Cooling Down

Trip Start Sep 30, 2006
Trip End Dec 13, 2006

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, October 18, 2006

So I told you that we were going to take a boat trip up the River Toa. Now, when I heard boat trip I wasn't expecting an expensive yacht or anything but I did think that there might be a motor at least. I was wrong we all piled in a tiny row boat and a frail little old man had to row us.
To his credit he did an excellent job and got us to the beach safely. There we went in the Atlantic Ocean. There was some great waves that we floated in for a long time as it was a lot of fun. We then went down the beach to the mouth of the river for a quick swim there. Then our little old man rowed us back and we had a traditional lunch, which wasn't great but was served in bamboo bowls and ate with bamboo spoons. In the evening I had the best fish ever for my dinner but accompanied by the same boring food we ate every other night. Then we went out to the house of music then to a bar on a rooftop with a live band and we danced with some Cuban guys, I'm still not getting the hang of the Salsa though unless I have a good guy leading me.
The next day we drove back to Santiago and had a tour round the city. It's a nice city but there was nothing that particularly stood out for me. Having said that it was quite brief tour in a bus so there was probably more to see. We went to a castle too, which was great because we got to see the canon being fired at sunset. We had dinner at a 5* hotel, which was really good as we went to an Italien restaurant and the pizza was great as were the chips and garlic bread!
The next morning we flew back to Havana for our last evening together. I had an interesting experience buying some art. Apparently they're not allowed to sell it (I don't know if that's just to tourists or everyone) so when I had picked it I had to meet the guy in a dodgey cafe for him to slide it over the table and I slid the money across feeling like a dodgey dealer. It was fun! We went on our last night out to a little club with another live band but this time i didn't dance but had fun watching.
Most of the people from the tour left the next day except for one guy, Kevin, which was great as I had company. We did a lot too. We saw the Hotel Nacional, which was extremely posh, went to the ice cream place Coppelia, went for a drink at La Floridita, which was where Ernest Hemmingway used to drink a lot of Daiquiris. We also went to Ambos Mundos which is the hotel that Ernest Hemmingway used to live in.
On our last day we took a tour around the city in a bubble car, which is a lot of fun if not a little dangerous. We saw the plaza de catedral, plaza de revolution and the rest of old Havana and Central Havana. Me and Kevin then went for ice cream and then to the chocolate museum which smelt lush but the chocolate wasn't great.

And that was it for Cuba. I am now in LA staying at my cousins and loving the cooler weather and variety of food available. Also loving having a dog around!
It's difficult to know what to think about Cuba. On one hand nearly everyone has jobs, there are very few beggars compared to the rest of Latin America, everyone has a house although a lot of them may not quite be the greatest. Their education is free and they are allocated jobs based on their academic qualifications ensuring racial equality (that's not to say that racism doesn't occur though). But on the other hand they have limited opportunities. It is difficult to move house. If you get married it is usual to put up a wall in your parents house to form a separate house. They don't own the property although they are allowed to make adjustments with permission. They are discouraged from leaving Cuba and most of the people will live there whole lives in the town they were born. They get to write a list of occupations they would like but if there are only 5 doctors needed in a town then only 5 will be trained.
Everyone, even little children, respect Fidel Castro as they know that Cuba needed the revolution in 1959 but that does not mean that they are happy with Cuba's situation. They are uncertain of the future of Cuba when Fidel dies. No one can predict what will happen...
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