Saturday, October 15, 2016

My Last Trip to Cuba: #4: I Don't Speak Spanish

My mom and I make sure we have everything (except my earring) after we cross through TSA, then continue to our distant gate in the Miami Airport where we will be taking an unmarked charter plane to Cienfuegos.

We hustle a bit because they told the flight has been moved up by over an hour. I think this is a bluff to get people to hustle to the plane sooner, it has to be. No airline could move flights UP and just leave passengers stranded and stay in business,  right? I know. It doesn't make sense, but then again,  once we are playing with Castro's Cuba, its probably irrational to expect things to make sense.

My mom and I walk in silence and the tension is palpable. She is still mad at that guy who shoved all our luggage. It was sudden and shocking and rude and seriously we aren't used to being treated like that.  Mom breaks our silence with something about the guy being such a jerk.

We are on a sacred journey, we don't have time for this.

 I ask mom if she wants a story, and she does.

Traveling with me is like having a walking kindle app, right? anyway, as we walk towards these freakishly steep escalators I ask her if she's ever heard the story of the three monks. She says no, and I offer up something along the lines of this:
Once upon a time there were three monks who took vows of silence and vows of chastity including never touching a woman for any reason at all.
  They were sent by their master on a journey to visit another monastery, and embarked on a month-long journey up hills and over rivers and across dry plateaus.
On their journey they passed a shouting stranded hysterical woman who tried to cross a river but was stuck halfway.  
All three of the monks stuck with their vows to not speak, but one of them ran into the river, picked the woman up and carried her across the river then he set her down at which point she ran off to wherever she desperately needed to go.
The other two monks watched silently then joined him on the other side.  
That night there was a tension in the silence at the fire that warmed the three monks. No one spoke, and two of them hardly slept. 
The next day - and the day after that, and the day after that -  the tension grew as the three monks walked up a steep mountain and crossed the summit, nearing their destination. 
While they warmed themselves at a fire on the final night of their journey, one of the monks finally broke his silence. "You picked that woman UP!! You broke your vows!!!" 
The other monk laughed and replied, "I carried that woman for one minute! You have been carrying that woman for days!"  The other two monks, because they were on a path to enlightenment, also laughed, and the three of them sat in happy silence from then on for the rest of their lives and so on and on and etc. 
My mom squeezed my hand. She got it. That man back there was an ass for a minute. We are not going to let him ruin our mission or dampen our adventure.  No way, we don't have time for that.

 This story is also especially important to us as we go to Cuba and absolutely do not say or think or even slightly imply that we are there to give voice to things like "HEY CASTRO CAN WE HAVE THE HOUSE YOU STOLE FROM US BACK?"

 We are going to Cuba on other business.

By the time my story ended we were at the bottom of the escalator surrounded by stores selling French makeup and Russian vodka and iEverything.

We pass it all to find our gate and see if we can verify the rumor that a flight was going to miraculously take off early.  There are at least 20, but probably more, people of varying ages that were all older than my mom or myself, lined up by the gate in wheelchairs.   The sign by our gate said the flight was boarding at 1:30pm, just like it was supposed to.

 Awesome, we had time to eat.

I order a glass of wine to go with my hummus and pretzels.  We have plenty of time to spare after eating so I dash off to find $10 earrings and then I don't feel so underdressed.  I order another glass of wine that I take to the gate and nurse for over an hour as our plane goes from being early to late.

An agent appears to escort the  line of abuelitas at the gate in wheelchairs to the plane, one at a time. I'm thinking that many of them are bringing the chairs to Cuba to leave for relatives because we really can't mail or ship goods to Cuba in normal ways.  I applaud their creativity and sip my wine, soaking in every bit of internet while I can.

Our flight was quick and uncomplicated.

When we land my mom and I get off the plane quickly, walk down the steep stairs, cross the tarmac and walk up a short set of stairs into the airport.  As soon as we enter the tiny room that leads arrivals into lines that become Customs booths, Mom and I smile smugly. We are here. We are in Cuba, safely.

Last time we came were were separated and all sorts of problems happened from something in one of our bags. This time we only brought one small bag each.

 I happily hug my bag to my stomach and smile optimistically when a man in a uniform touches me on the elbow.

He looks me in the eye and calls me by my name, then asks me in Spanish to come with him to his office.

I answer him something like hello HI, what what do you want to ask me?

He says that I need to come with him to his office for an interview.

I say that I have to bring my Mom because I don't speak Spanish and I don't understand Spanish.

Unfortunately, I said all of that in the most perfect Spanish of my entire American life.