Saturday, 3 February 2007

Half the fun

is over... And it´s time for a Cuba-Conclusion:

Wow, this is hard! It´s been to weeks in hell and back - as well as in paradise. First of all and conclusion 1: I won a friend - no doubt about that. We didn´t know each other much - about 30 hours in total - spread over about a 16-month time. Well, it´s been a blast with the Tomy! Seems like the more the oppresion of the Cuban system got to us - the the more we bonded. If I´ll ever go back to Cuba - it´s gotta be with the DUDE.

The "allways happy Cubans"... To be honest - I met more desperate, impolite, and unmotivated Cubans then happy and energetic ones. Many where desperate to get the Convertable Peso (CUC), which is so neccesary for survival. Many were impolite and hostile (if you didn´t give them the CUC they begged for, if you didn´t buy the crap they tried to sell to you, if you didn´t invite them for a drink, or didn´t want to buy the hooker they would have liked to oranize for you). Living and working in the Cuban system isn´t motivating - everybody get´s the same - no mather how they do their job, it seems like. Some went out of their way for us (or better - where service-minded) - like Miguel our favorite bar keeper at the hotel St. John´s. Ohters tried to f*** us over at any possible moment - like the security gard at the same hotel, oranizing "cheap" taxi fares for us - which were between 25 and 50 % more expensive (too bad we never fell for that grey ghost), or the waiter at the air port, who wouldn´t even bother to return the change which was 25 % of the whole amount he got from me.
BUT of course there were the people which smiled, who where helpful and and friendly, where money (almost) was secondary: the black marked cigar dealer for example, who invited us to his wife´s birthday party and our guarding angel in Viñales, plus a few more. Conclusion 2: The myth of the "always happy and friendly Cubans" is: BUSTED. And why should they be? Education and free health services still don´t fill the belly. And, how friendly can you get, when contact with the tourists is unwanted by the State?

Cuban food: We got severed things we odered, and things we didn´t order. We paid too much, and made bargins. We had creative chefs and chefs which problably never even heard of the word creative. Conclusion 3: The Creolian kitchen is a good one - but it takes a bit luck as well as trail and error to find the kitchens which are capable or interested of delivering the good Creolian kitchen. My tip: Bring your own spices - I mean it! And give them away before you leave. Eat at "Julia´s" and "Bar Monserate" in Havana Vieja and hit the local-peso pizza-joint at the corner on St. Rafael about 3 blocks far from hotel Inglaterra away from from the oldtown.

Conclusion 4: Bringing along presents for children was luggage weight well spent! It was indescribable to see the kids smiling, or the uncertain looks as if an angel with a gringo-look just had fallen from the sky. It´s the children´s thankful smiles with made up for the behavior of many desillusioned, hard struck adults in the Cuban society.

Conclusion 5: Communication is a luxury in Cuba. The internet is expensive for us - and must be unaffordable for locals. Blogging is a major effort but as Kjartis correctly comments: "to keep us readers envious.... Must be half the fun!". By the way, did you know that: 1 SMS costs a Cuban one CUC. That is the17th part of our Viñales tour guide´s monthly salary...

Political discussions - yes, we had them. Usually the were possible when there was only one Cuban around; came another and the topic changed... I talked to one women in particular which was as open as can be. She could point out the good things the revolution has brought to the pueblo: education, health services, less illiteracy than in Italy, zero violence etc. But the lack of freedom of speech and travel, two currencies which make the local´s life very difficult, etc she was very open about, too. Other Cubans had a more one-sided preception - either for or against the whole thing. To my question "What do you think will happen when Fidel ..." - I once got: "Nobody knows - maybe it gets worse!?". Conclusion 6: Cuban politics and the system - there is no easy answer found. It´s many shades of grey and there are several "democracies" which work worse than socialism in Cuba. There are winners in the society - but there are many losers too, and it´s unsettling not to have the answer, not being able to help or change as much as you´d want to.

Blessed to be able to live in Norway, I guess I am a bit spoiled. Still, have to say - the beauty of the island touched my soul, not to mention the sun which made up for so many dark days back home. I love the island´s features - and in terms of nature I wouldn´t think twice if I´d get a free ticket to Cuba one day! Conclusion 7: Cuba´s nature is a pearl!

Conclusion rum: There is only one rum produced in Cuba - Havana Club! Forget Barc... What´s the name again? And Bucanero i quite a drinkable beer, too!

Conclusion 9: I don´t have the conclusion for everything! But a last noe... there is:

Would I go back? Well, Conclusion 10: Yes, I could imagine to visiting Cuba again. But I guess, that would be after a regime change - and then I wonder if the reason might contain a touch of soical pornography... To put it that way: I´d rather recommend people to visit other Latin-American countries, if they never have been to the Americas - countries like Mexico, Peru or Ecuador. And of course, there is Argentina - I have to write that because that´s where I am now - and the owner of the internet cafe, makes me do it ;-)

Yes, Cuba has certainly been my most controverse trip ever, a 2-weeks rolercoaster. I am glad I did it. I am glad I had good company, I am glad didn´t get sick - and I am glad it´s over.

Buenos Aires - awaits me with it´s over 14 millions within the city limits, el tango - scares the sh*t out of me. And I already got a story to tell, beginning on the plane from Panama City...

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