I am so blessed that I was born in the United States of America. With all of my travels to much poorer countries, it has truly made me acknowledge and appreciate the freedom, and abundance in which I live.
Meeting my new friend Carlos was the perfect example of that. He doesn’t have much and lives very minimally, but he was one of the happiest and most kind-hearted people I’ve gotten to know. Without even knowing, he reminded me to be grateful for all of the many blessings that I have in front of me. He opened up his heart and his life to me, someone who he really knew nothing about, but trusted anyways. So I felt honored to be brought into his family to get to know the people who made him who he is… an amazing man!
As I walked into his home, the first person I met was a little adorable human that goes by the name of Irlanda. It was Carlos’ 4-year old daughter. Right when I walked in the room and smiled at her, she came to me and gave me the biggest hug! My heart melted. She was carrying a little doll, brushing its hair and she was dancing around while Cuban salsa music was playing in the background. I gave her a piece of chocolate I had in my purse, she enjoyed it, we laughed, we danced together, and truly shared a special moment. What a sweet little girl with such character.
I also met Anisley, Carlos’ wife. She was lovely with her bright smile and round beautiful eyes. It was a bit difficult to communicate with her because she didn’t speak too much English but we exchanged many smiles and knew that we had become friends.
I told Carlos that I wanted to take him and his family to a nice lunch to thank him for his time of showing us his HOME and for being so great to George and me so he escorted us to a local Cuban restaurant called Chez Aimee. Upon walking in, I saw two men sitting at the bar with their guitars. They sang Cuban songs and even did a cover of “I Did It My Way” by Frank Sinatra. (My Dad, who has passed over 5 years now would always sing this song. I could still hear his voice singing those words, so it felt as if he was speaking to me in that moment.) It was truly beautiful. <3
But once again, the food was just mediocre. My friends who have gone to Cuba before warned me that their food was nothing to rave about prior to my trip, so I didn’t have high expectations. The one dish that I actually really did enjoy though was the rice and beans. It was very flavorful and the texture of the rice was just perfect. MmmMm! After lunch, we parted ways because I wanted to rest up for the evening. Carlos invited us to go out to a local Cuban club to celebrate his birthday that night so of course I said, YES!
George and I met up Carlos and Anisley that evening and then we all took those bike taxis back to their house (there was no way we would’ve remembered how to get there, and I don’t think we could without a local with us).
When we got back to their house, I wanted to help Anisley look EXTRA pretty that evening so I brought a beautiful pair of eyelash extensions from my good friend Jenn’s company, House of Lashes. After I put on the lash extentions on for Anisely and she looked in the mirror, I was so happy! I saw that look she gave herself. It was that “OOoooOo.. dang, I look good!” look. I was glad that I could make her feel extra beautiful because as women, I know how important it is and how good it feels to feel pretty and good about yourself. I was very happy to be able to do that for her.
We then met up with Anisley’s sister and her husband and we all went to Salon Rojo. When we arrived, the girls told me to check in my purse so that we wouldn’t have to carry it around, so that’s what we did. I saw the bag lady put all of our bags together and into a cubby then gave us a number for it. We were then escorted to our table to enjoy Paulo FG, a well known Cuban singer. The house was packed and we all danced the night away. By the end of the night, we went to gather our belongings and Anisley went to grab our purses. I stood by her as she exchanged some words with the bag lady after giving her our number.
Without being able to really understand what they were saying in Spanish, I felt this weird tension between them. I asked them what was wrong? Anisley looked at me and hand signaled me with her hands out and rocking them back and forth “there’s no more, or it’s not there.” It took a few seconds to really hit me but I was like wait what??? What do you mean it’s not there??? My purse??? OMG!!! I literally freaked out! ALL of my money is in there, credit cards, ID card, ANDDDD my passport!!!! OMG!! At this point Carlos saw and heard the commotion so he came over. He was the only one who really knew how to speak English so he was able to translate what they were saying to me. It was a huge mess and I was soo upset!
They ended up pulling me into a back room where Anisley and Carlos followed behind. The owner of the club came out and apologized to me. He also spoke very limited English as well but we were able to get through it. They asked me how much US cash I had in my purse and I told them I had $400US. I waited for some time while they talked to each other in Spanish. (I realized I really need to brush up on my Spanish speaking skills again.) They somehow came to the conclusion to reimburse me $400US. At that point, I was very grateful but I was still thinking about how I would get another passport in time to catch my flight home to the states. They advised me to go to the U.S. Embassy the next morning to get everything done. They told me they would take care of passport fees and etc., so I was really relieved about that. The keys for the airbnb were also in the purse so I didn’t know what to do. Carlos offered for us to stay in his home. In my mind I was thinking, where would we sleep? There’s hardly any space for him and his family as is. Once again, I was just in awe of the generosity that Carlos displayed but I declined his thoughtful offer and said I would figure it out with my airbnb host, so I did. Everything worked out with that and we were able to sleep in our place.
First thing in the morning, Carlos met George and me up and we all went straight to the police station to file a police report for the stolen passport. Carlos didn’t want to go in to talk to the police because he said there’s a possibility that they would assume he was involved. So he ended up waiting for us outside, which I totally understood.
Again, the whole language barrier thing made everything that much more difficult. You would assume that at least one person would be able to speak English but NOPE, none of them did. We waited around for hours. I’m not the type to speak badly about others but I’ve never seen anything so unprofessional. There were police officers walking around hugging and kissing on each other. I mean maybe it’s their culture but I guess I just wasn’t used to seeing that. Also, there was this one lady officer, she might have been in her mid 20’s who was trying to help. But on a couple different occasions she was telling me that she would be right back because she would get some help but after waiting over 30 minutes-1 hour in the cramped room, I would walk outside and she was just sitting around, hanging out and chatting with what seemed to be a friend of hers who came by. It was very frustrating and upsetting but I knew there wasn’t much I could do. By the time 4pm rolled around and mind you, we had been there since 9am, I was completely exhausted, and I felt really bad because George was just waiting around with me while Carlos had been sitting outside waiting as well. We told him that it would be okay if he left earlier but he insisted on staying. The officers FINALLY said that there would be a translator coming in at 5pm so that’s when I insisted that Carlos go home. He knew that things would finally get resolved so that’s when he felt like it was okay for him to leave. I was so grateful for him.
So the translator finally came, along with the bag lady who was responsible for my purse from the night before. She didn’t look like she was in good shape at all. It seemed like she had been crying and worrying all night by the big dark circles around her eyes. There was an attorney there who told me that this lady could lose her job and possibly go to jail because of what happened so I guess that explains the state she was in. I told him that was the last thing that I wanted to have happen to her. Everything that was stolen/lost is replaceable, and I understand we all make mistakes. To be completely honest, whether it was a mistake or something intentional, I was definitely not trying to ruin someone’s life over it. Whoever took my purse obviously needed it more than I did. The only thing I wanted at that point was to be able to go back home safe and sound, as planned.
The authorities told me that the only way she would be off the hook is if I wrote a letter stating that I didn’t want to move further with the case and that I didn’t want to press charges. So of course that’s what I did. The whole process took a lot longer because we all had to go to a second police station to file some other papers, talk to more officials, and then… it was FINALLY done!
Almost 11 hours later, I was able to leave with a police report in hand which they said would speed up the process at the U.S. Embassy to get a temporary passport and get me back into the states. At that point, there was nothing I could do or feel but just to be relieved that I was safe, no one was harmed, and that that whole process was over with. Don’t get me wrong, when it all first happened, I was furious and in a mad rage. But as time passed, I was no longer upset because I understand that these things happen. And I realized that if I stayed angry, what good would it do? It wasn’t going to change the fact that my purse is now gone. There’s no point in dwelling on things you have no control over. I realized that it was a lesson that needed to be learned and I’m actually glad that it happened now before I do more traveling in the coming months. Now I know to never make the mistake of handing over my valuables especially my passport to any strangers ever again.
Life is a process. There will be times of success and happiness and times of struggle. You must try your best to deal with it ALL because there’s a beauty in being able to experience this crazy thing called, LIFE, in its entirety!! Know that obstacles are put in our path as lessons to help us grow and evolve. In hindsight, I’m truly grateful for this mishap.
Do you think I handled the situation well? How would you have dealt with the whole incident? What would you have done differently/the same? Please comment below, I’d love to hear from you!
Join me next week as I learn to cope with the mishap and how this amazingly eye-opening adventure in Cuba ends.
Photo credit: @_geedoubleyou_