Andrís and Yilian
Continuing with my posts on people I met in Cuba, I introduce you today to Andrís and Yilian. I first met Andrís through Michal. Supposedly, they were cousins. Andrís told me that he and a friend had come to Havana from Santiago to run in the marathon. Later, he took me to where Yilian was staying with an aunt while in town. We quickly all became friends. Eventually, as we were wandering around Havana, they started looking at running shoes in a store. They told me they lacked a little money to get them. Since I have a soft and big heart, I’m told, I decided to help them. I had come to Havana with a limited amount of money for my two weeks. I had found I could get by cheaply by using the Cuban money. I figured I had enough money to help them out. I gave them enough so they could each get the shoes they needed. Then, on a later evening, since I wanted to go somewhere to dance salsa, we went together to Hotel Florida. They had dancing there I was told. That evening, they said they had no money. I had to pay for everything. Yilian told me she had no job, and a daughter in Santiago. She wanted to know everything about me and my life in the states. She was flirting with me. I knew it was only because she saw me as a way out of her poor life in Santiago. I had enjoyed them as friends, but started thinking that it was only because they thought that I could and would buy anything for them. I danced a couple of times that evening, even though the music was unfamiliar to me. Yilian was a good dancer and said I did great. It was a fun evening. I enjoyed the music a lot. We had fun. The next day, I had to leave my room where I was staying and told the woman of the house not to say where I was going. I decided it was better not to see my “friends” again. But in a couple of days, I accidentally ran into them on the street. Havana seems small. I often began running into people that I had met previously while I was wandering around during the day, looking for photos. Andrís and Yilian were friendly and we talked. They said that they had gone to my home and found out that I had left and the woman said she didn’t have an address. They suggested going to dance in the evening. I told them I didn’t have enough money left and didn’t want to run out and be stuck in Havana and unable to leave. I would have to start looking for a job. Then, Andrís asked if I had a suitcase I didn’t need when I left. I finally got a little annoyed and said goodbye. I said I didn’t have any money or things to give them. That was the last time I saw them. Even though Yilian had given me all her contact information, I have no reason to correspond. I felt that I had been taken advantage of and that they considered me a friend, only for what I could give them.
The other friends I had made in Cuba were not that way. They rarely asked for anything. Maybe, just small change for a coffee. In Colombia, I was taken advantage of a few times. I was friends with someone and later on, they asked for money to help them with something. Several times, it was a loan. I helped one woman with a loan for equipment for her store. She began to make payments and paid off half of it before she said she was having difficulties and couldn’t make payments for awhile. Then she never finished paying off what she owed. I figured, okay, just consider it a donation to a worthy cause. In the states, I had always made donations each year to various charities. I said this would be the same. There were other friends there who eventually I thought that they were friends, mainly, since I had something they could use. Whether true or not, often, I felt taken advantage of and the friendship ended. On the other hand, there were friends that asked me for a favor or a loan, and they paid it off promptly or returned the favor. I also have other friends there that never asked me for anything and are still great friends.
I realize that these situations happen to many people when they travel. I always travel with a limited budget. I go as cheaply as I can and try to live like the people where I travel. I would rather blend in as much as I can. I realize that most people think that I am an American and have lots of money and can afford to travel easily. But, I can’t. I don’t stay in hotels or eat in fancy restaurants. I watch my expenditures closely and usually I will eat on the streets or in cafes that I find which cater to the local people and are cheaper. I make friends easily and hope that these friends will remain and that we like each other for who we are, and not what we have.