So, there we were. Waking up early to the sounds of our last Cuban breakfast being prepared in the kitchen and a cool breeze coming off the bay into our open windows.

I gathered my things and double-checked all my travel documents before zipping up the suitcase and taking out the camera for a few early morning shots. It was completely peaceful out there, but I should have recognized this as the calm before the storm.

Our taxi driver arrived early that morning but waited patiently for us to finish our breakfast of fruit, eggs, toast and goat cheese. I wasn’t a huge fan of the eggs, but that cheese tasted fantastic. I ate it all and so did my brother. We enjoyed our meal quietly and just reflected on the time we had spent on this otherworldly island.

And just like that, we cleaned up, paid for our meal and loaded our luggage into the nicest cab we had been in the entire trip.

Of course, this was Cuba. We weren’t going to get out of the country without a final issue to address.

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That next morning, I woke up early and headed out to explore the town with my Dad. We really couldn’t sleep too well anyway. It’s amazing how clearly you can hear horse clopping from the street below through a 3rd floor window.

Anyway, the idea was partly to see the city but mostly to find a place to by a Wi-Fi card so I could finally access the Internet and get a message to my wife that all was fine and we were still alive. All of my research had suggested Wi-Fi access was pretty easy to come by but I had not experienced this and once I finally could connect, I was told I needed to purchase an Internet card, which basically gives you an hour online.

The town was nice. It was a Monday morning so the locals were out and about heading to work…or whatever they do in Communist Cuba. We passed by a little outdoor performance area with Beatles art on the walls referencing Yellow Submarine and Abbey Road. Pretty cool thing to find and definitely unexpected.

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Picture a large desk. Something just big enough to fit a second computer monitor, one of those giant calendars, a few stacks of “organized” files and an office phone or something.

Now, think about sitting in front of that desk and enjoying all the desktop room as you shuffle items around as necessary and complete tasks throughout the day.

Spacious, right?

Ok, now imagine the desk is a small Soviet-era taxi with no AC and worn-out shocks and cram 5 people (3 being well over 6’ tall) into it.

Not so roomy anymore.

Welcome to day 2 of our time in Cuba.

We started with a quick ride

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There is nothing like the excitement of visiting a place for the very first time.

If you are like me, you research like crazy, plan, prepare, reserve and count down the days until departure.

You do everything in your power to make sure the trip is smooth and enjoyable from the time you leave until the moment you return.

You probably pack some essentials like noise-canceling headphones, chargers and snacks for the plane rides and then start thinking about the “slightly-more-essential” things like underwear and deodorant.

Then, you piece together your Adventure Crew. You’re heading to a Spanish speaking country, right? Ok, taking your Spanish teacher brother would be a wise choice (any back up on translation is always welcome).

Include your 69 year old father-in-law who has a heart for adventure, also speaks Spanish and slight penchant for wandering off. Of course!

Oh, and let’s not forget to bring along your 64 year old father who also enjoys the occasional taste of adventure and comes fully equipped with two semi-new hips (hello, metal detectors), a Sesame Street-level knowledge of the Spanish language and a presence that intimidates most foreigners and you now have an unstoppable team.

And by unstoppable I mean the most random group of travelers ever assembled.

Once all of this is set, you remember Cuba is still a Communist, island country and prepare to throw all your plans out the window. This is trip is going to be different.

CUBA DAY 1

Our adventure started with a 4:30am wake-up call

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Sometimes when I sit down to write, I begin to work through each sentence in my mind. I think about the order, the nouns, the verbs and the prepositions.

I try to determine the most impactful structure for the reader but what I usually struggle with are the adjectives and adverbs.

It’s not because I can’t think of any good ones, because there are plenty. The issue I face is the rampant overuse of all the best ones to describe the most common of nouns and verbs. I mean, I almost can’t stand to tell anyone I am excited anymore. That’s how much it’s been overused.

It’s rough for writers (and wannabes like myself) who struggle to find some sort of originality in their language to give adequate descriptions and fully paint the picture of a person, place, thing or action for their audience.

But, when the unexpected loss of a dear young woman, sister, daughter, cousin, niece and friend happens, as happened today to my dear friends, all desire to come up with something creative washes away and I am left with one simple word…precious.

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