Prior to leaving for my 6 week adventure (Miami, Mexico and Gyuana), I was feeling very negative about Miami. I imagined it to be a consumer’s paradise, where people were status-orientated and shallow. The numerous Lamborghinis and Ferraris that often overtook us on the highway did not help to relieve my prejudice. But Miami wasn’t exactly what I expected; it was humid, exotic and endlessly beige. What shocked me the most was the strong Latin influence in its culture and population. I felt quite ignorant that I was not aware of this and when I shared this fact with my friends in Finland, they snarked. “How didn't you know? Miami is like a mini Cuba! Haven’t you seen Miami Vice!?” Upon arrival people spoke Spanish to me, assuming from my skin tone that I was Hispanic, reggaetón was played in all the speedy Ferraris and people on the streets walked with a Caribbean twist. It felt strange to be in the United States feeling like you are in Central America.
My main reason to visit Miami was to get in touch with my cousin Shaun and his wife Waheeda (a childhood friend of mine). As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I had not seen Shaun in 3 years and I really missed him and his famous “big brother hugs”. I didn’t have any big expectations of Miami, other than spending my week catching up with 3 years worth of gossip and enjoying the sun. Shaun and Waheeda lived in an area called Hialeah, which was called the Spanish Quarters. The nickname was fitting; as I visited the local Westland Mall, I found that it was nearly impossible to get service in English. Ignorant of this fact, at first, I stopped to talk to the women at the stands selling beauty products and nick-nacks to ask them about their day. We managed to made jokes and even share some life-stories even though our communication was mainly based on hand gestures and simple phrases. I also got a pedicure at the local salon and ended up paying a huge tip due to the language barrier, but in return, I received a full-house thank you with smiles and applauds and, what I hoped to be, Spanish compliments.
I must confess, I have never been a huge fan of the United States. Growing up with my Guyanese mom, I have heard too many stories of people backtracking (slang word for people entering a country illegally) from Guyana to the United States and about the sacrifices they made financially, the children and loved ones they left behind in consequence and the ultimate misery they faced upon living there as an illegal immigrant. The reality of chasing the American Dream without any proper education was a nightmare. Visiting my mother’s family members and friends living in the States without legal validation was almost always a depressing sight; they lived in the poorer regions of the city in crammed up basement apartments deprived of natural light, often working three jobs to make ends meet. They couldn’t afford a break, to get sick or retire, since they had no rights. In my mind, the Unites States was directly responsible for the anguish of the people I cared for and thus, I didn’t have much sympathy for the American culture. As a compassionate person, I despised the cruel illusion that the American Dream had been for so many.
Despite my grudge, I enjoyed my stay. I had an inkling that under the plastic exterior there was a spicy Miami to be discovered. A Cuban Uber driver I met on the way to the airport on my way from Miami to Mexico informed me that there were numerous salsa parties all over town, if you just knew the right people. I got a small taste of this Latin underworld, when one evening we decided to drive down to the Bayside to experience live salsa music. I felt like I was in a Luis Fonsi concert - there were two charismatic Latino singers on stage dancing in perfect unison getting the crowd rowdy. They called out for the the Columbians, Cubans, Venezuelans etc., and every time you would hear a different group of people shouting out “Ay ay!” or “Yees!” or “Si, Papi!”. That night felt like a carnival. Even though I didn’t know how to dance salsa, I was asked to participate quite a few times and faked it like a pro.
One day we took a roadtrip to the Keys, but it wasn’t the typical tourist joyride you would imagine. As we were driving down, you could see debris and turned up houses everywhere caused by hurricane Irma that raged there just a month before. The beaches were empty and despite the little messiness, it was beautiful. The tragedy of the storm combined with the breathtaking turquoise scenery greatly appealed to my poetic heart.
In between the great adventures, I took pleasure in the simple things. My typical day would start with home-made breakfast, going to the free gym at the compound and afterwards jumping in the pool. I enjoyed my alone time, since I often had the pool all to myself.
I have a habit of remembering the people back home with quirky postcards, so before I left, I made sure to write a line or two about my adventures, something to the extent of:
"Hey friend! Enjoying the cold much? It's 28-degrees warm here and I feel faboulous."
Yeah, a little gloating is surely inserted in every card.
Thank you for reading my blog post, next post is going to be about my 2 week journey in Mexico!