Monday, January 29, 2007

Jan 29, 2007

I arrived in Panama last night. I feel like I´m in a twilight zone here because it´s much more of a modern latin american city versus the decaying city that is stuck in a timewarp that is Havana. I have yet to visit the more charming neighborhoods here. I´ve just been getting my bearings regarding where I´m staying and what´s in the neighborhood. Lots of restaurants, lots of internet cafes, a casino, banks with atms, and all the conveniences that we think are normal, but that really don´t exist in an isolated place like cuba.

it´s funny that the last few days that i was there, i actually started liking havana. it´s very polluted and smelly. everything is inconvenient. there are only a few places to go out, and once you´ve done them, you´ve done them. the food is terrible, with the exception of alexei´s cooking. but the last few days, my eyes saw past the dirty veneer, and there is something really special about a place that is only 90 miles from the US, but feels like it is worlds away. people selling vegetables and flowers from a cart in the street, playing dominoes or chess at a card table at all hours of the day and night, the feral dogs and cats roaming the streets, the old buildings with paint chipping and cement crumbling. Never being bombarded with advertisments encouraging you to buy things that you don´t need. Souped up bicitaxis carting people through the potholed streets. I just wish that things will change there one day for the people, but I hope when things do change, that a lot of things stay the same.

the last night i was there, alexei and i went salsa dancing. the cover is $5 bucks and included three free drinks. bring on the mojitos! when the band finished, we happened upon a small party, where we didn´t know anyone, but were ushered inside nonetheless. there were a bunch of cubanos, espanolas and argentions there, and then me the sole americana. three guys played guitar and we sang a long, drinking cuba libres until about 3 or 4 in the morning. i don´t know at what point it happened, but i ended up getting really drunk, as did alexei. when we finally left, we staggered home trying to navigate through the dark potholed streets, trying to hail a bicitaxi because we were too wasted to walk, much to no avail. the next morning i woke up with a severe hangover, and had to pack my bags and collect my thoughts during my last few hours with alexei.

after a teary goodbye, i was whisked off to the airport. it feels so unfair that i can´t bring him with me. i ran into the argentinos at the airport, and when they saw i had been crying, they wanted to know why. one of them told me that i should be happy that i have someone who loves me in the world. he said he is all alone, and that´s worse. i suppose it is, but the lump in my throat is extremely hard to swallow, and the hole in my heart hard to fill.

And now Panama. there are a lot of cars here. I am scared to cross the street, whereas in Havana, everyone walks in the middle of the street. There are a lot of neon lights. A lot of billboards selling cell phones and such. Shopping malls with all the latest fashions, etc. etc. I have yet to cruise through the more scenic neighborhoods and parks. But will do that later today.

Jan 27, 2007

just got back from the cuban campismo. camping was fun. we went to the beach and went swimming in the beautiful crystal clear turquoise colored water of the caribbean. went horse back riding for about 5 minutes and played ping pong. i kicked alexei´s ass. the food was terrible.

the beach was beautiful, with the exception of a smokestack of an oil refinery belching out a plume of black smoke in the distance. we walked along the beach in the other direction, away from the smokestack. the beach curved around an area with tidepools and reefs. on the other side was another beach, from there you couldn´t see the smokestack. this beach was lined with tourist resorts, lounge chairs, thatched huts, volleyball nets and all. kind of like spring break. it was a beautiful secluded stretch of beach. we heard one canadian guy yell, hey mom, could you get me a cerveza? Alexei and I were inspired to get a cerveza ourselves and pass the time, but when we approached the bar, we found that only hotel guests could drink there. we went to another bar at another hotel and were again turned away. it seems that these resorts were all inclusive. you paid one price for the flight, ground transportation, lodging, food, activities, the works. there are a lot of foreigners who come to cuba and have this experience, but they are not experiencing the real cuba. we returned to the campismo and joined the other cubans. We drank a couple bucaneros sitting in a swing next to the pool.

now we´re back in havana for my last night. we are going salsa dancing tonight. last night we saw some cuban hip hop. nothing to write home about.

tomorrow i am off to panama and i am both happy and sad. sad to be leaving alexei again for i dont know how long... happy to be returning to a non communist nation.

Jan 23, 2007

went to my 2nd baseball game in havana tonight. here you root for los industriales, havana´s home team. they won 4-1 against matanzas. the last game we saw they won 9-2 against Granma. the industriales are kinda like the yankees. they always win, the fans are arrogant and obnoxious. they have nice uniforms. so tonight was interesting, there were 2 fights with policemen and another guy was hauled off like a sack of potatoes he was so drunk. other differences btwn games in the US and games here in cuba

1 it only costs 5 cents to get in.
2 the stadium is mostly empty because people prefer to watch on tv
3 you cant buy beer in the stadium but you can BYO your own rum or beer
4 no peanuts
5 all the hometeam fans sit behind the hometeam dugout and the visitors sit behind their dugout
6 when someone brings in a run, the entire team comes out of the dugout to high five the player
7 when the fans heckle the third base coach, he talks back to the fans
8 the game begins with everyone standing and singing the national anthem. all the players turn to face the flagpole, but there is no flag.

going camping for 2 days tomorrow. then off to panama on sunday!

ps. lilia, you will love to know that most bikes here have lugs.

Jan 18, 2007

Top ten things i miss about the good ole USA:

1 toilet paper
2 toilet seats
3 toilet seat covers
4 toilets that flush
5 bathrooms with sinks and soap and paper towels
6 bathrooms with running water
7 public restrooms with stalls higher than kindergarten size
8 public restrooms with doors that lock
9 public restrooms with doors for that matter
10 MY PALS!!!!!!!!

I miss you all dearly right now. i wish i could call you, but so expensive, and so im starting to feel the cubans pain!

we took a 12 hour bus ride home in a bus that felt more like a refrigerator and the woman behind us coughed all her germs on me so ive been sick with the flu for the last 3 days. im a little better now, so we?e going to the beach today. i was going stir crazy. things are otherwise ok, but i also miss green vegetables, cappucinos, kcrw, free access to news and speaking english.

jan 12, 2007

turns out that Baracoa was kind of a downer. it´s been raining the entire time. last night was quite surreal in that we went to an outdoor disco on top of a hill and experienced some weather that felt like the equivalent of a tropical storm. luckily there was a thatched roof to keep us dry, but walking down the stairs at the end of the night was a bit challenging because the stairway looked more like the seven sacred pools.

did i mention that i witnessed the slaughtering of a pig_ baracoa has been indeed a memorable experience. I think i forgot to mention to that on on the way here the driver ran over two chickens which he then picked up and was going to make a soup with.

jan 10, 2007

We are now in the eastern part of the island in a town called Baracoa where Alexei´s grandparents live. We´re staying at their place at the moment, but probably not much longer because there are no doors to the bedrooms and the only bathroom is in his grandparents´ bedroom and his grandpa is kind of sick. Alexei had a very hard time understanding why this was not an OK living situation for me... ha! we had our first fight about that last night but made up this morning and I think that he misses having privacy too.

Otherwise all has been great!! We have visited the towns of Trinidad and Santiago and taken all means of transportation, trucks that pack 'em in like sardines (this would have made jenken completely skiivish), a bus full of communist workers, ferryboats and illegal taxis. Getting there is always half the fun. In Trinidad, we rented bikes and rode about 30 km round trip to the beach. It was incredibly hot and humid, but fun nonetheless anda beautiful ride. The next day we rode horses through the valley, stopped at a farm where we had a refreshing cane juice with lime and listened to a crazy guahiro sing traditional cuban songs. Then we rode off to a 'waterfall' which was more like a trickle because there hasn´t been a lot of rain. We got to swim in a pool that in a cave with stalactites and the water reflections shimmering on the stones. It was really beautiful. I am STILL in pain from the horse. My horse was more mellow, but it´s been awhile! Alexei´s horse was totally insane and would just take off galloping... I can still hear Alexei saying Whooooaaaa! definitely a great memory.

In Santiago, we hiked up El Morro which is like the old fort. There´s a lighthouse and a beautiful view over the Caribbean Sea. It looked a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean. In my brain, I could imagine galleons landing on the shore and the pirates having a crazy time there with lots of rum.

After that we went to this fisherman´s island and met a guy who cooked us fish. We ate a yummy meal and watched the sun go down while the boats passed. Another unique experience.