My second time in this Caribbean island! What can I say, sometimes I love it here and sometimes I feel so frustrated that I can’t wait to leave. But I keep coming back – can’t explain.
Since my last visit here (last year March), things seem to have changed or maybe I just didn’t pay attention before. Now, there are (1) more new car models on the streets; (2) more street begging; (3) folks are more vocal about their dissatisfaction with the government; (4) Cuban men are way too sexual and direct.
Don’t get me wrong, there are still lots of veryyyy old car model around, but more new car model as well especially Kia and Volkswagen are on the road. More street begging in that once they know you are a tourist, they ask if you have clothes, shampoo, lotion e.t.c……….. Majority of the folks I spoke to no longer whisper when they talk about the government. Gosh, the Cuban men got on my very last nerve. Within minutes of meeting you, they ask for a sexual relationship.
I went to Santiago de Cuba. Yup, I took the 12 – 15hours long bus. One advice, make sure you take the 6.30pm bus – it is direct and 12hours. The 3pm bus stops every 1.5hours and it is 15hours long. Santiago is very laid back and less touristy than La Havana. Also less hustlers and more friendly folks. We went to El Morro, hmm a very spectacular view, cost about USD$14 for round-trip taxi and USD$5 for the entrance fee but I think it totally worth it. We also visit the cuartel monada and the 26th of July museum – both important historic site showcasing the revolution.
I met up with a girl and guy from couchsurf here in Santiago. Both worked so I hung out with them after work. Pretty cool folks. Check out Lianne and Nelson on couchsurf – Santiago de Cuba. They will be happy to show you around.
In Havana, I revisited some places and explored new places. Callejon de hammel is still a cool place to be on Sunday from 12noon to 3pm. It is an alternative gathering celebrating the Afro-Cuban Santeria religion. I also hung out with folks from couchsurfing here in Havana.
I also hung out with Nigerians. Some students and others diplomats – I feel important. It’s always feels good to meet Nigerians when I travel.
Did you know Cubans call papaya -fruta bomba (Bomba Fruit). I was told Papaya means a female private part here in Cuba so remember to ask for jugo de fruta bomba and not jugo de papaya.
Stuff that surprised me, in Santiago at least, restaurants have two menus – one in CUC (currency used by tourists) and the other in Moneda nacional (the currency citizens of Cuba use). So if you are a tourist you will pay 8 CUC (about USD$10) for a plate of rice and chicken. If you are a Cuban citizen or student studying in Cuba, you will pay 50MN [(2CUC) about USD$4) for the same meal.
Most people in Santiago thought I was from Jamaica, not sure exactly why. Maybe because of my dreads or because Jamaica is very close to Santiago and most Jamaicans end up visiting Santiago or they simply can’t see the big a** Nigerian map tattooed on my back.
As for the title – there is always a line here in Cuba. A line to use the internet; a line to change money or use the ATM; line to buy snack; a line for everything and anything. So folks just asks ‘who is the last in line’, they take notice and go do something else. There is never a single straight line, folks just stand around.
Ask me what is the most frustrating thing about Cuba and I’ll tell you the INTERNET. I have never used anything that slow and scarce before. The hotel’s cybercafé opens from 8am to 6pm; the government’s internet café opens from 8.30am to 7pm. Sometimes both hotel and government’s internet café are out of the internet cards which means there is no internet until they get more cards. You have to purchase the internet card to use internet– it has the username and password you need to get access to the internet. 30 minutes cost 3CUC (about USD$5).
Though I’ve had great experience with folks from couchsurf, be careful in Cuba. It has come to my knowledge that some guys and ladies in Cuba use couchsurf to prey on tourist. For example if you are a female tourist, a male from couchsurf might be exceptionally nice and friendly with you in the hope that you fall in love in him and spend your money on him. Some of the Cuban guys make a living from this. They are called jinteros and their female counter path is jinteras.
Okay that’s it for now on Cuba. Enjoy the photos. If you need information on Casa Particulares in Havana and Santiago, let me know. As usual am happy to answer your questions on Cuba.