Cuba

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:40

Lying in bed overnight, a hot night. Mosquitoes came in, maybe because I had (intentionally) left the window open after putting out the sleeping bag laundry to dry. Hard to fall asleep. Thinking of travel plans, thinking of the Cuban revolution…

This morning, went to use the internet. No wifi in the apartment, but yes outside. Connected. Required password. Scratched off the password on my internet card (sort of like scratching a lottery card). The password numbers themselves came off, so that I couldn't see the password. Also, noticed that the card says "use by 2017" (in 2019). Gah. The wifi briefly came on for free, enough to check the weather.

Went to get another wifi card. "We don't have any. Go to FOCSA." FOCSA is a Cuban mall. Went to FOCSA. Funny to be in a communist shopping mall. At the telecom store, a guard wielding a gun pointed to the line. At least, it sort of looked like a gun, maybe an antique gun. The line was long. Went for a walk, then came back. Still a long line, but not sure if it was still a line or just Cubans waiting around. I went inside and asked if they sold the cards. "The system's down." I asked if they'd have any cards tomorrow. "We don't have any of the $5 ones. We only have the $1 ones." OK, maybe I'll try again tomorrow.

It's hard to get anything done in Cuba. People say no, most items are out of stock, systems break. For directions, Cubans seem to say "go down there," or "go around," or some other relative direction, without indicating how far or to which landmark. If you ask for more precise directions, they angrily repeat the vague direction like you're stupid.

I'm happy that at least Cuban people get annoyed at my inability to understand some of their rougher speech. Instead of acting like I don't speak Spanish at all, as they often did at first, they now seem to treat me like a semi-comprehending idiot, as far as I can tell.

Maybe Cubans outside of the heavily touristy areas don't expect (or care) to have many visitors. They seem to lack the inquisitiveness that I've seen when meeting people in other countries.

On the way back, bought some produce, including a huge papaya, & some vegetables. In Cuba, they call papaya "fruta bomba."

I'm still not sure what this book is about. Maybe just adventures…

Walked around some more… Found that there are a number of places that sell wifi cards for more expensive, $2 for one hour.

I've met some international people here… In the old city...

A few facts arising from the heat here… It's often nice out, so people are out throughout the day, even on weekdays… It's hard to find a quiet spot, in Havana there are so many people! It's hard to stay hydrated, I keep drinking water yet remain thirsty…

I don't remember where I've seen insect repellent here...

It seems like just taking care of the basics is a hassle here…

Another day in Havana, Cuba! :)

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:38

Feeling better, after a long day, slept in today for the first time in a while, woke up after nine.

Not sure yet what to do today, my first Sunday in Cuba. Think I'll see what Cubans do on a Sunday. Also, take care of a few chores, including seeing if I can post any of these through wifi, or check e-mail. Doing a load of laundry now.

Things feel so new! After a while, I suppose I'll get accustomed to life in Cuba. For now, there's so much to see and do! I'm already starting to think of next steps. It depends on whether they extend and/or renew the visa. Maybe tour more of the country, otherwise probably a detour to some other island country, then return to Cuba again later.

I had wanted to watch some television, more to see what Cuban TV is like than for the sake of watching. There are two remotes here, I tried one and turned on the TV. Fencing. Not my favorite sport. I pressed the channel up button. "No disponible ("Not available"). Jajajaj.

Another day that I wasn't going to walk much, but wound up walking around the city more. By today, I feel like I've seen much of the city center of Havana. I now feel comfortable with the culture generally. I'm even starting to understand the Cuban accent, although it's still difficult to make out. I don't know how people can settle down in a place for years. After I've seen a city for the weekend, I feel like I'm getting anxious to leave!

More foot massacre today… My feet hurt so much, yet I'm still hungry to see more, so onward I walk. I hope they heal up fine, as of now there are layers upon layers of blisters. It could become an archaeological dig…

Did some shopping today… Bought some queso blanco (white cheese)… soda, imported beer… Ate some more local foods… Bought & ate a chirimoya, a tropical fruit that I didn't know… It's sweet & bland, like Cuba. :)

New day in the city!

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:27

I'm now starting to feel more comfortable with the Cuban culture, language, & people. The accent is still often hard for me to understand, & I don't think I can readily imitate it, although I'm now significantly better at speaking in such a way that Cubans understand me. Cubans seems to use the letters "C" and "G" a lot. The speech seems slurred, I think they pronounce fewer consonants than in other accents. (In Spanish, it's not as important to pronounce every syllable as it is in English.) The intonation is different than other accents, and I still haven't learned it fully.

The city is so walkable, it's such a pleasure to go outside. One can walk for miles, seeing beautiful (shade-giving) architecture. Vendors sell food and other goods in the streets (although it's a pain to find certain goods). The weather is generally nice, the people generally friendly. It's the opposite of walking in a large American city, where you can go blocks/miles without seeing anyone, there are no street vendors, people just walk about unhappily, but when you find a store you can buy anything you want (for a large price). It's more fun to be in Cuba, it's more productive to be in the US.

The pharmacies still seem to sell primarily herbal remedies. I think it's part of the country still being basically agricultural with some industry, rather than a more developed country.

My feet are killing me!!!

I said to myself I'd stay in today, to rest my feet, or at most go out for a short bit. Woke up early, at around four AM. Decided to walk to the sea to watch the sunrise!

Later walked around for a while. Havana has block after block of beautiful buildings. The city thrives with people out at almost all hours of the day, at almost all parts of the city. Makes it fun to walk, but hard to find some peace & quiet.

The days are hot & humid, often best just to stay in the shade. The nights are cool.

Had some more local food today… More delicious, now that I'm figuring out some of the different shops & restaurants. Bought some "bijol" spice. Also, finally bought an internet wifi card. It's $1 per hour. Later in the day, I found possibly the only bottle of sunblock in Cuba!

Kept walking. After seeing tons of the city streets, decided on a side road. It went through the countryside, just outside of Havana! Tons of banana trees! Horses!

After covering a significant chunk of the country road, I got to a barbed wire fence. Preferring to chance it, I snuck under. A short while later, another barbed wire fence. In for a penny, in for a pound. After ducking under a few barbed wire fences, I got to one next to a building with people hanging around. They asked me what I was doing there. Sheepishly, I asked if I was heading towards the city. They kindly let me through.

Walking back into the outskirts of the city, I was extremely thirsty from the long walking in the sun, the difficulty I had in getting enough to drink. A street vendor had a giant bottle of a dark drink. I bought it for one peso (five cents US). Unsure if I would survive, I decided to drink a small amount then, despite my large thirst. I did survive, sort of. Later on, I had to go to the bathroom. By this time, I was hobbling around with a plastic bag holding my broken sandal on my wounded feet, walking with a stick.

As such, people were reluctant to let me use their bathroom. I was looking around for a quiet hidden spot by the railroad tracks, not finding any, when a local asked me what I was looking for in rough, hard-to-understand Cuban. I explained, and he pointed to the empty structure of a building, where I was about to go. I was attacked by diarrhea, as a crowd of Cubans stood around watching. The lad explained that he thought I was just going to pee. Hurrying up before I was finished, I thanked them and walked away. They kept after me, trying to help me find my way back, since I probably looked like a lost hobo. (I haven't seen hobos around Cuba.) I thanked them again but declined, preferring to walk the rest of the way back and soak up some more of the night life, on my first Saturday night in the city, despite feeling like shit (literally).

Cuba seems like a safe country. I generally don't feel threatened by police, military, criminals, stray dogs, or other dangers of some countries. Partly it may be due to Cuba being an island nation. Also, I don't see nearly as many police on the streets as in the US or Mexico. Maybe just because Cuba has fewer resources. So far some of the few, moderate dangers I've felt have included people possibly trying to take advantage of my initial ignorance of the country/currency/etc., which I'm not sure was the case; falling or slipping in the questionably maintained streets & sidewalks; …

I'm not sure that it's fair to call Cuba a communist (or socialist) country. I see way more people selling goods than in the USA! I think it's something like a combination of Latin cameraderie, and Cuban poverty, making communism an approximate match, but that it's just a label and not that descriptive of the facts on the ground.

So many more observations, thoughts, etc., although many as I've been in a rush to get water, food, bathroom, etc., not having stopped to write.

I'm getting to like the country more, it's growing on me. At first I was curious, and liked it moderately. I still have some qualms, although now I've seen more of the positive side. The people seem generally decent, despite facing hardships.

Getting back to the apartment, I've had like a gallon of water (I've heard that you can drink the tap water safely, not sure if that's true.) Also, some leftover food, & rum.

Shopping today, I learned that there's a shorter version of the common phrase "no hay" (there isn't any): "no." I lost count of how many times people told me "no" today. Cubans are not warm like Mexicans, & Cubans don't eat spicy food like Mexicans do.

The people in Cuba eat tons of fruit & sweet foods & drinks. Despite the general shortages, you can find plentiful sugar, alcohol, coffee, & tobacco. Like in other countries (hola, USA), it's easy to get fucked up!

It's now midnight, & I'm wrapping up writing, about to shower (finally!), etc. Long days, so much to see!!! :)

Day 3 in La Habana, Cuba!

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 12:20

Day three in La Habana, Cuba…! :)

I feel a huge pressure, from these first days of my new travels… So much to see and do, so little time… All the while looking to fix visa, plan next, etc.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable in Cuba

I'm still feeling somewhat uncomfy/ill at ease, generally.

Partly I'm concerned about my psychological health. It's part of travels, and rush periods, and more generally…

There are pressures, and it's hard to handle.

Try to stay sane…

At a certain point, ya have to just get out there.

If you're new to traveling, I recommend meeting people.

Learn the local language(s).

Walk on small islands.

Bike on large islands.

If you have a chance, take it.

People are generally more friendly than you'd think, but you do have to take precautions.

Find places that you actually like.

Get out of the touristy places.

Also visit the touristy places.

There are numerous ways to travel.

There are backup plans

Take your shots, when things don't turn out as planned, find alts.

In the ongoing saga of the massacre of my feet, the blisters now cover around half of my right foot, with a huge secondary role for the left foot.

Cuba is a very international country, for its size. Because of its location, and historical circumstances, the small country has a prominent role on the planetary stage. Cuba take pride in its internationality (if that's even a word). It boasts statues and monuments to diverse figures who have resided in Cuba or inspired its revolution. Havana also has numerous international restaurants. There's a China town, numerous English places, and so forth.

The economy seems to provide basic subsistence, such that one does not see much dire poverty. However, the country does not have much in the way of commerce. At numerous stores, the shelves are largely empty. I went into an optical store, and asked if they sold glasses. "Yes, but we don't have any now." I haven't seen numerous items for sale that are easy to find in other countries, such as sunblock. At least the city has tons of shade.

Prices here are cheap. I estimate that most things cost around one fifth as much as in a sizable American city. A large apartment goes for around $15 per night. A coffee costs five to fifty cents. The touristy areas are more expensive, perhaps around halfway between local Cuban prices and American prices.

There are some overt propaganda places. Throughout the country, there are large photos of Fidel, Che, and other figures, alongside lengthy quotes. I like the quotes, they are generally positive. The Cuban revolution has been much maligned in the United States, it does have its drawbacks, however it also provides a cohesive social structure.

The sign for radio was funny, showing the different frequencies in different locations, each broadcasting the state station.

The streets seem reasonable, but they do have a few uncovered holes into which one could fall.

There are horses on the main highways…

There are signs around town urging people to vote yes on the new constitution. I have not seen any signs arguing for no on the constitution, which may be a prohibited position. However, I was somewhat surprised at the country putting forth a vote for a new constitution.

The people do seem to be somewhat more American-oriented than I had expected. I have seen several American logos, etc.

There are a few word variants here… Also the accent is difficult to understand. Compared to other Spanish accents, Cuban speech is more slurred.

Cubans seem unaware of their difference from other Latinos, which makes the situation better.

Rum & Coke: the meeting point of Cuba & USA.

Getting set to leave my first apartment in Cuva! :)

The Cuban ppl are growing on me. They're decent.

I like how there are people out in the streets.

Cuba is not an ideal society. It lacks much in material comforts that people in some other countries have. However, overall it is a fairly decent society where the people generally have what they need. I think the people could benefit from some more wealth, although too much wealth would probably tear apart some of the fabric of the society. Also, the people generally do not seem especially happy or sad, although I think that is to some extent a reflection of their personality.

The US by contrast seems like perhaps a more fractured society. There is far more material wealth in the US, perhaps too much. There, people often seem to work to excess, and they are often rude. It's much more pleasant to be in Cuba, at least if you have some American $.

If one were a Cuban in Cuba, one would probably have a boring job and numerous frustrations, especially around poverty. However, one would have a cohesive society. I think (speculating) that a Cuban in Cuba would have a decent situation. It's perhaps not that special to be a Cuban in Cuba, but it's quite special to be a visitor here.

Reservation for next apartment fails. Have to make a new reservation. Internet now down. "Hay que recargar la cuenta" (have to refill the account).

Things go wrong in Cuba.

The food is bland.

In Miami Beach, I'm poor. In Havana, I'm filthy rich, renting a huge apartment in the fanciest part of the country.

A chore to get here. First booking fell through, host canceled. Made a second booking, and went for a walk. Ate heartily…

Viva el comunismo!

Met some German visitors.

Ate some mamey (tropical fruit).

Looked hard for wifi, but found none. After hours of walking, asking at various places, still no wifi. Getting late, but enjoying the walk.

I learned that the most common two words in Cuba are "no hay" ("there's none"). Can I buy glasses here? No hay. Can I buy a wifi card here? No hay. Do you sell ham, cheese, products like these? No hay.

The people are friendly. The listing for the second place showed no address directly. I dug deeper and found an address. Going there, I came across a fancy hotel instead of the rental apartment. A staff woman there called the landlady, and helped me find the place. The landlady's daughter, and a man who lives in the apartment just opposite, came and showed me the huge place.

Cuba has in many ways remained an agricultural/industrial society, because of its communism, although it is modernizing somewhat. Not just the American t-shirts. Also people have some electronics, despite the limited internet/TV/radio/media. The people remain decent in part because they still reside in the realm of moving things around, or pushing rocks, as Feynman would say. I think that if Cuba instituted more capitalistic policies, it would quickly succumb (in both a positive and negative sense) to American imperialism, or whatever you want to call it. The country would get flooded with American products and tourists. The Cubans would probably want it, happy to have more money, products, etc. I think it would dilute the local culture, though, making it more ordinary, less interesting. A somewhat unfortunate situation, that there's such a tradeoff between the interests of the local people and the interests of visitors.

Speaking of tourists, I came across a few today in a cigar store, Romeo y Julieta. Indoor smoking, fancy rum for cheap, etc. As soon as I heard North American English, I left.

Overall I prefer Latin cultures, they're happier and more laid back and more sensual/sensitive/sensuous/etc.

Many Cuban women are beautiful, by the way. Some are plain. I feel that the country overall has a somewhat more masculine tone. There are a bunch of butch women, in the US often becoming lesbian Cuban-Americans.

Things happen in Cuba according to a different rhythm, although they do happen. I kind of like the Cuban rhythm, now that I'm getting accustomed to it. Instead of just going out and having stuff happen, with a bunch of noise, as in America, you go out and things don't happen right away, but you have a beautiful time, and eventually somehow things seem to work themselves out.

My own rum diaries… From not drinking at all, after buying a bottle of rum I'm taking to imbibing a bit more frequently…

My feet are still killing me, at this point I'm hobbling around using a beach umbrella as a cane, when I'm not using it as a rain umbrella… It's usually sunny and tropically hot, although it rained most of this morning… Went to China town, had some Cuban-style Chinese food -- bland…

The streets are gorgeous…. Just walking through Havana is a major pleasure… The architecture, the people, etc.

Things are so inexpensive here, compared to the US, that it's tempting just to buy anything you come across…

5 cent coffee.

Today I learned the Cuban slang word "tota," pussy.

So far Cuba is making me both appreciate and disappreciate America… the American people are often loud and boorish, but they're effective workers and inventors… They've made microwaves, airplanes, etc.

Day 2 in Havana

Submitted by eagle on Tue, 04/09/2019 - 11:49

A busy second day…

Woke up early… walked to see the sunrise… Havana is one of the most beautiful cities I've seen!

In the morning, I still hadn't yet exchanged the American money I had from Bahamas… Hungry, I tried to exchange some money. Had a hard time finding a bank or cadena (money services kiosk). A bank was closed. Finally found a bank, just as it was opening. Standing in line, the woman in front of me noticed my American dollars, asked if I was exchanging money. Si. She asked to exchange money with me. I'd that a scam is to exchange money offering the local money worth one twenty-fifth the convertible currency. As I was mulling this over, she called her brother, and said to come quick, bringing money. I asked why she wanted to exchange money. She said she was going to Guyana. Her brother showed up in a few minutes. The money looked like the proper convertible currency. I was ready to exchange some, but wanted to exchange most of my money in the bank just in case. They said they didn't want to bother for a smaller amount.

Inside the bank, they said that the money exchange service wouldn't be available for two more hours. I ran back outside, to catch the brother and sister. They were at the ATMs, trying to perform an operation that wasn't working. I asked again to exchange at least a small amount of money, so that I could get some breakfast. They said that I could buy food using American dollars.

I walked to some eateries, but they did not accept American dollars. Some said that they did, but then when I started to inquire about prices, in which currencies they were, the vendors declined. It seemed sketchy. I kept walking.

Got to a cafeteria, where they said they'd accept American dollars. Asked for some food items. They then said that they did not accept American dollars. As I was leaving, frustrated, one of the counter women asked me to gift her an American dollar. I said yes, if she'd gift me some food. She said yes. I got a sandwich for my dollar, still confused…

Afterwards, exchanged some money. Later, after struggling some more with understanding the different currencies (which I think I know roughly understand), bought a loaf of bread. The bread crumbles, easily disappearing. I feel that the Cuban people are like Cuban bread: they look plain yet attractive on the outside, but often disappearing flakily on the inside…

Overall I do like Cuba and her people… It's a tropical island… The people have some economic limitations, but the country does seem to be modernizing… I feel like Cuba represents in some sense a "score one for capitalism"… but Cuba retains charm that it would not have if it were different. I feel that it would probably become bland and boring…

Ate tons throughout the day… sandwich, ice cream cone, muchos cafes, pizza, milkshake, jugos, eggs, bread, soda, etc… Bought a bottle of rum… Something, I think the milkshake, made me sick, I vomited twice, still felt sick… Also the dirty gas fumes may contribute… My feet are still hurting… Hobbling around, full of rum & soda & food & car fumes, under the tropical sun, grimacing, after one day I'm starting to look a lot like the locals! :)

Havana is a highly walkable city… After a couple of years in Miami, one of the least walkable cities, it's so fun to walk around Havana that I'm having a hard time stopping, despite the pain!

Also, after so long in Miami, & in North America, I became so accustomed to things that every square inch seemed known… Here in Havana, every square centimeter seems new! :)

The malecon (sea walk) has a long barrier, it blocks the water while producing spraying jets, quite scenic!

Here even the dogs know how to stand at a café counter! :)

So many more stories…


Trying to extend my visa, since I received only the 30 day one when I think I should have received a 90 day one, I went to a government building. As I entered, a couple of clowns rode by on two wheels, dressed up. Inside, an almost toothless woman greeted me. I showed her my visa, and asked if I could extend it there. She pointed to the visa and explained to me that this was a theater. I thought, oh, the Cuban people are wise to their bureaucracy. Then I looked around some more, and realized that she meant it: this was a theater, and I had looked at the map wrong and not walked into a government building at all!

Cuba

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 04/03/2019 - 19:11

I'm adding some blog posts about Cuba. I've been writing these over the previous days. However, I've been unable to post them yet, largely because of the difficulty of using wifi in Cuba. The timestamps show when I'm posting these, not when they were originally written. Also, I still have not figured out how to upload photos over Cuban wifi, so for now these are text only. Also, many of these are rough notes jotted down while rushing around. I'll try to go back over these later, adding photos & editing text.

Saludos!

====

Today I flew into Cuba!

Traveling extensively, at least I'm getting better at it…

Cuba is in some ways a more developed country than american propaganda portrays.
The tap water tastes fine :) …

These small countries, it's hard to learn your way around - the currency, the culture, etc. - before you're leaving and preparing for the next country. In the Caribbean, it's even more difficult to travel, because of the island-hopping. Each island is legally and geographically separate from the next. Instead of just riding another fifty miles further, you have to figure out how to get a visa, how long each visa lasts, how to get there - is there a boat service that you can only find out about at the dock, only running three times per month? Is there a flight that runs three times per week? Beyond that, you have to figure out all the entry requirements, some depend on your nationality. Do you have to have an exit ticket to enter? In that case you may be buying an expensive ticket that you can't use. Then when you arrive, the people may drive on the other side of the street, nearly killing you. You may get a visa for far less duration than you expected. You may not even like the place.

However, there are tons of bright sides too. It's freeing to find yourself in three different countries in one week. To learn new accents, words, foods, drinks. To find yourself considered a welcome guest!

By the way, the amenities in Cuba are cool. For a small fraction of the price of an apartment in the US (or other countries), I'm in a comfortable, large apartment, right next to the busy part of the sea in the historic center of a beautiful international city. There's plenty of everything I need, even of things I don't need. The people here seem warm, although perhaps not quite so warm (nor remotely as festive) as Mexicans.

The malecon (boardwalk) has some stunning views of old castles.

A signature of Cuba is the classic cars!

Cuba is one of the most beautiful countries I've seen!

I didn't realize that pizza was popular in Cuba. I haven't tried any yet, but I plan to. Also, I'm right near China Town, according to the map, which I didn't even know existed.

(I almost went hungry today. Bank stuff)

The ever-present smell of tobacco… Even indoors smoking seems to be permitted here, unlike in most countries. I suppose the country can't very well ban the product for which it's most notable…

Year Six: Just for Kicks! :)

Submitted by eagle on Wed, 03/06/2019 - 10:37

Howdy!

After another quiet year in Miami, I've produced a few new works, and had some fun. How has your last year gone?

I am now working with Zeynep Sen of Word|Link literary agency to place Astrotripping with a publisher!

In other news, I made some virtual reality (VR) videos! If you have a headset, you can watch these in stereoscopic 3D. Otherwise, you can still navigate manually.

Also, I made this 3D animation of the solar system:

And these 3D music videos:

Summer!

Shine!

I made new 3D games:

And I started a wiki for rhinosinusitis (stuffy nose):

Also, I wrote a series of adventure articles for Mud Tribe:

You can see this message at Worlds O Wisdom (WOW), where I also post further news.

Have a wonderful year!

Love,

Eagle

LifeFLOW3D

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