Monday, August 29, 2011

Seeds of Change - Begin from the beginning: the need for open dialogue

This post marks the fifth entry for the current Roots of Hope blog theme: Seeds of Change. To see previous entries, read about how cell phones can shake a nation and the potential impact of studying abroad.

By Ariel Elias

If you keep looking for answers, you will only find frustration. I’m not sure if this was told to me by someone in Cuba or if the conclusion was my own. No doubt it is a philosophy based on the efficiency and transparency, or lack thereof, of the Cuban government, a force that permeates every aspect of Cuban life. Whether you agree or disagree with the government itself, there is no denying that even the simplest, most innocent of acts can turn political. The meticulous eye of a good idea gone awry watches its people, sometimes subtle and hidden, other times so overwhelming it becomes humorous, bringing out the choteo, making you think, “Surely you have better things to do.”

Cuba is unique because of its complications. You must learn to recognize the difference between an answer and the answer. It is a country of layers that cannot be understood until experienced, and even then, your head will continue to spin as you attempt to differentiate between the real and the lie, the genuine and the exaggerated. Too much is hidden or covered up, blamed on los yanquis or people who have been dead for the better half of a century. Suddenly, you are faced with two choices: believe what you hear or develop an imagination, an imagination that does not blind you or foster naïveté, rather one that fills in the blanks and encourages hope.

So that’s what we’re left with. An imagination, an openness that does not exist with older generations, a restlessness that only occurs when you know there is a better way. We learn to work with what we have, taking it one step at a time. For now, we discuss. We argue, we culture shock, we fight the censors and demand to be heard, we empathize, but most importantly, we establish a relationship. We set the foundation and attempt to correct centuries of wrongdoing that we did not cause, yet we are now responsible for. We ease the tension and create the space. Ultimately, we do not find the answers, we discover them.

Ariel Elias is a recent graduate from Tulane University, and studied abroad in Cuba in the fall of 2009. She currently lives in New Orleans as a medical translator/stand-up comic.

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