Having traveled only three weeks abroad, I can still safely say that my travel bug as well as my appreciation for being a U.S. have been re-energized and renewed. I have never been to a country such as Cuba where there is little to no American influence at all. Even in China you see technology as well as commercialism (in the form of McDonald's restaurants, business, and Western cultural influences), but in Cuba there is nothing of the sort.
Needless to say, then, that I was very happy to be back in Toronto. It is scary as an American traveling (somewhat) illegally to Cuba and having to bring down and carry with me my passport and enough cash to last for two months. The preparation for this trip has to be thorough, or you might just find yourself stuck in Cuba with no more money and no passport, and showing up to the U.S. "Special Interests" building (a.k.a. the U.S. embassy) and having to explain yourself would be downright ugly.
I arrived back to Western world civilization (a.k.a. Toronto) yesterday, very ready to return to my usual way of life. I settled into my "hostel" in town and caught up on emails before heading out on the town to catch a most unique music concert at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Andrew Bird has a very original brand of lyrical music that cannot be clearly categorized. The only thing that comes close to resembling his music is Keller Williams, who I saw at E-town in Boulder over five years ago. But Andrew Bird is first a violinist, and then also just a talented guitarist, lyricist, whistler, and musician. There were some uber-fanatics at the concert, and then there were people like me, who were just there trying to figure it all out.
I walked home from Union Station and very quickly reminded myself why I will never (ever) live in a cold climate again. The weather in Toronto was pretty horrendous – with rain and wind and cold yuckiness. Aside from my Hawaiian-Cuban tan, I think I blended in just fine with my raincoat, layers of long sleeve shirts, scarf and jeans.
The final test awaited me at the airport this morning: passing through U.S. customs at the airport in Toronto. I decided that, if asked, I would tell the truth and simply tell the customs agent that I had been to Trinidad to visit my friend Margarita. (I had, after all, stayed in Trinidad – CUBA – at Margarita's casa particular). My heart pounded a little faster and louder as I approached the counter. I intentionally chose the agent – an Asian male, as I thought maybe he'd have a little more sympathy for me since I am Asian. He asked me how long I had been in Canada and I was honest: "Just a day," I said. "I was visiting a friend." He asked me my profession and I told him I was a teacher in Hawaii on Spring Break and that I would be teaching on Tuesday.
He didn't seem to think twice. He stamped my admission on my ticket and let me through!
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