[ 25 July 2016 - Monday ]
Everyday so far I wake up and feel a little homesick. Maybe I won’t admit that to anyone when I get back, you know, showing that I’m weak and possibly not cut out for solo travel. *Insert side eye* But the thing is this isn’t the easiest country to travel to or even in. I thought getting here was the hardest part, but I think living here is equally as difficult. And I don’t even LIVE live here! What I didn’t realize was the extent of communism in daily life, or what conveniences it means aren’t here and available. (And again, I'm only a tourist for cripes sake! My communism-imposed discomfort has expiration date set for three weeks!) For instance hotels, there aren’t many of them and I’m guessing that the ones you can find are government run. You can rent a private room, called a casa particular, but that’s nearly the total opposite of staying in a hotel. I’m starting to see some casa particulars that are set up and run like a hostel, but I get the feeling they are just well-established and well-connected (meaning a Cuban who was able to travel and realize the potential of their casa particular). There doesn't appear to be a backpackers' hostel circuit like you see in so many other countries. How do you make travel friends if not over cheap hostel beers??
Today Tom, Carman, Isabel and I visited the third home that we didn’t see yesterday owned by the same family, Casa Prado Colonial. And now I have a place to stay for the lingering four night between Eddy’s and Hostal Gorgola. Three of the nights will be a Prado Colonial but one night will be at the gorgeous Hostal del Ángel and I’m so excited to be able to stay there!
Oh one thought I had yesterday. Carmen asked how I thought it compared to other Latin American countries. To be honest it looks like a lot of them, but of course…probably worse. Or worse on an overall scale. Freaking San Miguel de Allende looks like Disneyland, which I already knew it basically was, but still. I think the difference between a place like Mumbai and Havana is that Mumbai, aside from a handful of beautiful ruins, the ruined parts were always pretty “shanty”-like (or rather, their architecture was always of humble beginnings) or just post-Soviet ugly buildings. You can tell that nearly all of Havana was once fantastically beautiful and wealthy. And in a city like Antigua, Guatemala, you’d stumbled upon a building, here or there in the main historic area that was crumbling but it was never block after block, after block, after block. At least in the parts Martin and I saw in our brief stay in Antigua. I’d bet that if I went to the smaller more rural cities in Cuba that it would be equally as ruined but perhaps not as formerly wealthy.
This afternoon I left the Hotel Nacional and walked to my first casa particular. It’s a place that Tom and Carmen used to stay, called “Eddy’s.” No more mojitos on the patio or spotty internet service, they do have a gorgeous and sweet dog named Clara though and if the place comes recommended I feel much better about it. It’s in the Vedado part of town which is west of Havana Vieja where I will be staying for the rest of my time here. There are a few spots I wanted to visit in the Vedado neighborhood that once I get to Vieja will seem far.
Communism. Screw Fidel. The idea of wanting to go to Cuba before it’s “ruined” is even more absurd and insulting to me now that I am actually here to see it. There is nearly nothing left here that isn’t entirely ruined. I can see the objective view of wanting to see the product of 50+ years of communism, but to romanticize the way of life here and say “Oh well they all have free education!” is crazy. I am trying to imagine a life where it doesn’t matter what you do you’ll never be able to do any better for yourself. No matter where you go to school, no matter how hard you work, no matter anything. Like Carmen said it will take generations of people to get out of the mindset they’ve been forced into. One of the other things she said that I didn’t realize, was that for the first time a privately-owned business could hire other Cubans to work there, before everyone was employed by the state. That fact alone blows my mind.
I’m always wary of men who approach me on the street. Nearly every time they do a little kissing noise, etc and it’s super irritating. So when a guy approached me asked where I was from I wasn’t looking to talk much. But when I said “Estado Unitos” his eyes lit up as he pointed to his right shoulder where he had a tattoo of a bald eagle. He said that he hoped one day that he could go to the USA.
It seems obvious but there’s a big difference between being alone at home and being alone here. I really enjoy being alone at home and can be on my own for days it seems before I need to make human contact. But what I’m realizing is how much of a difference even having the internet or a phone makes. Every morning I wake up and feel sad that I can’t check my phone for a text from Martin or check my computer looking for an email from him.
I acknowledge that 90% of my problems would nearly vanish if I spoke better Spanish.
Also, when will I get over all this “Ahhh my feelings, I’m alone, I hate this…no wait now I’m okay?” Because I actually do have research and work to do.