Visiting the 'forbidden country'

Published: May 6th 2010
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you see alot of this in Havana ----
So I ended up not going out with my contact from Couchsurfing in Oaxaca, Mexico because I didn't feel good (still had diarrhea but now am super & I have returned to eating street food....hahaha, I never learn). However I had my picture taken by a photographer - while I was strolling the streets of Oaxaca, I met this photographer guy from the States who wanted to take pictures of me and use it for some exhibition........... after 4 days in Oaxaca, I left to Mexico City aka 'EL D.F' -the capital of Mexico.

El D.F was great, I totally loved it - big cities simply make me happy.....anyways I got there on a Friday & went directly to Daniela's house - she is the girl from Couchsurfing & I stayed with her for 4 days. She is amazing and her family is great too - they made me feel at home. That Friday was her birthday so I joined the party. The next day was her friends birthday at Xochomilco (colorful boats carnival), we had a blast. I went to yet another ruins - the sun & moon pyramids in Teotihuacan which is about 45 minutes away from Mexico City, I learned how to use the metro which is easy & very cheap, and I just loved walking in the Downtown area which has everything.

As I got off the plane in La Havana, Cuba so many things was going through my mind but it didn't prepare me for the nightmare I went through with the Cuban immigration officers - they are worst than the US immigration officers for Non-US Citizens. Oh my God, I was questioned for 2 horas by 8 different officers asking the same questions all over again and I even had to do a X-ray to see if I swallowed drugs. After all that ordeal, I met up with Maddiel (from Couchsurfing) who showed me to a Casa Particular. I sort of promise myself not to analyze the political situation in Cuba because it wouldn't make a differences and it will keep me from fully enjoying the county and its people. However I'll tell you a little about this country.

Interesting things about Cuba
There are two currencies in Cuba - “Moneda Nacional” (for its citizens) & “Convertible Pesos (CUC)” for foreigners -exchange rate is 1 CUC= 1.23 Euros/1.31 pounds. There is an

real Human ones from the Atzec people
additional 10% penalty for those exchanging the US dollars. Everybody is welcome to Cuba even US citizens, they don't stamp anybody passport -you buy a tourist card for US$20 that they stamp. The government either owns all business, or a joint venture, there are some exceptions, like the accommodations for tourists. Citizens are allowed to rent up to 2 rooms in their houses to a maximum of 4 people, this is called Casa Particular and they must register with the government & pay 200 CUC per month regardless if they were able to rent room or not. These Casa Particular are up to 50% or more cheaper than the hotels which are government owned. It is illegal for Cubans to allowed foreigners to stay over at their house. In the past Cubans where not allowed in hotel rooms or tourist sites (the law to allow them was put into effect just 3 years ago).

Quality Health care & Education is free for Cuban citizens. A majority of the people do not have access to internet because it is extremely expensive, it costs about US$6 per hour which is a lot for the people. I never saw extreme poverty or people starving from hunger however they was a lack of modern conveniences such as home computers, iPods, fancy electronics, good working vehicles, and the likes. The country is rich with very educated people, art & music, diversity, naturally beautiful people and culture. There are a lot of pay phones on the street because cell phones are expensive and not everybody has a home phone. Everybody are not equal as claimed by its government - there are rich, middle class and poor people and racism do exist in Cuba. Females are hardly dressed (meaning so far female Cubans wear the shortest clothes ever regardless of their age). Not every Cubans like 'Fidel Castro' or are communist or believe in it - a lot of them especially the young desperately want a change. I have been told that the revolution was true to its cause for the first 20 years or so, so for 31 years now, its been a lie. Now, there is a lot of social disobedience and young musicians criticizing the government through their music.

Baseball is the most popular game here & the most popular type of music for the young are Hip-Hop/Rap and Reggeaton. The government is against Cuban Reggeaton & Hip-Hop music because they strongly criticize the government so there are hardly any concert of those two types of music. Its illegal for foreigners to use the 'Moneda Nacional' - the currency for Cuban citizen however you can get away using it on the local bus/taxi, buying street food & buying tickets of shows/concerts and the likes. I changed a little of my money to the 'Moneda Nacional' and bought street food all the time, for local transportation and stuffs like that - usually it works because I can pass for a Cuban or I give one of my Cuban friends to buy for me.

I enjoyed Havana, there was always a show to go to and things to do. On my first day, I went to a show at the 'Museo de los Orichas', another time to a dance show and every Monday there is a meeting at the house of this professor - people come together to make music, talk about music and different cultures. Or you can chill at this one street that is packed with hip-hop free style artists and 'Emos' (Emos are sort of punkish who usually dress in
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smallest car ever
black and have their hair covering half of their face). I visited Santa Clara -the sanctuary for Ernesto 'Che' Guevara, this city has a mausoleum, museum, statues among other things about him. Then next to Trinidad -a beach town that is filled with way too many tourists, I stayed only one night here.

I decided to skip Santiago de Cuba (the second largest city in Cuba) and return to Havana because unfortunately I was running out of money and I can not use my ATM card here because of the embargo, so I changed my ticket to leave Cuba 5 days earlier than planned -its sad, but oh well, there will always be another time to come back to Cuba. Meanwhile, I spent my remaining 4 days in Cuba trying to go to an Cuban Hip-Hop concert but ended up hanging out with a bunch of childish people, went to the Sundays alternative religion ceremony, Monday music meeting, a visit to a restaurant serving 'Yoruba/African food'.

I think you should visit Cuba, it will make you appreciate what you have in your own country regardless of how you feel your own government is messed up. I met a Nigerian here on my way to check out the Nigerian Embassy - he told me there were about 200 Nigerian students studying sports or medicine. He told me about how Nigerians who come to visit or plan on living in Cuba all change their ticket and return home and that some of them even cry like babies. He also said after the Nigerian tourist, potential immigrant or student return home, they can not dare complain about the Nigerian government or the situation at home because we have it way better than Cuba. I must say I totally agreed with him.

This is a country I can NEVER live in -I so much cherish the freedom I have & the conveniences that life has to offer however I wouldn't mind having the free quality healthcare & education the Cuban government has going for its people....Plus being in Cuba gives me this closeness to Ernesto 'Che' Guevara........I had a dream in Cuba that we got married and had 4 children (2 girls & 2 boys of which there is a set of twins). I intend to come back here to do a research on the Yoruba people of Cuba, I think it will be interesting to learn about their culture, religion and compare it to that in Nigeria...........

Note: the Yoruba people of Cuba are descendants of Yoruba slaves brought from Nigeria and I'm from the Yoruba tribe - that's why I find it fascinating to learn about the people in Cuba.

I decided on Cornell because I got a fellowship there which will save me a lot.........Oh sad news, the president of Nigeria died today

Hasta la Victoria Siempre (Until the Victory, Always)

Additional photos below
Photos: 33, Displayed: 27


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with selen
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Santa Clara 2

Che statue
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uniform for kids
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with Erika

with the Swiss in San Cristobal


7th May 2010

Congrats on Conrnell! That is a huge accomplishment. Good for you! Really nice pictures. glad you are feeling better and enjoyed Cuba despite your intro! That is weird they treated you like that. For Canadians, it is a breeze. When I went I just showed my passport and left. No one said anything to me. I didn't realize other countries got hassled. I am glad you didn't let the experience taint your experience as Havana is very cool. I feel the same as you. I could never life in all. I enjoyed what I saw and realized how lucky I was to have been born in a democratic country.
10th May 2010

I think they get nervous when they see a US passport! When I was being questioned, I saw them questioning 3 other with a US passport! Oh well, its Cuba....

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