5.59am. Ren’s just gone to bed. As we parted last night I warned her for a third night in a row. “If you’re not back by 6am…I’m calling the cops.” Our new standing joke, but last night I had trouble sleeping and am sitting out in the lounge area as Ren heads off to bed. Partly because I was angry about the pick pocket and partly my card getting swallowed. Shit happens I know, but I’m having trouble letting go.
I stand up and open the shutters to let some breeze through and am struck by the birds. Not a lot mind, but I realise I have made the dawn chorus. I look down the road and there is the sunrise. A beautiful day has dawned. Why didn’t I get up earlier on other days? I chide myself. I watch over the third floor balcony as people start to move around. An old man steps from his house and pulls the door shut behind him. Adjusts his cigar in his mouth before picking up his bag and leaves. A woman is throwing down buckets of water into the gutter and then sweeping the nights doings down, down. I thought she was doing outside her house until I realise she is doing the whole street. It must be her job. The taxi bicycles are already carrying people to work. The odd car goes up unrestricted by the normal clutter of a busy narrow road where hundreds live.
My bag is packed and I shower and read for a while waiting for Andres to meet me to go to the bank but stand again to watch for them so they don’t have to come up our three flights of stairs. I see them both before they see me. Before I can recognise their faces I recognise the confident stride of a professional dancer. Rosita is tiny and close to him. A little closer and he sees me, waves and I nip downstairs.
At the bank there is already a group of about twenty people waiting. Arguments are brewing over who got there first and whose needs is greatest. Andres explains to me what is being said. One man has been there since six am but the lady and her son are trying to get money to post bail for a family member who is in jail. I’m worried that we will be behind this twenty, and there are more coming all the time. It has swelled to around thirty when the staff begin to arrive. The door guard opens up for staff, tells everyone to stand back and doesn’t lock it immediately after. Andres sees his chance and slips up to the door. Opens it and yells out that he has a foreigner who’s card was swallowed by the machine last night and she is catching a plane and must leave now. As soon as he has shouted this out he slips back out as the guard is about to push him out. It’s the best he can do he explains. “It will be ok. They will go and look for it now,” he smiles. He is careful not to talk of guns and robbing the bank now I notice.
Last night he had us in fits as he pulled his shirt up like a mask and acted out what he will do if they won’t give back the card. “And you, he yelled out to no one, get me a million bucks while we are waiting,” mimicking holding guns. Here however he is quite subdued. You don’t want to play games with the police here I suspect. “Don’t worry he smiles at me. It will be OK. I am sure of it!” I very much doubt this cunning plan of shouting through the door has worked myself and have decided that if we are not successful soon to just walk away and forget it rather than argue. We have a plane to catch and we have a plan B. We will be ok. Just I’d rather be using my debit card.
A minute or so later a woman puts her head out and yells out something in Spanish and Andres replies. She looks at me and Andres tells me to give her my passport. A few minutes later a guy comes and yells something out in Spanish and Andres tells me to go forward. The banks only just opened and they have let the first five in but I am told to stay out when I move forward. He asks me in Spanish if I have lost a card in the machine. I look at him blankly and Andres translates. I nod. He motions for me to step up to the door and sign a book which I do and I see it has my passport number written in there and he hands me my card and passport. It’s five minutes after opening. “You rock Andres!” I say with a big smile as we walk away. He laughs and said “…well I told them, ‘hand over the card or Andres will come in a get you all.’ They see my guns and are frightened.” He motions spinning his pretend guns around, blows into the barrels and makes out he is pushing them into his holsters either side of his hips as he adds…”they see the smoking guns and shake in their boots.” We are laughing as we round the corner. He’s a showman, performing all the way home. I know I wouldn’t have had a shit show in hell without him. The taxi arrives soon after we get back and we must say goodbye. Rosita puts on her dark glasses and shows me she is so sad. We kiss and hug goodbye and I wonder how different our time would have been here without them.
The Havana airport is a little better than Varadero’s but not much. We are all told to take our shoes off, even Ren’s strapy sandals, but they don’t care about our liquids and I even carry a half bottle of water through. I spy the word Salon VIP and Ren and I check if it’s one we can use our airport lounge pass for as we enter an air conditioned oasis with a woman at the desk. I step forward and show her my card but she barely glances at it before shaking her head no. I look around at the thirty or so lovely lounge chairs, food at the ready and wonder whose card does work here, as the place is empty. Who are they waiting for? The president? We joked on our way down that she just couldn’t be bothered with dealing with anyone today. Haha!
We flew Bahamasair and the flight attendants were as inattentive as you could find. We weren’t offered so much as a water for the one hour flight and as we were about to land, one banged Gilbert in the shoulder and said gruffly, “take it off” meaning his air muffs as she passed him. They never gave us arrival cards which left the plane load scrambling for them when we walked through the arrivals hall. “Lazy bitches”, Gilbert grumbled as we got the last three on a desk and filled them in.
Bahamas however looks picture postcard. We decide to use wifi to catch up at the airport as we’re not sure what the BnB will have. We sit down in the main lobby and hook up immediately and start checking emails, updating Facebook, syncing photos….and I have no idea what else people do to be honest. I muck around for a while, go to the bathroom and freshen up, grab a curry pasty and coffee for us each and they’re still at it. We’ve been sat there for at least an hour and a half when I say. “Hey guys, we should go cause I don’t know if you know, but we’re in the Bahamas.” The other two look up at me and laugh. Yep we should definitely get going! We gather up our stuff soon after and head out asking for a taxi. The lady co-ordinating taxis yells out to a guy and turns out he has a stretch limo. Ummm is this a taxi we ask. Yes Madam. Is it still just $35? Where would you like to go he asks as he takes our bags off us and we climb in. This is a bit crazy. It’s an old limo. I’m guessing at least 20 years or more and seen better days, but pretty funny just the same. We’re delivered to our address and soon settled in our room. It’s costing us $144 NZ a night for a very basic studio room but all good and wifi is fine so we needn’t have sat at the airport for two hours!
It’s amazing how different things are from Cuba, and I realise how tired I was from not just the heat but how much more energy it takes when you have so little language and everything is different to your norm. It definitely gets harder as you get older to adjust to these things. We talk about the heat in China when we visited there almost twenty years ago, and all those challenges which we took in our stride with five kids in tow.
Gilbert and I wander up to a dairy about ten minutes away and grab a couple of things but the shelves are half empty and dusty. She tells us to go to a service station for bread and milk. They don’t have much either. Confirms we are not in the flashiest part of town so will see tomorrow.