By Leonid Lopez

Tokyo, Japan
Tokyo, Japan

The temperature was 2 degrees centigrade, the lowest temperature I’d experienced since arriving in Japan. I was in the town of Nagano, the place where my wife spent the majority of her early childhood and all of her school years up until the University.

As happens with many intelligent people, her dream from a very early age was to leave that remote town where nothing ever happened. Thanks to that dream, she went on to the University instead of remaining there and working in a little shop where she never would have met me.

My in-laws came to welcome us. From the beginning they’ve been very kind to me. Their first gesture was to present me with a coat, a scarf and gloves that were warm enough for winter. It was December 31 and I was hoping to see Santa Claus appear in a sleigh.

Everything there looked just like those postcards or photos of beautiful far-away places that always appeared dreamlike to us in Cuba. As a result, my feelings for that place weren’t the same as those of my wife.

To me, it seemed a paradise of cleanliness and tranquility. It was as if it were a present wrapped in a box and tied with white ribbons; my gift from Santa Claus that my own father would never have been able to give me.

Next came my first experience using chopsticks to eat Japanese food with all of its ordered plates and colors and forms that make of a meal something more than the obligatory satisfaction of corporal need, converting it into a celebration where the spirit can rise and rejoice on the basis of rites that give form and a name to its flight.

Later came the snow and the experience of walking in it, soft and hard at the same time; like the life I was just beginning, like life everywhere, but now with another temperature, with other faces and other rituals.

When we went to a supermarket to do the Christmas shopping, my father-in-law asked me if everything seemed large to me. It was the first time that I realized that the world of such varied offerings didn’t impress me much. I walked with confidence through those places as if I were merely in transit towards something larger.

Meditating at sunset
Meditating at sunset

The enormous words like liberty or happiness still didn’t enter my head. Of course, logic would dictate that I was living in a new world where the mind was still full of astonishment. But it wasn’t really astonishment that I felt most strongly, but rather something like a quiet hunt for the real experiences that would come later, when it was me, and not that other person, assuming the steering wheel of my new life.

But right now, the task was to keep the new boat afloat and find a name to baptize it with. I was still searching out the snowmen in the area around my in-laws house, when one morning I awoke with the cold and heard voices in a strange language and couldn’t recognize the room I was in, or the landscape outside the window.

I wasn’t in Cuba anymore and the snowman was me.  Outside the house in the middle of the snow and part of a myth that was beginning to melt, like the dream in my head that was beginning to become a concrete, fixed reality.


Leonid Lopez

Leonid Lopez: My parents named me Leonid because I was born in Cuba on the same day that Leonid Brezhnev, the ex-Soviet president, arrived in Havana. Today it’s a name that is no longer fashionable. I lived in Cuba for 34 years and have now been in Japan for five months. Some of my ideas have changed but I continue believing in two: I believe in the importance of being able to choose, but also that happiness is the responsibility of each person, and nobody can grant it or deny it. Cuba seemed like a good place to grow up, later it began to be like a mother that devours her children. There are those who believe in the homeland; I believe in goodness. Wherever that exists I can have my nest. Now it’s here with my wife, tomorrow, I don’t know.

4 thoughts on “<em>Snowman</em>

  • No lo podia creer cuando encontre tu diario. Hace como 8 annos que no sabia de ti. Aunque ya debia estar acostumbrado, los unicos que quedan en Cuba son los que no han podido escapar.
    Un abrazo de Joel del Electrico

  • Apaga un momento la mariguana y pon más foticos con muchos colores, de paso nos presentas a tu esposa, alguien muy importante en tu historia.
    Información de última hora: el próximo domingo habrá asamblea de balance en el CDR, por favor informa si puedes asistir al menos 10 minutos. Se van a plantear cosas importantes y saldrá un nuevo delegado, quizás seas tú. Bueno, nos vemos en la reunión.
    Ah, no vayas a hacer como Erasmo, sigue comiendo carne, pollo y lo que caiga, sushi, camarón crudo e incluso etcétera. Gracias y felicidades.

  • It would be great to see more pictures of your experience, and yes, pictures of you and wife with your in-laws. Thanks for the wonderful narrative.

  • Leonid, pon una fotico de tu esposa que estoy loco por conocerla.

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