In their own words: Personal Stories

Rob's story: a cautionary tale
The Story ofa law enforcement officer who found love in Cuba after his divorce - and was betrayed by the girl he wanted to marry.

A middle-aged woman has unexpectedly - and desperately - fallen in love with a younger man. Should she risk her marriage in Canada?

Young guy's tale: Heartbreak in the Dominican
Read this heart-breaking story of a young man who planned his future with a beautiful student he met in the Dominican Republic - who was not what she seemed. 

Alex' story: Divorce after only 6 months!
Alex - a successful entertainer in a Cuban hotel - married a beautiful Canadian girl. They were so much in love...  But after only 6 months, the dream was over - and Alex returned to Cuba. What happened?

(Photo: Seductive Beauty in Cuba - by TravelAdmin)


Rob's Story: A cautionary Tale

(Told on behalf of Rob, using his words)

In February 2004, Rob's life is on a downward spiral. His wife has walked out shortly before Christmas, and the overtime he has put in since then has burnt him out. When friends and family members ask him about his tired appearance, Rob only admits to being slightly overworked - as a man in uniform, he is not one to complain or burden others with his troubles.
It is only when his superior steps in and tells Rob to take time off that he makes the decision to take a vacation - to "sort things out".

Rob scours travel ads and chooses a cheap package vacation to Cuba. He has never heard of the place where the hotel is located, but Rob is not easily fazed by the unknown and decides to "deal with whatever happens".
What he doesn't know yet is that this trip will change his life once again.

It is a sunny day when Rob's plane touches down. The hotel is clean and simple, and the people are friendly. After settling in and walking the grounds to get oriented, Rob relaxes somewhat. He watches the families and happy couples vacationing in the hotel and wonders if he'll ever be able to reestablish a family for himself. Robert wants children, a dog and a cat. His ex-wife had never agreed to any of these three.

On day three of his 2-week vacation, Rob begins to feel restless. He is not the type to sit at the beach for hours or to chat with strangers. He doesn't drink much, but drinking and talking seems to be the number one activity of many visitors to this all-inclusive resort.
On Wednesday night - after unsuccessfully trying to sleep - Rob gets up around midnight, dresses, and ventures out to one of the night clubs he has spotted during his daytime walks.
The resort town consists of nothing more than four hotels lined up on a street, with a couple of discos and shops in between - but the night club where Rob settles at the bar with a Cristal beer is busy with both locals and tourists.

Years of professional experience in public safety have taught Rob to survey and assess a "scene" in seconds. He understands immediately that most of the locals are in this nightclub for business reasons rather than a good time. The ladies huddle around tables or bar stools and eye every foreigner who enters. Young Cuban men stand alone alongside walls or in groups at the dance floor, alert to their surroundings.
Within minutes of sitting down, Rob is being propositioned. A Cuban girl is leaning into him and strokes his arm; her shady handler has interrupted his conversation with the bartender and is now watching if Rob will bite.
Some of the girls seem awfully young, and Rob is tempted to ask the doorman if he's checking for ID.
But this is another country, and Rob has no business to tell the locals how to run the show. He finishes his beer and decides to head back to the hotel.

He has been walking for a few minutes when he hears screams. He turns and sees a group of girls running down the street towards him. One of the girls loses her purse and stops to retrieve it; the girl behind her runs into the first one, and both fall. The other four look back, terrified. They yell to each other in Spanish and seem unsure of what to do.
The group is about 10 meters in front of Rob.
At that moment, two security guards or policemen - Rob is not familiar with the local uniforms - catch up with the group and grab the two fallen girls who are scrambling to get on their feet.
The other girls rush to their friend's aid and start to hit the guards, yelling on top of their lungs.
Suddenly one of the guards screeches: the girl he is holding has bitten his hand. He pulls the stick out of his belt and starts hitting the girl. Now there is blood.
The entire scene has not lasted more than a few seconds, but Rob's mind records all these details in slow motion, making it feel like a half-our episode.

He knows what's happening over here is very wrong. This may be another country, but there are universal laws of decency and lines that should not be crossed.
Rob decides he has to step in.
Calm and decisive, shoulders squared and chin lifted like in any of the difficult situations he faces in his work, he approaches the scene. His entire body is a message, and his impressive six-foot frame helps: the guards not only stop hitting the girls, but also release their grip. The girls break free.
Within seconds, the entire group of girls huddles behind Rob's wide back. They cling to him and talk to him in Spanish. Rob doesn't understand the language, but he gets it that they are seeking his help.
The guards are facing Rob. He can tell they are unsure of what to do, judging from their unsteady looks and kneading hands.
The face-off doesn't last long. The guards yell something to the girls before they turn around and walk away.

It is only much later - during one of those nights when events would play over and over again in Rob's head like a never-ending movie - that Rob can see clearly what happened to him that night.
When the guards disappear and the girls savor their triumph in quiet dignity, their hands still trembling from the ordeal and blood dripping from at least one forehead, a sudden rush of passion takes hold of Rob. He has never felt so protective. He has never before experienced such an urgent wish to help. And he has never before felt so - needed.

Rob takes charge. He wipes the bleeding girl's forehead with a couple of Kleenex from his pant pocket. He inspects the wound. It is superficial but he suggests they see a doctor. The girls understand the word doctor and shake their heads vigorously.
They just want to go home.
Rob motions them to walk with him. They head towards the hotel where Rob promised to call a taxi. The word taxi is understood. One of the girls - a bleached blonde - speaks a few words English and tries to translate. Her skimpy clothes reveal deep cleavage and a tanned belly. When she sees Rob looking at her cleavage, she makes a shamed attempt to hide it beneath her hand.
Her name is Yakis. The other girls say their name as well, and Rob feels a bit like Tarzan in the movie when he points to himself and says, "Me - Rob".
A taxi pulls up to them the moment they reach the hotel. The driver yells something to the girls, and they nod. Yakis turns to Rob, points to the taxi and asks, "Is okay?"
Rob wants to say they need two cars if all the girls were to go home, but they already pile into the car. One of the younger girls screams; a cockroach is running over her hand. The other girls laugh. The cockroach poses no danger. They are okay now.

Despite the late night, Rob wakes up very early the next morning. He is elated and cannot say why. The events of the previous night are still on his mind.
Late in the afternoon he walks up from the beach to grab a coffee from the wooden bar near at lobby. While he is waiting for his coffee, the girl from reception motions him over.
"Excuse me, your name is Rob?" she asks, and when Rob nods she says, "The girl is waiting," and points towards the hotel entrance.
Rob doesn't understand. "What girl?"
"Cuban girl. She asked for you. Said you looked like this and your name is Rob. I guessed okay, no?" The receptionist smiles at Rob and bats her eyelashes, but Rob is already at the entrance, looking for a girl that asked for him.
It is Yakis. She is sitting on a huge clay pot that is tilted to the side. She stands up when she spots him and smoothes her dress. Her smile is shy, as if she has to assess first if her visit is welcome.
Rob feels like an idiot in his shorts and sleeveless T-shirt. He hadn't even showered after coming up from the beach. Self-consciously, he walks towards Yakis and wonders if he smells of sweat.
The girl says "Hola," which means Hello as Rob has already learned. Her smile widens when Rob is standing in front of her.
"Have you been waiting long?" he asks, just to say something. Yakis shrugs and keeps smiling.
"Tell you what," says Rob, "wait for me right here. I'll take a quick shower and then we can go for a drink." He motions with his palms for the girl to stay put. Yakis nods and resumes her seat on the clay pot.
Rob is in a rush when he crosses the lobby, but the receptionist stops him. "I was right, no?" Rob gets it. He reaches into the pocket of his shorts where he keeps crumbled bills. "Yes you did good," he says, putting one of the peso notes in the receptionist's hand. "Has the girl been waiting long?'
The receptionist wrinkles her forehead. "I think she came around noon. Yes I remember now. It was lunch."
Rob stares at her, dumbfounded.
Yakis has been waiting for him in the searing heat for five hours?

For the rest of his vacation, Rob embarks on a journey into another world. It is a world where people are poor but open and uncomplicated. It is a world where nobody gives a damn about his clothes, his looks, his age. He is celebrated like a hero when he meets Yakis' girl friends from that fateful night again. He is treated like a family member in all Cuban households where he is invited. There is no need for him to be self-conscious about anything.
Here in Cuba, Rob is liked for being himself.

Back at home, Rob feels like a new man, with a new outlook on life. He still works overtime, but this time it is with a purpose: he wants to save up enough hours to return to Cuba.
Cuba is all he can think about - the sun, the warmth, the people, and the smiles. The music and their dance steps. He dreams about Cuba while savoring the rum he has brought - drop by drop, until there is none left.
And he is thinking about Yakis. Rob has hopelessly fallen in love with her.
Analytical thinker that he is, Rob tries to figure out why he is so attracted to a girl 15 years his junior. He concludes that it is a combination of seemingly contradictory character traits that fascinate him to no end: her self-confidence one moment, giving way to self-consciousness and shame when she admits she has only one pair of shoes; being street smart and still so innocent in a childlike way; and her willfulness contrasting her deep vulnerability.

Rob keeps wondering what it would be like to be married to Yakis. He starts to surf the web to find information about Cuba and anything related to it. He cannot explain his sudden obsession with a country that had only existed in the periphery of his mind until a few weeks ago, but he somehow feels that his vacation will lead to a lifelong adventure.
Rob even signs up for Spanish classes. It is difficult to grasp the new language at first, but Rob enjoys himself and hopes to get better with time.

After 10 long weeks, Rob embarks on his next trip to Cuba.
He is so excited that he cannot sleep the night before his flight. He cannot remember ever having had so much energy, based on sheer excitement. In his imagination, Yakis is waiting for him in the hotel lobby, equally impatient as he is.
He knows that Cubans are not allowed in tourist hotels and so he is not disappointed that Yakis is not waiting for him. A fraction of his mind argues that she could have waited for him outside, on the clay pot like on that day - but he quickly dismisses the thought as selfish.
In any case, all doubts disappear when Yakis jumps out of a cab in front of the hotel an hour later. She called the hotel first to check if Rob had arrived because she cannot pay for that cab.
Yakis is wearing the blue and white dress she wore that day when she was waiting on the clay pot. They pick up where they finished, as if Rob had never left.
Everything is like Rob's first holiday again, except for one new development: Yakis and Rob finally sleep together.

The return home is much harder this time. For days after his return, Rob feels like he is living in a fog. He cannot concentrate. Elation and depression take his emotions on a roller-coaster ride. Working is no longer fun for him and he has to force himself to complete tasks.
The situation is painful - but Rob loves every minute of it. The suffering has a purpose: for him, it is a done deal that he and Yakis would marry.

They talk on the phone every Friday at eight. The phone is at a neighbor's apartment and phone calls need to be pre-arranged. There is little room for a spontaneous call.
One night it is not Yakis who answers, but the neighbor. She talks too fast for Rob to understand. Yakis is not there, and Rob is surprised about the disappointment he feels.
This long-distance relationship is a challenge because communication is so difficult. Rob has written Yakis long letters every week since his return. Yakis says she loves his letters and reads them with the dictionary Rob has given her.
But she has never once written to Rob, not even a postcard.

This time, Rob has to wait 14 weeks before he is able to return to his beloved Cuba. The trip will be different. Rob is not staying at a resort hotel like the last two times. His travel agent has booked a hotel in the city, close to where Yakis lives.
The taxi Rob took at the airport is driving on the avenue leading to the hotel when Rob changes his mind. He imagines Yakis impatiently waiting for him at her apartment, so why not go and see her first and check into the hotel later. The larger one of his suitcases is filled with presents for her and the family anyway. No need to drag it to the hotel and then back.
Rob's heart is beating very fast when he knocks on Yakis door. He hears steps approaching and readies himself for the most wonderful moment of the day.
But it is not Yakis who opens the door. It is her mother.
"Pasa, pasa," says Yakis' mother and motions Rob to come in. She helps with the suitcases, points to them and asks something in Spanish. She speaks too fast, as usually, for Rob to understand, but he figures that she is wondering if he'd be staying with them. Rob shakes his head and says the word hotel.
Yakis is not here, and Rob has no explanation for it. How could she have gone out when she knew he was coming?
He wants to leave and check into his hotel, come back later. Yakis' mother would have none of it. "No, no, momento," she keeps saying. She brings him coffee and Cuban beer that she borrows from a neighbor.

It is almost 4 hours later when the door opens and Yakis walks in. She breaks into tears when she sees Rob. Then she tells a long story, about how her friend had called her at 7 in the morning to see if Yakis could help with something, and how she went to her friend but it was more than the friend had said and then there was no bus back home and she had to hitchhike. Rob feels sorry for her. His anger is gone, replaced by concern.
He wants to save the evening by giving Yakis and her mother the gifts he has brought, but Yakis is not her usual child-like self tonight.
When Rob comes back from a visit to the washroom, Yakis and her mother are embroiled in a strong argument in the kitchen. Rob quietly takes his suitcase and leaves.
He has barely settled in his hotel room when the receptionist calls him and says there is a Cuban girl in the lobby and wants to see him right away. Rob knows it is Yakis and runs downstairs. Yakis is sobbing. She says she is sorry she made him angry and he should come home with her.
Rob is horrified about the stress he has caused the girl. He calms her while walking her home. The mother has gone to stay at a neighbor's house, says Yakis. They are free to spend the night in her room.

The next morning, Rob asks Yakis to marry him and live with him in his home country. Yakis claps her hands and keeps repeating, "verdad?, verdad?" - really? Really? Rob has never seen her so excited and happy. Still in her robe and slippers, she runs across the floor and bangs on the neighbors door to tell her the news.
She waits on Rob hand and foot for the remaining days of his trip.
On the night before he has to leave, Rob - always practical - asks Yakis what needs to be done next about the wedding. She says he has to get papers. She will book the date at the wedding palace and arrange for a restaurant where they can have a reception.
"Do you need money for these preparations?" Rob asks. Yakis shrugs, which means yes. Rob pulls out his wallet and removes all his remaining money, counting close to 500 Cuban Pesos on the table. Yakis stares at the money. She is ashamed to accept it, thinks Rob, and is touched by the gesture.

It is once again difficult for Rob to be back home without Yakis, but he keeps himself busy with a very pleasant task: to prepare his modest home for his bride. Being quite handy with tools, Rob does a lot of construction work by himself and begins his renovation project with newfound energy. The hard work helps to bridge the long time until he can be together again with Yakis. He wants to rush back to Cuba the moment his paperwork for the wedding is completed.
Yakis says she will soon book a date and let him know when they can get married. The lady from the Wedding Palace promised to find an opening.

One the Thursday after this last phone call, Rob gets two pleasant surprises: his marriage papers arrive 2 weeks early from the embassy, and his travel agent leaves a message about a flight that is ridiculously cheap if he could leave on Sunday. Rob sees the 2 surprises as a good omen and books the flight.
He calls Yakis neighbor on Friday night, anxious to tell Yakis the good news.
Yakis does not answer.
Rob keeps calling every ten minutes. Yakis has been late before, sometimes as much as half an hour, but after an entire hour of calling Rob is getting nervous and annoyed.
Then the phone is picked up. It is the neighbor. Her voice sounds impatient but she warms up when she hears it is Rob. She doesn't know where Yakis is.
Rob is disappointed and does not sleep that night. Has he made a mistake, booking the flight without checking with Yakis first?

However, the next morning Rob decides to make the best of it and surprise Yakis. He has not mentioned to the neighbor that he is coming. Feeling giddy, Rob pictures Yakis' face when is suddenly standing at her door. This must be a huge surprise for her.
He is sure that Yakis is longing to be with him as much as he is to be with her.

This time, Rob's flight arrives late at night. He has to wait until the next morning before he can go and see Yakis. He is up at six, and it's hard to tough it out until nine - a decent hour, he figures, to show up at someone's door unannounced.

Once again, it is Yakis' mother who opens. When she sees Rob, she slams her palm against her mouth and says, "Dios mio!" - but it is not an expression of surprise: it is dismay.
Rob's heart sinks. He curses himself for having booked this trip without proper planning, without speaking with Yakis first.
Yakis' mother stands in the doorframe, unsure of what to do. She doesn't ask him in, so Rob takes the cue: he says he will come by later, and leaves.
This is the longest day Rob has ever spent in Cuba. He is counting the hours, then the minutes. If Yakis is out for the day - going to where she is going when she is not home - she usually gets home after seven at night.
Rob is standing in front of her door at five minutes after seven. There is a small strip of light coming through the opening beneath the door, giving him hope that Yakis might be home.
He knocks.
There is no answer.

He knocks again, this time louder. Again, nobody answers. Rob presses his ear against the door, trying to find out if somebody is in there. He thinks of reasons why the door is not opened: Yakis might be in the bathroom. Taking a shower. Or being otherwise busy.
After waiting for 15 minutes without an answer, Rob walks down the stairs and knocks on the neighbor's door, hoping that Yakis might be there, maybe on the phone trying to reach him.
The neighbor shakes her head when he asks for Yakis. She looks at him as if she felt deeply sorry for him. She pats him on the arm and says something in Spanish that Rob doesn't understand.

Rob arrives at his hotel at midnight. He has wandered the streets of this strange city for several hours, not even knowing where he has been. People approached him, asked questions, wanted money - but he kept walking without so much as a glance in their direction.
He is asking himself again and again why he is taking this so hard. There could be so many explanations why Yakis was not at home, or why the door was not opened that night.
He is desperately trying to fight a premonition that something is very wrong.

The next morning, Rob decides to take action. He remembers a tour representative from the Cuban hotel where he stayed - a nice young man named Leo who speaks English very well. Rob takes a taxi to the hotel and asks for Leo. He is lucky; Leo is there.
Rob explains to him that he urgently needs a translator. Leo hesitates at first and says he has to ask his boss for time off, but when Rob offers him 50 Pesos for the day, he agrees immediately to help.
They take a taxi to the city and to the Wedding Palace. On the way, Rob explains that his Cuban girl friend has disappeared. Maybe the lady at the Wedding Palace has another address for Yakis. Maybe Yakis does not even live with her mother?
During the conversation, Rob begins to realize how little he knows about the woman he is about to marry.
The receptionist at the wedding palace listens patiently when Rob asks if Yakis has booked their wedding and Leo translates into Spanish.
Another 20 Cuban Pesos change hands before the lady is getting out a book with hand-written entries.
She checks the dates; her manicured fingernail is traveling down the columns on several pages. She stops at one entry and looks up, surprised.
They verify the name, then the address. It is all correct.
A woman named Yakis and the last name Rob provided, living at the address Rob showed on a piece of paper, has been married at the Wedding Palace two weeks ago - to a Cuban man.

Leo is talking on the way to Yakis' apartment, but Rob doesn't hear him. He is walking like in a dream, or better: in a nightmare. There had to be some huge mistake here. Cuban bureaucracy, Yakis lending her ID card to a friend. Even the most outlandish explanation is possible for Rob to believe - except the truth.

Yakis' mother opens he door right after Rob's knock, as if she had been waiting for him. She looks dismayed and helpless.
She talks with Leo for a long time before Leo finally turns to Rob to translate. He is searching for words, wants to be diplomatic when breaking the news.
Yakis' mother says she is very angry that Yakis married her Cuban boyfriend instead of the foreigner who would take her to a better life. She says she doesn't understand her own daughter, but what can one do, right?
And then she shrugs. It's a gesture Rob has seen often in Cuba. It is a gesture of people who are used to bad news and the fact that there is nothing they can do about.

Rob never hears from Yakis again. Against his better judgment, he keeps calling every Friday at eight for several weeks after his return - but Yakis is never there. Sometimes the neighbor answers, sighing when she hears Rob's voice. And sometimes the phone just keeps ringing.

Rob has accepted the fact that Yakis has chosen another man. But he wants to talk to Yakis, just one more time. Get an explanation, an apology. Let him know when and if she was going to tell him that she was in love with another man.

Anything would be better than her silence. 



Desperately in Love: How would you decide?
(Posted on behalf of Lovesick)

I may be reaching, asking you all for advice. But I have to talk about my situation. It's killing me. Please hear me out, and tell me what you think…I am a married woman, mid-forties, working in the beauty industry, I have my own salon. I travel alone, going to shows and conferences… and sometimes on solo vacations, when my husband cannot join me.

Last year I went on my own to Cuba. It was not my first Caribbean solo trip, but my first time in Cuba. It was magic from beginning to end, with everything going smooth, even the weather was perfect.

My stay was for 2 weeks… at home, we had major renos in our stripmall, and I had to close the salon for 3 weeks, so I thought, why not take 2 weeks vacation, it was cheaper overall.

On my fourth day in Cuba, I met a Cuban man. He is younger than me… okay, I'll be honest, the age difference is 14 years, he had just turned 30 when we met.
It happened on a city tour. He is not a hotel worker! And he did not approach me, looking to "hook up" or "score"! I am pointing these out, because I have read about relationships in forums, and I am aware of the situation with hotel workers who meet different tourists every week. Or the Cubans who walk up to a woman, and say she is beautiful… while having an agenda.
My story - and relationship - is different from all those "resort romances".

Here is how we met.
I went on a city tour (organized through the hotel). We got an hour of free time. Since I was alone, and it was hot, I decided to have a drink in a restaurant. I found one, it was airconditioned, and ordered a beer. The waiter brought the menu, and because I had a full hour to kill, I asked for a shrimp cocktail and another beer.

Then suddenly I heard piano music. There was an upright piano, played by a young man with dark, long hair. It was dark in the restaurant and I couldn't see much, there were only 2 more tables with guests.
I liked what he was playing, and thought I had heard the songs before. I didn't know it at the time but these were songs from the Buena Vista Social Club album, which is quite famous.

While I waited for the shrimp cocktail, I watched him play. He was very concentrated, did rarely look up. I remember thinking he must really love his music, the way he played.
Everybody clapped at the end of each song. Then he paused, and it looked like he may get up and leave. I thought I must leave him a tip, so I got a 10-peso note from my purse, and walked to the piano, and handed him the money, which I had discretely folded.
He said "Thank you, Miss" in a sweet, and young, voice. He looked at me, smiling. He had a slightly chipped tooth… but this did not matter. His eyes… they were dark, and downright mesmerizing! I cannot explain this. He looked at me as if… I meant something to him, as if he saw… hope? Appreciation?
Then I looked at my watch. I had 20 minutes to finish the food and beer and get back to the tour group. I wrote down the name of the restaurant, I knew I had to come back here.

I was 3 feet out the door, when I heard a voice, calling "Miss!". It was him. He had the 10 peso note in his hand, and he said it was "much money", and "is it really for me?". It was the sweetest thing I ever heard...
No, I do not believe in love at first sight, at all. No way. But this young Cuban… I don't know what hit me, I just knew I had to see him again!
We exchanged names, his name is D., I repeated it over and over again.

When I got back to the hotel, I felt like turning around and going back to the city. It was dark already, so I decided to wait until tomorrow. But I was restless. I no longer "belonged" in the hotel… what was I doing there?
I could not get him out of my mind, and I wondered if he was thinking about me that night too. At midnight, I was still tossing in my bed, and it took a sleeping pill to fall asleep.

I woke up and felt different. Excited, and extremely nervous. I never get up early, not on holidays, not at home (my salon is open noon to nine). That morning I was wide awake at seven!
At nine I was ready to call a taxi. Then I was thinking the restaurant would not be open so early. And yet, I could not remain at the hotel. I needed to be in the city, to be where D. was.

The restaurant opened at 11:30, and I walked through the streets, to pass the time, and I don't remember where I went, or what I looked at!When the restaurant door was finally opened, 10 minutes late, I rushed in, and my eyes were drawn to the piano, like it was magic.

When D. saw me, his eyes opened wide, like a child at Christmas, and then he smiled again, closed his lips quickly, I think he is conscious about the chipped tooth. Then he came to my table and said "Hello Miss". I remember every single word, every phrase.
There was nothing funny between us on that first trip, we only kissed once, passionately. This kiss was a promise. He asked when I would be back.

At home, I could not figure out what had happened. I felt restless, was a nervous wreck. I wanted to jump and dance one moment, then I would collapse in a chair at my salon, and close my eyes, and dream… of being back in Cuba, imagining conversations with D., thinking about the words he had said to me, "Hello Miss".
I dreamed of being with him, holding him, I wanted to hold him so badly that I was hurting physically, I was clutching the pillow, just out of sheer need. I imagined situations where he needed me, would be hurt, and I would take care of him…
Never, ever in my life have I felt like that. It was incredibly painful - and beautiful at the same time.

I went back a month later, and we took the relationship further. D. lives with his parents, in an apartment, the ceilings are high, but it is a poor neighborhood and house. His room has one bed, and a small desk, and there is no space for anything else. And yet we were so happy in this room!

Since that one day at the restaurant, almost two years have passed, and I have been back 8 times… mostly for one week, because I cannot leave my salon for long. But twice I managed 2 weeks - two weeks of heaven.

We had very few misunderstandings, or disagreements. D. is so gentle, so childlike… he wants to learn about Canada, is hungry for knowledge. He can hop around with joy like a kid, just for bringing him a People magazine in Spanish. I never knew you could make someone so happy with so little.
D's parents are wonderful people. I could tell, they were skeptical of me at first. But now they approve of our relationship, and D's mom is talking about us living together in Canada one day…Wouldn't that be wonderful.

And here comes my big dilemma.
As I said at the beginning of my story, I am married. Our son is at university, far from home, and will accept a job in this city, after he graduates. My husband sort of lives his own life… our different schedules make it difficult to be together. We still go on holidays together, sometimes with his parents, they love Mexico, but I no longer enjoy these vacations, because my heart is somewhere else.
I don't think my husband suspects anything. This tells you, how far apart we have grown.

I am torn to pieces. My life has been good so far, no major problems, but it is boring, and I often thought, was this all? Now I have a shot at living the kind of romance you only read about. I keep thinking, I could start over again, surrender to this crazy love, and not look back.

I wish I had the words to describe how I feel about D. I only know, this is the first time I experience emotions so strong, so intense… and such passion in being with a man, you know what I mean.
I also know, this will likely be my one, and last, chance to be so much in love....
So? Should I throw this chance away so I can keep living as I always have, with my husband, who is a good man? Not worrying about money, the house is paid off, and to have a good and caring family. I would keep my "good life", and not hurt my husband or his parents - or my son, and everybody would be happy.
Yes it is a safe and uncomplicated life… but I have nothing really to look forward to.

But what if I went the other way…There are women who start over, and marry a much younger man. Demi Moore just did, and she managed. I'm no Demi Moore, and still - or because of it! - I so desperately want my piece of the pie…I only have one life. And this is my one and only chance at real romance, and happiness. Why not grab it, and live in a real love relationship, with passion, and intensity, for the rest of the years I still have?

Should I risk it?
Or should I give it up, and be sorry for ever?

People always say, they regret the things they did not do, the most… never the things that they did, even if they were wrong.
I am so desparate, that I wish my husband had an affair and asked me for a divorce, instead of the other way around. Then it would not be my fault, and the decision would be made for me...
But this is not going to happen.
I am not asking you what I should do. How can I expect, that you have the answers, if I don't have one.

What I would like to know: are there any women out there, who were in the same situation, and what decision did you make? Is there someone who has given up everything, for a younger man, and did it made you happy? Or did someone, who gave everything up for crazy love (amor fu?), got betrayed and regretted it bitterly?

Please tell me what you think, good or bad. And please, don’t' judge me. If it has not happened to you, then you cannot know what it's like.


Young guy's tale: Heartbreak in the Dominican
To those who think it only happens to mature people, falling in love with younger Latinos and Latinos… think twice. I'm a 24-year-old male. In my second year of university, I went to the Dominican Republic for a holiday and ended up meeting a girl.
She almost ruined my life. Here is what happened.

On the second night of our vacation, my buddies and me went out to a bar. We just wanted to have a good time, and maybe meet a couple of girls for dancing.

There were so many girls it was hard to pick one. And they come right to your table. I never thought I'd say this but it was hard to say no… Now you may think, yeah right. But it really was like that! First of all, I'm a one-woman guy, and I'm the one doing the picking. I'm not running off with street girls either, I don't want to catch a disease. Some of these girls in the bar had heavy acne, or they looked as if they'd been around the block.

Finally we hooked up with a group of hot looking girls. There was this one girl - a real stunner with black curly hair all the way down to her butt - who acted like she had an attitude. She kept looking at her watch and bugging one of the other girls to go home, at least that's what I think she was saying.
I bought her a drink. Don't know why. Anyway, we got talking… she said she's a student and had an exam the next day, but her friend didn't want to leave. I offered to walk her home, and off we went.

I was impressed with her English, it was very good -  which was a major plus because my Spanish sucked. I can say Cerveza and Si and No. And Yo quiero taco bell, LOL!
We made a date to meet at the beach the next day. Man, I was excited while I was waiting for her - looked at my watch every few minutes. My buddies got a kick of it.
I was really bummed when she didn't show up.

Couldn't believe my eyes when she finally walked up to us - an hour late!
I asked her how her exams had gone and she said, wow you remember. And the way she said it… I wish I could describe it, but it sounded like the biggest deal in the world. I just melted.
She was just so sweet and soft-spoken… as if she was really grateful just to be with me.
To make a long story short: we were a couple from then on.

After I got home from holiday my whole life changed. I didn't even check Facebook for days in a row. All I could think about was the Dominican and my girl. I googled her name, the country, Sosua, Dominican - everything that was part of my new relationship.
While doing that, I also came across a couple of websites with warnings about Sankies… Dominicans who take rich foreigners for a ride by pretending to be in love. Oh that didn't apply to me, I thought. I'm not rich, and I'm not old. What they were saying about Sankies was for those old guys I saw hanging out with chicks young enough to be their granddaughters! Yeah so I thought… It took 10 full days until I got the first e-mail. I mean, you give someone your e-mail address, you expect them to mail you, right? What we had in the DR was so intense, so passionate - it couldn't be over! No way.
I was ecstatic when I finally saw her name in my mailbox. We made our first phone date and I called her. She told me how much it costs her to e-mail me. She also mentioned she couldn't get into her next university course because she didn't have the registration fee. I asked how much it is, she said 250US. Next day I wired her 300 bucks so she could start her university course and send me regular mails. That was the first time I used Western Union. Never needed it before, but hey I was proud of myself that I got it done without a hitch.
We talked regularly on the phone. Sometimes it was mostly me, talking, and her listening. I felt she understood me so well. When I complained about the cafeteria food on campus, she was sympathetic. I asked her if it's the same at her campus and she laughed and said, yeah it is but they're okay with it. And that's what I loved about my Dominican girl: she was so uncomplicated. Not like the chicks here. When I asked her about vacations, she just laughed and said, the university will be on vacation whenever I decide to come to see her. That's the kind of answer you like as a guy. I should have read a lot more into that answer, but we'll get to that. About a year in the relationship, I heard about a new student exchange program on campus here, where part of the tuition fees would be covered for foreign students from qualifying countries. Right away I thought about my girl. Man wouldn’t that be great to have her here for a semester or two, live with her and study together! I missed her terribly and longed to spend more time with her than just a week or two every 4 months.
I had it all worked out. We would take a 2-bedroom apartment so we could live together. I would buy all the food, and she would cook it. I was sending her money every month anyway, so there would be no extra cost. I was surprised - and hurt - when she said no. At first she said, she'll think about it. But then she said her parents thought it was improper for us to live together and not be married.
That's when marriage entered the picture for the first time. Truth be told, yeah I had thought about it previously. I mean, you gotta think about the future, right? After you get a job, you want to settle. I could picture myself living with my Dominican girl. In fact, she'd be an absolute stunner with her long black hair and her slim figure in our group.
All my friends knew about her. She'd fit right in. On my next trip to the Dominican I was prepared to sign the paperwork to get the process going. I had no idea how it would work to marry someone from that country, but I was hoping to find out once I got there.
So, after we settled at the private residence where I was now staying and did our customary greeting session (wink, wink), I asked her to marry me.
She was ecstatic. No really, she was totally smitten with the idea, as if she'd been waiting for the proposal and finally got her biggest wish. Things got a little funny when I mentioned the university, and how we're going to handle the transfer. I wasn't even sure what exactly she was studying, except that she wanted to work in tourism. I asked her, "Hospitality business? Or languages?"
Well guess what… my soft-spoken and sweet girl got mad for the first time we've been together. What does it matter, she was asking - we were getting married, right? Not sure why the alarm bells went off that day. At first I just thought, ah shucks, she's not going to throw her education for getting married? I mean, you need to have a plan B in life, right? What if I get hit by a bus, or we get divorced or something. And besides, I was thinking she wanted to get a job in the US until we had a family.
It was a financial question too. I had been sending her money regularly so she could attend university. I believe in women getting a good education. And yes, it was important for me personally too: I don't want a looker but somebody who can carry on a conversation with me. I tried to ask her more questions - how far along she was, if we could get her transcripts, what courses she had finished. She just got more and more confused and upset with every question. I couldn't figure out why it was such a huge deal for her! When I found out the truth, everything suddenly made sense: She wasn't going to university. One of her friends or cousins was - I'm not sure which - and let her use her university e-mail account. (When I had asked my girl why she didn't have her own, her answer was they were sharing a friend's e-mail account to save money. I believed it, like I believed everything else.) Turned out that the girl hadn't even finished school. That explained her short and impersonal e-mails (probably written by the friend), and the fact that she never wrote me a single letter although I had written to her every week.
You know what the joke is? I would have loved her anyway. But the lies… that's just something I couldn't live with. I asked her where all the money went I sent her. No answer. If she had been decked out in the latest clothes and shoes, that's something I would have understood - but there was no evidence she had spent it on herself.
I was hoping she had fed her family with it - impoverished mom and dad and a bunch of siblings, living somewhere in the country.
I even told her, hey, if you spent it on your family, I understand. But nothing came forward, just heavy pouting. Later, screams: that she had to lie; otherwise I wouldn't have loved her. And that I was destroying everything we had with my stupid questions.
Yes - she got mad at me, where it should have been me doing the screaming. I decided to give her another chance. After all, I really loved that girl, and I wanted things to work out just as desperately as she did. But for us to start over again, I needed to know the truth about her. I wanted to meet her family. Every time I asked about her family, she told me they live in the countryside an hour's drive away, but they'd come to the city one day to meet me.
I asked a cab driver I knew pretty well to drive me to the address where I was sending my letters and the money.
We drove off the main boulevard and kept going for a while through a really crappy neighborhood. I was still hoping for that poor home she was too embarrassed to show me. We stopped in front of a building with windows. The entrance was fenced off by one of those screen doors made of iron bars you see everywhere in the DR. Inside was a guy polishing his motorcycle in the middle of the living room. A black and white TV blared in the corner. He looked up when he saw me. Gave me a really funny look, too. The cab driver asked for my girl. He talked with the motorcycle guy for a while. They were talking too fast for me to understand anything.
Asking the cabbie what's happening was like pulling teeth. Did she live there? Yeah, she did. Where was she? Not home. Who's the guy with the motorcycle? No answer. I saw my girl one more time. Again, she had a screaming fit. What I was thinking, looking up her address. She's not living there. So where does she live? Not for you to know. Not for me to know? I'm supposed to marry a girl who doesn't even tell me where she lives? The cabbie came over the next day, looking me up, suggesting to go to the Western Union office where I had sent the money. Maybe they know more about her. He seemed to feel bad about the previous day.
Again, he did all the talking. Yeah, they know her, he said. She's picking up money from a bunch of guys, not just from me. I finally broke it off. I just can't believe she took me for a ride like this. And I almost ended up marrying her - a liar and a cheat who was living off several guys.
The whole time I was convinced that she's the one, that we had something really special. Later, when I thought about the whole thing, it just blew me away how much of it was lies that I had believed.
And I would never have caught on if I hadn't asked questions. Watch what you're getting into, guys.

Alex' story: Divorce after only 6 months!

In 2007, Alex married a beautiful girl from Canada named Lisa. For Alex, it was love at first sight and Lisa - who is the same age as Alex - was the girl of his dreams.
Alex arrived in Canada in late 2008, after waiting 18 months for his Canadian visa.
He returned to Cuba 6 months later. Lisa has filed for divorce in Canada.

What went wrong?

(All names have been changed to protect people's identity.)

Hi, my name is Alex and I used to work as an entertainer in an upscale hotel near Holguin, Cuba. In my 3 years at the hotel, I met many beautiful women from western countries. Yes I had affairs (not all were initiated by me), including serious relationships with 2 women (1 from Canada, 1 from England) that may have ended in marriage. But it wasn't the "great love" with either of them and I had second thoughts. Contrary to popular belief, not all Cubans are eager to marry for a passport. Why would we? I had a great job, was a star at the hotel and outside too - we just had to sit in our Animacion uniform somewhere and the Cuban girls would flock to us!
I lived with my family including 2 sisters and a baby brother; we are very close. Although my sisters are married and live near Banes, we get together every weekend. I was the star in the family, entertaining them with stories from the hotel… and bringing home a lot of money and gifts. Except some personal gifts like shoes or an MP3 player, I gave everything else to my family.

One night at the hotel when we were playing a sketch on stage I saw Lisa in the audience. A million thoughts crossed my mind within a few seconds. In short: this was the girl I wanted to marry. She was beautiful, with long blond hair and the bluest eyes I had ever seen.
Normally I would do an "eye contact flirt" with girls I liked, but with Lisa it was different. I was nervous and almost messed up my sketch.

After the show, we danced with the audience and I made a beeline for Lisa. She was shy - which was great because I managed to get my self-confidence back. But even so, I couldn't flirt as usual and dish out piropos (Cuban compliments), as I'd always do when I'm meeting a special girl or lady. Something was different with Lisa.
To make a long story short: I fell in love - I had never experienced anything like this. It shook me up because suddenly I had feelings previously unknown to me: insane jealousy, worries that something may happen to Lisa, insecurity whenever we had the slightest misunderstanding.
But there also was the love part - and I felt happy like never before in my life. I really loved Lisa; it was the real thing and a given for me that we would marry.

Looking back - when I was alone in Cuba, thinking of Lisa all the time, counting the days and hours for her return, worrying, living from one phone call to the next - it was the happiest time of my life. When I finally came to Canada, I thought I would start the life of my dreams. But instead, that's when everything went downhill…

In no way am I saying it was all Lisa's fault. In fact, I don't want to blame anyone or anything. I'm just trying to understand how such a great love like ours broke to pieces.
For you to understand why we ran into problems, I need to tell you something about Cuban culture. In Cuba, the man is the boss in the house. He makes all the major decisions and overlooks the family finances. He also is highly respected - making fun of the man in the house or ridiculing him is an absolute no-no and about the worst "crime" a female can commit.

On the other hand, the man in the house is responsible for providing everything the family needs. Aside from being the breadwinner, it is usually his task to go "hunting" for items such as detergent, food, or household items. This involves finding out at which store items are available and picking them up. He is also expected to provide his wife with money to go shopping for food and personal items including clothes.

The women in a Cuban household make the smaller decisions such as how to use storage space, place furniture, what to cook and how to decorate the home, what to plant in the garden, and what to trade or sell to get additional income. They also make most decisions in regards to the children. Many Cuban women work outside the home, but in general they turn over their salary to their husbands who would split it into family use and "spending money" for the wife.

Cuban men are allowed to go out with their friends and spend time away from the home as they please, without giving their wives an explanation. Cuban women do not have the same freedom. They are free to go shopping with their female friends and the children or to spend time in each other's homes during the day. However, they are expected to be at home when the husband returns from work unless they have a valid reason to be away: accompanying the children to an activity, doctor's appointment or visiting family/family friends. Going out at night with her friends for entertainment purposes (restaurant, bar, cinema, party…) while the husband is alone at home is generally not allowed for Cuban women.

I'm not saying this is right, but that's the way it is. We grow up in this society and its values, morals and attitudes are ingrained in our way of life. You cannot change and adapt a whole new way of thinking overnight. Keep in mind that we were shaped over many years and that most aspects of our thinking are affected. It is impossible to tell someone, okay here is what you have to think, feel and believe from now on - and expecting it to work.

My biggest problem with Lisa was that she did not respect me in Canada as a Cuban wife would respect her husband. Yes I admit: I was overwhelmed by my new life in Canada, all these new things I had never seen before - things that Lisa managed with complete ease. I must have looked like a complete idiot sometimes. Lisa tried to be understanding, but occasionally she would lose her patience - especially when I didn't grasp something the first time. Example: Once I was shaving and the phone rang. Lisa asked me to answer it. Okay, I said, and wanted to finish my shave. After the fourth ring, I heard a voice… the answering machine kicked in. Lisa explained to me that the machine would answer if we didn't pick up the phone after 3 rings. Fine, I got that. But a few days later the phone rang again and I didn't pick it up in time. I had completely forgotten about the machine. Lisa got angry and blamed me for avoiding to answer the phone. It's true that I hated having to answer the phone - many times I didn't understand what they were saying and I had to get Lisa anyway - so what's the point of me answering?

After our first "happy weeks" (honeymoon, so to speak) wore off, Lisa began to get angry with me for small things: for leaving my clothes on the floor, leaving the toilet seat up, not rinsing the dishes or flatware and putting them in the dishwasher.

I simply just forgot! I didn't mean to make her angry or - as Lisa put it - force my Cuban macho ways on her. I didn't mean to and I tried to please her… but I couldn't change overnight! I was (and I still am, I guess) used to leaving my dirty laundry on the floor or my plate on the table. Either my mom or my sisters took care of it. It is hard to remember every time to pick it up and I often forgot. Once Lisa got really mad at me because I asked her if she could do my manicure and pedicure. My nails were getting long. Many Cuban women and girlfriends give their men cosmetic treatments or haircuts. Lisa freaked out. Do my pedicure, was I totally nuts? She could have simply said no.

We had our first serious fight about a month after my arrival in Canada. By that time I was taking English classes in the afternoon, and one day I came home around 6:30 and Lisa wasn't there (she gets home at 5:30 from work). She hadn't mentioned that she was going shopping or had any other plans. I was worried sick. For the first time I realized how lonely and abandoned I was in my new country. If we had been in Cuba, I could have called her family and friends and asked if they had seen Lisa - but in Canada I didn't know whom to call or where to start looking!

Lisa came home about 9:00pm, and I was a basket case at that time. I screamed at her, asking where the heck she had been. Lisa said she'd gone out with her friends to a bar, to celebrate a birthday. It had been a spontaneous decision and not planned. I was stunned. First of all, why was Lisa going out with friends to a bar? And secondly, why didn't she call to tell me?
"First, if I go out with my friends - what's the big deal? And second, why didn't you call me on my cell phone?" Lisa answered.
"What the big deal is?" I screamed, "I don't know your friends! Are they male of female? They better not be male! Until I know them, you shouldn't go out with them alone!"

In Cuba, a married woman or steady girlfriend does not go out to a bar with friends unless the husband knows the friends and approves that outing. And if it was spontaneous and not approved by the husband or boyfriend, the Cuban woman handles it in two ways: either she doesn't say the truth about where she's been (and a Cubana would go to great length to concoct a story and deny vehemently that she'd been in a bar without her man), or she admits to it - and says she's sorry and apologizes.

A Cuban woman diffuses domestic situations as follows: if she's right and the husband or boyfriend is at fault (for example, in cases of jealousy), she'll respond with a caprichoza, i.e. yelling and screaming and throwing items. Then the husband calms her down and apologizes, sometimes with a gift or spending money.
If the Cuban woman is at fault, she may still scream and deny it (Cubans are very proud), or - if this approach fails - she will be her sweetest and most affectionate self and… smooth things over with sex, which can be very hot and steamy. I learned that North Americans have something similar called "make-up sex" after a fight. So it is not an unknown concept to Canadians and/or to Lisa. Cubanas use sex in a lot of situations: to appease her husband or boyfriend or to get something she wants. North American women do not use sex the way Cuban women do. They often go the other way and deny it to her man - which makes the situation infinitely worse in the eyes of the Cuban man (and other Latinos, I think). If a woman denies her man sex in Cuba, it would be the perfect justification for the Cuban man to look elsewhere.

Again, I'm not saying one way is right and the other is wrong. I'm explaining to you how we live here in Cuba and how things work between men and women.

We fought over many other issues. For example, when I got my first paycheck (Lisa helped me to set up a bank account and showed me how to cash in the money. It was new to me not to get cash from my employer!). I wanted to buy gifts, especially for my mom and my baby brother, and send my mom some money. She wanted to have a new DVD player; her old one that I had bought her when I was still working as an entertainer was broken and mom missed her DVD player so much. But Lisa said I had to give her most of the money, to pay my share of costs of living. Basically, I had (and still have) NO problems with this… but there were a few issues. Firstly, Lisa never laid out all the finances, i.e. how much money she made and what the costs were, how much she had in savings etc. As I mentioned previously, in Cuba, the man handles all the family finances. Although I realize that the money is Lisa's - and believe me, I had not intentions of touching her money! - it was hard to swallow that I was completely shut out of the family finances. Secondly… couldn't she have let me keep my first paycheck? It was very special to me and I had been thinking about the gifts for my Cuban family all along while working.

What I had a real problem with is the fact that Lisa wanted ALL of the money I had made. She handed me a calculation showing that my share (i.e., 50%) of our monthly expenses - rent, phone, TV, electricity, food - was MORE than my entire paycheck. I was floored and could hardly believe it. The money from my paycheck was a fortune in Cuba! And in Canada it barely paid for the basic expenses - leaving nothing for extras like clothes and shoes.

Lisa offered to let me keep $20.00 per week pocket money. She said I had to learn financial responsibility - and get an idea about how much life really costs in Canada. I do understand that I cost her extra for food and telephone, but the cost for rent, electricity and such would have to be paid by Lisa anyway - regardless of me living there, right? So why did I have to contribute to those expenses? We lived in a fairly large apartment with 2 small bedrooms. One bedroom would have been sufficient, but Lisa wanted the second bedroom as a work area for the computer and the sewing machine. I asked Lisa if we could switch to a smaller apartment, and that way we would have more money for gifts and shopping.
But Lisa wouldn't hear of it. In Cuba, it would have been me who made the decision in what kind of apartment to live. Sure, my wife has input or an opinion, but the final decision would be mine. Now imagine what it felt like to have this taken away from me. I felt completely shut out, as if someone had pulled the rug from under me - and I worried about what else I would have to accept without even having a say in the matter.
It undermined my self-confidence tremendously.

For a Cuban man, losing the ability to make decisions and not getting respect feels like a personal prison. We don't have much, so our pride and self-confidence are the most precious possessions we have - and they are guarded religiously.

Most of the time, Lisa was patient with me and tried her best to explain everything. She was right in so many aspects and I understood her reasons. However, she didn't make the slightest allowance for what I wanted or needed. Take the example of the first paycheck and the gifts. Could she not have reached a compromise? She could have said: "Take this much from your first paycheck and send it to your mom for the DVD player, just this once, and I take the rest."

Do you want to know what Lisa said?
- "Honey, I'd like you to learn the concept of saving for something. Too many Canadians buy things on borrowed money - credit cards or loans. I don't want you to start off like that. If you save your allowance, you will soon be able to send your mom money for the DVD player."

This would have taken several weeks - but my mom needed the DVD player now!

I was angry, but I controlled myself. I didn't scream at Lisa - hoping that she would change her mind. She didn't.
The reason for my decision to leave Lisa and return to Cuba was a trivial one, but looking back it was probably the final drop in the bucket.

We were going to a restaurant with Lisa's girl friends to celebrate one of the girls' birthday. The restaurant was on the top floor and we needed to take the elevator. We got in the elevator, the door closed, and we all just stood there. I realized they were waiting for me to do something - but what? Then Lisa sighed and rolled her eyes - looking at me as if I had messed up again - and pushed the button for the restaurant floor with an aggressive gesture.
She looked at her friends who smiled… knowingly, as it seemed to me.
You will probably not believe me, but this was the first time in my life that I had ever set foot in an elevator. I had no idea of what to do in there!
Being ridiculed like this by the woman I love was like a terrible blow. I couldn't eat much that night and wasn't very entertaining. I had lost my appetite and just wanted to go home.
Lisa didn't say anything on the way home. I think she may have realized that she had hurt me. But even so, she made no attempt to apologize or at least talk about what had happened.
If we had been a typical Cuban couple, I would have screamed at her once we were at home. Lisa would have screamed back. We would have argued for a while, but then Lisa would have snuggled up to me. Depending on how I'd feel, we would either had hot and steamy sex (with Lisa doing her best to make me happy), or I would have gone out to drink and/or have another woman that night.

But in Canada - the partners just go to sleep, each one steaming with anger beneath the covers... I don't think this is the better way to handle misunderstandings.

That night I made the decision to return to Cuba. I didn't think about divorce because I still loved Lisa. But I could no longer live like this. Every day brought a new set of challenges… operating equipment I had never seen in my life, not understanding when someone addressed me in English or in French, remembering to pick up my laundry.
Believe me, I tried hard… but you cannot learn a whole new life in a few weeks. Lisa said I was a completely different person in Cuba: always knowing what to do, being self-confident and in charge of life in general.
Why could I not be the same in Canada?

Lisa: why are you not the same in Canada as you are in Cuba?

The following is additional input by a taxi driver who has driven couples like these for many years - and heard the comments from both sides. He knows Alex and Lisa well.

Believe me, I have seen my share of break-ups, and I cannot stop wondering why the partners don't do more to understand each other's culture. Because that's what most breakups have in common: cultural differences.

Sure, there are some cases where the Cuban only married to get out of Cuba. With those people, divorce is pre-programmed. But that's not what I'm referring to. Take the example of Alex and Lisa. Both are beautiful people who fell in love with each other. This was genuine, not a passport game. And yet it didn't work out. I heard both sides because Lisa came back to Cuba. They are trying to get a divorce here; apparently a divorce is much cheaper and simpler in Cuba than in Canada.

From what Alex told me, I could hardly believe that the Lisa in Canada is the same Lisa here in Cuba. The Lisa I know is looking up to Alex, hangs on to his words and follows his advice. Alex takes care of Lisa here in Cuba, and Lisa follows him in every aspect - there is no "I teach you this" and "I teach you that" from Lisa.
I guess what happens is that people change in accordance with the environment they find themselves in. When Lisa returns to Canada, she acts in a Canadian way. When she is here in Cuba, she has no choice but to defer to Alex because she doesn't know how things work here. When I talked to Lisa, a different story emerged. Lisa admits that she may have expected too much from Alex and too soon - but she still feels that Alex slacked off in Canada.
"Alex is so different here in Cuba," Lisa says. "He's always on top of things - that's what attracted me to him. But in Canada he can't even go shopping by himself. It takes him hours to find the stuff on the list!"

I have another long-term client - an attractive lady from Montreal who is on her third Cuban partner.
"Once you loved a Cuban and were loved by him, it's hard to go with anyone else," she says. "I had two marriages with Cubans, and both went belly up. The first one couldn't deal with the fact that I'm not rich - living in an apartment and not in a grand house like you see on CSI Miami. And the second one felt too lonely in Canada. He kept calling his family and friends, running up huge phone bills every month. Then he hooked up with some Cubans who are living here in Montreal. There is a large Cuban community in Montreal. But he spent way more time with them than with me, so I called it quits."

From what I see, most couples who break up are between a male Cuban and a female foreigner. It seems to work better when the Cuban partner is female, these marriages last longer. I think Cuban women have less trouble adjusting to life abroad, deferring to their foreign husbands and let him take the lead.

There are exceptions; Yusmeidis for example returned about a month ago from England. According to her mom - whom I know well - she hated it from day one: the gloomy weather, the cold, the crowded city. And Yusmeidis was so bored. She spent her days in a small apartment, waiting for her husband to get home from work. There were no shops nearby except for a grocery store, and to get to the mall she had to take the bus or a car. They didn't go out dancing once - her husband said it's not done in England and that it's only for the younger people who go to the disco and techno dances. Here in Cuba, Yusmeidis hung out at the various discos 3 or 4 nights a week. Yusmeidis had nobody to talk to and her husband told her not to call home unless he approved it and watched over the time. After a month, she got fed up and asked her husband for a ticket to Cuba, to visit her mom. She hasn't told him yet that she's not coming back to England…

Advice from Alex for Canadian women:

1. When you meet someone in Cuba who wants to marry you and he is a tourism worker, find out for how long he has been working with tourists (for example in a hotel). If he has been working for a longer time, say 2 or 3 years, the proposal is likely serious - because if he were only after the passport, he could have easily found someone in those 2 or 3 years.

2. Don't blame everything your new husband does wrong on "machismo". Often it has nothing to do with being macho, but that's all we ever learned when growing up. Talk openly about what bothers you without being ticked off.

3. Don't go out with people your husband doesn't know. Introduce your friends first, and then you can go out for a drink with them. This is not possessiveness - but I as a Cuban husband feel protective about you.