Havana is quite an interesting city visually. I remember watching documentaries about Havana and they would always highlight the live music on the streets–musicians playing intruments and singing on the corners. This is exactly what we saw and it was spectacular! I love that Jehovah gave us the ability to make music and then to express how we feel this music with our voices and our bodies.
The antique cars are everywhere–mostly used as taxis. It’s amazing how these cars are still running. You can see them in line-ups parked along the road.
The buildings are mostly old. Cuba is in the process of renovating their architecture. The renovation is gorgeous but most buildings are still run down. Most Cubans are poor and they live in these buildings. One thing that hit home with us is how there isn’t much food in the markets. You can see a market full of shelving but most of the shelves are empty. Although there isn’t much food in the country, they are not starving; there isn’t a surplus but there isn’t a shortage. The small selection leaves no room for craving anything specific. You eat what there is but they don’t complain. They remember a time when there was no food and they are grateful.
Cuba is pretty safe. You can see tourists walking the streets at night with no problem. My husband and I went for walks late at night a few times.
There isn’t much internet so it was difficult for me to post updates on my trip. To connect to wifi we had to by a card for $2 and then find a spot to connect to it. No one had wifi in their homes. The wifi was slow because many would connect at the same time. Also, since Cubans make about $25 per month, $2 is a splurge.
Preaching and meeting together was banned in Cuba for many years. I remember when the announcement was made at the assembly that they were now able to worship openly. These friends were full of stories and experiences. One thing that stuck with me was how they are so appreciative of their freedom to preach and gather together in worship. You can hear their appreciation when they belt out the kingdom songs at the meetings and when they give their well-prepared comments. They talked about times when they couldn’t read literature and they had to share it secretly. Now they make sure to read everything.
They told us memorable stories about times when they had no food. But these stories weren’t sad, they were comical. They’ve endured some tough times but they are happy and strong. Persecution of our brothers was common. We meet a couple of brothers who were jailed for preaching.
I was so happy we went because we were able to encourage them with our presence as they encouraged us with their examples. Our trip was made mostly out of curiosity. My husband is half Cuban and he wanted to learn about his culture and see “where he comes from”. I think that learning about our spiritual heritage there in Cuba was the most refreshing part, and since they are not able to meet their spiritual family around the world they appreciated our visit.
In one of the photos you see us standing and praying at the door. Every time we planned to leave the house, everyone gathered at the door and we prayed before opening the door. I just had to take that picture. I could only imagine in times of uncertainty about what would happen once you left your home how crucial these prayers must have been.
What I’ve learned
Be hospitable and share what I have, even if it isn’t much – I am moved by the hospitality of the these brothers and sisters, though having little. They took us in and fed us. We found out later that the brother we were staying with paid a sister to buy food to give us a party, we were shocked because they don’t have much. They never asked us for money for anything and they were uncomfortable when we offered to pay for things. I hope to be as hospitable as they are, even when I may be struggling. I learned to appreciate my brothers who visit; it is a privilege to share what we have with visitors.
Appreciate my food – I never know when a time will come that I may not have any. Wasting food shows a lack of appreciation for what I have.
Study often/sing loud – I had to ask myself if I’m up to date on my reading. When will the time come when I don’t not have access to this literature? And last but not least, sing as loud as I can at the meetings with my congregation. There may come a time when I am unable to praise Jehovah with my voice.
There is so much more that I can share, but instead I’ll share more footage.