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The Friend of a Friend

By April 8, 2014 Caribbean, Column

Havana. What do you have in mind when Havana is so unbelievably close to you? I do have to admit, I thought about some scenes in Dirty Dancing 2, a terrible movie, that still fixed this idea of going to Cuba in my head. I know, I know, Cuba is famous for completely different issues than Dirty Dancing 2. For its political situation, for its rum, its cigars, but, hey, at least Dirty Dancing 2 made me go to Cuba, an amazing country.

Havana Kuba

I’m sitting in my taxi that takes me from Cienfuegos to Havana. My taxi driver can’t speak English, and, well, I still can’t speak Spanish, but we do understand each other. Merely because he is also the Cuban with the coolest style I have seen so far. Up until now, after nine days of travelling through Cuba on my own, I was ready for Havana, not only because I was ready to see a big Cuban city, but also because it was the place where I finally meet my friend from Germany. And also the place, where I will stay at the place of a friend of my friend from London. I did not have any expectations, but rather wondered about the size of the world. How small is the world? I am in Cuba, meeting a friend of my friend from London, who, until now, I only knew as “the crazy friend in Cuba, who I really have to meet”. At least, that is what I heard from my friend in London about Roland, his friend in Havana. The night before, I call Roli, this is how his friends call him, to check whether things are good. And things are good. I am invited. And freaking excited.

And here I am, in my taxi, right in front of Roli’s house. Deep in the insight I was scared. Yet again, this little girl with her massive backpack was travelling the world, while challenging her own luck. I did not know what would happen and how he would be, until I heard some shouts right behind me. Roli, topless, a cigarette in his right hand, a beer in his left hand, shouts at me, asking me to come up and celebrate with them. I marched up the stairs and was greeted with a massive hug. Roli smelled of beer, cigarettes and had a massively red face, whether this was because of the sun or because of the alcohol – who knows? And well, here I was. On a random balcony, at a place located in the outskirts of Havana sipping on a can of beer and smoking a filter less cigarette while looking over the roofs of Havana. It all seems to be just perfect. It seems to be one of these nights, that could have happened anywhere around the world, maybe even in Berlin at one of my friend’s places. And maybe there, I would have had a cigarette with a filter. But I was here, in Havana, with Roli, but still something just did not work in my European head.

During the days I have been in Cuba so far, I carried around a pair of shoes, which my friend from London gave to me as a present for his friend in Havana. Now, imagine. This pair of shoes passes the ocean just to land in the hands of this Cuban boy, who is smiling of happiness and who might as well, just like me, stood on the balcony smoking a filter less cigarette with my friend from London, a couple of years ago.

Roli took me to my room. He gave me another million hugs and kept on telling me “You are my family!”, before he disappeared. Still, there was something that made me feel uncomfortable and I did not know what it was. I sat in my room and kept on thinking and worrying. Indeed this place is not as nice as the Casas I stayed in before. It is located in a backyard, that looked rather unclean and there were three generations living in the apartment, despite its size. This is what, apparently, annoyed me. And this annoyance pissed me off. Big time. Why do we stupid Europeans have these ridiculous thoughts in our heads? This feeling that everything has to be just perfect, without mistakes? Don’t we miss the most essential and much more important parts by concentrating on the things we dislike? I stayed at a place of a random person who I do not know and for whom I am also just the friend of a friend. He is doing everything for me here and tells me I am a part of his family and I am sitting here worrying about an unclean backyard. Seriously?

Roli knocks on the door and puts a plate full of food on my table. My thoughts are gone. His wife just cooked for me, the friend of a friend, who is travelling through Cuba hoping for some adventures. And there I was: sitting on my table, eating my food and feeling just fine. Happy and comfortable in the outskirts of Havana thousands of kilometres away from a place I call home. Roli, by the way, took my arrival as a reason to celebrate and drank his way through the night until he fell asleep on the couch. Just perfect, and so normal, somehow.

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