09.05.2009 32 °C
I´ve been in Havana for a week today. I can´t believe it- time has just flown by!
My Spanish class group has been a lot of fun- as the days have passed, we´ve all got to know each other better and everyone´s really nice. After class, we spend time exploring Habana together or drink coffee in cafes nearby (or at a paladar- a cheap street stand that sells coffee/snacks in Cuban pesos).
- **Cuba has 2 currencies- the CUP-Cuban peso (the local currency for Cubans) and the Convertible peso (CUC)- ´tourist currency´. The CUC is generally used in most places that tourists use and its interchangable with the US$ (though entirely worthless outside of Cuba) whilst the CUC is much cheaper, with 24 CUPs in a CUC...to make it extra complicated, tourists can also use CUP´s in some places (such as Paladars) and there´s no real way of telling whether a place excepts CUPs or not, so quite often tourists end up spending a CUC in a drink, instead of a CUP...meaning you´re actually paying 24 x more than is necessary! ...Oh, and all currencies are expressed with a ´$´sign too... so yes, its complicated!!!
An English girl (Sarah-Jane) moved into a casa near ours on Tuesday, so since then, David (my Australian housemate), Sarah-Jane and I have been walking to Uni together in the mornings. She´s really nice- has travelled a lot and is really easy to talk to. On Wednesday, I went out for some drinks with David and Bo (a Danish Biology PhD student also learning Spanish here). Bo had met some Cuban girls near his casa, so we went to a little cafe near the Malecon to drink some beers with them. Cuban women (and men) are incredibly beautiful- I can´t get over it! They were very poor though and its expected that tourists pay for Cubans when they go for drinks with them (the average wage here is about 40CUCs per month (about 30 euros!). The girls were really nice, but my lack of Spanish made it hard to communicate, so I was home by 7pm for dinner. I did sample my first Cuban beer though- Cristal- especially brewed for tourists. Its nice- easy to drink.
On Thursday, David, Tataki (my other Japanese housemate) and I went for a couple of drinks in town as Tataki was leaving (back to Japan) the next day and yesterday I went out ´properly´for the first time. Wow... wow, wow, wow!!! It was an amazing night! One of the best night´s out in a long time. We were all going to meet at the Malecon at 8pm, but David, Sarah-Jane and I got lost on the way and only got there at 10pm. The group we were going to meet was no longer there and having no means to contact them (we didn´t have any mobiles or their numbers) we sat on the Malecon for a bit and drank some canned beers. Two Cuban guys joined us and started asking us lots of questions about Europe/why we were here and they recommended a bar to us (Oasis) where there´s live-music and Mojitos. The guys were really nice and actually told us a lot about the politcal situation in Cuba (a topic which I´ve been avoiding here as I´ve been told people generally can´t express their opinions openly here). I was really surprised how much they told us (some stuff had to be whispered) but its really given me a new view point on it all. Its really horrible what people have been through (and are going through) with the rationing system and the frustration of not being able to get out of their situation was really obvious. Apparently Cubans are not allowed to talk to tourists as they can get arrested for ´bothering´ them and when they joined us the the Oasis bar, they had to walk infront of us (not with us) because they didn´t want to risk getting arrested.
The Oasis bar was amazing- there was a live band and we drank Mojitos and danced salsa. At aound 1ish, we went to the Malecon and all put in 1CUC (about 5 CUC was collected in total) and the Cubans came back with 2 bottles of rum, a bottle of Coke and a bucket of ice! They also brought a friend with a guitar and we sang and danced on the Malecon. Another Cuban guy and a Danish friend of his joined us and he did some free-style rapping about us- it was hilarious! One of the Cuban guys also kept trying to kiss me and convince me that a kiss on the Malecon is a must-do. I was unconvinced however, so didn´t go for it- but he was very sweet (and actually very good looking)... he also went on and on about how much he liked me (something I´ve read in my guide book as something that commonly happens)... it all amused the others though, who were listening to him tyring to convince me (apparently I have lips that want to be kissed, haha). At around 5'ish, we left to Hotel Nacional fo some breakfast and we got home at 7am!!!
I was so tired, but really had the most wonderful night. Today we were all a bit tired though, but David, Sarah-Jane and I walked to Necropolis de Colon (one of the largest cemeteries in the Americas- over 5 square kms!)' its very impressive and some of the tombs are just so beautiful! But it was extremely hot (above 32 degrees I think- and veeerrry humid) so we made our way to the Hotel Cuba Libre (where I´m sitting in the Internet rooms now) and we´re going to sit by the pool to cool down a bit... tonight, we´re all meeting at the Malecon again' but this time at 10pm so as not to miss each other again!
That´s the update for now. Once again- sorry for the lack of contact, its just a bit of a nightmare getting online. I´ll try update my blog once a week...so till next Saturday! xxx
Oh- also- I can´t download my photos... i forgot the cable to put my photos on a pen-drive...so I´m not sure how i can solve this. I´ll try my best though.
Hope you´re all well and have a great weekend xxx