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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!

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