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!


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.



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


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:



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!



Top 5 Ways to Travel Adventurously and Save Money

Submitted by eagle on Mon, 12/17/2018 - 15:34

Have you ever dreamt of a tropical getaway or other vacation, and wanted to do so uniquely? Here are the top five ways you can travel adventurously, all while saving money.

1. Airbnb

Start traveling differently the easy way, by booking a place at Airbnb. You can find unusual accommodations all over the planet, including treehouses! To get you going, here is a coupon for a free $40 on your first booking.

Pink Pearl Island-1

2. Couchsurfing

After you have your feet wet, feel free to go Couchsurfing! Here, people open their homes to visitors. Stay at farms, co-ops, and more. Remember that this is a cultural exchange, so get to know your hosts, and share something of your own. You may want to open your own home!

3. Camping

For greater freedom, consider camping! Just take a tent and sleeping gear, and any other equipment you want. Campgrounds are easy to find, and gorgeous. These usually offer fun activities like hiking and swimming.

4. Bicycling

If you want to travel more closely to the ground and meet the people in the places you visit, while getting a workout, consider biking. It's extremely affordable, and you can even carry camping gear. A hospitality exchange exclusively for bicycle tourers is Warm Showers.

5. Hitchhiking

If you want to go faster, farther, and meet different people, then hitchhiking is for you! For tips and tricks to learn how, visit the Hitchhiker's guide to hitchhiking.