My heart is in Havana, Cubano

melissa divietri cuba

Words cannot express how stressed my mind, body, soul and spirit were before arriving into Cuba.. it was like an earthquake shook my body violently for an hour. Ive lived thru more earthquakes than one person should.. some lasting .30 seconds, most terrifying experience of my life. I am not exaggerating when I express how frustrated I was in the last few days before flight. From missing luggage to broken medical supplies to housing cancelling to language translation issues.. I was at my peak of disappointment.

— pre-arrival —

USA to El Salvador

My flight was delayed for departure at minimum 5’x in Tampa, Florida which missed the first connecting flight to El Salvador. By the grace of God’s work — when I landed in Miami, Florida where a golf cart was ready to speed into my terminal for the last flight to El Salvador. Less than 7 minutes until take-off – the flight attendant moved my seat to a closer, more comfortable accommodation. I thanked her as I was unable to update my booking because of the flight cancellation. She says, “continue allowing God to bless you, bonita” — bonita means beautiful in Spanish.

After arrival in El Salvador, I waited for an hour or more to locate my luggage – the luggage did not make to the boarding plane which connected in Miami, Florida.. bummer. My friends John & Fatima were waiting outside with cervasa ready! Thank you, it was much needed after hearing my bags didnt arrive.. i was bummed because I didnt have any make up or clothes :-

The next day, my luggage missed the first plane but arrived on the second in the late afternoon.. my friend was transporting me into the airport but we were 15 minutes past the hour to retrieve the bags before a bridge fell down in the middle of the street in San Salvador causing an hour traffic delay. The luggage office was to be closed for a few hours because planes were not arriving during this interval. My friend, David was so helpful to call his friends at the airport insisting to hold the luggage office open because the bags contained medical supplies. Wow, what a gem.

Unfortunately, my bags were damaged – medical supplies were completely destroyed… so I had to file a claim and request a refund.

melissa divietri crutches

I also left my iPhone in the bathroom as I was the last one to use it before deplaning.. this genuine man saw that I left it and ran up the terminal to give to me… speaking in Spanish “telefono telefono” – Lucky girl, I know I am blessed

— in route —

El Salvador to Cuba

I was absolutely exhausted to board the plane for Cuba — my stomach was tripping, head pounding (from party the night before), anxiety soaring because I did not have my accommodations ready.

Avianca & Delta are hands-down the best airlines when it comes to customer service… they are so genuine and lovely. The airline bumped me into first class — Carlos, the first class attendant fed me breakfast, put a blanket over my body and gave me an extra pillow.. what a guy!

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— arrival —-

Damn. damn. damn. damn. Damn. My anxiety was at all time high when I arrived, I felt so sick to my stomach. I cannot speak Spanish — the airplane assistant left me in a wheelchair for an hour, in a line that wasn’t moving, to have my tourist card stamped… and no one could understand anything that I said.

I was so confused on what was happening— why I wasn’t able to continue into the line. After 4 – 5 different assistants, one finally pushed my items into the airport to retrieve my bags. I almost did not get my bags because I was waited outside the cue so long – a woman was wheeling them away as I entered the airport. Lucky girl, I know I am blessed

The lady with my bags spoke English – she was able to assist with providing assistance to go outside to locate a taxi. My Airbnb was not responding to my calls, messages or emails – so I was in panic to find a room. I pulled out my emergency numbers (thank you John from El Salvador) and the wheelchair assistant called my first contact. The lady was very impatient – poking my body asking for money, money, money. I gave her $5 CUC – which is equal to $5 USD. I gave up.. and started towards a taxi.

I could not find a driver who spoke English – this is a normal thing at the airport. A gentlemen agreed to take me into Havana and assisted with contacting individuals on my emergency contact list. (Remember internet does not exist in Cuba, you must find hot spots or access points in hotel by paying per hour). SO finding resources for room accommodations, on the day before New Years, was not easily accessible.

I called my second contact person, Sandra – she had a room available in Playa for two nights. Lucky girl, I know I am blessed. We drove to Playa where my hostess called her family to communicate in English about the availability.
melissa divietri cuba

— settled —

By this point, I was emotionally – physically – mentally drained from the last few days… plus coming down from Christmas parties; I was toast. I took an epic nap before heading to my friend Stefano’s Cuban family for New Years Eve.

I met Stefano using social media outreach on Facebook to locate rates for classic cars and tours. He was generous to invite for the NYE to spend with his family.

melissa divietri havana

— okay, I am here.. and I am in love —

But really… I am in love. I took many deep breaths to overcome the obstacles that I faced before my travel to Havana. In my lifestyle, you cannot plan things that will not go your way… you have to face every problem with a head-strong personality and do what is best to find a solution.

I learned many valuable lessons over the last 72 hours — one lesson that I wanted to work on myself this year.. becoming vulnerable by letting people help me and into my world.

Because I trusted my friends in El Salvador for assistance
Because I didn’t panic when my luggage went missing
Because I waited patiently while the airport was trying to find translation
Because I took a leap of faith by calling people, whom I did not know, for help on accommodations
Because I did not melt down when my medical supplies were broken & baggage claim could not comply
… the list continues.

I became a stronger traveler, especially as a female.. and a disabled person… who travels alone. I wanted to cry the entire time because I was lost, afraid and stressed in a country where I could not speak the language. (And I am aware that I need Spanish). #Trust.

2018.. whew, on a good one. Cuba – you did it.

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These life lessons are instilled on my heart to remind me… “you can do anything, you can go anywhere, all is possible if you have an open mind and a voice to turn dreams into reality.”

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