A night out Cuban style...

Trip Start Feb 26, 2010
Trip End Feb 26, 2011

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Where I stayed
Finally Slept in Havana Cuba illegally at someones house

Flag of Mexico  , Yucatan Peninsula,
Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Lets start off with an amusing moment recalled by Lady E at Fort Lauderdale airport when coming out of the human xray machine It was suggested I had something strapped to my knee, I remarked I had no choice it was so long.... childish, jest so very childish....

Anyway back to today....

We woke up in heaven the hotel was fantastic and a king size bed to boot, backpacking, pah! In reality we had still only had about 7 hours sleep but that is a major improvement. Never mind tonight we will be doing it properly again, backpacking that is. We went for our breakfast which was included in the hotel price and we probably ate more than we normally eat over the course of a couple of days. There was eggs, bacon, sausages as well as a bit of more Mexican fare such as mexican soup, eggs on tortilla with lots of refried beens along with other things we would consider to be more of an evening meal. It was stunning and with loads of chilliīs it feels great to get some spice in a morning.

We packed up our stuff and managed to finish getting the blog back up to date (however we are almost a week behind again so Iīm sure we will miss lots of bits out). We got our free airport transfer back to the airport to find our flight to Cuba, and somewhere we are not really sure what to expect from. We joined the check in queue only to be told we needed a visa, which it seemed most people in the queue had come prepared with, we panicked a little but then were told we could get one in the airport, just find a man. Thankfully we did find not just one man but about 4 who were just wandering around the airport shouting Cuba Visa, its not quite like any other visa we have bought, a guy with a handful of paper and we even managed to negotiate a cheaper price, sounds so crooked but it worked, it turned out we paid less than half the Aussies in the queue in front of us.

We loitered briefly in the airport listening to a Mexican band before boarding our plane, possibly the oldest plane of the whole trip, to put into decades it was a plane from the Soviet Union, this was our first taste of Communism since Nam but this already looked like proper Communism, not the capitalist communism in China and Nam, you had to crouch down to get on the plane, all the signs were in Crylic (thats a first since Russia almost a year ago), the overhead lockers didnt actually fit anybags in, you could hardly get your legs into the seats and my personal favourite were the walls made of painted chipboard, this was already proving to be an interesting part of the trip. We landed in Havana and in a typically Communist built airport, old feeling, dark and nothing seemed to work particularly well. We picked up our bags had a rather amusing photo taken at security where I had to hold my hair back with my hand to show my whole face, then headed off to try and find a public bus. We were told in no uncertain fashion we must get a taxi and there was no bus, even if there was tourists werent allowed on it.

We passed over the address much to the confusion of the taxi driver who just kept saying, "this is not hotel", we knew that already, we had obtained the address of a family who we would be living with for the next 4 or 5 days, although we have to keep it a secret as it is actually illegal for Cubans to put up foreign people, in theory it takes money away from the government so it also unfortunately means we cant have too many pictures of where we stayed or the people we stayed with. We got dropped off down a little back street with no idea where we were, a simple doorway which was locked, became unlocked by an old guy who then walked off. We climbed the pitch black staircase to find a very old and quite frankly knackered door, this was looking very interesting indeed. I knocked and the door opened, nobody spoke English but I was shown to a room off the open courtyard, I went and got Erica warning her to keep an open mind.

We introduced ourselves and were introduced to our hosts and then headed off to find a telephone so we could ring another contact to let them know we had arrived in Havana. We were stopped by a load of guys about a street away from our place, still in the old neighbourhoods of Havana and this was a back street, I was wary about chatting to them but it turned out they wanted nothing else but to know how come we were here in the neghbourhoods and not at a hotel, where we were from and how long we were staying in Cuba for. This other contact turned up at 7pm and we had a quick chat before heading off into the night to go for a night out Cuban style. We set off into the Havana night stopping at another house first of all, a fantastically grand house, or at least it no doubt was when it was built, the coving was amazing (that is another guilty pleasure we should not talk about). They were a French couple staying with another family, we talked a lot about Cuba, and Cuban politics over the course of the night but we initially had started to grasp the basics that there is both a tourist and a local currency, we should as soon as we can, get some local currency as it will save us a fortune, our Cuban friend offered to meet us the next morning to help us and if needs be get the money for us (this sounded ominous to say the least).

The baseball was on the Cuban tv at the second house the Cubans were amazed that Man City (A football club they have never heard of) paid some players 200,000 quid a week, they were then blown away that it could cost about 50 quid to go to a football game, I on the other hand was amazed that to go to a baseball game cost 2 Cuban peso (that is cuban ordinary peso not the convertible tourist peso) or 4 British pence, as a consequence the stadium was falling down and none of the lights seemed to work anymore. Our friend suggested the correct price would be somewhere inbetween, mmmm that narrows it down then. We were amazed to here that a typical wage for a Cuban maybe aout 300 or 400 Cuban peso a month which is about 7 quid, that just seemed rediculous, but the best paid people in the city are people working in tourist bars and restaurants who because of tips may earn 7 or 8 times the amount of a GP or other doctor, crazy just crazy.

Our contact used a cracking expression which pretty much can sum up some of the problems with real Communism in Cuba "The Cuban people pretend to work and the Cuban government pretend to pay them for pretending to work". We talked about possible reform of revolution in Cuba but our contact said, "this is not China or Vietnam, we are not Asian, we do not want to work, we do not need to be rich under this government we get cheap alcohol, we do not really have to work, we have the best music, the best women and the best beaches in the world" we had also been joined by someone of Chinese origin who remarked that other iconic Communists like Chairman Mao or Marx would be horrified at the thought of the kind of 'Salsa Socialism' the Cuban people had adopted, I suppose thats a clash of laid back cultures vīs hard working cultures.

We wandered down to the pier front where all the other Cubans hang out drinking cheap rum, we bought a big bottle of Havana Club for about 2 pounds and four cans of coke. We were so engrossed in conversation that we forgot we were completely exhausted and had hardly slept for what seemed about a week, it was 1am, and the whole bottle of rum had gone (this was shared amongst others too). Oh yes the rum is drank by freepouring into your mouth then either swallowing neat and washing down with a gulp of īcola' or without the cola, either way I like it. Our friend was superb and we were singing with lots of Cubans using homemade instruments and generally just having a great time, it did however feel a little like we were teenagers hanging out there because we couldnīt get in to a bar but the Cubans generally cant afford to drink in bars so this is how it is done.

We walked back pretty much lost through the back streets of Havana, a bit nervous but assured by lots of people this is one of the safest cities in the world, we found a guy outside with a tv, he didnt seem to have a house but lived in a chair and got power from another house, we knew we were only a couple of streets away. We found the door and nearly died trying to navigate ourway around the stone staircase in the pitch black. We had already got a feeling of just how friendly the cuban people were this was going to be good, very good.
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