First full day in Cuba. With our Air BnB, for a few extra dollars, Lidia will cook us breakfast! Yes. Scrambled eggs, toast and fruit make for a good meal. Kirsten has booked a guide and driver. Edinson is our guide and Michael is our driver. It is a little tight in the back seat, but the four squeeze into a blue Ford from the 50s that Michael found and restored to working condition. In restored we mean make run. The front seats were 2 bucket seats from a late 90’s Toyota. Like every old car in Cuba it definitely had a stereo system. And maybe some added electric windows. There’s no A/C, but we were not in the car that much. Basically, Kirsten and Chester would sit with one cheek on the seat, while Riley and Megan are crunched in the middle. But the guide and drive were nice and comfortable in the bucket front seats. Cuba has a bit to learn on customer service. Oh, and no seat belts. As uncomfortable as it was, it was still pretty cool to be riding around in most of the day. Later afternoon the sweat started rolling.
the major sites in Havana. We walked through the plazas, shops, cathedrals, narrow streets, a chocolate museum (delicious), and we went to two bars that Ernest Hemmingway frequented. We had daiquiris at Florida. This is where the Cubans claim they were created and where Hemmingway frequently drank them. We got there just before they opened and noon. With Kirsten and Chester’s superior crowd skills learned in Asia and Africa, we pushed our way to the front and got a table. The daiquiris were very good, and very strong. The girl’s virgin daiquiris were actually better. They tasted like key lime pie. There are as many pictures of Hemmingway up as there are of Fidel Castro. There was a traditional band playing and singing and tourists smoking cigars all over. Edinson informed us that Cubans do not smoke cigars. Only tourists.
For lunch Edinson dropped us off at a place that is supposed to have the best ceviche and seafood in town! Chester and Kirsten love ceviche. It was ceviche, but we struggled to eat it all. It was just raw fish and onions and garlic. That’s it, and there was a ton of it. We felt bad
that we couldn’t eat them much so we disturbed it among our plates to make it look like we put a dent in it. Riley and Megan are not fans of fish, so they had spaghetti caked in butter and a dash of tomatoes. If it was not fish, they were happy.
We continue to see the sites and learn about the history and culture of Cuba. It is always interesting to get the point of view from the other side of the story. The minors were amazed to know that they only really had internet for the masses in the last 5 years and mobile phones in the last 3 years. They could not imagine. We asked a lot of questions about Fidel and Raul. In summary it appears the Cubans did not like Fidel in the end. He made promised the entire time he ruled, but the country just continued to deteriorate with no jobs and food being difficult to find. This is evident in the buildings, roads and infrastructure. It is all government owned and maintained or not maintained in this case. We got the history of the 2 revolutions and their input in
Che Guevara. For Kirsten this was quite interesting as she if frustrated with seeing all of the young kids in America with his shirts and hats and not knowing what a tyrant and murder he really was. If they knew they would not glorify him. Edinsons gave us many stories of the killings and how he and Fidel ruled the people with fear. We all learned something.
We then went to their version of central park. It was nothing special with some cool banyan trees and a “river”. But what was interested was the chicken feather and body parts everywhere. We mean “everywhere”. Apparently there are 4 gods that some of the traditional Cubans’ pray to. One of this is the river good. In summary with some paraphrasing, they go a witch doctor with what every they need. The witch doctor tells them what they must to, which involves giving a sacrifice to one of the 4 gods. One is the river good. This is the best river in Havana, so they come in the evenings and do chicken sacrifices. We asked our guide if he ever did this. He said when he was young he was
injured a lot and his mother did a sacrifice with him to keep him safe. Think the girls were a little freaked out.
After all of the history lessons stop and have a drink and relax. By evening we were on a rooftop of a restaurant enjoying the most amazing views of the city. It was a restaurant featured in a Cuban film that was the first to feature a gay man coming out. In a communist regime this is a big deal. Our guide and driver are incredibly friendly and thirsty. They had no problem ordering drinks on our tab. We had a few drinks with them and discussed more of the Cuban culture. The identified the difference in our teenagers and Cuban teenagers. By the time a Cuban girl is Riley and Megan’s age (17 days and 11.5 months), most likely they would have at least 1 child. Moving in together as a couple is very common but getting married is not as much. The guides nice had a baby at 14. They noted that children at a young age in Cuba are on the streets unsupervised. They grow up very quickly that way. We
drank and talked until 10, and then home for the night after a long day. Or so we thought. The girls were hungry so we headed to the house next door, which is actually a bar/restaurant and they had hamburgers. It is difficult in the new Cuba to know what is out there as most places do not have signs.
Tomorrow will be an earlier day as we decided to go to the mountains with Edinson and Michael to swim. Kirsten keeps reminding everyone to keep their expectations LOW. We will see.
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