I’m sitting at a café on campus reading up on articles for schoolwork (meaning, blog posts…) and over at my right there’s some sort of market day going on focusing on the language courses offered at the university next semester.
Salsa music is being played from huge speakers, which is a little comical to me because the only language courses offered at this uni are Japanese, Indonesian and Italian. Not to get hung up on details, but none of these cultures are associated with salsa.
Still, I am instantly transported back to my time living in Cuba and even my travels in Mexico last year. My heart skips a bit as I close my eyes and a rush of memories are being brought back to me.
I’ve been thinking a lot about Cuba lately. Mostly, because the most wonderful news reached me the other day:
My good friend married her Cuban sweetheart last week.
She, a beautiful, blonde Danish girl working for another tour agency, was one of my best friends in Cuba. He was a slick-looking Latino with a a huge smile and a heart of gold.
I remember vividly the night they met. There were four of us in our close group of friends, all female Scandinavian tour guides. On our free time, we did what any young girls would do: enjoy the world’s best rum and go out dancing.
We were at Casa de la Musica, which is one of the best clubs in Varadero and it plays almost exclusively salsa music. The place is electric pretty much any night of the week, and it was our favorite place to let loose and enjoy ourselves.
The two of them spotted each other across the room, and at the end of the night he’d passionately kissed her goodnight within a couple of hours of knowing her. The rest of us laughed and teased her as she joined us again on the dance floor.
‘Are you kidding me?! Glad that’s out of your system,’ we laughed. He was wearing a neon pink button-up shirt, and could have easily been Ricky Martin’s slightly darker-haired twin brother. We thought he looked ridiculous and didn’t understand what she saw in him. Let’s be frank: young, blonde Scandinavian girls in Cuba can have their pick… and he wouldn’t have been my pick if I’d seen him across the room.
But they had found each other. And that was that.
Over the next few months, I watched their love story unfold despite cultural differences and initial language barriers. Ricky Martin, who I had instantly judged as a total douche who didn’t know how to dress, turned out to be one of the kindest and warmest people I’ve ever met.
(I literally learned not to judge a book by its cover from this relationship. You can preach it all you want, but you need to be proven wrong and feel like an idiot before you actually get it).
Always taking in interest in her friends and investing time and effort to get to know us, no doubt because he cared about her so much. They were so in love, it was impossible to look away. You just kind of wanted it to rub off on you, somehow.
Nearly two years has passed since then, and while I haven’t seen them face to face since we left Cuba, I can imagine what they’ve been going through.
Him, stuck in Cuba.
Her, trying to figure out her life and pursuing her career, but always missing her love in Varadero.
Scrambling to find time and money for her to come visit as often as possible.
Wondering, ‘can we really do this? take this risk? is it going to be you and me? because if so, the only way is to bring you to Denmark. and the only way to bring you to Denmark is to get married. are we too young to get married? what if we’ll regret it?’
In the end… ‘You’re my true love. I want it to be you and me, forever.’
After what I can only imagine was very a long struggle with the Cuban embassy and Danish immigration – getting out of Cuba is not easy – he arrived in Denmark this summer.
And last week they each got to marry the love of their life at town hall and begin their lives together in Copenhagen as man and wife.
Not all love stories are conventional.
Not all are convenient.
Not all are easy to follow through.
But sometimes…. just sometimes….
It’s all so worth it.