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.
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
Dinner 7.80 cuc
5 cuc taxi for viazul
Peso pizza and drink 20 pesos
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
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