Cuba

Pure

Boxing is pure in Cuba.

In a country where the pursuit of personal wealth is largely seen as irrelevant, boxers don't train for money, or fame. They know they will never see their names lit up in lights, or fight before an audience of adoring fans. Instead, they train for themselves, to simply see what they can achieve.

In run down gyms, on the backstreets of Havana, the boxers will spend endless hours skipping, and running, and sweating, all for the chance to simply match against someone else who has spent as many hours doing the same. Adversaries for the duration of the bout, friends the moment the bell sounds to end it, the result of each match is rarely as important as the effort each boxer has demonstrated. In one of the few places left where sport remains pure, they are driven by nothing more than their own determination, as they trade blows watched only by their fellow boxers.

But the biggest challenge still lies ahead for the boxers of Havana. As Cuba gradually opens up, to a world where so many of our sports have been tainted by temptations of money, let us hope these boxers are able to stay true to their sport.

That will surely prove to be the hardest fight of all.

Appreciation

The people of Havana really know how to look after their cars. They have to. With Cuba economically cut off from the rest of the world since the late 1950's, the cars on the road today are exactly the same cars which were on the road way back then.

In a country where almost nobody has ever seen a new car, the few which are on the roads are meticulously maintained and repaired. Spare parts don't exist, so the people have had to learn how to improvise.

They fabricate new parts by eye, and find ever more ingenious ways to keep their own engines running. Most of all, though, they really take pride in their cars. They clean them, polish them, and appreciate them in ways we have long forgotten.

We have become so accustomed to our modern conveniences of life, we completely take them for granted. Our telephones, our computers, our televisions are so common, we simply see them as disposable items. When one breaks, we just assume we will pick up another to replace it.

But in Cuba, where even picking up replacement eggs means queuing for hours, people know what it means to value the things they have.

And so they look after their cars, and the other conveniences they are able to enjoy, because they know what it means to go without. Perhaps that is a lesson we could all do with learning.