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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Tuesday Morning is the Best Time to Arrive in Havana by Suz deMello

http://tinyurl.com/6steamyARE
I travel as much as I can, not just for inspiration but for engagement. When I'm unhappy, the best way for me to get away from the source of my distress is to leave (duh). Additionally, when I travel, especially to someplace new, I'm deeply engaged in my life and have no mental space for worrying about whatever it was that was bothering me. When I don't know the language, don't know where I'm staying, don't know where I'll eat my next meal, I have a lot more to focus on rather than dwelling on my last unhappy love affair (usually my issue, alas).

And so it was with my latest trip out of the USA. After the president announced plans to open the USA's relationship with Cuba, I decided to travel there ASAP so as not to see Havana when its skyline would be dominated by the Starbucks mermaid and the Golden Arches.

But I really screwed this one up.

At that time--March 2015--Cuba had no banking relationship with the USA. That means that I had to have money in hand before I left for Cuba, because ATM cards and credit cards didn't work there. So I planned to go to Cancun, withdraw a bunch of money, and then fly to Cuba.

Unfortunately, I neglected to tell my bank, so when I started to withdraw money, I got maybe $400 and then...nada. Zip. Zero.

I emailed my bank to no avail.

I tried to phone, but neither my hotel phone nor my cellie would get through (Damn you, Virgin!)

So I landed in Cuba with maybe a quarter of the funds I needed to have a really good time, or even to eat three meals daily.

I told myself that this was a good time to lose weight.

Setting for Hot Havana Night--
the Victor Hugo House in Old Havana
I shared a taxi from the airport into Havana with a couple of Ukrainian dudes and immediately paid the host of my casa particular for my stay. Alex was very kind, letting me use his computer so I wouldn't have to pay a hotel's business center for their expensive internet access--I was trying desperately to make sure I could get to the next stop on my journey, Isla Mujeres, which is off the Yucatan coast.

And I had to research my story, One Hot Havana Night. I couldn't afford taxis, so I walked all over Havana Vieja, the tourist quarter, where I set my story. A friendly expat showed me a lunchroom where I could eat a huge meal for $1-2--so that's where I ate. It was pretty good food--a protein (eggs, chicken or meat) with a little salad, plus rice and beans--typically Cuban meals. I even had enough left over so I could go to a bar and get a drink while listening to the local music every night.

Havana was great, but it's nevertheless a tourist trap. It's just that the tourists aren't Americans. Lots of Europeans, especially Italians, and a number of Japanese.

I learned a lot. Most people seemed pretty contented. As for the economic system, while I heard someone complain that they work really hard for little money, I saw only one or two people who seemed to be badly off. Everyone else looked happy and well-fed, though not obese. I saw many of the famous classic American cars, but I saw a lot of new cars as well--Peugeots and Kias, Hyundais and even Benzes. I just didn't see newer American cars. That's because Cuba isn't isloated at all. It's just that we don't have an economic relationship with them. Other countries have been trading with Cuba quite happily. 

Still, I can't say that the place is well run. The Castros seem to be good at getting and keeping power, and not so hot at using it. Many of the old, beautiful buildings are crumbling, though I must say that they're making an effort to resurrect them. Many streets are dug up as improvements are being made. And this brings me to the title of this post.

So why is Tuesday morning the best time to arrive in Havana?

Because the trash is picked up Monday night, at least in the part of Havana where I stayed. Until then, it's thrown into giant Dumpsters by the locals.
As you can imagine, the garbage gets pretty ripe in the tropical heat. 

But Havana smells great on a Tuesday morning.

Read One Hot Havana Night in Six Steamy Shorties

3 comments:

Tina Donahue said...

Wow - this is amazing. I'd love to go to Cuba. Great post.

jean hart stewart said...

I envy you your spirit of adventure...enjoyed your post very much.

Suz said...

Thanks very much!