All day every day my sweet tooth has a little party here in Cuba. Almost everything you can eat is dulce (sweet) or if not naturally, the Cubans like to add a little ~ read: a lot ~ sugar to it. After waking up the first portion of my sweet enemy is already waiting for me. Breakfast includes a bowl of fresh fruit, a glass of mango juice (with added sugar), a fried egg and bread with butter and honey….!
As the day passes my eyes have seen piles and piles of sugar. From ice cream, popcorn, coconut balls covered with caramel, colorful decorated cakes, sugarcane juice, pizza or a cup of coffee with the additional 3 teaspoons of sugar… No wonder the six pack of most Cubans is covered by a smooth sugar belly.
My body (and belly!) was slim after the healthy vegetarian diet during my yoga teacher training in Costa Rica, but now it feels like I am gaining weight every day…. So every day I have several discussions with my sweet tooth whether I eat something sugary or a little less. Luckily I am not really gaining weight because of my daily yoga practice, two hours of salsa class a day and salsa dancing at night in the club.
I wish I could continue the plant based diet but here in this country it is just not possible. So many of my veggie friends (and other things) are not available here. In the grocery store you don’t have choices; the mercado has only one type of oil, shampoo or anything else you need. No wonder why they do their dishes with washing powder instead of soap for dishes or why they cook their food every time in the same style. You have to be practical here because life is expensive. So you live sober, eat every day the same and you just enjoy the happy feeling of sugar as much as you can!
While traveling I like to see the a country through the eyes of a local. Sometimes that can be a real challenge, for example in Cuba. The locals are depended of the money they make of tourists, they are really poor but they rather not show that. They will do anything to make you comfortable, also if that means they hardly have something to eat. That reminds me not to expect only to see a bright side, because most times there is a very dark side too.
Trying to see the real normal life, you’ve to avoid the touristy places as much as possible. That can be hard as this whole country makes a better living with the income out of tourists. You make a better change when hanging out with the locals. If they allow, you come a little closer step by step.
It starts with the double currency they have; the moneda national (pesos) and the convertible (CUC) which is 25 peso is worth 1 cuc. Cubans get their salary paid in peso; for the majority that is somewhere between 30-60 cuc per month. They can buy food such as rice and beans with peso, all the rest they have to buy with CUC and these things are very expensive for them. Four rolls of toilet paper for example cost 1 CUC, their (half) daily income! Most of other articles are priced the same as in western countries.
But for everything is a solution in Cuba, they are intelligent and super creative. They trade new clothes with tourists for anything they have, they repare every electronical device until it is really not worth it (that is very very long), they created a shared taxi system to travel in and between cities, hot showers with no running water are possible by boiling water and put it in a bucket… and so on.
It is all about good connections here, that’s how they help each other out. Buying fresh baked bread in the bakery at night or drinking the neighbors’ most biggest coconut ever are examples of that. But waking up in your boyfriends house and the first thing you see is your clothes washed by his mom and drying in the sun ~before 8 am~ is the highlight for me knowing this is Cuba.
Back in Havana you see homeless people looking in garbage bins for food…. Boxers wearing different shoes or shoes wrapped together with duck tape, a street full disabled people trying to sell sun glasses and so on. This country has many sad sides but if there is a place where people are strong, having courage and the will to survive while staying friendly and happy…. You must be talking about Cuba <3
Saying goodbye is always difficult when you leave the people you love behind. You know that there will be moments you desperately want your family or friends around you; for a hug, to share a moment with or just to laugh about something or to find comfort. The other side is when you open your heart, you meet new people and get to know other culture. They tell you about their country and show you the real life.
It is interesting to see that it won’t take long before you can become really good friends or even ‘family’ with someone. The moment you open your heart you will see that there is enough room in your heart or life for other people. You can share moments with them and within an hour, day or week you have new friends from all around the world.
More intense is the experience when you’re with 30 people in an beautiful but isolated resort in the jungle for a yoga training. Throughout the training you are fully aware of your body through the practice of yoga and meditation. Beside your body you also invest time in your mind and soul so it becomes also a mentally and spiritually journey. One of the first days we had to do an exercise in pairs of two; look each other in the eye and tell the other person who you really are and how you feel at that moment. It seems easy but telling your story and keep looking them in the eye is actually quiet difficult. By doing this we trusted each other and we made a connection. My baby girl Madison will always be in my heart!
To feel the energy of a whole group of people who take care of each other is amazing. Many times I felt connected to all of them, only by holding hands or chanting “Om” you feel the energy and good vibrations. We all have our own personality and that makes a group so vibrant and beautiful. During the super moon (full moon) we had an ceremony outside around a bonfire. All these lovely people are now family and we definitely meet again.
While writing this I am on my way to Cuba and next to me a friendly girl from Costa Rica. She turn out to practice yoga too and she’s on a holiday to Cuba to find her inner peace again. The people you meet have crossed your path and all of them are precious. I wonder what Cuba will bring me this time….
The last three weeks I have been living in my yoga bubble in a beautiful Eco-resort in Cahuita, Costa Rica. It has been an amazing time where I met my yoga family of 26 other beautiful people. We shared a lot of good times and of course the emotional moments were there too.
Our schedule was very thight by starting our meditation and yoga practica at 7 and throughout the day we had classes in anatomy, philosophy and assisting. We had a chef cooking us three vegetarian meals a day, which was SO GOOD!
The spare time we used for exploring the villages nearby, the amazing beaches surrounded by rain forest and of course the green jungle! I’m going to miss all the lovely people, the powerful bonfire, the laughs, my roomies and so much more. It has been a life changing training and I am so glad I did it!
Thanks to everyone who has been supporting me during this journey. I feel your love and I am super grateful for that! Many times I thought about you during practice, meditation or in my spare time.
My next destination is waiting for me; two months CUBA! I happy to share that I applied for a two week job as a yoga teacher at a resort in Varadero… Fingers crossed as I can hear any moment if I have the job!