Her Corazon es en Cuba…

***Note to the Reader: This entire piece, “Salsa Lessons in Cuba,” was written by one of my best friends, Nina DiFrancisco, after our recent trip to Cuba.  She wrote this on the flight home, trying to capture the experience she had in Cuba, before it faded from her memory.  In my opinion, she captured something beautiful.  This exemplifies so well, many of the reasons I love to travel.

Salsa Lessons in Cuba Author, Nina DiFrancisco, Girl Who Travels the World

This is my friend Nina, & this is her story…

Step into Nina’s Travel Journal…

February 28th, 2017

Cruising to Salsa Lessons in Cuba, Girl Who Travels the World

Our cherry red car drops us off at the door of the dance studio…

Salsa Lessons in Cuba…

Salsa music gets louder with every step, as we walk towards the dance studio.  Excitement & energy burst forth as we realize: we’re about to get salsa lessons in Cuba!  We’re about to get salsa lessons in Cubaaaa!!!

Opening a large, wood door ~ our view is of sweaty, dark men twirling women around in a large room.  They are all beautiful. And strong.  Our excitement mounts as we wait to see which instructor we’ll be paired with.  Suddenly, all three of us lock eyes with a cocoa-butter, monument of a man: his grey shirt dripping in sweat, white shorts exposing long, toned legs. His moves are as smooth as hot butter popping on an iron skillet, & his smile makes my heart beat wildly.  Overwhelmed & shocked that a man can be so beautiful, I turn to my friends & shout, “I’m in! I’m in!”

We’re giggling like school children who’ve broken some forbidden piñata full of scrumptious candy.  One class ends, while we move towards the back of the studio with our new teacher; he leads us upstairs. Grey Shirt walks by; eye contact is brief. I look down immediately, while my two girlfriends stare hard.

At this moment, we know we made the right choice to reserve private salsa lessons.

Our room has a long mirror & overlooks a small courtyard where some people are drinking mojitos; there are vines & flowers all over the walls.  Looking around, we take in the moment: we’re about to get salsa lessons in the heart of Old Town Havana with gorgeous Cuban men, in a quaint, yet beautiful atmosphere.

Salsa Lessons in Cuba, Girl Who Travels the World

Sexy Salsa Lessons in Cuba…

The first instructor walks in.  He’s tall & lanky, with wild hair & a strong aura that means business.  He starts with 1-2-3, 5-6-7 basics.  In salsa, you pause on the 4-beat, & the 8-beat.  Lined up in front of the mirror, we take these steps seriously.  But it doesn’t take more than six beats to burst out laughing ~ mistakes!  Sadly, it sinks in that we’re not as good at salsa as we thought we’d be.

Ten minutes of 1-2-3, 5-6-7 goes by, & in come two other Cuban men: our new dance partners.  I see in the mirror that one is the Grey Shirt beauty.  Immediately, my body gets the chills.  With tunnel vision, I don’t quite make out what the other instructor looks like.  Struggle hits as I hope I’m paired with Mr. “Grey Shirt” ~ but also knowing that if I do, I won’t be able to focus.  

Shit!  I am paired with “Grey Shirt.”  

He introduces himself as Kevin.  I find his name odd considering that all the men we’ve met in Cuba have dramatic Cuban names.  Still focused on his beauty, I don’t pay attention to anyone or anything else.

No time is wasted as the 1-2-3, 5-6-7 steps are back on. This time, with a partner.

Kevin is my pair. With lust & utter nervousness, I try my hardest not to show these feelings. He grabs my hand & lower back, firmly pulling me towards him.  I gasp.  His brown eyes are staring straight into my soul.  Three seconds. That’s how long we stare before I quickly turn my gaze. Those three seconds felt like five minutes had passed by.

As we step side-to-side, back-and-forth, my eyes veer from the floor to the mirror, purposely avoiding those eyes.

Music stops. Our lead instructor, the skinny one, states firmly while looking at me: “How can you feel the moves & connect if you don’t look in their eyes?  Looking away creates distance.  We want intimacy.”  Double shit.  Now I’m forced to face this thing called intimacy that has been non-existent in my life for years.  I shake my head, fire boiling inside me, & begin to feel myself blushing.  DAMN!!  Pep talk internally happens, & I’m back to staring face-to-face.  Seeing his face this time, I notice the rich brown lashes.  His skin is smooth with little wrinkles.  Lips soft & pouty.  Just when it feels like I’m dissecting him & may even be coming off as creepy, he surprises me with a smile.  Heat & chills rush through my body.  My head is light.  He is so beautiful.

“How can you feel the moves and connect if you don’t look in their eyes?  Looking away creates distance.  We want intimacy.”

Moves start again, & I forget everything that’s been taught.  I stumble over my feet & feel sweat dripping down my face & back. Between his touch & the hot weather, there’s no cooling off.  1-2-3, 5-6-7 ~ mess up ~ do it again. For an hour, the same feeling: nervousness, chills, lust, desire…& closeness.  He moves like a leaf in the wind.  Even small movements, soft touches, feel sensual.

With every pause, every mistake, the girls look over: they know exactly what’s going on with me.  Jokes are cracked.  Comments are made.  I burst out saying, “I can’t concentrate!”  They ask me, “Why not?” with smirks on their faces.  I leave the answer to their imagination.

Salsa Lessons in Cuba, Girl Who Travels the World

Nina and “Grey Shirt” ~ dirty dancing in Cuba

Salsa Lessons in Cuba...

1-2-3, 5-6-7.  Music.  Movement.  Deep breaths.  Chills.  Embarrassment when I don’t get the steps right.  Excitement with how incredible it is to be taking salsa lessons in Cuba with this man.  Eyes keep meeting, & each time, I try my hardest to add an extra second.  Oh, how the ladies must go wild over this one.  I feel danger.  I feel sensuality.  I feel for the first time in over a decade, how I’ve been afraid of intimacy.  How strong is a locked stare.  How meaningful it is to stare into someone’s soul.  The feeling is overwhelming.  I love & hate every moment.  My typical strength & control is out the door.  It’s terrifying, yet satisfying to feel this way.  Few words are exchanged as only movement occurs.

Dancing, the action of love & intimacy. Expression of emotion.

Class ends.  Hands clapped.  Thank you’s given. My anxiety begins to calm as I won’t be sharing vulnerability any more with this mysteriously beautiful man.

I feel danger.  I feel sensuality.  I feel for the first time in over a decade how I have been afraid of intimacy.  How strong is a locked stare.  How meaningful it is to stare into someone’s soul.  The feeling is overwhelming.  I love & hate every moment.

The men walk out.  We are left behind to breathe hard & laugh about the incredible experience we just had.  Talk is about the emotions, the moves, the overall sexiness just occurred in this room.  Laughter relieves our lingering nerves & we all agree, “We need a drink!

Sitting in the courtyard, drinking the best mojitos in town, we have a perfect view of these fit, lean men as they come & go from room to room.  The music flows.  We laugh.  Opposite us, our instructors drink ice-cold cervezas.  Kevin sits front-and-center.  I scoot my chair back so I can hide behind a tree.  My friends say I’m nuts, but the emotion is back.  I’m replaying in my head those eyes, that face.  The masculine arms that guide me as I spin.  The amount of sexiness that happened to me in one hour hasn’t happened to me in ten years.

After a few mojitos we make friends with the locals. The bartender joins us after our third.  We all feel like friends.

Salsa Lessons in Cuba, Mojoity

After all this dancing: we need a drink.

The atmosphere is unbeatable.  Gorgeous men coming & going, music pulsing all around us, & this incredible high that a dream of being in Cuba has come true.  Some people never once have this kind of experience in their whole life.

Each time Kevin is in sight, the girls tell me to look.  Nervously, I never do.  Noelia becomes bold, & hops out of her chair to ask for a dance with him.  Now I have a reason to look without guilt. Thankfully, Eileen takes some video for memories.

School ends, & our glasses empty.  We need food, & it’s probably time to stop staring at all these gorgeous men.

At dinner, our now-iconic “Salsa Lessons in Cuba” are the entire topic of conversation.  I can’t stop thinking about him, staring into my soul with those eyes of his.  I stay in a state of shock all night, with a slight flush that worsens with every drink.

BUT…..the bartender from the salsa place DID invite us back for mojitos the next day, since it’s my birthday.  So we knew we would see those beauties again…. 

xoxo Nina & Noelia

Read Next: Part 2 ~ 50 Shades of Salsa in Cuba!

***Stay tuned for Salsa Lessons, Part Two ~ where Nina dives even deeper into Cuban culture by taking a second private lesson with this beautiful, hunk of a man!  What happens next….will he ask her out?  Do they go on a Cuban date??  This is our very own, international version of “The Bachelor!”  Stay tuned, my friends…

Nina lives in Portland, Oregon & runs an event management company with her father, which keeps her busy flying all over the country! In her spare time, she travels every chance she gets, & will be writing future GWTW blog posts ~ so stay tuned for more from this witty, hilarious gal!