by Brian Kaylor
For eight days in October, I lived, ate, drank, and sometimes danced in the island nation of Cuba (I'm afraid there might be photographic evidence of the latter). My usual drink of choice—coffee—posed some interesting challenges. The coffee in Cuba ranged from delicious to undrinkable (I literally had a cup I couldn't finish, but at another place drank more than I can recall). The inconsistency surprised me. Cuban coffee, which is much like espresso, was always better than the available "Americano coffee" (which I'm not sure was always made with pure coffee grounds). This suited me fine as I enjoy espresso. Each place we stopped, I'd try another Cuban coffee. One of the guides for the week even nicknamed me "Cuban Coffee." I bought a little Cuban coffee cup and some coffee to bring home.
Although the coffee was undependable, the rest of the trip was great. I joined eleven others from the U.S. as a delegation to attend the 40th anniversary of the Coordinación Obrero-Estudiantil Bautista de Cuba (Coordination of Baptist Workers & Students in Cuba). The group, usually called COEBAC, seeks to help Cuban Baptists engage in their context and society. I learned a lot from hearing the Cuban Baptists, seeing their country, and experiencing their culture. We also got to do some sightseeing of political memorials, Old Havana, and some beautiful mountains (such as in the above photo at the Viñales valley in western Cuba). For a week after the trip, I returned to Cuba in my dreams at night (though I don't recall drinking coffee in the dreams). I find it tragic that our two nations remain political and culturally divided despite a geographical distance of just 90 miles.
T. S. Elliot once wrote in a poem, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." I almost feel that way as I reflect on my time in Cuba and Turkey this year. In Turkey, I enjoyed the strong Turkish coffee. I even bought some coffee and an ibrik to cook it in (sadly, I've not yet mastered the art). As I drink my Cuban and Turkish coffee, my mind wanders back to those countries and the people I met. The Baptists in those nations enriched my life—much more consistently than Cuban coffee did. The Baptists in those nations changed my perspective and helped me see the world differently. I hope I can share some of that in my writing. This month's email features several pieces I wrote about the trip to Cuba and another publication from my trip to Turkey.