In May of this year, Alina (my wife)¬†and I made a 10-day trip to Cuba. It was the first time back for me after 18 years, and 12 for her. We stayed at the house where I grew up (we actually slept in what used to be my parents’ bedroom). As someone who writes about Cuba, this journey back was more than a personal reconnection with my native home, members of my family, and childhood friends. It was an opportunity to see, in real life, places that I remembered or had imagined while writing about them in my stories and novel.

Here are a few photos (from the hundreds!) we took while there.

capitolio

El Capitolio and old cars: what most tourists get to see.

cops

Cops harassing local vendors: what tourists don’t always see.

theater

Teatro Mella: the setting for the opening of my novel.

coppelia

Coppelia ice cream parlor: another setting in my novel.

vedado

View of El Vedado, el Malecon, and the U.S. embassy.

motorcycle

My best friend from my childhood took Alina and me on a ride around Havana in his Russian Jupiter motorcycle with sidecar. One of the coolest experiences we had.

kay-mani

Bumped into Ky-Mani Marley (one of Bob Marley’s sons) at a bar in Old Havana. We spoke briefly about our mutual love for the island and its people.

Old building.jpg

How so many people live just blocks away from the tourist areas.

centro-habana

Side street in Centro Habana, as viewed from El Paseo del Prado.

my-block

The sad state of the block where I grew up.

countryside

The Cuban countryside.

Food.jpg

Havana’s budding restaurant industry (tostones rellenos and enchilado de cangrejo).

moskvich

Remnants of the Soviet era. My dad used to drive one of these, assigned by his job, when I was growing up.

university

Alina and I on the famous steps at the University of Havana.

obamas-restaurant

Having a complimentary drink at the restaurant where Obama ate during his visit.