A cool blue wave rolls in and the salty water rushes over my toes. The aquamarine sea laps the white, palm-fringed beach as barefoot children giggle and play beneath the swaying palms. In the distance, I hear music playing. Beautiful, rhythmic sounds of samba, son, mambo, bolero and salsa emanate from every open window and over every rusted wrought iron balcony in Havana.
Behind a row of palm trees, the once brilliant red of this grandiose Spanish colonial building gives way to time showing signs of weathered fading and peeling. I run my hand over the rough surface as chips of paint fall to the ground. I step inside and my footsteps echo throughout the empty hallway. Each deserted room recalls the hard working people who spent their days there.
Outside, the roar of a huge finned 1950s American car approaches. As it passes, the driver turns and waves to me. A sweep of dust flies off the cracked pavement and swirls in the hot air. I watch as it dances before me and then falls back to the ground from where it came. A small boy sits on the curb. His shirt is tattered and he has no shoes on his feet. He looks up at me with a big warm smile.
In the laid back coastal town of Baracoa, the dense palm trees along the coast have made me forget about the outside world. I sip on fresh fruit juices and enjoy the relaxed Cuban specialties of Moros y Cristianos, (Moors and Christian; black beans and rice) and yummy fried plantains. My friend with his weathered cheeks tells me of his adventures as a Caribbean fisherman all the while sucking on a titanic cigar. As he exhales, the smoke rises above us and disappears into the clear blue sky.
Of course this is just what I imagine my experience may be like if I were to visit Cuba with the help of Justin Hall and the Links.net Mileage Giveaway.
It's only a matter of time before American-imposed travel and trade barriers fall and Cuba, one of the world's last bastions of communism, is over-run by millions of tour bus riding American tourists in sun hats and khaki shorts. Before that happens, I want to go capture the beauty of this 'untouched' country and share what I see with the rest of the world. Clearly, the time to go is now.
I recently spent 4 months in West Africa - Senegal, Morocco and The Gambia. I carried my digital camera with me everywhere documenting each experience by using my camera as my eyes. I was able to share this amazing place with thousands of people through my photo journal website - http://www.rivka.org/afrique. These photographs not only serve as a journal of my personal trip but they impart knowledge of a place and people that not many Westerners have the opportunity to see first hand. I wish to do the same with the photos I will take in Cuba.