Sometime – it’s been a while – around the turn of the year 2020/21, it must have been, I once met a woman. On a dog walk. Of course. She was walking behind us and my dogs didn’t go any further because they liked to wait for her and meet her dog.
So she approached. Maybe in her late fifties, rather small, vital, with half-length somewhat untamed dark hair. And a somewhat suspicious look. „Can,… the dogs have a go…?“ she asked a little reservedly when she had caught up with us suspiciously waiting people. „Sure. That’s why we’re standing around!“ I say jokingly.
A few usual sentences are said to the dogs and when they are finished with each other, we all continue our way together along the dead-straight pavement by the tamed city stream.
She and her family have been living in Cuba for twenty years, she says. They had a small boarding house there. She is here now to visit her parents. It is also their dog that she walks here. She would miss her own dogs very much here in Germany. And above all: the people here are all so unfriendly. Nobody says hello. Everyone is grumpy. And everyone for himself. It’s different in Cuba. The island was very badly affected economically by Corona. People don’t know today how things will go tomorrow, what they should eat the next day. But still: if someone knew where there was something to eat, he would tell the others. Everyone was friendly and helpful despite the poverty and lack. Positive. Only with the dogs was it difficult. There is almost nothing to eat for them.
In my naivety I say: „We often bought leftovers from the butcher for our dogs. That worked out quite well.“ She laughs. „There’s nothing left over in Cuba! It’s all eaten. And what’s left over goes into the meatballs. So if you’re ever in Cuba: Don’t eat meatballs.“ ‚Gee whiz. That’s what it looks like there. There’s just nothing there. Nothing at all…‘, I think. A little embarrassed.
„I’ll be glad when I get back,“ she says as we walk side by side. „This unfriendly and distant coldness of the people here, it really gets to me here.“ „Everyone has everything here,“ I say. „Everyone thinks they don’t need each other. Or is afraid that someone will take something away from him. But they’re not all like that. Not by a long shot. Maybe more noticeably in the city than in the country. Many have stress and tons of worries. That’s when they can only look at themselves,‘ I say in defence. ‚But it is the basic mood that this woman from Cuba has captured…‘ I think.
We come to a crossroads and our short walk together parts again. We say goodbye. I wish her a safe journey back and a good time with her parents. „I’ll be back in a fortnight. I’m looking forward to it. Go to Cuba sometime. It’s beautiful there. The people there are very friendly.“ „But then no meatballs!“ I joke. „No, no meatballs. Goodbye.“ she says and everyone goes on their way. – ‚Full and safe.‘ I think as I walk on, pondering this unexpected conversation. ‚That’s not the whole story. Not even the most crucial thing. To reduce life to that is not to live, but only to survive… This woman would rather return to poverty and insecurity in the company of hearty people than to sit here full and safe in the coldness of feeling…. That’s a strong statement… That’s proverbial living proof. – – But with the meatballs, it’s certainly no different here in Germany than in Cuba… everything comes in too.‘ I think.
As I said, it’s been a while. But this morning I remembered the woman from Cuba. And I thought: write it down. It was a nice meeting. And a clear statement… Not just a statement. A lived statement. A truth.