At the beginning I just wanted to say I read recently the November issue of National Geographic. The main feature is “Cuba on the edge of change”. The article was written before Papal visit so there were even more changes introduced since then. I’m mentioning this article for two reasons. One is that in Cuba you can really feel and see the edge. I had this dominant feeling that in short time there will be no Cuba as we imagine it or know it today. It will be commercialized (even more so) and trapped in consumerism as most of the World is. This above all brought questions like “will it make Cubans happier?”, “Is it worth it?”, “What is the best way for transformation?”. There might be a discussion which example would be best to follow. East European? China’s?
Second reason to mention the articles is:
What is the definition of freedom? What do human beings need? What do they owe to each other? What do they want, beyond what they need?
Cuba’s New Now by Cynthia Gorney, National Geographic, November 2012
This is exactly what I was wondering while in Cuba. Freedom would be for me the right of choice. The only thing is I know the hurray optimism that reigned in Poland an the beginning of 90’s. People imagining capitalism as a paradise on Earth and then the social disappointment with first wave of of bankruptcies at the end of 90’s. Now our eyes open up to the costs and shadows of capitalism and global capital. The mature democratic societies find it a challenge to balance it what will it be for Cuba? Are we really a good example to follow? Who of us can honestly say: I’m happy, I have enough time to do what I want, I’m enjoying inner peace and I like the way my life goes.
Ok now enough of these difficult/easy (delete as appropriate) questions. Let’s go to the beach!
…”Let’s go to the beach!” one of us said. “Yes! Let’s go to Varadero! At least we know the beach is there”. And so we did. We organised a taxi and left Playa La Mulata behind (cost of the taxi 40 CUC). Did anything interesting happen on the way? Well yes we saw an alive crab hanging on a string in front of a house we passed by. This was a live advert for anyone who felt like buying a crab. We got the yummiest ice cream in a small town on the way.
We had to change taxis at the outskirts of Havana. From the amount of taxis and people you can tell it’s a transition point. We used this break to eat something. Cold spagetti for some, delicious looking but tasteless cakes for others and a brilliant pina colada milk shake for me!
I took a picture of this poster/sign that caught my attention a couple of times before – an eye and a dagger pierced tongue underneath. I just found out it’s Cuban Santería charm meaning “ward off the evil eye and gossipy enemies”. The eye and tongue together can also prescribe respect in the house: “you may look, but don’t wag your tomgue”. Santeria is often referred to as a Cuban mystery religion, the word santería literally means “the worship of saints.” A blend of Catholicism and Nigerian paganism that evolved centuries ago, when Yoruba slaves were taken from Nigeria to Cuba, santería consists of a panoply of saints, or orishas, which are a combination of Catholic saints and Yoruba gods and goddesses. Many of these orishas resemble mythological gods.
I be honest with you we didn’t see much in Varadero beside the beach. There is Hicacos Point Natural Park there with 250 m long Cave of Ambrosio, Mangón Lake (31 species of birds and 24 species of reptiles) and the ruins of the La Calavera (The Skull) Salt Works (one of the first salt works to be constructed by the Spanish in the New World). I wanted to go and see it one day but somehow didn’t. The address of our casa is: Marta Torres, Calle 53 nº 5306 between 1st and 2nd Ave, the first building on the left behind small shopping center when you come from the seaside. It’s not a shopping center you imagine. It consists of a couple of small ground level huts, glass windows from floor to roof located in a lovely square with palms, lawns and benches. I just have to say we acctually saw 3 different places before deciding where we want to stay. Marysia and Adam got really nice room in the first floor and the three of us slept in a damp and dark one in the ground floor. I have to say we stayed there the longest and it was the most uncomfortable bed I slept in, in Cuba. I had a double bed while Maria and Michal had singles but there was only one right position to sleep in and it was the one I never choose. Straight on your back that is. My ass seemed to fall into hole and get stuck in it. But well I guess we spend more time outside our casa than in it. We paid 25 CUC for each room.
We left our things and went to get something to eat. Our choice was Casa Nostra Cubana Restaurant were we had paella. We shared and it was quite nice. The biggest impression made the cocktails we ordered. Strong. The waiter told us he lived in Brazil for a while and this is where he learned how to make it the proper way. Worth recommending. And then we went to the beach. Marysia first. she said she knew straight away she will undress and jump into the water. I didn’t know that but soon enough guys and I joined her. The water was wonderful. Warm and salty. Huge waves covered us again and again. With every hit I tended to loose my panties but who cares!
This post is now getting long so I just say one more thing. This evening Maria finally felt better and waited to go to Casa de la Musica. The entrance was 10 CUC. I don’t know how this happened but we never checked what was on. And… it was a stand up comedy night. Do I have to tell you that 4 of us didn’t understand a thing and the 5th one who did haven’t even laugh once. What is stuck in my memory is the comedian dressed up as Crazy Frog. In Bridget Jones type of panties with small penis hanging sadly between his legs. He started to jump around waving it in all direction to the sounds of Crazy Frog. How sad is that? I just tell you everybody else in the audience laughed so maybe it was funny. Afterwards there was a disco but nothing we had expected see for yourselves:
After coming back home four of us decided to go to the beach and have a beer. And so we did. We went to petrol station to get some beer first (the nicest sales assistant in whole Cuba) and on the way back Marysia found a coconut. She claims it was in somebody’s garden. I claim this was public space.
Sitting in the beach drinking and gazing at the stars brought a lot of good memories and we sang and laughed hard. Michal stayed in Casa de la Musica and as he later told us had a good time.
I don’t remember exactly how it happened but only three of us ended up trying to open a coconut hitting it at a stone. I still have a mark on my wrist where I cut myself. No, not out of the desperation, probably as a ricochet. This task wasn’t easy but we succeed! Team work! We drunk the milk (or water more like it) and ate most of the inside. Well done!