This is the last one in the Cuba series. I wasn’t going to share but I decided what the heck at the last minute. Cuba gave me fever. Now I want to see the world. I have tickets booked for central America in a few weeks and there is a plan underway for the Down Under as well.
The thing about travel I have found is if you want something really bad, you will find a way. Money, visas and most importantly fear, won’t be able to stand in your way. Go somewhere new tomorrow. Even if it is just Badagry.
Being in Cuba made me angry.
In ways I didn’t know to be angry. In places I didn’t know anger could have a habitation.
First night the bus drove from the airport to the resort. I tried to listen and make out the edifices the driver spoke about but it was too dark and my eyes were too tired.
The next day, I woke up to the sounds of the sea and excitedly wore my bathing suit and went to see the water. It was perfect. I had never seen water so blue. I walked miles into the water and it only got to my neck. It is perfect for non-swimmers. It is perfect for water games. Perfect for children.
It was love at first sight.
After breakfast, I took the tour bus into town.
This is when the anger began to build up. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Varadero is a beach town, very much like Lagos but without the crowds, without the madness, without the people that couldn’t be bothered. I took a photo of a man sweeping the road near the canal. He did it so happily. He was so kind and asked my hand in marriage. It made us both laugh. I told him I was from Canada after I mentioned ‘Nigeria’ and he looked confused. The moment I said ‘Canada’, his face lighted up and he told me “We love Canadians!”
The roads were perfect. Maybe it was the cars that were older than me and lacked the force of new cars to damage roads. Maybe it was because Varadero is after all a tourist spot and the government knows better than to let the roads go to hell. But the same thing was replicated in Matanzas and Havana. So no, maybe it is just Nigeria.
Cuba has had restrictions for decades. Few countries trade with it. The major industry is tourism. Yet its roads are better than Nigeria’s. Education is free. Healthcare is free. Heck even funerals are free. In a nation banned from participating in almost everything. In a nation without quarter the resources of Nigeria.
Cuba made me ask what was wrong with us as a people. That second night, it was hard to fall asleep. It was all I kept thinking of. By my second full day, I was distraught. Matanzas looked like Lagos, clothes hanging everywhere and blowing in the wind, school children in their uniforms playing hooky, and yet so much better than Lagos. Everywhere was clean. Everywhere smelled like sea towns should smell.
How low have we fallen that a country lost in translation is doing far better than we are in almost every indices?
I stayed angry for the first 2 days. Then I made friends, who like me had come to escape winter or to experience something new. I met people from Finland, Argentina, Mexico, France, Spain, Italy, Venezuela, and of course dear old Canada. There were no Americans. Writing that almost makes me smile. As we got to know each other, I realized that I was not there to compare Nigeria with Cuba. I was there for Cuba.
I had dinner with my new friends, laughed with them, went on tours…I forgot to be Nigerian and angry.
I am two countries since then. And I am learning to do the same everywhere I go.
Are there downsides to forgetting? Yes. But what is the alternative? Anger, heartache and the feeling of helplessness. All my anger all these years has done nothing to change things. So I have decided to choose my peace of mind over Nigeria. Again and again. No apologies.
Song of the day: Housefires – The Wick