Santiago de Cuba,
Weds Feb 26, 2003
Avi here. You'll have to pardon the spelling errors - its 3USD per 30 minutes and I'm a lousy typist.
Wonderfully hot here. We drove out of town yesterday in our rented Citroen and found one of those little Caribbean coves that once upon a time had some funding thrown at it to appear as a destination, but which now was in typical Cuban disrepair. No matter, the locals on the beach were friendly (too friendly! as is our usual experience "no thanks, we don’t need a place to stay. no thanks, we don't want a lobster meal. no thanks, we don't need you to take a picture of all of us. no thanks, we....") the sun was hot, the fishes among the coral reefs were beautiful, and I lay on my back in the water saying "let's see, Tuesday at 11 o’clock PST I should be teaching fractions right around now."
We left Montreal in a snowstorm. Our flight to Cuba was cheap because it left from Mirabelle, which cost us a $65 cab ride to get to! The airport is huge, modern and totally underused. Haven't needed to add a thing since spending billions to build it. Which make the $15/person "Airport Improvement Fee" all the more infuriating. There was a new wrinkle at Security on departure. No bottles of insect repellant. Let me see if I've got this right - it corrodes the metal of airplanes. So we add our DEET to the growing pile of bottles of insect repellant at the security gate. Afterwards we wander the Duty Free shop (Duty free Scotch I understand, but Duty Free maple syrup???)and the traveler’s boutique. And there, among the magazines and chocolate we see (all together now for the punchline...) bottles of insect repellant!
Santiago is a much smaller city than Havana, and the infrastructure seems to be holding up better (Meaning you don't have to watch constantly for potholes in the sidewalks - though some vigilance is advisable) There are fewer of those fine old "58 Chevvies than in Havana, and the men sitting in the streets around a table are playing checkers, not dominos. We drank copious quantities of freshly pressed sugar cane juice (you should see that pressing machinery!) in Holguin (our arrival town - another great money saver!) yet have not seen any cane for sale here in Santiago only two hours away.
Spent several nights going to local clubs to hear the music. In each one the local young ladies quickly spotted Noam and Elie who despite their limited linguistic proficiency still managed to have their followers. Both have been heard to complain "why does this happen when I'm with my parents and why can't it happen at home?" They aren't alone. Ruth has also attracted her fair share of young Cuban males wanting to chat her up and show her how to dance Salsa. The fact that this old guy from Canada is sitting beside her doesn't seem to deter their enthusiasm. I feel like chopped liver! But I certainly don't need to - all around us on the streets, in the clubs, at the beach we see older Canadian/Italian/German men with attractive nubile young Cuban women. Isn't love wonderful!? Or maybe, isn't money wonderful!? But Cuba is an egalitarian society, so things go both ways. Lots of single older foreign women here being squired about by young Cuban men.
For variety of perspective, we went today to the Oncological clinic to deliver some donated stuff we'd brought from home. Sad looking building, with free service to all but the chalkboard above the reception desk said the Mammography was broken, the Gamma therapy was broken, and some other radiotherapy under repair.
Gotta go. I'm ringing up a bill and I have to meet the others. Tonight instead of seeking out local restaurants and telling the incredulous servers that we're vegetarians (a rarely-used word in the local language) we’re buying pizza on the street like the locals do and then heading for the stadium for a baseball game.
Please send a reply just this once to let me know this went through. I'll check again when we get back to Montreal.