Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Season of the Snob - Part 1

Remember back to the beginning of this story? My dalliance with Interpals? It's a creepy name but a decent website for (virtually) meeting people from all over the world for chatting and language exchange. It's not a dating site, though many try their damnedest to make it one. In any case, I was really into it for awhile. I like learning about new places and having 'a friend' in every country in the world. However, after awhile I just couldn't keep with emailing that many people every day. Not to mention, after the initial excitement of meeting a new person from a new place wears off, you usually realize you actually don't have anything in common and you both lose interest. That's how it went with most of my interpals - except Pedro and Olivia.

Bayamo, capital city of Granma province aka 'The Sharktooth of Cuba'*
Best friends from Bayamo, Pedro and Olivia had moved together to Havana a couple years before to work for a TV station there. The three of us instantly clicked. We would spend hours every day on gmail chat talking about music, books, politics, language, culture and relationships. Pedro was a metalhead and Olivia loved poetry and jazz. Both of them were fiercely loyal to Cuba yet readily admitted there were problems in the country, problems that they insisted should be dealt with from within.

Though we talked about everything, I held back when it came to Juan. They were edgy, urban intellectuals, he was a jock from the beach. I am ashamed to admit it now but I was afraid they would judge me, I was afraid they would judge him. I told them I was coming back to Cuba and that I would see them in Havana. I told them first I'd be going back to the resort from my previous trip but I was vague about why.

When we arrived in Havana my dilemma grew. I wanted to meet them, to move our online talks into reality but I was scared to have my two worlds collide. I was scared that these people who knew the intellectual snob version of me would never approve of my mingling with a mere entertainer from a resort. I was scared that they would take one look at us and laugh at the absurdity of the situation. But as my time in the city started to draw to a close, I knew I had to face my I gave them a call and invited them over.

With all the coming and going of neighbours and friends in and out of the apartment, I figured a couple of my friends in the mix wouldn't make a difference. But Juan and his cousins were not impressed. And they were worried. They tried to explain to me that Cubans don't just get on the internet and make friends with foreigners without an agenda. That people in Havana are on the make and a naive tourist like me is exactly who they are looking for. I explained that they were actually from Bayamo...this made a small dent in their argument, they felt that southern Bayameros could be trusted slightly more than northern Habaneros...but still, they wanted to formally assess these internet chatters for themselves before letting them near me.

When Pedro and Olivia arrived they waited outside the apartment while Odalkys went downstairs to interrogate meet them. I was left to wait in the kitchen, Juan sitting across from me frowning. A nagging thought kept trying to push itself to the front of my mind, 'Are they being protective because they care or possessive because they don't want to share their tourist?' I had spent so much time with Juan's friends and Juan's family, I thought he would be happy to even the scales by meeting some people from my life. His crossed arms and deep scowl told me he was not happy at all. 

Pedro and Olivia passed the test and were allowed, but not exactly welcomed, into the apartment. They joined me at the kitchen table and Juan, after a brief and cold hello, went to sit with his cousins in front of the TV in the living room. The three of us sat around the table, trying to make conversation while attempting to ignore the hostile atmosphere emanating from the living room. Finally I couldn't stand it any longer...

'This is really weird. I'm sorry that they're being so unfriendly. Do you want to get out of here?'

They both exhaled huge sighs of relief and whispered yes in exaggerated tones. We gathered our stuff and headed for the door, me stopping to tell Juan that we were going out for a drink. Without unsnarling his face or saying a word, he let us know that he would be joining us. A few minutes later, three relieved friends and one grumpy wet blanket headed out into the balmy Havana night looking for a drink...

The not so bright lights of Havana at night

*Granma province is not actually known as 'The Sharktooth of Cuba', I just thought it sounded cool


  1. Thank you for taking a break from your Olympics hiatus. It's nice to keep hearing your wonderful story :)

    1. Awww thanks. I was sad to see my pageviews going down. I figured I better keep writing if I wanted to keep people hanging around!!

  2. The exact situation happened to me with my Cuban bf and his friends and family. Now I know why- they are all on the make and they don't want the competition.