This morning we got up early, had breakfast, and climbed into our bus for our long ride to Havana’s Jose Marti International Airport, Terminal 2. We arrived in plenty of time to check-in and go through customs. As usual, I asked to have my passport stamped on the way out, and as usual, the nice agent asked me if I was sure I wanted her to do that. I assured her that it was okay, so she managed to find a clean space on my passport and banged her stamper down with what seemed to be an especially loud thud, then looked up and smiled. Perhaps she thought I was really brave for challenging my country’s laws. In reality, it was much simpler than that. Since all of us were traveling legally, why in the world would we NOT have our passports stamped? As I’ve written many times, I consider my stamp to be a badge of honor.
It was hard to believe that our expedition would soon be over. We boarded our American Airlines 737 and flew north across the Straits of Florida, landing 50 minutes and 50 years later in Miami. Customs was generally uneventful. Rather than clearing customs as a group, we were funneled into the huge open area with international flyers who just returned from all over the world. (The person immediately in front of me just returned from London.) After exiting, I picked up my checked bag and called my friends in Miami. I met them in Cuba several years ago, and I brought back some personal items that their father had given me. They picked me up at the airport and we drove to a nearby coffee shop. We had snacks, and I gave them their gifts from Cuba. They brought me back to the airport, where I boarded my flight that would take me to Atlanta (where I am finishing this chapter of my newsletter). Soon I will be heading for SFO, and another Cuban expedition will be complete. This trip has been the best yet. My fellow travelers were friendly, intelligent, and curious. It was truly an honor to help them understand more about such a tragic country with such a humane civilian society.