I’d like to welcome Chen Lizra, author of My Seductive Cuba, to my notebook.
On the last morning of my two months in Cuba, I woke way too early. I was way too emotional to sleep. The Malecón [seawall] was so calm and dawn was breathtaking. I stepped out to my balcony and took some pictures. I am never awake at this time to take in all the beautiful colours. The cars’ lights and street lamps were still reflecting on the water, yet the light already allowed for the pretty sea colours to show through. So calm, so peaceful. I packed my last things, and went to say goodbye to Melba and Alberto, my friends. It was time!
On the way I was reflecting on how Cuban dancing has transformed my life forever. With every emotion that I feel deep inside, I explore how to express the feelings outside, and I can feel it changing me. It softens me, makes me more sensual, and smoothes those sharp edges. For a strong person like me, it is a magical feeling to feel so feminine. I love it.
Zuyima, my dance teacher from la ENA [The National School of Art] explained to me that the Orisha Ochún, whose movements I was studying, walks with intense pride, exactly like one of Zuyima’s friends, a dancer in a known group. Apparently if her friend walked on the streets of Havana and didn’t get from men the response she liked, she would go back and change what she was wearing. She added: “Men tell you how beautiful you are on the streets here, don’t they?” I replied that yes but that it was common for all women visiting Cuba especially the yumas [foreigners] who have money. She smiled and added: “That’s not true. If you will pay close attention you will notice that they treat you in a special way, specific to how you look, walk, and dress.” She explained to me that I was proud of what I have created, my company, and proud of myself, but that this pride was internal. I now needed to harness pride on the outside. Her instructions were clear – to leave all my worries behind, walk in Havana dressed to the nines, and just enjoy what men were telling me. It was important, she added, that I’ll smile back because Ochún always smiles. I did as she said and let the compliments hit my heart. After an hour I came back and my pride was outside. What I struggled to learn during that week which was not part of my life, got resolved in one hour with the help of “Cuban homework.” It made me reflect on how the way we dance is the way we live our lives. Through dance I was transforming mine. I smiled to myself as I enter Melba and Alberto’s building.
I knocked on their door and they opened it with such enthusiasm: “We were just talking about you.” I asked them what about and she responded: “That you could not leave without saying goodbye.” I smiled back and replied: “Is that how you know me? Would I ever leave without saying goodbye?” We chatted for about an hour on their balcony, and at one point Alberto said to me: “You did good.” He was referring to the fact that I connected my various friends in Havana knowing that it will improve their lives. I don’t remember the exact words he used but it was along the lines of me being a really good person and that I made a difference for them. I was truly happy that I could give them such a gift.
I hugged them both and went out to the street of Havana for one last stroll. I left their home glowing, reflecting on what Alberto said. He made me feel special. I wanted to take it all in one last time before leaving. I walked around looking like a Cuban, I even looked in people’s eyes like one. It was good to feel Havana one last time and say my personal Cuban goodbye.
Chen Lizra – My Seductive Cuba – www.myseductivecuba.com
Chen Lizra started traveling to Cuba in 2005 in order to train with the island’s best professional dancers. Each year she finds more excuses to visit Cuba, discovering the culture from within and hanging out with her close friends.
Chen grew up in Israel and later moved to Canada. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration with a major in marketing, which allowed her to turn her passion — Cuban dance and music — into an inspiring lifestyle for others through her company, Latidos Productions®.
Chen was selected as the Student Entrepreneur Champion for British Columbia in 2008. The following year, she was nominated as one of the “Women of Distinction in Vancouver,” and in 2010, she was named “Woman of the Month” by Modern Working Woman Magazine. In addition, the Australian government has honoured Chen with a distinguished talent permanent visa. She’s also been featured in numerous newspaper articles and TV shows.
Her latest book is My Seductive Cuba – A Unique Travel Guide.