Seems about time we talk about Cuba. Cuba is hard one for me, I have never been so shocked by something’s beauty and yet saddened at its despair at the same time. Havana was just as you expected. It’s as if the world only moved on for a fraction of people. There are new cars mixed in with a plethora of classics. The random modern convenances surrounded by a slowly decaying city facade. At first, it went by so fast I just noticed my surroundings and didn’t really see the man behind the curtain. The giant murals of Castro and Che really should have tipped me off. We spent our first few days in Havana before we headed out to Trinidad. I spent my days walking the city and my nights keeping bars open with Kelli, my fellow night owl traveling companion. As we shut down one place after another we slowly made our way back to our Casa. I trailed behind as men begged her to have their baby. Seems if you are a young, beautiful, blond woman, men get excited - shocker. Well, jokes on them, I am the breeder in the group. You’re barking up the wrong tree Cubanos. If you want to get passage to the states you may shoot for the more attainable, slightly chubby 40 year old. As we walked the streets in the wee hours of the morning ( look I am in 40’s but I still have the will power of my 20’s) it was strangely wonderful to see how many other people were up at this time. Families sitting outside drinking rum while the kids kicked a ball around. I don’t know if I am healed yet from watching Kelli do a shot of cheap rum with a cuban family gathered outside at 2 in the morning. I am a baby when it comes to shots of good liquor. That shot would have taken me out immediately. By some wonderful fate we had been put as roommates in our Casa, so we bothered no one rolling in all late. I don’t understand when people go to bed early when on a trip. I want to suck every minute out of it. I want to see all of it, the day and night of it. I want to see the vendors setting up their booths and the boys heading home in a drunken haze trying to sing in harmony and failing. I am also a freak of nature that functions on 4 hours of sleep.
One of the first things you learn about Cuba is Casa’s. These houses that turned into hotelesque hostels ( y’all like how I just make up my own words? Grammar Nazis everywhere are shuddering). The family lives in a small part and the rest is rented out to tourists. Extremely economical and you get breakfast with your room. They will also cook dinner for you for a very reasonable cost. We partook of these homey dinner for the group one night. It was nice to sit family style and enjoy a meal. Except, my highly budgeted traveling ass twinging in pain every time someone poured another glass of wine from my very much hard worked for bottle. I figured out later how to heal that particular pain. Traveling in groups is hard but I learned lot of new tips and tricks I will share with y’all.
Havana was the first lesson of the hustlers. Now, I don’t blame them. There is a need to hustle in Cuba. They are paid very little and any extra you have to fight for. I felt relatively safe in Cuba. There is a large ( really large) police presences and unfortunately they are very much about protecting the tourists. They want that money to keep rolling in. Now, how they treat there own people is shameful, more on that later. It seems you have much higher chance of your pocketbook being hurt then your actual being. Having lived in many a sketchy part of town since I was a young teenager I grew that wonderful sixth sense of when a danger was near. Although very nice, our tour guide reeked of the distinct smell of a man desperate to part you and your money. He started to sense really fast that I wasn’t his best target. It may have been the moment that he fussed at me about crossing the street and I snapped back that if I wanted to get hit by god damn car then I will get hit by a god damn car. I cannot stand a man barking orders at me. Okay, lets be fair, I can’t stand anyone doing it. It actually took me a little aback how blatantly machismo these men were. Just like it took him aback when I came back with a sharp tongue and death stares. I give them credit they had a good instinct of who was never going to be won over and made a wide berth around me from that point. As we end the guided tour (never again y’all ,I am not meant to be guided) we head to a local restaurant. If you ever want to just get a glimpse of a day in Havana close your eyes and picture buildings from planation style to mid century modern look like they will crumble any minute all the while large families gathered outside visiting, cars held together with a paper clip and hopes driving by , Lines everywhere lines for the bus, lines for the store but the only way to really feel like you there is to put the song “ Guantanmera” playing just the chorus over and over. My god man, those poor people must be so tired of that song. Here is another problem of traveling with me once I get something stuck in my head and it entertains me you will all be forced to hear it until my amusement is properly satisfied. Sorry guys but I had to sing “One ton tomato” till it was out of my system, I lie it it still not out of system . My girls just love it when I pick a tomato at the produce market and break into song, I am making memories over here people.
As we leave, the Cuban guides offer their Santeria blessings or whatever they call it. I politely refuse and then I am informed that they can kill a live rooster to cleanse my soul . Look man, if killing a chicken cleansed my soul I would be the most well adjusted person in the world. This was just one day in Havana. We had a whole day left in Havana then we were off to Trinidad. . I had no idea what was coming but in true Jolie form It was ridiculous, a little bit scary and of course made a mighty fine story.