Eugenie recently volunteered for the first time with Global Volunteers. She went to Cuba, and the thing she loved most about it was the Cubans.
As with every day I have spent volunteering here, my day began with a walk. Sue, another member of the team, and I walked to the community center where we met Yanel, one of the local guides. Yanel had brought compost from the Community Garden which we incorporated into the hard, dry soil on the west side of the building in anticipation of planting tomorrow. Sue is extremely detail-oriented and as such, is an excellent weeder as she cleaned the tomato beds. Then we raked the yard. Again, her fastidiousness left the grounds immaculate – at least by Cuban standards. As we walked about the city later, Yanel remarked three times how clean we had made the yard. Meanwhile, the rest of the team worked either at the sewing workshop or teaching conversational English.
Several years ago, I asked someone what they liked best about a recent trip. The person responded, “the food”. I thought it was the strangest answer because for me it’s always the people. They are a people of remarkable resiliency. No matter their circumstances, they persevere, flourish, and enjoy life – a lesson I will take with me. The list of complimentary adjectives is long – The Cubans are friendly, open, sociable, creative, and have a great sense of humor.
“Of all my trips, I have never enjoyed the people from the community more than I have in Cuba.”
The words I intend to always remember were spoken by our Havana guide, Guillermo. He said, “Cubans are highly tolerant.” And I love those two words – “highly tolerant”. I was envious because I don’t think of most Americans, certainly not me, that way. I think the tolerance applies to all aspects of their lives. They are highly tolerant of each other, long lines, economic woes, the government, and so on.
When people ask what did you enjoy most about your trip to Cuba, it will be a quick answer – “the people”.