5 weeks in Havana...
29.05.2009 - 03.06.2009 29 °C
Hurricane season has now officially started and its not gone unnoticed.
The days are A LOT more humid (as if it wasn´t humid enough to start with!) and it rained almost every day last week... that is rain as in proper torrential crazy rain: after about a minute, you could probably go swimming on the street. I love it! :-)
The only negative side to it (just because I like to complain) is that the streets in Havana are paved with very slippery marble/stone, so when you´re stuck in the rain-storm, you can´t really race out of it (at least not when you´re on flip-flops) so you tend to get quite soaked... saying that, its not really that bad as its not cold at all.
Okay... enough weather-talk (sorry...I just find it facinating).
I´ve had 4 salsa lessons in the past 1.5 weeks. Absolutely LOVE it now. My teacher is just amazing! He´s really calm, great at explaining different steps and is very patient (important when teaching me). I think I´ll actually continue with lessons when I get back, as I´m just really enjoying it. I really didn´t expect to like it this much!
My salsa teachers (Raymon & Sylvia) have also been out with us two nights this week, so I´ve been able to get some practice out of class too. The first time was on Monday, when we went to Hotel Florida (a big group was supposed to meet up there, but a house-party was planned in last-minute, so only 4 of us ended up going to Hotel Florida)- but it was great anyway. Sylvia & Raymon also brought along a friend (a tango-teacher), whose also learning salsa at the moment... he´s gorgeous! so I really didn´t mind, haha...
Last night was the second time they came out with us- at Club Chevre (the club where the dancers are breathtakingly good). Mr. Hottie Tango man was there too, but me being my idiot self ignored him all night and avoided eye contact as he makes me nervous... argh! I frustrate myself sometimes and think I´ve now ruined my chances of coming back home, married & happy with a hot Cuban man. But I did dance with him twice :-)
Along with continuing my salsa lessons, I re-enrolled for another 2 weeks of Spanish this week. I´ve been moved up from the elemental to intermediate group and my new teacher Martha is really lovely. We spend less time on learning verbs and different tenses, and now focus more on talking & listening- which I feel is much more useful as I´d prefer to expand my vocabulary to being able to make proper sentences (that takes more time, which I´ll focus on once I´m back home). Its really nice to have discussions in Spanish- although I probably only understand half of what is being said, I feel its good practice and the topics have been really interesting, ranging from discussions on the socio-political situation in Cuba to the world´s credit crisis, from HIV-AIDS (or ´SIDA´ in Spanish) to suicides in Japan... actually, this all sounds pretty negative...we do also discuss happy things.... like different interpretations of love in Cuba, South America and Europe, different agricultural policies (I´ll classify that under ´happy´ topics), dancing and night-life.... Its just nice to be able to follow it in a different language, even if I only understand parts of it (may be these discussions were actually on something completely different and I´ve just imagined all of this).
I´ve also done a bit more sight-seeing this week. Last Monday I got to check out a bit of Miramar (a richer suburb of Havana as this was the last area to be developed before the revolution)... Its also where most of the embassies are located. 6 of us were going, so we decided to get two taxis there. On the way, the other taxi broke down however, so we didn´t see each other at the meeting point and Jess, Jane and I just ended up walking around a bit, having lunch and leaving (as I had to be back for my salsa class I inthe afternoon). Although I only saw a little part of Miramar, I don´t think its a huge loss- it looked quite boring to be honest!
I also went to Varadero on Saturday (after moving to a new casa (with own bathroom & kitchen, about 1 minute away from Uni) on Friday- which is great,- nice to have some more privacy for a change!). For Varadero, I found a good deal through Havanatours- 16 CUC (about 10 euros) for the 3 hour journey there, lunch and the trip back.. not bad hey! Varadero was nice, but a bit too touristy for me... its known as the Cancun of Cuba. It´s basically a 25km-long peninsula of gorgeous beach and sea (and hotels, hotels, hotels), but I think one day there was more than enough for me. I got a little burnt (again) and spent the day chilling, reading my ´Yes Man´ book.
Oh, and sadly this week, both Nick and Sarah have left. Nick had to unexpected go home on Sunday and Sarah left yesterday. Its such a shame they´re gone- really missing them already. On Tuesday night, we all met up at Coppelia (the amazingly cheap ice-cream space-pod thing) to celebrate Sarah´s last night. Then we went to Hotel Florida for some more salsa dancing and we ended up (appropriately) on the Malecon, with 2 big bottles of rum and lots of singing. I managed to stay out till about 4am, then got a taxi home, unable to stay awake long enough to go for Sarah´s final final club-sandwich breakfast at the Nacional (as we had done the first night we went out here).
Its a shame that people are starting to leave Cuba now... not only because I´ve met some really nice people, but (on a selfish note) also because its a confirmation that all of this fun eventually comes to an end. I still have three weeks here, but I´m sure they´ll just fly by. Not looking forward to that! :-(
Talking about the time I have left: I´m leaving Havana on Saturday!
I haven´t booked it yet, but I´m planning to get the bus to Santiago de Cuba- a 15.5 hour journey! (I was originally going to get the train there with Nick, but apparently its not very reliable and lots of people get mugged in it while they´re sleeping...so, as Nick´s now not able to join me on the journey, getting a bus there is a better option. Its a shame though, as I think it would have been an amazing way to see the country). Santiago is Cuba´s 2nd city and apparently a much older (and poorer) cultural centre. Its also much hotter there (about 30 degrees, but with a humidity level of around 80%) so I might not survive it and just melt...
I want to spend a couple of days there, then go to Baracoa- the first town established in Cuba and apparently one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cuba, located on the southeastern coast and surrounded by mountains. Baracoa has only recently been open to tourism (as its been unaccessible due to no transport links there) but can now be reached by bus via Guantanamo, so it´ll be nice to see the ´real´ Cuba (obviously talking about Baracoa now, not Guantanamo...)
I want to spend a few days in Baracoa, then work my way back to Havana via Santa Clara (to see the Che museum and his famous statue) and Trinidad, a little town near Cienfuegos that EVERYONE seems to love that has been there. I can´t wait!!! :-) My plan is then to be back in Havana around the 29th of June, so that I can have a couple of days here before I leave for Panama on the 2nd (of July).
Oh... and, on a selfish level, GREAT news for me: Vipasha has decided to join me in Panama!!!! I´m sooooo excited and happy! Apparently she´s going to book it this week and arrive on the 2nd of July as well (so Vipasha, if you´re reading this, now I´ve announced it to everyone so you can´t change your mind or people will think I´m a liar...)...
Okay... so, that´s the update this week. 2 more days left in Havana, for now... no plans yet, though I´ve bought tickets to go to the Gran teatro de la Habana with some friends tomorrow night to see Mozart´s ´The Magic Flute´ (opera)... FOR 5 CUBAN PESOS!!! I´ve worked it out and its equivalent to 15 eurocents... 15 eurocents to see Mozart´s ´The Magic Flute´ at a world famous theatre... craziness! I guess there definitely are positive sides to the regime here- cultural facilities/events are highly subsidised. Its great. I can´t wait!
Okidoke... so I´m off to my next (and last) salsa class now...
Que tengas un buen fin de semana!!!
PS. Has anyone received my postcards yet? I just want to check that the mail system does actually work here...