Friday, November 27, 2009

Cuba #3, Los Cubanos

It has been impossible to post since we left for the provinces on Tuesday, and we have been so busy and so consumed with the interchange of ideas and philosophies that there has been little time to write and reflect. I expect to be slowly processing this trip for some time and will write about my experiences as the opportunity arises, even after I get back to the States on Saturday night.

I do not want to leave. I often feel this way about returning home but this time it is especially strong. I have been presented with so much to think about and to take in and it seems unjust and incongruous that I will be processing much of it outside of its context. I have learned here in Cuba that context is vital to the truth of everything.

That is not to say that truth is relative, only that each truth can be lived differently by different people without sacrificing the fidelity to that truth. Freedom, what it means to be liberated and free, is one that is perhaps most apt to the Cuba/U.S. dichotomy. The Cubans I have met openly acknowledge many of the difficulties that they face and many of the contradictions of their society, but they embrace these not as handicaps but as challenges. I have never witnessed people so ready and willing and capable of working together for a common goal. My new friends are joyous and engaged in life.

I do not say this wearing rose colored glasses. Nor do the Cubans portray themselves through an idealized light. In fact, this is the only place I have ever been in Latin America, maybe anywhere in the world, where I have witnessed profound humility and honesty rather than a strong dose of hubris and bravado. The system here is not perfect, but they seem dedicated to working towards a perfection bit by bit as best they know how. I am inspired by much of what I have seen and although I readily acknowledge that it would not be applicable to the United States, that does not negate its ability to be applicable to my own self.

One Cuban professor who participated in this conference worded it so well..."We Cubans are a people who love peace...We are living as we have chosen...We do not have more than we need. What we do have we are willing to share with the world."

As I said today in a presentation to my fellow conference participants, one of the greatest things I take away from this experience is a deeper understanding, an understanding as a result of actively doing, of my own ability to see and live beyond the black and white paradigms we establish in our minds when faced with difference. Establishing and truly embracing the context of any event or idea does not make it less applicable but rather encourages appropriate and effective applications in other contexts. Ultimately, as a result of this conference, I think I have connected with a basic human love for learning and for engaging in a social learning process, and I have done so in a context unlike any other I could have found.

And here I have also found colleagues with whom I expect to work again in the future, among both the U.S. and the Cuban delegations. I have found other students, scholars, and policy makers who are following the same life of questions as I am, who readily share their research and finding with me, and who encourage my interests and my identity as an individual in a diverse world.

No, I do not want to leave, at least not yet, but now I know that I will most certainly return.

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