And I find myself again, standing at 8am, in front of the ETECSA building. This time watching some gringa waltz up and butt in line, and low and behold, none of the Cubanos are losing their shit at her. Must be nice.
My tummy has advised me that breakfast, (back at 5Esquinos because I heard they’ve got a buffet for 4.50CAD and I think I’m primed to take advantage of a buffet at this point), is the next order of business. After that? I don’t know! It’s supposed to be a scorcher, so we’ll see.
5Esquinas morning buffet is a MUST. 4.50CAD for real coffee (con leche!), puréed juice (mango, pineapple, guava, papaya), two eggs how you like, and a bangin’ buffet. First real ham (meat, maybe?) I’ve seen since arrival. Service continues to be mediocre.
After breakfast I wandered around Old Havana, hitting up all the lovely plazas: Plaza de Armas, Plaza de Catédral, Plaza de San Francisco, and Plaza Vieja. They’re everything a person would expect in such a historic national capital – which is in stark contrast to the other 99% of the city. I know I toured those Plazas the last time I was here, but I’m glad I spent so much time in the regular squalor that Cubanos live in before wandering back through this time. It made me appreciate how imbalanced wealth distribution is no different here than in Democratic/Capitalist economies, the difference is that it is state lead here and quite a bit harder for any given plebeian to climb up to sipping cappuccino nonchalantly at a sidewalk café, admiring the view of the cathedral while tip tapping on their Galaxy10. (Impossible? Nearly?) Anyhow, the free walking tour that leaves from Parque de la Fraternidad at 9h30 and 16h00 takes you through all of these AND provides explanations.
– if I never smell four giant garbage bins full of aggressively rotting refuse again, it will be too soon. They are every third street or so, each person is expected to carry their household garbage over to the bin and deposit it. I have yet to see one emptied although one assumes that is the plan. I HAVE seen them overflowing.
– the fact that I have been traipsing around for a week and never stepped in dog poop is a god given miracle. *knocks on wood*
<warning, the next one might be considered graphic>
– when I got off the plane in Havana I had the (rather ungracious) thought, “Would you look at that! The stripper brigade is working security today!” No joke, all of the female security personnel were wearing (what I now understand to be) regulation Latina-length skirts (=covers the underwear and the underside of the cheeks, and that is IT), black lacy nylons and heels. Every. Single. One. Well it turns out that is considered the last word on professionalism here. Foreigners and about 2% of the local female population wear pants, everyone else, skirts. And the majority of those are… mui corte. I have yet to see one of these ladies (the professionals in lacy nylons or the regular folk wearing their day-to-day cheek-guards) adjust their skirt! How do these things not ride up?? It is obviously a tricky skill, walking in such a way to keep your barely-there skirt in place, because they start having the girls practice as soon as they start teaching them to read. I couldn’t bring myself to photograph this school uniform phenomenon, in case I get stopped for child pornography at the border. My last word on this is that, if the way women dressed caused them to be raped, (instead of a man choosing to rape them causing them to be raped), then the Cuban economy would grind to a halt, and that would be the ONLY activity happening. Since the economy seems to be holding up, and I frequently see work being completed, I think we can safely put that question to rest.
– I am unsure how all of metropolitan Havana hasn’t died of Salmonella, E. Coli, and poisoning. The meat sits out all day at the Carnicerias, WELL above fridge temperature, no disinfectant or even soap in sight, and everyone wanders up and has their bit cut off. I haven’t bought myself cheese because it tends to be sold at the same venues. In fact, it often sits right beside a hunk of god-knows-what-bit-of-an-animal, sharing flies and I assume a cutting board and knife.
– if you get out of Old Havana people are genuinely kind and lovely. Everyone was really nice when I was taking the bus. I’ve seen people helping elderly and disabled people cross the street and find their way to a sturdy spot on the bus. The two cleaning ladies and the EXTREMELY helpful guy at my hostel nearly died when I tipped them. … People are .. nice… in Old Havana too. Or atleast, outgoing. But they are ALWAYS working an angle.
– if I never hear “Lady”, “Taxi?”, kissing noises, “where you from?”, or offers of food, drink, maracas, WHATEVER again, it will be too soon.