In Havana!

 

[ 23 July 2016 - Saturday ] <-- The lack of internet in Havana means I am having to retroactively post my travel journal. Shown here is the actual date things were written while in country.

Hotel Nacional de Cuba with Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis tunnels and cannon in foreground and the Malecón on far right!

I’ve made it to Havana!  For someone who’s traveled to a lot of countries this is actually the first time I have taken a trip abroad entirely solo.  Aside from an almost-panic attack when I couldn’t find the place to change my USD into CUCs (one of the two national currencies in Cuba) at the Havana airport getting to the hotel all went as smoothly as possible.  I’m staying for two nights at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba; it’s pricey so I definitely need to find a better place, probably a casa particular (a room in a private home) asap…that’s what’s on the agenda for tomorrow.  I tend to feel cautious and unsure the first few days “in country” wherever I go so I saw the value in “splurging” on a nice hotel.  Hotel Nacional is total toursity gringo-land for sure and despite feeling as ease and at home here, I immediately was glad that I was going to find some place more authentic (whatever that means…) to stay for the duration of my trip.

Here are some of my initial impressions:

  • Havana being “stuck in time” seems largely untrue, or rather it just glosses over too much to be true.  Something stuck in time infers that nothing changes and aside from the historic cars nothing here has escaped the passage of time and ruin. 
  • When I came out of the arrivals gate at the airport there was a massive crowd of joyous looking Cubans all waiting for friends and family members.  I started to think that these people hadn’t seen their family members for years probably but then also quickly wondered if it was just a cultural thing.  (Carmen confirmed its mostly cultural.)
  • Citizens are many times the pawns of people in power.  
  • On the drive from the airport to the hotel I was trying to compare what I have seen in other parts of Latin America (México, Belize, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, the Caribbean) and India to what I was seeing in Cuba.  More on that to follow but the first thing to stick out was the lack of commercial advertisements.  I honestly had to mentally picture the streets of Ann Arbor and compare them to what I seeing on my drive to realize the shear amount of advertising we see in the US / the shear lack of commercial advertising there is in Cuba.
Flying into Havana

Flying into Havana

Looking toward Centro and Habana Vieja from the Malecón

Looking toward Centro and Habana Vieja from the Malecón

Exploring the Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis tunnels with the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in the background

Exploring the Cuban Missile Crisis / October Crisis tunnels with the Hotel Nacional de Cuba in the background