Cuba is hot,hot, hot! And this is pretty much the first word we learn after hello. Coolarrrd. I’ve never watched Dora but feel it might have helped. The airport feels like it’s from the 50’s. I’ve never been in an airport that looks so old. Maybe Beijing in ’98? You walk into a kind of cubicle and we watch those ahead of us. “Looks like the Russian gulag” I say. Ren bursts out laughing. “What the hell is the Russian Gulag?” ” I don’t know exactly but it’s not good”. Everyone seems a bit nervous. Ren goes ahead of me and I hear no laughing. Gilbert is sent through a different door and then it’s my turn. As soon as I go in, I look through the glass and it’s a lady who looks like she needs a coffee. “You been to Africa in the last month”, she barks at me. “No.” I smile. She doesn’t give me one in return. That’s ok. They are trained to look no nonsense. “Why you come?”She continues. “To see Cuba”, I say still smiling. “Stand back for photo and don’t smile” she commands pointing up at a camera. I stand back. No smile. She stamps my passport and then she barks again.”Go!” As I hear the door unlock and as soon as I shut it, it locks again. Well I hope her break is soon!
There are several X-ray machines and people are removing shoes and laying out their personal items from their bags. The security, almost without exception is young women in their late twenties maybe. They are dressed in the shortest tightest, skirts you can imagine. Black lacy or patterned tights and high heels. Makeup and painted nails. Standing tall and slightly tipped back, one leg bent at the knee and ‘attitude’ written all over them. It is so surreal. They stand with their arms crossed and all look angry and it’s hot. I head to one of the machines and can see Ren getting her boots back on ahead of me but no Gilbert. My bag goes in and out of the X Ray several times and then the woman manning it looks at me and shouts “Hey lady, you got food?” “Yes”, I reply as I reach in and get out 3 raisin buns. “Go there” she points at two old woman sitting at what looks like an old school desk. I gather up my belongings and dump them on the desk as they continue talking to each other and ignore me for a minute. “What you got?” One asks gruffly. “Buns” I reply holding them up with no smile. I think this is the best thing. Keep it simple. “Go” she replies sweeping her hand across as if I have wasted her time and resumes her conversation. Ren comes up behind me and we are now waiting for Gilbert who still hasn’t come out. Jesus. What the hell is going on I wonder. About 5 minutes later he almost bursts out of one of the doors, goes through X-ray where they double check his binoculars with their superior and return them. “Funny having a whole lot of pretty girls here” Gilbert comments as we leave. “Yeah but they look like they’d eat you for breakfast” I laugh.
Even the planes look old!
There is some English but not much. Ren has a Spanish language guide and is picking up words left, right and centre. My bloody card won’t work in the machine at the airport. At first we thought the machine couldn’t dispense as much as I wanted but no matter how little I try to get, it just won’t recognise it. Ren had changed some money into American dollars as we left Canada but when I went to get some she said “Nah. How hard can it be to get money out of your own bank? Do it when we get there”. So after arriving we went to the bank along the road. We were greeted by a guard at the door who stopped us and asked what we wanted. “Um, to get money out”, Ren said, “OK,” he stood back and waved towards the counter. What the hell did he think we were going to say, buy some shoes? We want to rob you? But as Ren and I approached the counter he directed us to, he stopped us and said. “One only” so Ren went and sat with Gilbert and I went up alone. There were several ladies behind the long counter and all were hot. Wet patches on backs, under arms and chests. It was hot like stepping into a sauna. They are all fanning themselves and though some sat at computers, they looked hot, tired and bored.
Mine is fanning herself so vigorously I am benefitting from it too. She pushes a card that has various figures on it and I point to 500. She nods and shows me another figure. $520, which is what it will cost me. I nod and smile but she gives none in return. I hand her my card and we go through several different figures getting lower and lower but my card wouldn’t work there either. The lady looked at me. I’m imagining she’s thinking poor fat tourist but she has no money in her bank. All these girls have the tightest skirts here also. It’s like a working women’s uniform. I try a different card and yay. It works. I have to say I’m very relieved.
Who knew the Cuban beaches were amazing?
The beach is stunning. Clear water for as far as you can see and quite empty through the day, but come 5 pm and local families seem to be streaming down. Gathering relaxing, playing games and fishing. The first afternoon after a wander we lie on the sand in the sun and then find a local restaurant for dinner. I opt for fish. I want the freshest thing they have and this fish is good but the salad is not great. Next day after organising our auto bus tickets for Trinidad, we play the tourist card taking in the sights on a horse and cart. Can’t quite believe the heat. We get three sunbeds and an umbrella beach side and just relax. “Am I burning?” I ask the other two who now look like they’ve been toasted. “Don’t think so, Ren says. I feel like the sun here’s not so bad. ” That night I look at myself in the mirror. “Bloody hell! What part of – ‘you like you’ve been put in a pot and boiled didn’t you think to say!’ ” “Ahhh, yeah. You look a lot worse now Mum”. Ren says sheepishly.
On our way to Trinidad tomorrow. Cuba is such a mix and we have barely scratched the surface. It’s exciting and vibrant. Pics to be added later….This is our first wifi so I’m not sure when you will hear from me next. In the meantime “adios amigo!”