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Published: June 22nd 2017
Geo: 23.1168, -82.3886
After breakfast at the Sunset Restaurant we took a final peek at the beach then checked out and read our books whilst waiting for out taxi to Havana. The taxi turned up exactly on time. Edel, our driver had just driven the 5 hours to pick us up. He was a very talkative 29 year old dad of Brian aged 3. He chatted about the political status, the political characters and generally how poor the country and economy are. He described the inherent corruption that's part and parcel of their way of life. Both of his parents were vets but because it's a government profession they earned just 40cuc a month. Edel has a degree in economics but drives a taxi because he earns much more money Han he ever would in a 'professional' occupation, mainly due to the tips. Although he works through travel agencies he's guaranteed to get work rather than waiting in a taxi rank where police tend to move you on and ply you for bribes to jump to the front of the queue. He'd explained how people who work for the government earn about 25cuc a month, doctors about 50cuc and police (who have
the lowest qualifications) earn the most at about 80cuc. Again we heard all about the 'black market', how people use it to improve their life and how everyone uses it. Edel described how when the revolution finished the land was divided up amongst the people so they could run their own farms and grow food and produce to sell. Apparently this worked well until the government started charging a 90% tax on everything they produced, allowing them to keep just 10% for their own needs. As a result, most people gave up farming the land and took up such things as taxi driving or other such occupation. It pretty much explains why much of the landscape is unloved and derelict looking. Edel explained that although education is free they are suffering a shortage of teachers as the government only pay 20cuc a month. Teachers are taking up different career paths!
When w got to to Havana Edel wanted to take us though the city tunnel, it was apparently closed to all but selected busses and cars. The police turned us around and directed us back out and the long way round... much to Edels frustration. Apparently you can be heavily fined
and imprisoned for arguing with a policeman.
We arrived at the National Hotel in good time. Apparently a famous hotel frequented by the rich and famous. Our impression was of a large foyer full of tourists of all nationalities. Very busy and crowded, not at all like the Royalton.
We had a quick look around then had a mojito whilst sat in the gardens overlooking the bay. We also had a pizza in the hotels sports bar.
Our room was one of their historic rooms once occupied by artist and sculptor John Blakeley. He'd created a sculpture of Castro and Che Guevara.
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