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« Cuba ~ Ceremony, Santeria, & Window Watchers (part two) | Main | 5 weeks in France, Part 3 - My Heart Hurts »

Cuba ~ a Feast of Delight & Sorrow (part one) 

by Kayce Stevens Hughlett

From January 14 – 22, 2016, I had the privilege of traveling with a small group of photographers to the island of Cuba. While I am not a photographer per se, for nine days I chose to journey through the lens of a camera. This is the first in a series of glimpses into my own act of SoulStrolling™ while there and upon returning home.


Santeria Practitioner ©Kayce Stevens Hughlett“Havana was a woman who had once been renowned for her beauty until hard times had soured her. Her hand had gotten heavy with makeup application; her necklines crept down; her beauty was tainted with vulgarity. But sometimes when she was alone, after she’d taken off her makeup, she danced in her garden, bare-faced and barefoot, to an old bolero, and the old elegance appeared, normal as a Tuesday morning.” Julia Cooke ~ The Other Side of Paradise: Life in the New Cuba

Cuba ~ a feast of delight and sorrow.

Traveler beware: When you step into another country or faraway place with your heart wide open, the whole of it just may fall in. Every bit. Dark and light. Beauty and grit. Places, paces, faces, and culture.

Even though my body is back in Seattle, my heart still wanders the streets of Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Viñales, and Havana. Travel requires time for your soul to catch up. I feel the country’s grit on my skin and smell tobacco and mint in my hair. My bowels rumble from pulled pork and beans and rice, cabbage salad, cucumber, mediocre tomatoes, oil and vinegar ~ weak vinegar, oily oil. Bottled water, Cristal beer, rich dark rum.

On the edges of HavanaSounds of an incessant drum beat, roosters crowing, and uneven cobblestones rock my body. My back aches from too much time on a plane and luggage slung over my shoulder. The sun shines through my bedroom window and I know without even checking that it is cold outside. I’m home and I am not. This trip has changed me and I won’t know how for a long time, maybe ever. That’s what happens to pilgrims. Tourists rapidly check off to-do lists, but pilgrims and SoulStrollers come home altered.

It’s time for me to land here in Seattle. To play with my granddaughter for the day. To unpack and do laundry. Buy groceries that are available in abundance. I took photos while traveling and now it’s time to paint pictures with my words, to dive into my soul and see what crawls out. I can’t adequately describe the country I’ve just visited, so I will dive in one face, place, and story at a time.

Hughlett and taxi driver in their pink ride ~ HavanaEverything feels so quiet and tidy here. Clean. Familiar. Serene. Boring Dull. Less bright and shiny. Cuba is a feast of color: from the pink and white ’57 Chevy I rode in to the umbrellas covered in famous art scenes. Casas… brilliant yellow, golden, Pepto Bismol pink, blue of every shade, lime and luscious greens, orange even. They all work. White is used sparingly. I imagine it is too harsh in the tropical sun, although we saw a strong mix of clouds and rainfall tucked in between the winter brilliance. Cuba welcomed us with rain and sent us off with the same.

It’s odd to be home. I have choices here of what to do. I think of our young guide who said, “You don’t know what it’s really like.” So true. Yes, so true. And, he doesn’t know what it’s like here either. Romanticized? Perhaps both countries are. 

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