But after a week and half here, I’ve started to feel a bit like a refugee. The overwhelming feelings of paranoia, fear, and uncertainty are contagious. Out in public, nobody smiles and everybody avoids eye contact. When I do make eye contact, people scowl, look at me suspiciously, or turn away. And I’ve started to do the same. You’re always on edge, even though there isn’t much physical crime. We’re all afraid of something, but aren’t sure what. And I’ve begin to understand how insidious living in a repressive dictatorship can be. All of the refugees here have grown up under Saddam and lived through his worst and apply those life lessons to survival in this country.
Cuba was not like this. Cubans were certainly afraid and paranoid and careful, but they were still kind and friendly and hopeful for change.