2.1 Vinales, Cuba

 

A girl asked politely if she could sit next to me on the bus. I nodded, and asked if she was Cuban. No, she was from El Salvador, she said. That was how I met Lissette. 


Viñales is nature, fresh air and limestone caves. Viñales is listening to life stories of strength and growth over hours as it rains, and laughing so hard there’s tears in my eyes. Viñales is peso pizza, jugo de guayaba, tobacco fields and rocking chairs. 

El Salvador still feels like such a distant place. Distant enough to be more than 24 hours by plane, that is. I’ve never thought of visiting El Salvador, though admittedly, until now. We watched the hour-long documentary I had downloaded on my phone regarding the revolution. It’s smart media manipulation, a leader that can continue to raise the spirits of all, and speak of its victories with oratorial clarity. It makes me consider the lessons one can learn from History, from others. Ah, the discipline I had missed out on in Secondary school. Well, History is everywhere really. 
 
Asked a little about El Salvador after – Hearing about their situation – abortion, the condensed political history, the surrounding volcanoes, the monthly wage of 300usd on average (although a teacher makes about 800usd) makes me count my blessings in some ways. It’s interesting to learn that they use USD for their currency though, from 2001.
 
We spent the afternoon getting wifi card, walking around Vinales town, towards the valley, all in my broken shoe. 

 

 

Had peso pizza y jugo guayaba.  

 

el bocadillo de jamon y queso, my love

peso pizza, jugo de guayaba.

Walking around the little town of Vinales

 

 

 

 

 



I thought about the colonial master’s guilt felt by the Spanish guy, and how he felt almost guilty for coming over to his former colonies to see that they seem to not be doing as well as British colonies. I’ve never quite thought about that.



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1.2 Havana, Day 2 – Havana Vieja / Old Havana

videos to keep:

al malecon

 

 

Where there’s music, there’s Cubans dancing. Along the streets a tent of sorts was set up in the middle of the square. The blasting music attracts a crowd, to which I saw many people – regardless of age, size, groups or alone – moving their bodies. Children, the greying. Strangers dancing together. It makes me feel like our bodies were made to move with the rhythm of the melodies, until cultures slowly tamed it down. I could never shake my hips like that. Like Lissette said, ’You mean you clean and wash the dishes without music and dancing? You’re boring!’ We laughed.

Best batido ever. cries

in the insane heat and humidity, the 15 pesos? 8 pesos?batido was the BEST THING EVER

Along the lanes of Havana Vieja, you find faded, grungy walls like this


la fruteria

ernest hemmingway used to frequent this bar

one of the most interesting part of the museum.

Cuban cigar

 

1.1 Havana, Cuba

Havana ooh-na-na

my first glimpse of the Caribbean

 

there was something i liked about this, a quiet quality in the way her wispy dress caught the sunshine in Havana

i stood at that same traffic light a little longer, my first glimpse of the styles (in some ways i didnt quite expect)

those faded walls

the  way the harsh light casts its glittering confetti everywhere

 

 
Each place teaches me something, and for Cuba it is the ubiquity of wifi. There’s something about the wifi parks though, seeing crowds gathered and sitting even in the evenings, with their earpiece. Who are they talking to? That happiness in their chuckles, their kisses blown at the screens as they wave bye-bye.//


Passing by wifi spots and knowing they’re wifi spots because of the phone screens and earpieces people have. She waves, blowing kisses passionately at the screen, and laughs; her bubble of joy catches her unaware that I – a stranger – was staring. Maybe it’s that raw bubble of happiness that I was seeing that kept me staring, almost like intruding on a private moment.

 
We do that too in Singapore, but not all together, in this space that ties the heartstrings of one to another miles away.


I hadn’t slept on a proper bed for 48 hours at this point, and had been on the plane for more than 24 hours

 

 

 

 

On Day 1, I found myself in this restaurant.

 

Day 2 was about exploring Old Havana and Parque Central which is indeed as beautiful as they recommend, but kind of too clean in some way.
 
Orlando dropped me off at the Viazul bus station. 
 
Serenaded by the musical duo along the Malecon. 
 
Shoe broke. 
 

 

Museum of the Revolution. 





 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

love these long beautiful columns

 

 

that funny old man, where i bought my peso ice cream

el capitolio

i didnt quite like that guava-jam-filled fried breadstick

 

1. Cuba

It’s been more than 2 months now. It’s lovely looking back, pictures of Che, Fidel, and this Caribbean island I had the opportunity to spend about 2 weeks exploring.

In these 2 weeks, I spent a lot of time reading, chatting, observing, sometimes immersed in the comfort of my solitude. On more than 1 occasion, I painted. I walked along the streets alone, curious, and conversed in Spanish in most parts that I went. I walked till my legs were tired, before I sat at a malecon and listened to the choral voices and the Cuban beats. Watched movies and Netflix (downloaded for offline viewing) in the evenings, sharing secrets with my Latina Lissette on some nights.

How lovely! As much as I liked my friends and my people, I still immensely enjoy the ease and comfort I felt when I went back to my big rooms, my cooling casas, all on my own schedule and space and the company of my book.

I still remained somewhat connected to wifi, almost daily.

My first thoughts in Cuba:

It took a long time to get here. Not that I minded THAT much – in my opinion it still passed really quickly, sitting there and doing nothing. That’s me I suppose, I quite enjoy having the luxury of spacing out, doing my own thing, though I had to admit that my second long-haul flight from Madrid to Cuba felt shorter because of my conversations with Zhi Rong. 
My first flight was via Norwegian Air, a 13-hour flight to London. It exceeded my expectations, with the legroom and the touchscreen movies available considering it was a budget flight. I watched Wonder and the Suffragettes, read a little and dozed off accordingly. 
I walked through the gates of London, felt a little nostalgic at the black-and-yellow signs that brought me back to my days as a student in Gatwick, had a meal-deal and waited for my London-Madrid connecting flight. 
It was midnight in Madrid by then. I washed my hair in the toilet, cleaned up and slept for awhile, before my next Madrid – Amsterdam flight at 6am. No regrets for such an arrangement – it just made time-and-cost-sense. It didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable either. I think I have become accustomed to the discomfort of my travelling style. The blanket I brought was a huge blessing, though. 
Using the toilet in Amsterdam’s airport brought back some memories. I thought of buying some stroopwaffles – just because I liked the idea that I could buy a meal-deal from London, and then something Dutch a couple of hours later, this connecting-flight thing is kind of fun – but then decided not to because I was rather late. The queue was long, but I made it in. On time!
I was seated next to a Chinese guy, probably the only other Chinese person on my flight – they probably thought we were related, hence the arrangement of the seating, I surmised. I forgot what a full-fledge flight does. There was so much food, even ice-cream, dessert. It’s great that I have such low expectations, I am constantly pleasantly surprised by better services. Hahahaha. 
From Zhi Rong I learnt about the subtle differences in our Chinese culture – they don’t give oranges during CNY, working adults (rather than married) gave angpows, their school system is pretty crazy, with cram schools from 7-10pm. That’s really 3 or 4 hours a day of freedom, and even Saturday they have these schools. He seemed nonchalant as he spoke about cheating attempts. Really nonchalant, used to this culture that seemed to be tagged to the large population. 
It’s interesting though, that he got a university scholarship to study Spanish for 4 years in Havana, as sponsored by the Chinese government due to the China-Cuba relations. Now he works as a business manager with partners all around Central and Latin America. 
I really enjoyed using my Chinese, though. I guess as I’ve learnt Spanish I’ve also wondered if I’m able to converse well in my second language, and this affirms me that I can do it, I can converse in my second language sufficiently. 

 

Havana is hotter than I thought, and humid. 

Some pictures to begin this series:

 

 

With each place I go, I carry with me an appreciation of an aspect of my life. In Tonle Sap it was the stretch of land to run on; in Albania it was the fuss-free visa waivers we got. In Iran it was the freedom of letting down my hair, and in Botswana it was the realisation that I did not need to have that creeping sense of fear when I cut my hand. In Cuba, it was the ease of wifi I’ve come to take for granted. It struck me when I was walking past all these people crowded in the park, staring at their screens. More significantly, it was seeing this lady, lying down with her head on a seat bench, staring into a man – I assume someone she loved – skyping him, that it made me realise how they had to go out into the park in order to speak to someone far away. Me? I had my air-con (if I wanted) room, the privacy and comfort of my space. Not coming out in this humidity just to communicate. 

coco taxi

Overall expenses in general: (2 weeks – 2ksgd inclu. flight)

3cuc on taxi

Dinner ytd 2cuc and 25 pesos

Water 70 cents cuc



Viazul 17 cuc



Drink – 10 pesos

The bread thing starts with c with guava filling – 2 pesos

Postcard 1.5 cuc



Ice cream 5 pesos

Cups and statue 6cuc total

Museum 8cuc



Dinner 7.80 cuc



5 cuc taxi for viazul



Peso pizza and drink 20 pesos

Wifi 3cuc

Viazul 32cuc



Tour Vinales 15cuc

Fanta orange 1.50 cuc

Ice cream 0.10cuc

Sandwich breakfast 15pesos



Dinner – bread and 2guayaba 25cup

Breakkie – 25pesos

Cuevo del Indio 5cucs

Ice cream 1.2 pesos

Lunch – 6.60cucs



Bananas – 50 cents cuc

6cuc for casa

Lunch 20 pesos

Postcard 1.50 cuc

Water – 1.25 cuc

6cuc for bus to santa clara



Breakfast – 18 pesos

Tip – 40 pesos

Entrance and laguna – 10 cuc and2 cuc for bus

Ice cream – 1.75 cuc

Lunchner – 20 pesos

10cuc accom



11cuc accom and brekkie

8cuc bus to Trinidad

1 cuc bicycle to viazul station

20 pesos for food, 15 pesos for drinks etc



Food – 11 pesos (8 pesos bread with egg and ham and cheese, fruit juice 3 pesos)

Souvenirs – 11cuc + 4 cuc = 15 cuc



Tmr dinner – 5 cuc



30 pesos for street food

25 cuc for viazul to habana



Movie ticket for 2 pesos

Hamel Hostel 5.25 cuc

Ice cream 2.50 cuc

Ice cream 0.40 cuc



Taxi to airport 20cuc