Me a proud, mulatto woman – the tour leader of Study and Travel in Cuba for more than a decade.
In my country, future is filled with uncertainty and fate plays a transcendental role. Each tour I’ve done with Las och Res, the clients ask me: how did I find Las och Res? Or they found you? Usually they smile at me, expecting something very special. My answer is: destiny!
In Cuba, the exodus of people is massive, and when you have been on the island for more than 30 years, you get used to seeing many of the people you love the most, leave. Thus, you lose established routines; intellectual dialogues, joys and sorrows with others. My country is like a slow torrent that leaves an entire society as an empty spirit.
In the first decade of the new century most of the people who surrounded me ten years earlier, were no longer there. They left Cuba without possible return in some cases, and left in me a strange feeling that is like death without being dead. In this exodus I include a considerable part of my family and many friends – friends who looked after each other and helped us survive the uncertainties in our tropical socialism. They are still loved and longed for so much.
In 2004 Pablo, the favorite of my six half-brothers, sons of my father, left for Stockholm to start a new life – NEW! Together with a beautiful Swedish woman, in all the senses of beauty, that fate put in his life years berfore. The communication between my brother and me was almost zero after he left Cuba. We talked on the phone when our father died in 2007 and we wrote a couple of emails later, but nothing more. I think it’s still too painful for both of us to try a virtual relationship, like other Cuban families that stay together thanks to the internet.
In May 2008 I received an urgent call from Sweden. I thought of a big misfortune, but after listening to Pablo for a while, I understood that nothing serious had happened. I enjoyed listening to his voice and said YES to everything just to please him, to make him feel good. Because in Cuba, a favor to the family is something that is barely discussed, why would he stay a little longer on the line explaining? At that time I did not understand the magnitude of what we talked about. He, however, told me with enthusiasm about Las och Res and the work that changed my life completely.
Mr Tigran Feiler, who was responsible for Latin America at the agency, arrived in Havana two weeks later. Tigran had offered the job of tourleader to my brother in Stockholm, but Pablo could not to go back to Cuba and instead convinced him that I was the ideal person. Tigran crossed the Atlantic just to meet me and to make a trip together to the east of Cuba. That turned out to be the greatest adventure of my life until today.
From Tigran I really understood what was Las och Res, what they needed, what had to be done and in just a couple of days we embarked on a bike tour, climbed the Turquino Peak – the highest mountain in Cuba, visited Santiago de Cuba and then Baracoa, all in just 10 days .
This I did without knowing what I had to face; I did not have the right clothes or shoes, I did not have the physical preparation required to do tourism, much less to climb in the Sierra Maestra, I had almost no money and I had left my two year old daughter at home for the first time so long. I wanted to cry at times, but for the most part I loved the trip. Moreover I discovered facts about Cuba that was not known to me, or only the political propaganda. Fascinating! And, I got the job.
From that moment and on came a hard period of adaptation to my new life. I had to change many routines and sacrifice a little of my family that I had still left on the Island. But I found many, many new friends in each new place I visited. I have managed to make new families, a big one, a multicultural one, in which all fit in.
Läs och Res has also been another journey for me – a philosophical and sociological journey. My new job as a tourleader gave me a chance to be human and help a little in the midst of disaster; a way for me to make some people happy and to educate others, regardless of established boundaries. Moreover it meant an extraordinary way to discover my own identity.
I do not dwell on the details; rather they suddenly appear one day. I live with the feeling that time is never enough in a society where time has stopped. Maybe that’s why I discovered that the agency and I were born the same year. No doubts – this was destiny!
Christian is an extraordinary man to me and in some way I think I love him. He created a modest way of traveling – with respect. He’s for me, someone who has facilitated cultural exchange in many isolated areas, who has directly given confidence to a considerable number of people in the entire third world. He was someone who taught us a way to grow a business without forgetting the fundamental – the human.