“I am not from here and I am no longer from there, I learn to live as it comes and goes”.
That is the chorus of a musical theme that a Cuban singer, David Torrens, wrote after living for several years in Mexico without returning to Cuba, and the song became very famous on the island in the late 1990s.
This is the musical theme.
I remember that, still living in Cuba, I heard the song but I never understood, being there, the reality that that chorus contains when you leave everything you know and you go to another country. And I’m not talking about going on a trip for a few months and returning or traveling around the world changing places regularly but always at some point returning to the country of origin. I speak about going to live in a place well away from everything you’ve known until that moment and starting from scratch, try to make your life there.
I left Cuba to live in Germany 11 years ago, but it was not for any of the reasons why people in Cuba normally leave the country, economic reasons such as lack of money and work, or for political reasons. At least, those were not the main reasons, although they were also present in a certain way … living in Cuba, those reasons are always present! I was really going to live with my wife at that time, a German girl who had studied with me Cinema and we had more than 3 years of relationship. And when I arrived in Germany the unthinkable happened (or what I never expected to happen), my wife left me almost at the beginning of arriving. Why she left me is not important (I confess, part of the fault was mine), the important fact is that since I came to Germany I have been without close family ties (well, until my son was born).
A long time passed without me returning to Cuba, more than 9 years. And it was not that I had completely distanced myself from the island, no, not at all. I maintained regular communication with my family and friends and, in addition, I had the possibility to return whenever I wanted. But the idea of going to Cuba was the one that least passed through my mind at that time. I was younger and eager to know the world, see other things than those I had seen in Cuba, other realities that I only knew existed from photos, books and movies. I was also living in Germany, from here I could move around the world, which in Cuba was impossible. Of course, it is very normal for young people to have that desire to know new things in order to expand their horizons and, I assure you, more when you come from a small island where the only existing border is just with the sea. And do not forget that I was single, without those family ties that often take away the desire for adventure. This I know very well, that family ties can affect because since my son was born all those desires of adventures that I have always had have been decreasing until reaching a minimum level. The thought that something could happen to me that prevents me from being present for him, has achieved that effect.
Staying in Germany to live was also a way to prove myself at that moment.
In these 11 years in which I have been living in Germany I have managed to put together something that can seem like a life. I have my son that I love, I can say that I speak the German language, of course, not perfect but I speak it; I have great German friends, also people whom I could consider as a family and well and I am pretty Ok related to work but … there is always a but.
The feeling of “I am not from here” I have never been able to get out of me in all this time. It’s like that small stone that gets into your shoe and when you walk it bothers you a bit. The shoe is very comfortable and the stone is very small but the discomfort is so constant that there will come a time when you will not be able to stand it anymore, you will take off your shoe and you will throw the small stone out. Well, I feel the same, but without having the possibility of removing the stone. Of course, in this, everything has to do … culture, climate, how society works, etc. here in Germany which is, of course, very, very different than in Cuba. And it is not impossible to live with this for me but it is uncomfortable because, although everything seems very good around you, there will always be that feeling of “I am not from here” present in your mind … like the little stone in the shoe.
Among the reasons that made me decide to return to Cuba for the first time after 9 years were the one that I was not (I am still ;-)) so young, that my personal goals in the short and long term were changing as the time passed and that, obviously, many of the things that were unknown, new and exciting for me at first were already known, normal and not at all exciting. Besides, without knowing it, the longing for Cuba and all that it means for me, family, friends, past experiences and more, was growing.
Do you know what happened to be unknown, new and exciting for me in 2016, for example? Cuba! All those economic and social changes that were (are) happening there, how they were carried out and how all these changes were received by the normal Cuban were for me a total mystery. So in July I bought a ticket and on August 2 I was already flying on a plane to Havana.
I can tell you that getting off the plane at the airport in Havana took away the “little stone that I had worn those 9 years in the shoe”. That feeling of “I am not from here” disappeared without a trace. The truth is that it is very difficult for me to explain the almost “spiritual” tranquility that I felt, it was like when you have been walking with a weight on you for a long time, someone suddenly takes it off and at the moment you feel so light that it seems that you are going to leave floating through the air like a balloon.
But as always, as I said before, with everything there is a but, nothing is perfect … After a week I was hit by the harsh reality, the part “and I’m not from there” of the song’s chorus. 9 years is a long time and life goes on, it does not wait for you or for anyone. Not only were all those social and economic changes that had been happening in Cuba, everything else had also changed, the city, my neighborhood, my friends, my family … and even me. And at that moment I understood the great truth of the first full part “I am not from here and I am no longer from there”. I was not from Germany although I lived there. It was completely different from everything I had known the first 29 years of my life but … I did not live in Cuba either, I was still Cuban, it was still me but being there, I felt more like a “visitor” and I also missed much to my son who was in Germany. Despite being with my family and friends in my country, what I had created in Germany, without my knowing it, had become very important in my life.
At that moment the second part of the refrain came on the scene “I learn to live as it comes and goes”. Learning to live knowing that my life was divided between two places 10 000 kilometers away from each other and very different in every way and that I could not do anything to avoid it. That my life was never going to be complete and also learning to accept it (I can tell you that it is not easy). Now I understand why the deportation for many years from your country was a punishment many years ago, of course, saving the differences.
I am not saying that this is the reality of anyone who is going to live in another country but I am sure that it is for many of us, even without realizing it. I know that in these times of Globalization it is fashionable to be a “citizen of the world” but, as I said before, it is not the same to travel a few months to other countries knowing that you will soon return to your place of origin and your family, that the fact to leave everything you know to start from scratch in another distant place completely different. There is a loss of cultural, geographical and social identity, which leaves an emptiness inside inexplicable and that is impossible to fill.
As the chorus of David Torrens’ song says.