Cuba blog April 16, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:10

Woke up early. Went to the beach. A couple of gringas taking photos.


gringas pix


No Airbnb places in walking distance. Maybe I'll try camping. Seems like Murphy's Law is in overdrive in Cuba.


Wifi went out again. Sandals broken. Not seeing shoe stores. Running out of sunblock. Not seeing much sunblock for sale.


Here even the vendors seem reluctant to talk.


Stores have few supplies. You're often expected to bring your own plastic bags.

Beaches w/ fine sand, better sand than any in Miami


Found a pair of shoes!


Found a camping spot!


Walked over my first provincial line in Cuba!

Gorgeous countryside, architecture.

Cuba blog April 15, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:09

Off to an early start!

Things (often) go wrong while traveling. Especially in Cuba.

Guanabo, a beach town. Seems more Americanized. On the highway here, there were signs for the "authentic Cuba," showing sports I haven't seen in Cuba. I've heard music popular in the US. There are gays, lesbians here…


Cuba blog April 14, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:04

Yesterday I walked by the beach, or rather the coast. There are a few nearby areas that they call the "beach," which I think may have more sand. Here it's mostly rocks.


coast pix


Cuba continues to grow on me. I like the street vendors here. In the city there were so many that they sometimes annoyed me.


Eating fish near the sea.


While traveling, you often have to do what you can, when you can, where you can.


Often, the fact that things don't work out at first per plan is often advantageous.


Trying to book a place to stay, only two wifi spots in town (the airbnb listing said wifi, but the host pointed out the public spots). A drunk comes by. A woman asks for money.


Cuba blog April 13, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 16:04

Yesterday I walked from la Habana to the smaller city to the east. The distance is probably only around 4-5 miles, but I also walked through some of the intervening towns. Cuba has beautiful countryside!


Today I am in a satellite community, where "escritor norteamericano" Ernest Hemingway wrote "The Old Man and the Sea." I am going to walk around it this weekend.

Cuba blog April 10, 2019 continuation

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:58

I'm now calculating how far I can get, and how much time I can spend in Cuba, with the cash that I have. It depends on whether I bike or walk. By my preliminary calculations, I have enough cash to spend around 17 days walking 125 miles, or around 10 days biking around 250 miles. If that's what it comes down to, I now think I'd walk, although I'd prefer to bike if I can find a way to get more time.


At this point, I'm seriously trying to figure out whether I'll be able to get off the island! I'd try to buy the flexible plane ticket, but the payment didn't go through. So I have a fixed plane ticket for around six months from now. (I didn't realize that cash would be such a problem, so I figured it would be best to spend a while in the country.) There don't seem to be any ferries from Cuba. I'm not sure that many boaters stop by the island. I think I can get another flight, but I'm not sure about that yet because of the internet situation.


Travel is often an exercise in feeling incompetent. Not knowing the language, how to do things. Maybe that's part of the appeal.


In Cuba, as more generally, failures keep happening. Get back at it!


After a half hour of trying to connect to the internet, which would block my bank anyways…


I'm feeling stuck in Cuba.


I may have to leave Cuba far earlier than anticipated. That's fine (if I can leave the country). I'm somewhat frustrated by the country anyways.


The tiles in Cuba are beautiful, as in other Latin countries…


tile pix


I don't think I have enough cash for the bike. Seems hard to get cash. Seems hard to do anything in Cuba.


I don't necessarily even want a bike here. If I only have a few weeks.


I'm now planning to head east, instead of west. If I had longer in Cuba, I'd probably want to go west first, then see the rest of the country to the east. However, I have limited cash, so I plan to start east, towards the more interesting places.


So, it looks like walking, I may be able to make it to Matanzas. Biking, I may also be able to make it to a few beach towns. I think that I'll walk to Matanzas. Maybe there (or on the way) I can find a bike, cash, or a boat.


There's a ton of uncertainty in travel. Also in general. One gradually learns one's way around the culture & geography. Often one has to make educated (or uneducated) guesses. Often, there are chances later to make corrections.


On looking into some of those destinations, they don't look like what I want to see. So, back to the drawing board.


There may not be much of interest to me in Cuba.

I think there's not much to the west. 

I could go for a straight shot east, try to make it to santiago, or at least to another port. But then I may get stuck away from an airport.


I think I've often given up too soon. It takes many tries.


Yay! :)


Finally booked a place, after some struggles, for the weekend.


In Cuba, it seems like things in general are hard. I'm concerned about how long I can stay, but finding ways! :)


Shaking the laptop around so it can reach the wifi...

In the ongoing saga of my foot massacre, this morning my feet hurt somewhat more than yesterday, but after walking they got used to it. Still sore, but I felt comfortable walking. My sandals held up much better than in previous days.


Today I visited some of the few areas of the city that I have not yet seen. I feel like I have now seen enough of Habana, am ready to go on. Tomorrow (Friday) I plan to walk to the next place, which is in a neighboring part of the metropolitan area, where "North American writer" Ernest Hemingway liked to go.


In one of the areas where I was walking, I got tired of the ubiquitous noise, so I ducked into a row of abandoned buildings, overgrown with plants. I paused there, deciding whether or not to get a bike (I decided not). As I started walking back to the street, I saw a police officer walking towards me. I tried to make room so that we could pass each other, but he stopped in the way. "What are you doing here?" The Cuban police officer asked. "Thinking." "This is a bad place to think," he said. We walked out to the police car, where he looked at my passport. After conferring with other officers, he handed back my passport, saying "alla no vaya mas" (don't go there again). Often when you're a foreigner the police would rather just send you on your way than deal with anything further.


I like Cuba, it has tons of street activity, tasty food, and more. However, I prefer mainland countries. I want to spend more time here, but it looks like the cash situation (my bank card doesn't function here) will probably limit my stay. The bureaucracy is somewhat annoying, but anyways I plan to see what more I can now, maybe come back later to see more of Cuba.


Cuban pharmacies seem to stock largely herbal remedies. I learned that pasiflora (passion flower) ma improve sleep, anxiety, etc. I may try it soon.


Cuba blog April 10, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:53

Another gray day.


The wifi (or lack thereof) is frustrating.


The banking (or lack thereof) is frustrating.


Cubans have a funny way of lining up. Let's say you want to get into building, and there's a lineup (which is likely). Instead of a single line-up, there are often people standing around in two lines, plus a group of people milling about the entrance. To get in line, you walk up to around where you think there's a lineup, and ask "ultimo?" ("last?"). Someone should say that they're the last person, so you stand behind that person. Sometimes you ask who the last person is behind, so that you can go there if the last person leaves. On occasion someone walks right by the line and into the building, maybe just to ask a question. The line moves slowly, with people paying attention to make sure that they don't lose their spot. I think I've seen people jumping ahead in the line, but I'm not sure.


Today was another big day of happy disappointments, the Cuban way.


After taking care of some chores in the morning, went out to buy some antihistamines for sleep. I've had a hard time sleeping lately, not sure exactly which mix of stress, travel, different diet, or what is causing it. Previously I've asked at pharmacies if they sold anything for sleep, to which of course they replied "no." I thought I'd get clever, ask them for antihistamines, which often contain the same ingredients to make one drowsy as sleep aids do. I asked them if they had any. "No." I had difficulty explaining antihistamines, allergies, etc., in Spanish, so maybe there was some communication issue, but they adamantly refused to sell me anything.


Later, I went for a walk. Thought of buying a bicycle. I want to see more of Cuba, it's a relatively large island, so a bike seems practical. I was just about ready to buy one, but on further thought, decided to hold off. With the limited amount of cash I have, my American bank card not functional, I'm not sure whether it makes more sense to walk or bike around Cuba. Biking would be faster, more fun. However, it would cost a significant fraction of my on-hand cash, reducing the number of days I can stay here at present rates. Walking would give me more of a chance to think, while saving some money. Also, a bike involves other costs like replacing punctured tubes, buying a lock, etc. I still want to bike, but I'm not yet sure whether it makes the most sense…


In the evening, the places where I thought of eating weren't open or had other issues. So I wound up going back to a vegetable stand to which I'd previously been. I often prefer to go to new places, esp. while traveling.


Anyways, had a chance to see more of this beautiful city!


For the first time that I can remember, my feet didn't hurt too much while walking, or even running!


feet pix


Still some pain, but I feel much better.


Sandals broke again, of course! :)


After the communist revolution, most middle- & upper-class Cubans went to Miami. That explains much about Cuba.


By the way, what a noisy country. With people yelling, loud motors, dogs barking, etc. At 8:30 PM, some jackhammer or motor is blasting right next to my bedroom.


Cuba does not meet my notion of an ideal society.

Cuba blog April 9, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:44

Cuban dessert seem bland, dry. Perhaps unsurprising. I think that Latin deserts generally do not appeal to me. Maybe because they have so much fruit that they don't need to make appealing deserts?

A gray, rainy day.

In part, I want to spend longer in Cuba, outside of the city. The cash (or no cash) situation is making this difficult. I don't want to feel forced to leave again right yet.

Bikes cost the same here as in the US. So do packages of tomato sauce, some cans of soda, etc. I think that imported products cost about the same, while local products cost around one tenth to one half as much, often around one fifth as much.

A word I hear often in Cuba is "coge," which seems to have numerous uses, like "get." It sounds funny to me, because in Mexico "coge" means "fuck," as in have sex.

Cuban people eat a ton of wheat. I think they import it, along with (dirty) gasoline. I like some of the bread, but some of the bread is too crunchy for my tastes. I think Cuba also produces gasoline. Looks like yes.

I think that in travel, & more generally, there are tough parts throughout. It's easy to have a notion of how you want things, but often things come out a different way. We have to adjust. We have to move forward anyways It's how things happen. Do it the most to preferences that we can.


Cuba blog April 8, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:40

Another tough day… I suppose they generally are…

Seems that the American bank cards in fact don't work in Cuba. The Cuban banks are worse than the others I've seen. A long line to wait in line. At least the indoors line (after the outdoors line) has air conditioning and seats. A woman stands up. One of the staff women says to please stay seated. The staff seem not to have much knowledge. The bank does not have card readers inside. The ATMs are in various states of out-of-service. Maybe the American bank cards do in theory work in Cuba, but the banks don't???

Also, someone (a woman I ran into in the streets) said the there are no ferries in or out of Cuba, only planes. So that limits that.

At least I figured out more of the wifi. Still, if I only have the cash I managed to exchange in Nassau, then I don't have much in the way of online hours.

Also, I keep getting into situations where there's limited toilet paper. It's annoying to have to manage such trivial things as minutes of wifi, sheets of toilet paper. Maybe that's why Cubans seem so unhappy.

More diarrhea today. I think it was the tamarind or guava juice. I'm going to try to avoid those.

Cuba blog April 7, 2019

Submitted by eagle on Sun, 05/19/2019 - 15:35

It's too hot during much of the day to be out directly in the sun. As such, most people seek shade. Under the shade it's quite nice.


Maybe I was wrong about Cuba being an agricultural-industrial society. I'm now thinking of it as an agricultural society, which happens to be on a planet with industrial-digital societies. Most of the machinery seems imported. Most of the people seem to work in agriculture, traditional construction, or sales.


That's not fair, though… I think there are some industrial areas… Even a few digital areas… So it's a mix, just a different mix….


I can understand more the resentment against the US & other larger countries. Cuba has historically been poor, despite producing wealth for other countries. Now it's poor, without producing wealth for other countries. Seems mired in poverty, but it doesn't have to be. I think that there are far wealthier Caribbean countries with comparable geography & population.


Not all Cubans resent the US. I've seen a fair number of pro-US tee-shirts etc.


I think communism is on its way out in Cuba… a guy just walked by w/ a $ sign necklace, then a pizza delivery vehicle drove by…

Coge… seems like the most common word in Cuba. Take, get, grab, etc. Can be used for pretty much anything.

For me or other visitors, communist Cuba is different than other countries… For Cubans, it's just what they've known for decades…

At the street of the apartment, it starts to rain… people rush in, including the first visibly homeless Cubans I've seen so far… I thought I was the only one with a sleeping bag in Havana!

Cuba is a drug country: its main products are tobacco, coffee, sugar/rum.