Hi everyone, my name is Jense. I'm 25 and I'm from Cuba.
I take that many of you have heard about that beautiful island in the Caribbean with beautiful beaches and beautiful people. While true, and thanks God for that, regular people in my country live a very precarious life. We had had for many years an authoritarian communist regime led by late Fidel Castro and now by his brother, 85 years old Raul. Now don't let yourself be fooled by the things some tourists, or left-wing activists or people dissatisfied with the status quo in their country might say. Is one thing to go for a visit to Cuba as a foreign tourist and another very different living in there as a national. We Cubans are subjected to things that most of the western world would find crazy. For starters, if you are out of the country for more than two years, you're consider a foreigner and lose all rights in your own country. Then, you would have to go to the Cuban embassy in the country were you reside and ask permission to go to your homeland. There's no guarantee you'll get it though, in fact if you've ever criticised the government or any of its leaders in any way, you might be denied entry. It is a struggle to many families there, to be able to feed their children, mine included. Picture yourself having to send your child to school without nothing to eat because there's virtually no food and the prices are so high, out of the average income in a regular household. The mean salary for a full-time worker is around 20 USD a month. Eight years ago Cubans weren't allow to own a mobile simcard, that was a right just for visitors. We could not stay in Hotels, even if we had the money, again a privilege just for visitors. Even now, Cubans are not allow to have Internet in their homes, a very poor Internet by the way. In contrast, foreigners residing in the country can acquire this services. We have to go instead to wifi hotsports scattered all around the city to get online, a privilege only a handful can enjoy since the cost of one hour connection represents 10% of your monthly income.
Now, if you are anything like me, I can bear to some extent the hardships and vicissitudes of economic restrictions. What I cannot indulge, and believe me I've tried, is when someone tries to cut my freedom short. It is intrinsically opposed to my character to submit myself to doctrines and philosophies that I do not share. The government tries to brainwash children from the moment they get into school, which is aged five. They force you to recite slogans and pledge obedience to the leader of the communist party, very much like they did back in the USSR. When I was one years old, my dad tried to reach America in a raft. It was a tough call for him, not only he was risking his life in the process but was also leaving my mum and I for God knows what time. He did it for one goal, to get us to America and give a future. Sadly he was caught by the authorities and spent a year in prison for trying to leave the country. For you to understand properly you need to know that before this happened, my father was the director of finances in a well-known modelling firm. When he got out of prison, because he had been jailed for leaving the country, illegally, he was consider a traitor. He never again found a job, I remember I used to accompany him to cut the grass in parks or the backyards of some neighbour.
So I was brought up in that circumstances and I learned at a very young age, what it had meant for my beautiful country, to experience communism. I got into Uni to study Physics, I was a fine student I think., but struggled a lot because I couldn't keep my mouth shut. The political indoctrination at university is ten times greater than in other levels of education and I wasn't willing to do what they demanded of me. I never went to a march to support the government, or go in hordes to insult and sometimes hit dissidents. I never went to any meetings nor ever enrolled in any political organisation. I would speak my mind whenever I wanted it and that was too much for them. They kicked me out of Uni and that was it. Of course I don't have any proof because they don't give you any paper, but I was a good student and all of the sudden I flunked all the subjects. When they arrest dissidents, they do something called "arbitrary arrest" where they hold you for a couple of days, that way they don't have to do any paperwork. From that time on, I worked as an English teacher, a private tutor of some sort and also do translations. I would do really everything I could get my hands in. I learned English own my own, I was a huge fan of Harry Potter, still am. I remember the first time I wached the film and instantly I knew I wanted to be able to speak like that and watch the films without subtitles.
Eventually, I was able to save enough money and go to Russia, a country where I don't need a visa to go to. There I had a friend from Uni doing his MsC, he had told me about the opportunities of being an English teacher. We rented a place together and I started working, mainly through Skype or tutouring students at their homes. Russia is a very different country of what I'm used to, to say the least. The language is complicated, the weather is challenging and can be harsh every now and then. What I miss the most apart from family and friends, is the sun. Really seldom we get any sun in Saint-Petersburg.
In time I was able to fend for myself and earn some money, but due to the fact that I'm not a permanent resident I have to leave the country when my visa expires and then come back again. This is something I think only Cubans can do because if you stay more than the three month you're permitted every six month, then you're not allow entry again. But for some reason is not like that for Cubans, we can go out and return unlimited times. I've been living here for a year and the times I have had to travel to get my new visa and returned, I haven't had any problem.
Please excuse me for this long text but it felt only right to let you know the full spectrum of my story. I was invited by the nurses from church to visit their shrine in Schoenstatt, Germany, it's going to be a pilgrimage and everyone is going and I would really like to go too. Also, I have to renew my visa very soon, that means I have to do all the paper work and spend an awful lot of money that I barely have. I then have to get out of the country and come back again so they can valid my new visa and extend my stay. It's been a year since I last saw my family, and since I have to get out of the country, I would really like to visit them in Cuba, I miss them so much.
Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this. I'd would be forever grateful of any help I could get. I can't offer you something because I don't have anything, but I least I can keep you all in my prayers. Maybe someday I'll be able to help someone too.
Thank you again, Viva Cuba Libre!