Nikonia: As luck would have it, I found myself in Old Havana the day before the historic reopening of the US Embassy. I was greeted in my “casa particular” with a freshly squeezed lemonade and a dated Lonely Planet. Being a telephoto lens and consulting a guide book in public was a sure recipe to be labeled as a tourist. Enthusiastic shop owners were approaching me with “Buongiorno” and “Nin Hao,” but nobody guessed to say “Hello”. It’s not a surprise, since only 91 thousand American tourists visited Cuba in 2014, but that number is likely to jump. Cuba will never be the same.
As I was strolling down Aguilar, it was refreshing to see Old Havana residents catching up after a long work day. Cuban TV might not have reality shows, but who needs those when you have friendly neighbors and a comfortable stoop?
Even pets have mastered the art of people watching in Havana. This friendly puppy has a mezzanine seat to the nightly performance taking place on narrow colorful streets.
Crossfit has yet to arrive in Cuba, so athletes exercise wherever they can, even in DIY rooftop gyms..
Karate training is also taking place outside for anyone to see or join.
And everywhere groups of children played on the streets, no digital devices to interfere with their fun.
They were simply children greedily taking in the last moments before sundown and pretending not to hear their parents calling them home for supper.
It made me nostalgic for my own childhood.
Reminiscent of my paparazzi days, I spotted this couple on the balcony just above the plaza. They were probably keeping an eye on the kids, but they just as easily could have been characters from one of Hemingway’s unwritten short stories.
Leaving the labyrinth that is Old Havana, I walked along the Malecon and fell in love with this enigmatic city even more. I joined the locals witnessing this grand culmination of the day as the sun ceremoniously departed from horizon.
The last rays of light were illuminating the city…
…and the sea.
Everywhere around me people were sharing special moments: fishermen boasting about their latest catch, lovers embracing, this proud father teaching his little girl how to ride a bike.
At the end of the day I could only make out silhouettes, but that only etched the images deeper into my soul. Eventually the darkness swallowed colorful colonial facades, classic automobiles, revolutionary messages and other symbols of Havana, yet the city’s heart was just beginning to reveal itself to me in plain sight.