The flight to Havana from Cancun is literally 8.5 minutes. Getting through customs, picking up luggage, and changing money from pesos to CUC takes 3 hours. No lie. Cuba lesson #1. Have patience. A lot of it. Or else you might as well turn the fuck around and go home.
I learned that real quick and took it in stride. I’ll admit at first I was super nervous because I made my reservation via Airbnb and the man who took my reservation said he only had room for one night and he was going to put me elsewhere for the other night. Also, I asked to be picked up from the airport but never confirmed my flight arrival. Basically I was heading out on pura fe. Luckily it all worked out. Cuando vi el chico con el papel que dijo “Isis” I knew I was good.
The drive from the airport to Casa Densil was an interesting one. Mostly because my first impression of Cuba was WTF. Not in a bad way. In a WTF way. Old cars are everywhere. Literally everywhere but they’re kept up and look like they just drove off the lot (50+ years ago). The radio in the taxi had baseball playing and when the guy scored a home run the announcer started hitting a drum and singing a salsa tune. It was cold outside. Hella cold out. Kids were out in the street playing baseball. Everyone is dressed in modern clothes but every building looks as old as the beginning of time. People are walking or waiting patiently for the bus. The roads are super organized, everything driving related is super orderly. People use seat belts and turn signals. The streets are clean. There is zero advertising anywhere; the only billboards around have pro revolution messaging, viva la revolución, la violencia doméstica es malo, investimos en la infraestructura. Young Fidel’s picture is everywhere. All of it was overwhelming.
In any case I arrived to the casa eyes open AF but still in one piece. Exio greeted me and took me to where I would stay for the night, Casa Ana en la esquina del Malecon & San Nicolas. Remember what I said about synchronicity – I walked in and saw a huge painting of Isis. Again, I knew I was good.
The room had a view of the ocean and Sra. Ana was spooked because the ocean was super active that evening. The waves were huge; so much so that the Malecon was closed because it was flooded. She looked at me crazy when I said I was going to go out and couldn’t believe I wasn’t scared of the water (crazy lady not like I planned on going swimming but whatev)
Sidenote: I LOVE the fact I look Cuban because I can walk around and nobody gives me a second look.
I walked the neighborhood and eventually made my way to the Hotel Havana Libre. I was able to get online (5US/1hr internet) and checked in with some folks. It was interesting because there were a shit ton of ppl out on the street. As it turns out there are very few places where people can access internet (country wide) and both in front of hotels and within some plazas is were there’s access so the spot was jumpin. It was most definitely crackin outside – where old and young couples alike go and check el Facebook together. And where single folks go to get their smartphone Mac on. Crazy.
I stayed for an hour then left in hopes of finding some good live music. I ended up at la Hotel Nacional because, IDK I was tired and slightly delirious. There was some cheesy shit going on (which I don’t think was the delirium) mostly because it was geared to cheesy tourists. The music was alright, the dancers were eh at best, but more than anything it was freezing cold and windy outside. I stayed for a bit then decided to go back to the room.
My taxi driver couldn’t figure out if I was Colombian or Venezuelan, as per the new normal. We chatted briefly and then voila I was back to Casa Ana.
When I walked into the Casa I instantly fell in love with a man named Yonni Walker. Ok, no I hella didn’t but I totally did because he made for fantastic conversation and was more than willing to answer all my Cuba-related questions. Firstly he offered me water which turned out to almost make me sick (crisis averted because I took Paragone – that stuff is a life saver). We talked about art (he’s an artist), Cuban history, Caribbean history, Marxism, socialism, capitalism, his views on America, European vs American tourists, what it was to grow up in the ‘special period’, Cuban economy with Fidel vs Raul and possibilities for the future, Santeria, las Orishas, the oracles, renewable energy. Literally it was mind porn. The guy was sharp. Granted Cuba has free university so a large part of the population is highly educated and it shows (cough cough US). In any case he was fantastic.
Two hours in I had to take myself to bed. It was a highly stimulating day and by the end of it I was ready to crash and I also thought I was going to pass out from stomach cramps.
Thanks to the Parasite meds I slept like a baby.