The Quixotic Appeal of Hamilton

26 Dec

I may never be in the room where it happens…and that’s ok.

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Like hundreds, thousands, maybe millions of other Americans, I am dying to see the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton.” I’ve dutifully watched the PBS documentary on it’s creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Eagerly listened to the singles from the mixtape as they dropped. Applauded the cast for their appeal to Mike Pence during a curtain call at a NYC show.

I’ve got Hamilton fever. And it feels pretty good.

It’s something to commiserate with certain friends over—a game to talk about what we’d have to be able to give up just to score a scalped $500 ticket to a weekday matinee.

“If I just ate nothing but beans for a whole month, didn’t run the heat or AC, used just one solar-powered flashlight and donated plasma 6 times, I think I could totally swing it. I’d be so regular too!”

It’s a way to connect with higher rolling friends.

“I heard American Express Platinum Card Members can get face value tickets to two shows in 2017, but you can only buy those tickets if you’ve spent like $50,000 in a month with American Express. So can you hook me up?”

It’s opening up the potential to travel to places besides New York, Chicago, or San Franciso, and experience shows besides Hamilton.

“Season ticket holders to the performing arts center in Charlotte are GUARANTEED dibs on tickets to Hamilton. So if I just buy tickets to three shows I don’t really want to see in a city I don’t really want to visit, I can get Hamilton tickets!”

It’s encouragement to be charitable.

“If I donate $5,000 to Planned Parenthood, I could potentially win tickets to THREE Hamilton shows. And I get a signed CD!”

It’s helping me break my addiction to Facebook—instead of trolling my newsfeed and seeing what a bunch of people I don’t care about are doing, I troll Ticketmaster.

“Surely a Wednesday 2 pm show in the middle of August would have a ticket available for under $400….Nope. Hmmm…. Let me just try a few more searches. Just a few more hours.”

It’s making me consider using hoarded Skymiles to take multiple trips to New York City. And actually learn how to make statistical calculations.

“If I go for three days once every three months and enter the Hamilton lottery for every show while I’m there, then what are my odds of finally hitting the jackpot and getting those $10 front row seats?”

Since I’ve never seen Hamilton I can’t say this for sure, but the quest to try to see Hamilton seems like almost as much fun as actually seeing it. It feels like trying to get the Golden Ticket, but for an elaborate re-imagining of our nation’s history with rap battles and choreography instead of a chocolate factory.

Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Hamilton, but I’m getting to the point where I’m so wrapped up in the quest, the desire to see Hamilton, that I wonder if there’s any way it could actually live up to the hype.

I’m sure I’ll see it eventually….I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m willing to wait for it and I’m sure that I’ll leave satisfied.

A Different Kind of Doctor

26 Aug

I’ve never been to a doctor’s appointment where there was no waiting room (or wait for that matter), no scale, no needles, and the doctor was wearing Nike shorts, a t-shirt, and running shoes, until I had my first chiropractic appointment with Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance.

For me, chiropractic had always existed somewhere in the realm of alternative therapies—some kind of cousin of acupuncture, massage, and (in my mind) Pilates. I thought it was some age old practice… “chiro” sounds like a Greek word and I’m sure the Greeks had to get some adjustments before the Olypmics and whatnot.

But, Dr. Callahan informed me that Chiropractic actually originated in Davenport, Iowa, toward the end of the 19th century.

I was close.

Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance

Dr. Spencer Callahan of Bayview Optimal Performance

I made an appointment with Dr. Callahan because the right side of my lower back had been in so much pain. My dad, an avid (translation: insane) triathlete sees Dr. Callahan regularly and swears that his regular adjustments are the reason his times have improved and he is virtually pain-free. I was in Fairhope for the weekend and got a Friday morning appointment.

When I arrived to the one-room office on the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Bayview, I was expecting…Well. I’m not really sure what I was expecting. I think I was hoping for a massage table, incense, soothing music, and all the accouterments of a masseuse (because aren’t chiropractors just really good massage therapists?), but the space was just a room with industrial carpet and lighting, a standing desk, built-in bookshelves, a few chairs against the wall, some of Dr. Callahan’s gorgeous prints of Fairhope hanging up, and the chiropractic table in the middle of the room. I sat cross-legged on the table.

“So, what’s going on with your back?” Dr. Callahan asked me.

“Ummm. It really hurts. Right here.” I pointed to the lower right side of my back.

“Ok.” He pulled out a yellow legal pad and proceeded to ask me a series of questions that (I thought) had nothing to do with my back.

“How much water do you drink every day?”

“I’m not sure. A lot?”

“How’s your diet”

“Terrible. I love Oreos.”

“Have you ever dropped something heavy on your foot.”

“Probably?”

“Have you been in a motor vehicle accident?”

“Yeah. Once…like six years ago. I was fine.”

“Tell me about that.”

Ok…I told him the details of a car accident I was in—I was driving to Atlanta or Athens to perform in a dance group and our car got ran off the interstate and the car was totaled. I wasn’t injured, just tired and shaken.

“Were you sore afterward?”

“Oh yes. And tired.”

“Mmm hmm. So, I know it seems like it has nothing to do with your back right now, but what do you know about fascia?”

“Connective tissues?”

“Exactly. It’s like a spider web that connects all of your muscles. And like a spider web, if you disturb one thread, it shakes the entire web. If you cut a few threads, it can completely damage the whole web.”

I considered this. So apparently, a car accident five or six years ago might or might not have messed up my fascia so that today my back was hurting. It made sense. Sort of.

“I can treat your symptoms, but that won’t really do much. We are going to get to the root of whatever is causing dysfunction in your body.”

Dr. Callahan punctuated this statement by asking me to sit in a chair across from him.

“Ok, the first thing we are going to check is your breathing. A lot of problems are caused by people just not breathing well.”

I rolled my eyes in my head a little bit. I’m a dancer, an athlete, a (sometimes) yogi…surely I know how to breathe properly, right?

Turns out, my breathing was part of the problem.

Dr. Callahan continued with his diagnostics. I had to walk around the office, balance on one foot, try to hold my ground as he pushed my right shoulder forward and pulled my left hip back, and a series of other tests that made me feel like I was doing the Presidential Fitness Exam in elementary school again. It was like having to do the flexed arm hang…as an eight-year old, you think you’re pretty invincible until your P.E. teacher makes you hang from a pull-up bar and you can only do it for 2 and a half seconds.

Some Bayview Optimal Swag!

Some Bayview Optimal Swag!

I laid facedown on the table and Dr. Callahan pressed different spots on my back.

“OW,” I couldn’t help but yell several times.

“I’m really not pressing that hard,” he told me.

You had me fooled Spencer.

To distract myself, I asked him some questions. He grew up in Fairhope, graduated from Fairhope High School and went to Iona College in New York for a poli-sci bachelor’s. Instead of heading toward Capitol Hill, he played soccer on a traveling team and after a torn ACL, found chiropractic to be the only thing that truly helped him recover. He attended four years of chiropractic school at Life University in Atlanta, and moved back to Fairhope to start his practice.

Finally, he ascertained that some of my problem was breathing, some of it was tightness in my psoas muscle (the deep muscle that basically runs from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvis—a powerful and singular muscle, the only one that connects the leg to the spine), and something in my feet.

“Do you wear high heels a lot?” he asked, while moving my foot around.

“Yes. For dancing.”

“So you do physical activity in the worst shoes possible?” He asked.

“Something like that.”

“Congratulations. You just had your first adjustment.”

I didn’t feel anything.

“Are you ticklish?”

“Maybe?”

The next adjustment involved me laying on my side in the fetal position and Dr. Callahan pressing his fingers into my ribcage.

“I’m adjusting your diaphragm. Breathe.”

It’s hard to breathe when someone is playing Beethoven’s Fifth on your ribcage, but I did my best.

I laid facedown on the table and Dr. Callahan raised part of the table directly under my hips. “I’m going to let it drop and adjust your sacrum back into place. It’s crooked.”

Who knew?

He later informed me that he did an adjustment on my neck. I didn’t even realize that it happened—he gently turned my head to one side and the other and that was that.

We went through a few more adjustments and it was time to run through the diagnostics again.

I breathed better! I could balance better on one leg! When Dr. Callahan tried to push my right shoulder forward and pull the left hip back, instead of almost falling over, I held my ground! My back felt a lot better and I swear I grew an inch. Now I felt like we had moved from the flexed-arm hang in that Presidential Fitness test to the Sit-and-Reach, which I always DOMINATED because I could touch my toes in elementary school. Not that a chiropractic exam is a test or a competition, but I was excited by my progress.

He also gave me a little nugget of wisdom I’d never heard—apparently the chronic muscle knots in my back are a result of processed food (I can’t help it! Oreos are so good!). He said the chemicals irritate the liver and gall bladder because they are hard to process, and since those organs share similar neurological pathways with joints and muscles, the irritation in the organs can cause muscular tension. Another case for kale!

“Come in Monday morning before you leave if you can, I’ll make sure everything is good and do a few more adjustments before you head out.”

Sitting in my car outside, I sent a text to a friend.

“Getting chiropractic adjustments is my new favorite thing.”

Anytime I’m in Fairhope, I will definitely be stopping by Bayview Optimal Performance to get adjusted. I’m jealous of the people who live in Fairhope (like my dad) who can take advantage of the benefits of regular adjustments from Dr. Callahan and guess I can add chiropractor to my rolodex of alternative practitioners (next to my acupuncturist, my hypnotherapist, my holistic health coach, and my massage therapist). We only get one body, so might as well take good care of it, right?

Dr. Callahan is also an amazing photographer...I have one of his prints in my living room!

Dr. Callahan is also an amazing photographer…I have one of his prints in my living room!

Becoming a Warrior with Andrew Burnell

23 Jun

Professional acrobat teaches salsera tumbling and parkour. Results TBD.

 

Andrew Burnell and his dynasty co-creator, Amanda Drawdy.

Andrew Burnell and his dynasty co-creator, Amanda Drawdy.

I always wanted to take gymnastics. My sister took gymnastics lessons when we were younger and the only Olympic events I ever watched on T.V. were gymnastics. My mom told me I would break my leg tumbling and never be able to dance again, so I never got to try handsprings and all that cool stuff.

In April, my partner La Quinn and I were asked to perform with Daft Concept at an event. Daft Concept, directed by Amanda Drawdy (a former international ballerina with more than twenty years of performing experience), is a hot and high-powered dance performance company. La Quinn and I were excited about the opportunity. I met Amanda’s boyfriend—and other half of my favorite power couple—Andrew Burnell, someone I had known of for a while, but had yet to meet in person.

“I’m so sad I missed your tumbling workshop at Dancefx a month or two ago,” I told Andrew after he introduced himself. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to tumble.”

“I can teach you,” Andrew said. Which is how I ended up spending an afternoon with him and three of his advanced tumblers at Only Imagine in Goose Creek.

These eleven-year-old girls kicked my ass. Without thinking twice, they would run into a series of aerials, handsprings, and God knows what else.

I stuck with cartwheels.

After my introductory session, I was hooked. I signed up to train one-on-one with Andrew twice a week, and little did I know that tumbling training would equal all kinds of adventures like…well, let me just illustrate a few of my favorites.

When you and I go to a playground, we see a playground. Metal bars. Swings. Slides. Fun stuff.

When Andrew Burnell goes to a playground, it suddenly becomes the set of American Ninja Warrior.

Instead of sitting in a swing to enjoy a swing set, YOU become the swing and have to swing from bar to bar.

A picnic table stops being a shady spot to enjoy a glass of lemonade after some hardcore playing. It becomes a surface on which to do handstands and off of which to cartwheel.

The railing surrounding the playground is not meant to keep children from wandering into the street. It is a surface over which to vault yourself. Multiple times. I am not so successful at that part and have bruises all over my legs and arms to prove just how many times I haven’t exactly made it over the railing.

Andrew, who I believe to be a reincarnation of Mr. T or Samuel L. Jackson, peppers training sessions with fun axioms like “The danger is real, but fear is a choice,” and “Treat a child like a child, and he will remain such. Treat a child like a warrior, and one day, he will become a warrior.”

I can’t get away with much when I train with Andrew. I get this a lot:

“Georgia. That was terrible. Ten push-ups and do it again.”

It sounds crazy that I pay this man to yell at me and force me to do terrifying and painful things, like jumping off of high surfaces and doing backbends with 25 pound weights on my shins, but it feels good.

Like I’m really accomplishing something. We’ve been training together for more than two months now, and I can see a huge difference. I’m stronger. I’m more fearless. I feel tougher. Even though we’re only at the very beginning basics of tumbling (cartwheels, forward and back rolls, handstands, walkovers), I can tell I’m building a strong foundation and one day will be able to, like Andrew, effortlessly flip off of a picnic table.

Until that day though, I’ll stick with forward rolls on the ground.

Me, post an Andrew Burnell workout.

Me, post an Andrew Burnell workout.

Andrew Burnell started tumbling when he was 6 years old and since then, has trained with gymnasts, cheerleaders, acrobats and street performers. He is a former high-level tumbler who has been performing professionally as an acrobat for three years. He is the director of acrobatics at Only Imagine dance studio, lead acrobat and stunt coordinator of the supercrew Daft Concept, and the tumbling instructor for Summerville Dance Academy. Burnell is also a personal trainer and owns a company called Rebound that provides health related services from nutrition to personal training. He is also trained in Parkour and free running and is in the process of writing three novels.

He is always available for privates and personal training sessions, and can be found on Instagram @SoFarSoFly or on Facebook.

Entrepreneurship and the Elusive “Enough”

29 May

I’ve realized that I have a pattern of striving for the elusive “enough.”

What does “enough” mean? I love words, so I turned to my handy friend Dictionary.com, and learned a definition of enough:

“In a quantity or degree that answers a purpose or satisfies a need or desire; sufficiently.”

This gave me pause and made me really look at what I’m doing. I’m constantly berating myself for not “doing enough,” “being good enough,” “making enough money,” caught in a maelstrom of “You are not enough.” It’s the double-edged sword of being a motivated person—you are always working toward the next goal and you tend to get quite a bit done, but it never, ever feels like “enough.”

As an entrepreneur, or anyone who is self-employed or embarking on some self-directed activity, it’s really hard to know what is “enough.” It’s not like you have a boss evaluating your performance every quarter or really anybody giving you feedback about what you’re doing. The beautiful, and terrifying, part of it is that you have to decide what your purpose, need, or desire is, and then go about figuring out how to satisfy it sufficiently.

Which, in case you’re wondering, is really hard. Because there’s this insidious part of your psyche that’s always looking around and seeing what other people are doing or have done and comparing your efforts to others. “Oh. Her website looks ten million times better than mine.” “Oh, his product is selling like hotcakes.”

I know that I get caught up in this game of constant comparison to people who are not doing the same thing that I’m doing. In fact, NOBODY is doing the same thing that I’m doing. I can be inspired and learn from others, but at the end of the day, I have to look at my real purpose.

Why did I even start my own business? What am I trying to achieve? I started my business because I feel so strongly about dance and about getting other people to dance, that I truly do not understand what else I would be doing. I love my work. I love my job. The moment I knew I was doing the right thing was when all my days of the week held equal value—Mondays are as good as Fridays to me.

I have to evaluate my purpose—to get other people dancing and as fired up about dance as I am. I get caught up in the numbers game—“Oh, only a handful of people came to that class,” or “Only a few people liked that Facebook post.” I have to remember that I love every person I get to interact with—it’s FUN. Every person I work with is truly special to me. There’s no greater feeling than having people smiling and moving to the music because I helped them get there. I was looking at pictures from my first big event, “Spirits and Salsa,” and was totally blown away by how HAPPY all the guests looked in the pictures. If that’s not enough, I really don’t know what is.

When you’re feeling like you’re not “enough,” can you go back to your purpose? If you’re clear about you’re purpose, I have a feeling you’ll find that what you’re doing is more than enough.

Beat of your own drum is boring

17 May

I always hated when people told me I marched to the beat of my own drum. Because that’s a cliche. And if I were *really* moving to a sound that has yet to be heard by someone else on a percussive instrument of my own design, then I wouldn’t be able to be defined by a cliche.

But recently, I had an epiphany. The reason people needed to describe me with such a trite expression was simply because nothing else existed to describe me.

And that doesn’t apply to just me.

It applies to anyone who strikes out on their own. Anyone who has something to say or express in a way that isn’t “in line” with what society deems acceptable.

Which is, in my experience, almost everyone.

But for some odd reason, we (myself included) don’t have the balls to truly go and make our own noise. We’re content to be told that we are marching to the beat of our own drums when that’s not the case, we are waltzing to the fucking concerto of our own philharmonic symphony. Or  [insert movement] to the [insert sound] of your own [insert musical instrument/grouping/style].

You get my drift.

So what this has led me to realize is that to really do the things you want to do, to be yourself, you have to be completely synchronized with your idiosyncratic rhythms.

I’ve been reflecting a lot on finding my own rhythms. Everyone functions optimally at a different rhythm. Some people do best when they wake up at 6 am, others when they go to bed at 6 am. Some do better eating three meals a day, others need eight. It’s really easy to get pigeonholed into other people’s rhythms. Some people operate FABULOUSLY on the 9 am to 5 pm schedule. Others (like me) do not.

I’m learning to respect my rhythms and use them to my advantage, so that I can harness the power of my most productive hours and not try to force myself to work when what I really need is a nap (yeah, don’t expect me to do anything worthwhile at 4 pm).

Being YOU, getting YOUR stuff done the way that only YOU can do it means high-stepping to the sound of your own polka band.

If you will.

It’s doing you to the nth degree. It’s staying in your pajamas until 10 am on a Tuesday because that’s what you need to do to get that newsletter written. It’s sipping a glass of wine on the patio while balancing your books, because otherwise, they will never get done. It’s taking a nap at 3 pm so you can teach and rehearse until midnight.

So yes, others may look at your daily schedule and feel some confusion. The only way they may be able to describe how you operate is “Hm. She sure marches to the beat of her own drum.” You can smile and nod politely, waiting for them to come up with a more creative (and accurate) way to describe your existence. But don’t wait too long…it’ll surely throw off your timing.

Sit Down. I Am Not For Your Consumption.

27 Apr

“Excuse me, is it Mardi Gras?” A man I’d guess to be at least in his mid-40s approached me and asked me.

“Ummm. No. I’m just dressed like this for a corporate scavenger hunt,” I replied, turning back to the bar. I was wearing a white, fringed flapper dress, a sequined-feather headband, leopard-print high heels, and rocking some seriously smoky eyes.

It was about 4 in the afternoon on a Saturday and I was tasked with sitting at a bar and when the teams on the scavenger hunt came in and gave me the speakeasy code word, I handed them an envelope with a voucher for sweet tea vodka shots from the bartender. As far as gigs go, it was pretty easy. Sit in a bar, look cute. Pass out envelopes. I was enjoying myself, until that gentleman who asked me if it was Mardi Gras decided to sit down next to me and proceeded to attempt to woo me with a series of increasingly bizarre comments.

“We just came from Kiawah and the Ferrari Club. Do you like sports cars? Do you like fast cars?”

“No. I don’t care. I have a Prius.” I deadpanned, “I really don’t care how I get from point A to point B as long as I get there.”

“So, what do you do?” he leaned on his elbows and gave me what I guess he imagined to be a winning smile.

“I’m a professional dancer.”

“Oooh. A dancer?” He raised his eyebrows and looked me up and down. “I can tell.”

“Get this,” he says, opening Facebook on his phone. “My wife is in Jamaica. She just took the maid and went to Jamaica without telling me. I found out because she posted it on Facebook.” He showed me a picture of a blonde woman who I guessed to be about 30. “Can you believe that?”

I looked at him. “I’m not really sure how I’m supposed to answer that. That sucks man.”

He would punctuate his stories by touching my shoulder, knee, waist, and at one point, my derriere. I was zero-percent amused. But I was also in a bind. I was working. I was waiting for the rest of the teams to come through. I had been specifically instructed to sit at that area in the bar and didn’t really have any other options, any other places to go. I had gotten a ride and was waiting for the gig to end and for my friend to pick me up…I had never felt so stuck.

Luckily, there were two girls sitting on the other side of me who I knew were looking out for me. They talked to me, let me angle myself toward them so I could direct my attention to them and ignore the man.

After what felt like an eternity (but I think was only an hour total), the man and his friend got up and left. The girls sitting next to me raised their eyebrows.

“We didn’t hear all of that, but that was bizarre.”

Tell me about it.

If I had just been wearing jeans and a t-shirt, if I didn’t have a lot of makeup on, that man would have not paid me that kind of attention. He wouldn’t have felt the license to be all up in my business, to be touching me, trying to flirt with me, trying to get me to go out on his boat or in his sports car. But since I was dressed up and alone, he decided that I was sending out some signal that said “Hey man who is probably my dad’s age…Come and get it.” Which I was definitely NOT.

“So, what are you doing later tonight?” He asked me before he left.

“I’m going to a party.”

“Do you have a date?”

“Yes of course.”

“You gonna call me if he cancels?”

I looked him straight in the eyes. “Do I look like someone who a date would cancel on?”

So this whole event made me really think. I saw a picture on Facebook recently where a woman was standing nude with a sign that said, “Still not asking for it.”

We as women are NEVER, EVER “asking for it.” I did my best to deflect his creepiness, but to me it was such a great illustration of how some men just think that because a woman is dressed a certain way, they have free reign to act like idiots. Usually when I go out, I’m with other people and more likely than not, out dancing. I keep the creeps at bay because I’m surrounded by guys that I know. I also think being a good dancer creates a good “fuck off” bubble. I realized that we women unconsciously run through a mental checklist evaluating every scenario to keep ourselves safe—am I dressed appropriately? Do I have a friend nearby? How am I getting home? Does my phone have enough battery? Does at least one person know where I am?

At the end of the day, I could really only feel sorry for that man. Sorry that he was in so much pain about his wife boosting that he had to try to make himself feel better by bothering me. I don’t usually say this about people, but he was a little pathetic. I wasn’t concerned—it was the middle of the day and I knew the bartender and those girls were looking out for me. If I had been in different circumstances, I would have simply got up and left or whipped out the Krav Maga. As a petite, white, female, I understand that there are certain situations I should not put myself in. Yeah, it kind of sucks that we can’t walk around anywhere at anytime dressed any way, but that is the reality of the world we live in. I just didn’t think that being dressed like a flapper at 4 pm on a Saturday afternoon would be one of those situations I should avoid.

Live and learn?

Ladies, what do you think? Have you experienced something like this before? Unfortunately, I have a feeling that every single one of you will say “YES.” Guys—how can we eradicate this behavior?

Sixth time is the charm

18 Apr

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I recently returned from my sixth trip to Cuba, spending 10 days working as a tour leader for a U.S. company. One of my passengers asked me a good question—what has changed in the past three years since I’ve been traveling to Cuba?

The question made me stop and think because Cuba has changed (a little bit), but then again, I have too.

Now, my relationship with Cuba is complicated. I think I feel the way a lot of Cubans do…there is an inexplicable draw that keeps you coming back, that stays in your soul and makes Havana home, yet at the same time there is something immensely frustrating and heartbreaking about the island.

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Maybe it’s something in the salt air wafting off the Malecon, the sharp sweetness of a cafecito that jolts you into action, the smell hitting you before the taste. Maybe it’s the wiry toughness of the people, the way their mouths chew the words a little bit before spitting them out.

Maybe it’s because the sun seems a little brighter and under the crumbling grit you can see the beauty of the country that still brings so much pride to it’s people.

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Perhaps the energy of the musicians—pounding the congas like it’s their last chance—or how no one ever seems to be in a particular rush regarding anything.

Some of these things are what brings me back, what keeps me drinking from my Havana Club and Cubita cups, made me frame and hang up Cuban artwork in my home, made half my music library Cuban, made me learn how to relax more.

But at the same time, there is a certain tension and feeling of entrapment when I’m there. Frustration at the crippling inefficiency…the difficulty in finding basic items, the amount of time it takes to get from Vedado to Old Havana, even though it’s only mere miles away.

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Everyone says Cuba is stuck in time and that’s one of the frustrations.

Novel though it may be to bump along in a 1950s Chevy that has no shocks and spews smoke, that’s no way to live daily.

We may enjoy unplugging and disconnecting from our busy lives, but it’s no fun to be unable to contact your family in another country because of prohibitively expensive phone and internet access.

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Sure, it’s great that Cubans produce most of their food organically, but when you have to search weeks to get a carton of eggs, do you really care that they are technically free range?

I was talking to one of my dear friends, Ariel, about how frustrating it is for me to see the propaganda touting the triumphs of the revolution, the promise that socialism is here to stay when life is so difficult for most Cubans. He pointed out that it’s like a religious ideology—deep-rooted and slow to change.

So back to the original question: Has Cuba changed in the last three years?

Sure. The way anywhere changes in three years. Now there are more private businesses—restaurants, salons, clubs, etc.,– popping up in every neighborhood and more and more Cubans are toting iPhones. Buildings are being renovated and restored, almost garishly clean next to their sometimes dilapidated neighbors.

There are more tourists, particularly American tourists, and the streets of Havana are congested with tour buses and groups, an influx that the island doesn’t have the infrastructure to support.

You see more foreign cars on the streets—mostly Peugots and Kias—and more “For Sale” signs on houses, thanks to regulation changes allowing for both the import of vehicles and the buying and selling of property.

IMG_1116No, the changes aren’t drastic. Certainly another revolution hasn’t overturned everything and I think the changes will continue in degrees as relationships between Cuba and the U.S. are (hopefully) normalized.

The refrain I keep hearing is “I want to visit Cuba before it changes.”

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Guess what? It’s not going to change overnight. The embargo isn’t over. Cuba hasn’t “opened up” all of the sudden. The fear that there will be McDonald’s and Starbucks in Cuba anytime soon is bullshit. It’s actually a little offensive to say “I want to visit Cuba before it changes.” It would be like after ObamaCare passed, people from Germany saying “I want to visit the U.S. before it changes.”

It’s going to take a lot more than Obama and Castro having discussions, for an American Embassy to open in Cuba, for Cuba to change so much that it’s unrecognizable from it’s current state.

I believe that the parts of Cuba that make it special aren’t going anywhere. The attitude of the people, the architecture, the music, the art, the culture—all the things that I love are the essence of Cuba and will stay. The impending changes will make life better for everyone on the island—people will not have to spend so much time waiting for the bus or searching for daily necessities and will be able to spend more time well, being Cuban.

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All I can ever really do is share what I’ve learned, what I’ve seen and experienced… you’ll have to go to Cuba yourself to draw your own conclusions. Just remember that anytime an American visits Cuba, he or she goes as an ambassador. Travel with respect, an open mind, and lots of patience.

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