We headed to the airport 3 hours previous to the flight, hoping to have time for lunch. We checked in smoothly with Avianca for our Havana-Bogota-Quito flight and got through security no problem, which left us with time to eat. This being Cuba, there was unfortunately no food available in the two restaurants in our terminal, despite the 5 employees in each of the kitchens. Luckily, we still had some Nature Valley bars that we’d bought before leaving Mexico, and we topped them up with some cookies & beer, the only food products available for purchase.
On the flight back, we met a very interesting middle-aged Cuban man on the plane. He’s been living in Ecuador for almost a decade. He originally came to Ecuador for a visit, during the years that Ecuador had opened its borders to Cuba (visa-free). This man told us how shocked he had been when he arrived. Instead of finding a dangerous, underdeveloped country, as the Cuban government had been telling him, he found a country that had food, supermarkets, internet, and many other opportunities. He was emotionally and psychologically impacted and started realizing all the lies he’d been fed his entire life. Already in his late 40’s, he decided to move to Ecuador in order to earn money and send it back to his family. Almost 10 years on, he’s missed a lot of his children’s development and would prefer to be with his family in Cuba, but as he approaches retirement age he doesn’t want to live in a country that doesn’t have regular access to food and information and doesn’t want to live in constant fear for his and his family’s well-being.
It was a symbolic conversation for us. We don’t know what the next years hold, but this trip, visiting friends and family in Germany and the US, then visiting Mexico and Cuba have opened our eyes and provided us with energy and inspiration to start this new chapter in Quito, Ecuador!
Andres’ parents welcomed us at the airport with hugs (and fresh mangos!) and after 11 weeks of travelling, we are relieved to put our bags down and start to settle in!