets, a man would refill disposable lighters that in other countries would be thrown away, others repair watches, spectacles and shoes, organised now as part of co-operatives.

Street food has been introduced due to the increase of self employed workers as before lunch was provided at work. The new availability of cooking oils has resulted in a taste for anything fried but this has led to an increase of diabetes & hypertension. There has been an increase in the availability of foreign beer, Corona is no longer available replaced by Sol, Heineken has been around for some time and now recently Bavaria and Red Bull have appeared. I will never understand why bottled water is imported from Italy and how they allow Coca-Cola to be served!    

Technology has changed with the import of digital cameras and portable speakers, the recent rollout of digital TV and new Wifi hotspots across the island. There is more of everything in the shops, including $900CUC white goods!

There have been further changes regarding the selling of houses and cars, new private enterprises and mass state businesses transferring to co-operatives. I remember the time when the long extension telephone cord was seen in houses being used in the next room to call the boyfriend / girlfriend. Nobody had mobile telephones nor was there any need for them. Most houses have the same make and model stereo hifi throughout the island. I remember when the Government replaced everybody’s refrigerators and provided every family with a rice and pressure cooker and then being proudly shown them at every home for months.

Lastly, discovering the best rum by sampling and sharing all of them, frequently, over a long period of time and found it is either Santiago de Cuba or Legendario Elixir de Cuba, but feel I need further time to be sure!  

Tour and Holidays to Cuba