monique polak

Monique Polak's Books

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Reflections on a Week in Havana

We spent March break in Havana -- and because Internet access was difficult, I've gone longer than usual without a blog entry. (Hope you haven't been too lonely, dear blog reader.)

Today, I thought I'd reflect a little on the importance of taking some time off every once in a while. If you know me, you'll know I am a very go-go-go person. But I have to admit that this semester, between being back at school full-time and trying to keep up with the business of writing, I have been feeling a little worn-out. So March break couldn't have come at a better time!

Most Canadians who visit Cuba head for the beaches, but we thought we'd explore Havana instead. It's a beautiful, but crumbling city. I don't think I've ever seen such poverty. And yet, there's music everywhere. My two favourite moments of the trip? One was when we passed an old man in the street who was singing to himself -- and he had such a beautiful voice it made our hearts ache. The other occurred in another street -- there was music coming from a little restaurant and a young Cuban couple walked by, and the woman started spontaneously to jiggle her hips and dance. To me, both moments showed that even in difficult circumstances (most Cubans cannot afford basic necessities), people have a need for beauty and creativity.

There was another incident I'll never forget. On one of our daily runs, we were accompanied by a small homeless dog with short legs, but a big personality. It worried me that he was following so closely at our feet, especially since we were in an area with a lot of car traffic. (If you've read my book The Middle of Everywhere, you'll understand why I worry about dogs and vehicles.) So I decided to turn back towards our hotel. My husband wanted to continue running along the seaside, where the traffic was heavier. The little dog (let's call him Perro, which is Spanish for dog) stopped in his tracks. He looked at me, then he turned and looked at my husband. Then he looked back at me, then back at my husband...

and then he followed my husband! (Silly boy!!!)

I got to watch that little fellow's decision-making process.

In the end, my husband and Perro caught back up with me. I brought Perro a bowl of water from our hotel. He was a little nervous when I got close to him, but he drank that water mighty quickly. I went into the hotel to return the bowl... when I came out, Perro had disappeared into the streets of Old Havana. He doesn't have an easy life either, but as my husband pointed out, this little homeless dog still wanted to run and play. Run and play and sing and dance. All, I think, are medicine for the soul.

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Monday, 24 June 2024

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