Where do I begin? There is so much to say about this place that I am overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.
Should I begin with the remarkable architecture, some lovingly restored and others gently held together with the hope that someday it too can be brought back to their original wonder? Is it the wonderful people, out on the town celebrating “The National Day of Women” on a day set aside much like our mother’s day, many carrying a rose? Is it the street food vendors selling pastry, ice cream, fried foods and ham sandwiches out of a window or doorway? Or perhaps with the dozens of tiny shops meticulously displaying their limited wares or the pet stores with amazing colorful birds and tropical fish.
Perhaps I should begin with the vehicles. Coming from the “disposable” culture of the U.S. it’s amazing to see how Cubans recycle and reuse in a way that puts us to shame. Some vehicles look like they are about to travel their very last mile and others, like this 1950s vintage Opel that our driver from yesterday, clearly have many miles left under the hood.Even the interior was perfect, if a bit off of the original specs. There are thousands of old cars, trucks and motorcycles spewing choking exhaust on impossibly narrow colonial streets so clogged with traffic that crossing is a life threatening experience. Not all of the cars were in as nice shape as this vintage VW. For sure, plenty will be changing in Cuba as they open up to the world. Perhaps there is no better illustration of the challenges that this country faces than the long lines of young people waiting outside of the cell phone store waiting to enter for service. And,as in the U.S. , it seems like nearly everyone is busy huddling over their phones, perhaps, like us, trying to use the horrible wifi in public squares. For sure, wifi is not great as it took me an hour yesterday and all of the time on my prepaid wificard to get just a simple post with one photo to publish. Today I am in a cafe using their computers so it´s going much better, so far…
As we spoke with Cubans, at the marina, in taxis and some that we met on the street, there is an air of excitement that Obama is visiting later this month. However, tempering their enthusiasm, is a fear that the influx of American’s and their money will take away the “good” of Cuba. However, it seems that most feel that there will be more good than bad as Cuba “joins the world” again after so many years of isolation.
There is a constant parade of “buses” adapted from old Ford trucks with large rear areas,complete with benches, packed to the gills with customers racing through the narrow old streets. Yes, the grey section with the tarp is the ¨bus¨ and passengers are packed in cheek to cheek. Surrounding the public squares are fabulous buildings, hundreds of years old and in perfect condition, at least from the outside and yet only a few blocks away homes in a terrible state of disrepair. Yesterday we had lunch at a Paladar, a family run restaurant on a rooftop overlooking the harbor and countless homes on the hillside. Wonderful food and reasonbly priced. Great Mojito too.The nearby market had some interesting items for sale. I sure hope our lunch didn´t come from this stall. Perhaps this fruit stand is more our speed. On a nearby rooftop, a dog that looked much like or Son Rob´s Bobi. There are many busy and beautiful public spaces. I still do a double take when I see the Cuban flag flying high.
There is street music most everywhere. We stopped at a local hotel in the heat of the afternoon to cool off with fresh lemonaid. What a spot. I could go on for hours and surely, with all the ¨fun¨ of finding a good spot to download all of this, perhaps I should quit while I am ahead.
One way or the other, Cuba is surely a feast for the senses. What a place.