I looked out my window to see a mass of barren land with no buildings, roads with no cars, and water without any boats. I was on my way to the communist country of Cuba. Not for business, not for school, but to finally meet family that I had heard about, but never met. So many questions were streaming through my head. What if the government doesn’t accept my visa? What if they make me go back to the US? What if they suspect me of being a spy? All of which were questions I couldn’t answer until I arrived.
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As I approached the immigration booth, my nerve grew increasingly tense with every step. I was dreaming of a nice, pretty, preferably female Cuban immigration officer who spoke perfect English. To my surprise, two of the four characteristics were found; but let’s just say she wasn’t very nice and she wasn’t pretty. As soon as I stepped into the booth, the officer immediately started speaking the fastest Spanish I had ever heard. After she caught a glimpse of my “what in the world are you saying” look, she began to slow down and eventually tried to speak English. Thankfully I was accompanied by my mom, who speaks fluent Spanish and was able to assist some with breaking down of the language barrier. After accomplishing this seemingly impossible feat, it was on to finding our family.
As I exited the terminal, I found myself instantly surrounded by taxi drivers and other Cuban citizens. Within seconds I spotted a short plump man jumping and waving his arms frantically. Dressed in his red Adidas soccer jersey, long cargo shorts, and dark sunglasses; he had to be my cousin, Armando. Shortly after locating him, he led my mom and I to where my great uncle was sitting, resting, and awaiting his long lost family. Until a few months before the trip and a few weeks after my Abuela (grandma) had passed away, no one in my family even thought about going down to Cuba; at least not until we realized what we were missing.
After a short, bumpy car ride we arrived at my family's small, comfortable home in a small town called Jaimanitas, just outside of Havana. The first of five days was the most exciting, confusing, and mentally stressful day that I have ever experienced in my life. If the Spanish language was the Pacific Ocean, I had been flown out to the middle and thrown into the vast body of water with one hundred pound weights around my ankles. Needless to say, in a matter of ten minutes I was surrounded by twenty one Cubans speaking Spanish faster than the speed of sound. The next day consisted of a lot of sleep, water, and as little Spanish as I could get. However, the days to come were a completely different story. The third night I was to go out and play soccer with my cousins at the Malecon, the seawall along the coast of Havana. There, I experienced something that I will never forget; playing soccer, watching the sunset over the Straights, and laughing more than I ever have, with my newfound cousins. Day four took us to Old Havana with a plethora of beautiful sights and attractions. That day I was able to see a small part of this world that so few Americans have seen before. By the last day, I didn’t want to leave. My mom and I had found a new home, new friends, and most importantly, new family we felt like we had known for years.
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