Thursday, September 30, 2010

pool talk

Today after dance at ISA we went to the pool of a hotel nearby. Yet another way to exploit my white foreign privilege here in Cuba. As a foreigner, no one thinks twice if they see you in a hotel. They assume you're a guest.

So we waltzed into this ritzy hotel like we owned the place. And had absolutely no trouble. I stayed at the pool with Allison, the dance grad student from NYU, for a good four hours.

It was a beautiful pool, two-tiered, with a water fall, and made with different shades of blue tile. We were the only people there for most of the afternoon.

Allison and I agreed it was surreal. We were basking in the sun by this beautiful pool, palm trees waving in the breeze, with men asking us what we wanted to drink. And outside was the rest of Cuba.

According to Allison, Cubans weren't even allowed into hotels until 2007.

This is such a complex place; all these different realities competing with each other. There's the reality the tourists see when they stay at the hotels and eat at tourist restaurants in Old Havana. There's the reality of reality of black Cubans. There's the reality of white Cubans. There's the reality of us students, which is some twisted view between tourist and student and American. It's as if every time you turn your head, you find yourself looking at Cuba in a different way. There are so many sides to this coin--so many that I've barely even scratched the surface.

My brother sent me an article from Harper's Magazine, written by a journalist who comes to live in Cuba for 30 days. His mission is to spend only the salary of a Cuban journalist ($15) the wages of an "official intellectual." His article is called "Thirty Days as a Cuban: Pinching pesos and dropping pounds in Havana."

When he goes to the neighborhood bodegas where Cubans get their food rations, they tell him no. Of course he can't buy from them. He's foreign. But within minutes he's buying from them. You can always find two sides. The official, and the actual.

Nothing is exactly what it seems like on the surface. Take the car I rode in last week. A perfect metaphor for Cuba. It's a '54 Buick "with a Peking motor, a Russian transmission, and a differential from a tractor."

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