Welcome to Nayli's room.
Nayli is the sixteen-year-old daughter of my host family in Havana, a diplomat's child who has grown up here, there and everywhere around the world. No doubt that experience has contributed to her thoughtful personality. She is sensitive and quiet, qualities that go hand in hand with her natural intelligence and passion for artistic expression.
But one quick visit to Nayli's Cuban bedroom will tell you much more about her than my fumbling words. Graciously, she invited me and my camera in for a tour.
^ The bones of the room belong to the embassy: wall color, furniture, bed linens and window coverings came with the joint and don't necessarily project Nayli's preferences. But she has reinterpreted the room arrangement to create defined sleeping, seating and work zones, and added some pieces of her own: the chest of baskets, for example, and the oriental rug underfoot.
^ Nayli collects extravagantly. Her pen and pencil collection takes my breath away; her box full of erasers entertains me endlessly. She's drawn to miniatures, like these tiny turtles.
^ This girl also has a natural penchant for organization. Her bulletin board is a work of art, where metric conversion charts and school calendars effortlessly share real estate with amine inspiration and three-dimensional accents. Craftily, she made her own display cases for her pen collections, and has been creating a second bulletin board for her desk during my visit.
^ Her love of tiny details pops up in every corner of the room.
^ While most of her treasures have been collected over the years, new additions are happening all the time. The vase of tiny blossoms is a Cuban handicraft and the University of Washington sign a gift from her Husky brother.
^ Everywhere I turn, I find tiny vignettes and sweet arrangements of interesting treasures. The red tray full of tins and tiny metal cookware might be my favorite but it's awfully hard to choose.
^ And just when I thought I had seen every magical thing there is to see in Nayli's room, I discovered this: a door that leads to a tiny private balcony with sweeping views of the garden and grounds.
Beautiful as it is, the lush landscape is a perfect reminder that even though Naylis's Cuban bedroom is far from her permanent home in Kuala Lumpur, her little tropical sanctuary is a place that is truly her own.
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Check out more stories about my once-in-a-lifetime trip to Cuba and my wonderful friends who lived there: