Tag Archives: Kristina

Lesson Learned from Friends on the Road

  • You should always bring some of the clothes you love and rely on (Nellie) but should also buy/bring some basic stuff you don’t mind giving away (Rhiannon)
  • Of course, don’t be “that guy” who just gives away all their broken/dirty junk: give away the things you love, and it’ll come back to you (Deirdre)
  • Just do it, magn/There’s nothing you can do about it now, so have fun/shoes are lame (unless someone steals yours)/spend your nights under the stars (Kristina)
  • There is no right way to experience a country, so just do what makes you happy in the moment, and if you enjoyed the time while you spent it you can’t look back with regret (Abby)
  • Bring a book or two, and trade them away for others when you’re done.  After all, on the road, a new story is worth more than one you already know, and can easily find again (Emma)
  • If you really are the “whatever” person (like Avi The Army Guy or Julie The Yoga Girl) trust that everyone knows that already, and let them come to you if they want to know more (Julie and Avi. Duh.)
  • Bring all-purpose items, and travel speakers (Laurel, aka Leslie)
  • Don’t lend people your Coach/Ignore all negativity (Aliesha)
  • Be unapologetically ridiculous and enthusiastic, and you’re bound to make friends.  Even if you don’t, you’re probably already having a ton of fun (Brit and Kristina)
  • Sometimes the cost of something “lent” is worth the friendship or the conversation you get in exchange (Britito)
  • Really listen, and remember people (Nellie, Laurel, Julie)
  • Sometimes being the butt of the joke is the best way to put everyone at ease, and the quickest way to gain friends (Gumby)
  • Lack of language doesn’t mean lack of communication (Mike)
  • You can sweet-talk your way into (and out of) anything (Pasha Daoud)
  • You’re always surrounded by a million memorable moments waiting to happen (Allyson)
  • Trust strangers (Dylan and Taylor)
  • Always ask the parents before you give kids something, especially candy–and make sure you have enough to go around (Lori)
  • Don’t let anyone (or anything) hold you back from what you want to see or accomplish (Falconer)
  • Just eat it (Brit, Rhiannon and Falconer)
  • Be humble; laugh at yourself; always be learning (Janine)
  • Keep an open mind and try to put things into context.  Also, always have a notebook and pen (Ilham)
  • Even if you don’t have the words, you can always make friends with your talent (Justino y Míles)
  • Laugh and smile and you will make friends (Diana)
  • Ask questions (Julie–like you don’t know which!)
  • Always have a scarf and a sweater (Marisa and Cynthia)
  • Always bring at least one or two things that make you look hot–you never know (Sarah)
  • Packing is for overachievers (Erin)
  • Relax.  When the bus breaks down, have a photoshoot! play cards! work on your tan! (Profe)
  • When you don’t have something, whether it’s an object or a skill: outsource (Kate)
  • A good friend is always there for you, no matter the distance or time difference (Alex)

What are your best lessons, from travel or otherwise?  What have the people around you showed you?

Foto Friday: Calle 13

Remember Foto Friday?  Me neither. Let’s see if we can work on that.

You’ve already heard about the blemish on my time at the Calle Trece concert, so how about the rest of it?  I think the pictures will do it more justice than my words.

The stage at the tribuna anti-imperialista, aka the demonstration plaza right behind the US Special Interest Section so the Cubans can protest at the drop of a hat
Calle Trece is from Puerto Rico--the US gave them permission to come, and made no comment about it
Kristina and I, up above the crowd on shoulders.
The crowd behind us. This is also where Cuba protested the Elian Gonzalez thing for weeks on end.
The crowd (including me in yellow) from above. Oh and hey, those are the guys who took my wallet.
Calle Trece with the Cuban and Puerto Rican flags. We eventually got up pretty close. Apparently the only concert that was bigger was Juanes.
The buildings alongside the tribunal. Streets were closed off for blocks around, and there were almost no event police. Even if there had been, they wouldn't have been able to get anywhere with that many people
Smile! Or, as we were told to say, "Whiskey!" This is us having 15 CUC worth of fun

Algunos son Buenos, Algunos son Malos

Me, smiling deliriously on some guy's shoulders at Calle 13. I have no clue what's about to happen.

Just when I go thinking, “I’ve got this, I’m handling the travel thing,” I get a little proverbial smack.  A smack designed to wipe that smug look off of my face.

I got pick-pocketed.

The travel gods say no, you’re not that suave.  And in true Cuban fashion, the times when I think I get something are the only times I am truly wrong.

It didn’t happen in Boston, France or Cairo, but sooner or later it was bound to happen.  The worst part (well, there are a few worst parts) is that I’m the only one to blame. After all those nights of bringing just chapstick and 10 cuc in my pocket to clubs or the Malecon, I went to the most crowded event in Cuba with a decently bulky wallet that had the potential to poke out of my pocket.  I was also dumb in that I didn’t tell the guys we came across to buzz off, and I rolled with sitting on some guys’ shoulders at a concert even though I didn’t know them and didn’t really want to.

The real worst part is that behind me, while I was up on shoulders, was a guy who was gesturing, and then laughing.  He was nudging his friends and making me uncomfortable.  I couldn’t understand him because it was so loud and I was up high.  As soon as I got down and was in a standing position, I knew my wallet was gone.  I saw him laughing and put something in his pocket.  It took just enough time for me to realize I lost it, tell Kristina and accuse the guy in white behind me for the real culprits, the guys who had brought Kristina and I to the front and boosted us up, to vamoose into the crowd.  So yes, I accused a totally innocent Cuban.  He apologized, turned out his pockets, and explained the gestures.

He was trying to warn me.

And how do he and his friends treat the evil gringa who worked her way in front of them, blocked their view and then accused one of them of theft?  They went and told the cops about the guys who really took my wallet, and set them hunting.

I suck.

I didn’t lose much–some random papers (they created the bulk, really) some moneda nacional (worth <2 CUC in total), my Changó necklace, ~15 CUC, and my Cuban health card.  And yes, the health card and the necklace are the two things I’m most bummed about, because I’m like that.

But ya know what?  I think Cuba is getting to me.  Because this is what I looked like after my wallet was stolen:


Reasons I’m suddenly happier about Cuba:

Going home doesn’t seem so far away. A weird paradox, but knowing it’s soon frees up some mental space to stop stressing and start enjoying

We went to Santiago. For one thing, I love that city.  Another is that we got a change of pace, making Havana seem fresher, and my time there more precious, in addition to giving me an entire new perspective on Cuba

I emailed Ilham. She was a faculty leader on the egypt Dialogue, and she’s on of my personal rock stars.  All throughout Egypt we had to keep journals for reflection, and I was very conscious that Ilham was reading it, at times almost treating it like a conversation with her and expecting her to react the next day about something I had written the night before.  Something about writing her a conversation for real was comforting, and reminded me of the person I’m trying to be, both personally and academically.

Our Group. The people I’m with includes Michigan and NU students, house staff, Casa staff.  I’ve noticed that the whole group is a lot more zen lately, especially about interpersonal relations.  I’ve seen people cutting each other slack where they wouldn’t before, and spending time with people they hadn’t before.  The relaxed attitude makes our house so much more pleasant to live in.  It fills it up with boisterous, friendly chaos, instead of jarring, staccato coldness.

I watched some American TV.
Dumb, I know, but it helped.  It was also fun to just be American kids for a little while.  We could’ve been anywhere at home, lounging on a couch, eating (fake) pringles and watching television in English.

Food. Aliesha’s mom sent a giant box of goodies, and Kristina’s mom brought some homemade cookies and pancake mix.  We also got great, filling breakfasts in Santiago, and decently priced, delicious food for lunch and dinner.  That was probably one of the only times I’ve felt truly satisfied with a meal her.  To boot, there aren’t as many shortages right now on staples like bread or eggs.

Home is a wee bit more organized. I know when my flight leaves for France, and when I come home from Benin.  I can go to Andrew’s graduation (after missing so many important events in his life this past year) and I can go to BMG’s first communion.  The first thing she asked was whether I would be there, and I hated that I didn’t know and wasn’t really in control of the answer.  Cuba has made me really laid back (in some ways), but I feel calm knowing I won’t let Miss Bridget down.

It’s amazing how much your perspective can change by seeing your world through someone else’s lens.  It felt good to have someone well-traveled recognize that Cuba is indeed strange.  We’re not imagining it, this really is hard, and it really is different from going to Australia.  I also loved realizing that what comes to mind about Cuba for me is all the good stuff, and I see all the bad stuff in a good light.  Things that other people found strange, stressful or scary rolled off my back with a laugh.  Someone said that we’re a funny group, but I countered that no, it’s just Cuba that’s funny.

I really do believe it.

A St. Patty’s Day Miracle!

Today I woke up late, and went upstairs to find this:

mmmmh Ghirardelli...
...REAL maple syrup...

Needless to say, I ran around waking everyone up with my St. Patty’s greetings and spreading the Good Word of the St. Patty’s Day Miracle.

Thanks to Aliesha and Kristina for making them, Kristina’s mom for bringing the supplies, and Maria for letting them take over the kitchen.












Happy birthday cheb, I miss ya!

Oh, and

A St. Patty’s Pot on YOU!


Everyone is so frank with their nicknames here, which are more like blunt descriptors.  Every guy with Asian heritage is Chino, which is kind of confusing.  We often hear people called Gordo, or fatty, and men call out to women to call them Gordita, which they think is a compliment.

At this point, I should explain that a lot of terms that sound un-pc and racially not okay to American ears are not at all negative here.  Negro is an adjective, not an insult, and mulatto is the same way.  Chino is the correct term for a Chinese person, they just use those terms with a greater familiarity and frequency than we do.

Beyond that, all of our names have changed a bit.  Brittan is Bree-ton, Justin is who-steen, Abby is usually Awee, Dan became Danielle, Diana is Dee-ahna, and Aliesha becomes Alicia or Alish.  Brittan is also Músico, and Aliesha is called la mulatta, much to her chagrin.  She’s not actually mulatta, but there are basically no people here who are just black, so if you’re anything other than white or Chino, you must be a mulatto.

No one has any problems pronouncing Kristina Escalona.

I’ve become Dell-ee-uh, which I expected.  Entertainingly, the Americans have all taken to calling me this as well.  Some of them I think are just used to hearing me called that, the way I pronounce Diana the Cuban way out of habit and affection.  Many of the Michigan kids, though, honestly think that’s the correct way to pronounce my name.

Bilingual Soccer

Our field, next to Casa where we go to school.

With the ocean twenty or thirty feet away, it’s the perfect place to play soccer.  The decrepit stadium with a lone, gringa trumpet player makes me wish I had brought my camera.

Avanca, avanca! and the occasional vulgar cries of pinga! or coño! resonate across the field.  Mira! solo! a mi a mi! Over here, give it to me, I’m alone!

There are no nets, and we use rocks to mark the goal posts.  We evenly distribute Americans and Cubanos, and its clear that at least some of them view their teammates as mere obstacles.

It took a while to understand what was going on, since a “conay” on a dusty field in Havana looks nothing like a corner kick on a neatly trimmed field in suburban Mass.

Giovanni in his victory pose.

By the second week I was actually starting to bring back some of my skills.  I scored another goal or two and my footwork was coming back to me.  I had better field positioning and caught myself reading the other players better.  We lost, even with one extra player, but whatever.  It just feels good to run and to feel physically accomplished in any way.  Doing a cartwheel today was like the highlight of my week

Kristina and I were talking about it, and it’s not about weight or looks, so much as feeling good in yourself, feeling like you’re strong and you can rely on your body to do what it needs.  I like that I don’t have to worry or be slightly embarrassed because I can’t run fast enough or long enough to participate like everyone else.

Even though I know my push-ups are wimpier than those of the boys, I still do just as many, and mine are slowly improving.  There’s a great confidence that comes from knowing the strength and limits of your body, and trusting that it can do what you want and need it to.

Our high-tech goal posts

This week we were joined by some other friends of the Cubanos, and German student at la Universidad de la Habana.  It seems in this country that all gringas come with Cuban novios.  We played hard, and I think we’re improving because the scores have been getting lower.  There’s nothing like the feeling of beating Giovanni’s footwork, considering his legs are about the height of my entire body.  Jose always comes running up for a high five after I manage to outplay him, proud of his estudiantes fútbalistas.  On a day like yesterday, it was exactly what I needed.