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A camera passed down for generations.

Whenever I travel, I pay little attention to souvenir shops. I prefer to bring back home memories of what I saw, ate, or experienced via random tokens. They could be as simple as a restaurant business card, a museum ticket or something in between that I would later glue together along handwritten notes on a cardboard notebook. This perspective brought me to an immediate stop when I saw Pepe and his Eastman Kodak camera while walking in Havana’s Parque Central one very hot afternoon.

With a smile from ear to ear, Pepe shared that his camera was 105 years old and that for only 2 CUCs (a little over $2 USD) I could get my picture taken instantly in front of the gorgeous Teatro Nacional and the pastel colored vintage cars. His genuine spirit made it difficult to say no. It was past one o’clock and Pepe, still with a smile on, said he had just taken two photos that day. A mechanic by trade, Pepe knows his job is a humble one, but it is so dear to his heart as it is a family tradition. The camera once belonged to his grandfather, who then passed it on to his father and finally to Pepe.

Nowadays, it’s easy to take hundreds if not thousands of pictures with our cell phones during one single trip. But beyond social media, where do these pictures even go? It was nice for a change to actually get a picture of me printed, while at the same time share a refreshing cultural exchange with a local. The best part of traveling is certainly getting to know the locals. Meeting them can easily make an ordinary moment extraordinary. Listening to Pepe’s story was truly inspiring. Our encounter easily became my most treasured memory from our trip to Cuba, and the photo he took, my one and only souvenir.

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