Going to Cuba
My first impression upon landing in Cuba was that it was a little bit like a Wes Anderson film.
The airport felt like a miniature, a Fisher-Price toy but with real adults walking around inside. Everything had a quirky, taped-together quality to it, as if created by precocious children for a school project rather than sober-minded adults focused on industry. Women in short-skirted uniforms projected an aggressive, practically florid boredom and mangy dogs with character wandered about the parking lot.
I wondered what their names might be.
Rachelle and I were in the city of Matanzas until morning. It was a Friday night and locals, girls with big asses jammed into hot pants and Jersey Shore boys bleeding cologne, streamed by. Scavenging dogs rooted through garbage and cats flicked into the darkness of parks from which idling men hissed at Rachelle as we walked down the street. Occasionally, a person would stare from their front steps– hands on hips as if in challenge– and then suddenly, the moment broken by a parrot speaking language from the unseen foliage above.
We passed by a pizza place and an older man called to us from the patio.
“It is no accident!” he shouted. “No, the Lord makes no mistakes and for sure has placed us in one another’s paths!”
We couldn’t have been more curious and sat down with this man. He was 70 and had been educated as a boy in Virginia. He’d spent his life an inveterate gambler, alcoholic and adulterer, but he had been rescued by Jesus and believing that Rachelle and I were missionaries– so out of place, innocent and happy did we look—that he wanted to share his story and faith.
We ate pizza and drank wine while behind us the indifferent, possibly angry waitress watched music videos from the 1980s on the TV.
Big Audio Dynamite.
“What did you gamble on?” I wanted to know.
“All of it, cock fighting, dice, poker. The devil had me in his grip.”
“Were you good at poker?”
With a little bit of pride the man leaned back, “Yes, I think that I was.”
“I am not. Tell me how to improve my game, even if it includes cheating. Especially if it includes cheating.”
“No, gambling is wrong and I can see you are not a cheater. This beautiful woman beside you is your watchtower.”
“She’s my lighthouse.”
“You are a lucky man, God has smiled upon you. He who loves with a pure heart and whose speech is gracious will have the king for his friend. Proverbs 22:11.”
And then he reached out and held my hands.
“The Lord brought you here to me so that I might caution you of Havana. It is a sinful place. Many are desperate and you will appear as a walking dollar sign to them. Alone without language you are vulnerable to their tricks. Be careful and trust in the Lord, trust in the salvation of all, for even I was saved.”