08.05.2009 - 14.05.2009 32 °C
I don't have much to 'report' this week, but I don't think I'll be online again till Sunday/Monday- so thought I'd write a quick update so you all know I'm still alive.
After Saturday's internet session, I went home for a bit, and then to hotel Nacional with Sarah-Jane, David and a Korean girl on Sarah's course (whose name i keep forgetting! :-( -Hotel Nacional is really impressive (super luxurious and expensive!)- its located on a hill next to the Malecon, so in the evenings you get a great view of all the people sitting/dancing/sleeping (and mainly making-out) on it. Its truly the most amazing view. We sat out on the verandah, sipping Mojitos and just people-watched for a bit (yes... typical, but you have no idea how much Havana lives up to its stereotype... all that you imagine of it, is real!!!!). After our cocktails (life is tough...), we walked a bit along the Malecon, but went home quite early as we were all still tired from the night before.
I spent Sunday wondering around Central Habana, walking along the Malecon, sitting on paseo de Marti (reminds me of La Rambla in Barcelona) to read ...no, not Spanish, but Madame Bovary. I then went to check out Havana's version of China town (or, in Spanish: el Barrio Chino)... the entrance looked like a China town (granted)... but walking through it, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're in...Italy? They seemed to just be serving pizzas. Pizzas and beans + rice.
Monday we had classes as normal- my teachers alternate every week, so this week we have a male teacher who generally assumes our Spanish is better than it actually is & so he skips through explanations and laughs at us when we don't know how to answer his questions :-( The worst thing is that he never writes anything on the blackboard, so I spend most of the lesson looking up words (Stef: your dictionary has been SOOOO helpful!!!).. so the lessons aren't really that great, but I guess I can't really complain for 300CUCs per 80 lessons... at least next week we'll have the woman teacher again -she's really good :-) On the way home, Sarah-Jane convinced me to become a member of the swimming pool at Hotel Nacional- 60CUCs for 1 month, including the gym and sauna! So we went there straight away, swam and sunbathed all day... [the idea was to cool down during the hottest part of the day and study together, but it didn't happen then! I'm sure it will in the next few days though *uhum uhum*]
Most of Tuesday was spent trying to sort out my visa... it turns out i can't extend my visa in Cuba unless i sign on for another course (that, or leave the country and come back... the former is the cheaper option)- so I've signed up for another 3 week course at the University. I've sorted out the papers and Carmina (my land-lady who works in the post-graduate department at the University) helped with trying to sort out the rest. Now I just have to wait to hear if they'll accept me to stay on (there's no real reason as to why not...)...so *fingers crossed!* After class, we went to Coppelia- a huge ice-cream parlour in the shape of a space pod. It had 2 queues: a tourist CUC queue (1 CUC for 1 scoop- virtually queue-free) and a Cuban queue, where you could get a bowl with 5 scoops (+ cookies!) for 1 CUP (remember: there are 24 CUPS in 1 CUC!!!)- so we decided to be cheap and join the Cubans. 1.5 hours later, we were enjoying 2 bowls (so 10 scoops) of the most delicious orange, vanilla and short-cake flavoured ice-cream :-) I'm not sure if the ice-cream tasted so good because of how long it took to finally eat it, but either way, it felt like the queuing was worth it :-) I spent the rest of the day swimming, reading and sunbathing with Sarah (but was punished for not working on my Spanish (& being vain for wanting a tan) by getting burnt all over the left-side of my body... -own fault. That evening was spent lying on my bed, under a fan, covered in after-sun. Lesson learnt.
Yesterday I went to the Palacio de Bella Artes after class- a museum with the largest collection of Cuban art in the country. I was really impressed- 3 floors (paintings/sculptures dating from the 18th century till now)- it took me 3 hours in total to see everything! I really enjoyed it though- the only down-side was that none of the information available/titles of work were in English... good for my Spanish, but a bit frustrating too as i had to leave my bag in a locker at the reception (I stupidly forgot my Spanish dictionary in it). I met up with some friends at Capitolio Nacional after that, and we walked to Habana Vieja (old Havana)- loved it! Lots of little music stores, bars, cafes... Nick, one of the guys on Sarah's course, used to live in this part of Havana, so he took us to Plaza Vieja- a part of Habana Vieja that much more European (or Spanish) and we sat on a bar (Taberna de la Muralla) and had a pint of beer that was brewed in the tavern itself (one of the few places in Havana you can get dark beer). The beer is served in hude cyclinders with a tap... good stuff! The Korean girl (aaarghhh... I need to ask her name again!) pretty much downed 2 pints within 20 minutes- was very impressive to see!!! She felt completely fine afterwards... apparently they drink lots of beer in Korea! Then we walked back (the long way!) and got home about an hour later... After dinner, I pretty much fell asleep (it seems I am less African-blooded than I thought i was: my body can't cope in this heat and I'm usually fast asleep by 9pm!)
After class today, I went to change some money (bad day, as the exchange rate was low), went for a beer with Nick and then walked half-an-hour into town to go to the 'Fabrica de Tobacos Partagas' (Cigar factory), only to find that the last tour was at 13:30 (it was 14:30 when I got there)...so then decided to check my mail instead. A (very) helpful Cuban, who initially tried to sell me black-market cigars, helped me find a cheap place to check my mail and gave me some tips on where to go dancing and drinking. Cubans really are extremely friendly people (not just men)- it really surprises me considering their situation & the fact that tourists represent to them all they cannot have... I guess I'm just surprised with how genuine it all is- their friendliness isn't fake at all.
Okay... I have 2 more minutes left, so I have to go. I've tried posting some photos on facebook, but its taking aggggeees, so I guess you'll all just have to wait till I'm in Panama to see them. This weekend, I'm planning to go salsa-dancing (either tonight or tomorrow)- tomorrow we're going to check out the rum museum with my Spanish class and on Saturday I'm going to Veradero with some friends- Cuba's version of 'Costa del Sol'/Cancun... I just want to at least swim in the Carribean sea once while I'm here... ahhh... running out of time... so wishing you all a wonderful weekend!!! xxx