Well, a week in Cuba and quite an interesting place it was indeed. It was kind of what I expected in a way, and not what I expected in many ways. I’m glad I was able to experience and see different parts of the country rather than remain at a resort for the whole time. First off, I want to thank and congratulate my old high school amiga, Shelley, for a wonderful wedding and party to go with it. We had a ball of a time. Best wishes to you and Juan Carlos. It was also great to see old high school friends again. We all have changed but somehow we are still the same.
A funny moment from the wedding, with many mojitos and cuba libres already consumed throughout the day… El DJ was pumping out the Cuban music all night and everyone was dancing away, but I just had to request something more my style, so I asked if he had anything harder. “I don’t know” he replied, “but I think I have Nirvana.” Perfect. I wandered back to the dance floor, Cuban cigar in mouth, and awaited for the salsa number to conclude. Then the guitar riffs of Smells Like Teen Spirit kicks in, and a roar burst out from the Canadians. The Cubans slowly back away, leaving only the Canadians jumping mindlessly in a perfectly form circle. We proceeded to rock the fuck out with the Cubans staring at us with little to no idea of what the fuck was going on. There confusion remained as we began to moonwalk all over the dance floor to Thriller. Our display lasted but 2 or 3 songs and then it was back to Cuban music, but we had left our mark and I hope we are welcomed back:) It was a fun wedding, that’s for sure.
Some observations on the country in general. It was a little sad to see how life is in Cuba. There seems to be certain ways of doing things and systems in place that must be followed. For example, there are only certain taxis that you can take to get to certain places. Renting a car was a bit of a challenge as well. We stayed with local Cubans, who ran official tourist houses that were given to them by the govenment. But they are only allowed to let 2 people stay per room, no exceptions what so ever. People generally do not leave the city they live in, so they are clueless on other parts of the country. And they are not allowed to travel outside of the country.
With jobs, every penny that is made is recorded and given directly to the government, which in turn supplies the people with a limited and equal amount of food, shelter, and a job. They are then paid an average of $20 a month for luxury spending. Restaurants often run out of food, generally leaving only chicken on the menu. My stomach was not feeling right, as there was no telling how good or old the chicken was, although it was tasty.
It appears that the only way to really survive is to make money illegally, because what the govenment supplies alone does not seem to be enough. The people do not seem to be happy, with many nights spent on the streets drinking rum because that is all there is to do. Havana is also one of the dirtiest cities I’ve seen, and that includes Naples, Italy, but you can see what a beauty it used to be once upon a time. People have just stop caring and haven’t taken care of it because to them there is no point. It is especially hard to see that the people of Havana have a clear view of the ocean, but know that they are trapped on this island.
They treat tourist well, however. Not only does the country rely heavily on tourist dollars, the local people enjoy the colourful lives with which the tourists bring with them. This is through different stories told to them that they are not accustomed to, and perhaps they bring hope to their lives. It is not encouraged by the government though, as locals can be arrested just for talking to the tourist. Rest assure that no one will ever cause problems, other than maybe try to milk more money out of the tourist as they should. But as mentioned before, they do not have a lot and need the little extra money just to survive.
Overall, our time in Cuba was well spent and I was glad to see and learn about this socialist society. I had some great travel mates with me as usual, Carlos, Venassa, and of course Newfie Joe. Our time was great but because everything we wanted to do was so difficult to accomplish, our time in the country seemed to last an eternity. Even trying to leave was a challenge, as Venassa and I were sweating bullets driving to the Havana airport from the west. With Carlos and Newfie Joe past out in the back, our fuel tank ran empty with the light coming on at just over 50 kms to Havana, let alone the airport. Furthermore, Venassa had just under 2 hours left till her flight. But in true Touring Van fashion, everything worked out. We got to the airport as our tank finished 75kms later, and Venassa had just under an hour to spare. Bring on the next adventure!