Tuesday, January 08, 2013

8 days in havana cuba

if it seems i have been off the map lately, it's true. i spent 8 days in havana, cuba, where US cell phones and credit cards do not work, and the internet is sparse and difficult to access.

feliz año 2013

it was the first time since 1994 that i have gone an entire week without checking email. slightly refreshing, slightly alienating.

kevin's dad has wanted to go to cuba for decades, and online research led him to a cuban arts and culture tour run by a US college professor, they booked it, invited us along, and there we were 2 days after christmas in the miami airport boarding an unmarked charter plane for a communist country.

unmarked plane back to the USA

the weather was endlessly perfecto. 70-80 degrees and not a drop of rain.

the air was deplorable. many of the cars driving around the streets are from the 40's and 50's and have no catalytic converters, the newer cars and buses were just as bad, and the smell of carbon monoxide exhaust was omnipresent and overpowering. everything was covered in a dingy gray film.

horse & buggy vs. autobus
we were on a tour (and tourbus) with 20 other americans. the group tour thing can be tough, especially for people used to having control, but we really lucked out and everybody was flexible and positive and intelligent. the bus was newer and comfortable, though it smelled of stale cigarettes and urinal cakes. i may be overly sensitive to air quality. i would not recommend an extended trip to havana to anybody with respiratory illness.

agua potable
potable water. our tour bus in the background.

we were told not to drink the water, or eat produce washed in the water. for somebody who would be thrilled to have salad and only salad to eat every day, this was a challenge. most of my meals were chicken and rice, most of my vitamins came from the peppermint in the mojitos.

the buildings are made of concrete because it is cheap and resistant to hurricanes. many buildings are in ruins. the ones not in ruins are painted vibrantly and kept neat. the streets are treated like a garbage can. littering was rampant. there were also many street cleaners so it didn't accumulate, but it's still jarring to see people throwing trash on the ground 4 feet from a dumpster.

tidy mint green

the people in havana are not aggressive or hostile. i did not see one person who seemed strung out on drugs. didn't even catch a whiff of weed. (sad face). seems like rum, rum, rum is the drug of choice. 

mojitos at el nacional

the street dogs were awesome.

dreaming dog

more stories and photos to come.

(found this cuban woman's blog last night: http://www.desdecuba.com/generationy/ which speaks out against the human rights violations, repression, and censorship cubans are experiencing under the castro regime. not surprisingly, we were exposed to very little of this sentiment on our state-sponsored tour.)


kid D said...

Fantastic. Can't wait to hear more.

Anonymous said...

Awesome. When is the next page coming? Good job of finding vitamins out of nothing. Hmmmmm......you were probably the only Skippy in Cuba. I led our traveling friends to your blog to see it. Rave reviews. I think this helped us rule out Havana as our next trip.
The next Samantha Browne Travelog ?

skippy haha said...

next page - maybe tomorrow? gotta get it down while it's still fresh.

good call steering your traveling friends away from cuba - i didn't see one golf course all week!

A Day in the Life of One Girl said...

Wow - eye opening. I've always been curious about people saying they are going to vacation or travel to Cuba. I've wondered what the experience was really like. What a sweet little street dog. No telling what he survives on. The air would definitely get to me after a while. Did you get headaches?

skippy haha said...

thanks, One Girl! sorry for the reply delay, been knocked sideways by flu over here, just crawling out of it. am going to post more about the cuban dogs ASAP, they were fantastic. i didn't really get headaches from the air, but i did come home with some gunk in my lungs, wheezing on deep breaths, hard to say what it was from. but yeah, anybody with asthma or emphysema or things like that would be better off outside of havana! in my humble non-medical opinion. :)