a friends chandelier. you won't get to see it. But it's THERE.
I am holding back the urge to begin this post with “walking down the dusty dirt roads of …”. It does seem that this cliché holds true for me when it comes to traveling in other countries. I am always, drawn to musty places and dirt while fumbling my way around a new country. I’m sure this is not uncommon amongst many travelers. There is something about a dry dirt road that eases ones body into unfamiliar surroundings. Relaxing.
So yes, I had completely convinced myself that the following particular memory took place on a dusty street in Trinidad, Cuba. Romanticizing was never an element of any agenda I may or may not have had in mind but that’s the way it happens sometimes. Through an Internet image search I decided to check up on my minds ability to replace one image for another and cobblestone streets is what I found.
Ahhhh yes, I DO remember it now because my bike was bumping along those obscurely tiled roads. My friend Todd and I had just arrived in Trinidad by bike. For most of our time in Cuba we’d been using bikes to get from one town to the next and eventually we found ourselves in the world heritage site of Trinidad; historical buildings with crumbling facades. The air of revolution having long faded away into the grain of concrete surfaces and patterns made by chipped paint.
We both locked up our bikes on a street that led right into a town square. On the barren shelves of a convenience store we managed to find our daily staple, a little bread and a little cheese. This was not a tourist shop and the ritzy enclaves found in Havana for those ‘doing Cuba’ on a package were nowhere to be seen. As travelers we agree to pay double the cost with our Cuban dollars. In Cuba there are two currencies and tourists are only allowed to use one, which is worth more. The number on the price tag remained the same no matter what.
Ambling along I spot a gorgeous poster on the back wall of an unassuming but large store. I drag Tod in.
There are stacks and stacks of posters made during and after the revolution. These ones were all for movies. I wanted to buy ten but knew it was only practical to purchase two of my favorites. I settled upon a poster for a Cuban documentary called Rita designed by René Azcuy and a poster for Cuban movie Retrato de Teresa. The design for this movie was, according to the Center for Cuban Studies in New York, the only poster done by Cuban artist Servando Cabrera Moreno. The chalky feel of each poster suggested that it could have been printed with gauche. Graphic flattened out colour popped out of each surface delighting the eye through each intriguing design.
I left with two little pieces of history rolled up carefully, protected by a flimsy plastic bag and strapped down to my bicycle. Both are now mounted and hopefully preserved for sometime to come. Every time I look at them I only wish I could have collected a few more prints. But I know that many other stories are sure to gather with each discovery and each meander through that shop.
biking just outside of Trinidad
The streets of Pisco. Motor-taxi parked on corner. Image courtesy of Tim Kelf on flickr.
It is my first day in Pisco, a small town situated in southern Peru close to Paracas National Park. The doors to this hostel remain locked at all times which is un-usual, because it is the first place I’ve stayed in Peru with such security. Various travel companions have disappeared scrambling to other corners of South America. Dust surrounds blocks of buildings. Dirt roads have a way of making me feel at ease.
I exit the hostels gleaming doors in search of Internet. Before I leave for an expedition to the park I must send off news and assurance to my mother who, as always, is frantic about me being out in the world. Dust coats my toes as I step off the sidewalk and onto the road. My backpack hangs loosely on my shoulder.
I’ve reached the other side of the intersection and am tugged backwards. The backpack strap slips comfortably into my right hand. I pull back. The man above me strengthens his grip. He is standing on a motor-taxi (motorcycle made into a mini taxi). They are puttering along slowly so I begin to run with them pulling harder on my backpack.
I remember his face plastered to the sky, turning his head every so often to look at the road ahead. This moment is lodged into my memory vault as a mini-video complete with the revving of a motorcycle and my guttural screams. He tells the driver to speed up in Spanish. I will not let go and so I run faster and faster and faster. The ground catches up to me, spinning like a wild carnival ride. It wants to take me with it, and it does. Well, partially anyway. My backpack is still attached to my arms while the rest of me bounces along the gravel road. This is not a good idea. Hands burst open and I sit up in the middle of the street.
I feel my limbs weak and shaking and I think. I sit and I think. ‘There was nothing in that bag, there was nothing in that bag. A lonely planet, a CD, some phone numbers.’ A few tears run down my face because my body is tired. I do not feel the blood droplets down the left side of my back. Strangers gather around me. I am unintelligible and before too long I’m in a luxurious air-conditioned police car. Blindly led from place to place I insist that I need no painkillers and would like to get back to the hostel. The physical pain only comes that night when my emotions cannot be controlled, but hostel workers and travelers are a comfort bringing me cream for my skinned back and various herbal remedies.
It is fascinating what your body will do in moments of physical confrontation. One body instigates a collision disrupting another body’s sense of being. Breathing is jarred out of a lullaby. Blood flow adjusts its speed as it runs through veins. All cells and bodily tasks are disturbed. As much as science is able to explain these happenings distilling them into step-by-step dry logic, it is nevertheless a magical story as one experiences it. A minor bodily confrontation is exhilarating. One set of muscles, veins and organs straining against another. Adrenaline pumping.
Romanticized lonely planet cover. Image courtesy of Maurizio / rizio on flickr.