welcome to my cuba blog aka (cuc)blog

After much deliberation and thought on the matter, I've decided to add a blog to the website. I've actually wanted a blog on the site for a while now. However, given my utter lack of writing talent, combined with my inept grasp of anything resembling proper grammar, I was hesitant to advertise my shortcomings to the world ... not that anyone outside of my family (more specifically, my Mom), will actually read this blog ... Anyway, it finally dawned on me that this is MY website, and therefore I can make a grammatical fool of myself if I please. So, let my assault on the English language begin (*full disclaimer- I'm actually a bi-lingual offender, so I'm also guaranteed to screw up any Spanish I'm foolish enough to attempt in this blog*). 

As an aside, not that anyone cares, but the somewhat stupid name for this blog "(cuc)blog" is a reference to the Cuban Convertible Peso (called 'CUC' for short). The CUC is one of the two currencies used in Cuba at this time (the CUC is primarily used by tourists). The other currency is the Cuban Peso (used by Cuban citizens).

I already feel like I'm getting long-winded, but I do feel the need to point out that I'm far from perfect (seriously, just ask any girl I've ever dated). I also feel the need to point out that I've never once claimed to be an expert on any subject, especially on Cuba. So, WHEN (not if) I get something wrong here pertaining to anything Cuba-related (actually, pertaining to anything), please, by all means, feel free to call me out and correct my mistake(s). 

Although I'm no expert on Cuba, I would like to add that I've traveled to Cuba more times in the last two years than I can remember (I lied, it's actually 10 times and counting). So, while I can't offer you the viewpoint of an "official" expert on Cuba (whatever that may be), I can state that everything I'll talk about/discuss on this blog will 100% come from my own personal experiences in, and travels to, Cuba (unless I note otherwise). In other words, although many so-called experts may have strong opinions on Cuba & Cuba-centric issues, not all have actually taken the time to travel to Cuba to experience Cuba first-hand for themselves. It's one thing to read about Cuba in books and watch programs about Cuba on TV; but It's a whole different ballgame to actually walk down the streets of Centro Habana, to talk to Cubans in the streets & in their homes, and to actually see the very real hardships the Cuban people face every single day.

One of the things law school taught me (and there weren't many, lol), is to gather as much objective information/evidence as possible so that I can formulate my own thoughts/opinions based on that information and my personal experiences (rather than simply following the leader and regurgitating the same old positions/story lines of those who came before). I say that because I'm certain I'll end up offending people at some point with what I write on this blog (although I'd never do so intentionally). The honest truth is, I really don't care. I don't say that to sound like an arrogant jackass. It's just that I don't care if I unintentionally offend people because (1) it's impossible to please everyone, and (2) these are MY personal opinions that I've arrived at based on MY own personal experiences in Cuba, nothing more, nothing less.

Last but not least, although I truly love the country & people of Cuba, I give you my word that there are absolutely no hidden agendas here. None. Zero. I'm neither a PR person for the Cuban Government, nor am I working to undermine the Cuban Government. There are things I absolutely love about Cuba, and, well, there are things about Cuba that I respectfully disagree with and frankly don't understand (and probably never will). In the end, I'm certain I'll offend people on both sides of the Cuba debate.

For the first blog post I thought I'd just briefly share a little more background as to how I ended up getting hooked on Cuba, as well as how/when I started traveling to Cuba. Like I said on the 'about' page, while I don't recall exactly when my man-crush on Cuba first began, I do know that Cuba has fascinated me from day one. I've always loved history, and I've always loved an underdog (so says the guy who's a Barcelona & NY Yankees fan). I know that my initial interest in Cuba began because I saw it as a "forbidden island" that Americans couldn't visit. However, my real fascination with Cuba began to grow after I started studying the country and its history as a whole (rather than focusing solely on post-revolutionary Cuba as many people often do). Also, and I really don't mean to sound condescending, but I truly felt sorry for Cubans when I learned they weren't allowed to leave their own country (which was the case at the time). Come to think of it, and if I'm being honest, I still feel sorry for Cubans for a number of different reasons (and I say that with the utmost respect for the Cuban people ... not that they need me to feel sorry for them). However, that's a topic of its own for another day.

How I actually first traveled to Cuba was as simple as this ... one day in 2012 I just got tired of hearing myself say "I really want to go to Cuba blah blah blah." I was always saying the same thing, "I wish" this, and "I wish" that. Well, I got tired of wanting & wishing, so I decided to actually do something about it for once in my unmotivated life. I started researching how I could (legally, cough cough) travel to Cuba as an American citizen. Long story short, I discovered People-to-People Cultural Tours via a company named Insight Cuba. I think I found out about Insight Cuba (who I like very much) via a Google search or a NY Times travel review. Anyway, I didn't hesitate to sign both myself and my brother up for the 'Weekend in Havana' tour. That weekend trip to Havana, my first ever, took place between May 31 - June 3 of 2012. I still enjoy looking at those first two Cuba stamps in my passport (yes, they'll stamp your US passport if you ask them to ... and sometimes even if you don't ask). If there was ever any question whether I was hooked on Cuba before that first trip (there wasn't), I was 100% hooked on Cuba after that first trip. True story, when I first saw the Malecón in-person on that Thursday, May 31, 2012, it made such an impression on me that I was already planning my return visit ... and third visit... and so on. I knew there was absolutely no way a single weekend in Havana was going to satisfy my life-long Cuba crush. 

Well, that's enough for this first post. I can't image that anyone actually read this entire post (other than Mom). However, if you did, I truly appreciate it, and I promise future posts will be better once I figure out what I'm actually doing (and once I reach the writing level of a sixth grader). For my next post, I'll write about my first impressions of Cuba (good & bad) during & after that first trip in 2012.

Thanks again for visiting, and I love you Mom.

Cubans on a park bench in La Havana Vieja - This was the very first photo I ever took in Cuba. It was taken before we even exited the bus in La Habana Vieja. I wasn't even off the bus and I couldn't wait to start shooting photos!

Cubans on a park bench in La Havana Vieja - This was the very first photo I ever took in Cuba. It was taken before we even exited the bus in La Habana Vieja. I wasn't even off the bus and I couldn't wait to start shooting photos!