Monday, May 13, 2013

Life on the edge

by Arianna Kemis

Havana, Cuba

I have never been so comfortable to walk in a city. Furthermore, I have never seen a balcony lifestyle anything like that which is in Havana.
Clothes hang from clotheslines made of rope or rusty wire to dry in the breeze coming off of the sea; succulents, mosses and bromeliads grow through the bars of windows as though in miniature, unkempt nurseries; and the people enjoy family talks or survey the city scene from balconies that look at risk off falling into the traffic below.

On an evening stroll, I saw a woman who was washing her laundry in a sink up on her roof. The water was splashing down through a pipe that let out down on the sidewalk adjacent to the building. She saw me and smiled slightly, not wavering from her work. 
Her husband, holding a mug, came into view from further back on the roof to where I could see him. He waved at me and made the cultural kissing noises, beckoning to me with compliments. This happened frequently as machismo is rich in Cuba and other Latin American countries. I just laughed and gestured for him to stand with his wife so I could get a picture of them together. Despite his cultural attraction to me, he laughed, too, and went to stand over by his wife. Unperturbed, she smiled, flicked the water from her fingers and turned to face him for the photo.

Down along the main avenue, another man was holding his 2- or 3-year-old son on his lap, letting him peer out over the wrought iron railing of their narrow balcony onto the road below. He saw me watching the two of them and smiled, picking up his son’s hand and telling the little boy to wave.

At one point, I even saw a man on the top story of a bright pink building stretched out on his stomach along the railing that separated the rooftop from the sky and street below. He laughed and gestured with his wife and son. Then, nonchalantly, he rolled off onto the rooftop to stand out overlooking the avenue, his elbows resting where his head had been.

The people are so casual, easygoing, and just enjoy the evening hours island-style: peacefully, socially, without worry of phones or the storm clouds reaching down in drizzly tendrils from the sky, curling around the tops of century-old cathedrals. It’s when the work is done, the markets are closing, the tourists sleep and the city is alive.

It’s Havana. 

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