Bias aside, it’s challenging to quantify the quality of life here in Cuba. My observation: predominantly rural countrysides with sugar cane fields few orchards of mango guava and avocado. Yoked oxen plow and rarely a tractor seen. Domestic livestock everywhere yet sparse. Oxen, Brama, goats, chickens, street dogs with intact gonads, and skinny cats and their litters. Few peacocks which can be seen and heard and especially the cacophony of Roosters. Seemingly malnourished cattle. Horse buggies are primary mode of people transportation but horses are also used to move just about everything you can imagine (cargo rubbish casket) Dry climate brush and ground cover. Warm rains to blue skies can occur within hours of each other. Schools both primary and secondary identified with colored uniforms. Old bikes and long distances. Other areas townships near coastlines appear to be like an empty shell of what was once a oyster with beautiful glistening pearl. Bread is the most ample food source followed closely by more bread. Dry crackers, loaves, baguette and wafers. No one is fat because EVERYONE WALKS due to lack of vehicles (obvious I know). Had a pizza because locals would ordered it up like crazy. Took one bite and spit it back out. Tossed it to the mangy street dogs and neither one ate it. In the small markets, empty store shelves on one side and other side stacked to the gills of boxed OJ. Did not matter who you were or what you wore no one was slovenly dressed. Jewelry adornment, most often gold. For women: earrings (small hoops, studs or teardrops) bracelet watch necklace. Men: watch necklace. Homes I stayed in: tile, chairs, rarely a sofa or tv. Water pressure varied…a lot, from a spicket stream to uniform trickles. Most buildings in decay, street vendors hijacking street lamp electricity to light up their stands to sell one dollar pork sandwich the size of fist. Pristine beaches are alternatives to militia landmarks. Rare use of herbs or spices. Aromas are essentially four groups: exhaust (cars factory or tractor ) road apples livestock smell, coffee, and outside of Habana fresh air. Sounds “Clop Clop Clop Clop ” of the horses, roosters ( all day ) people greeting each other from across the street and honking cars. Meal for five: lobsters X2, chicken plate, fish plate 5 Pina coladas. Each person were given a generous bowl of soup and side of white rice. A soda and mojito. Approx 58 bucks. Leftovers went to street doggies. The roads are fair yet can be dangerous due to the frequent crossings of horses, people and animals on a daily basis. And of course the people…Beautiful.
While enjoying refreshments at Hotel National a serendipitous encounter took place. I met the daughter of Sal Landau. Apparently he was the producer of the documentary “Will the Real Terrorist Stand Up” . She has been coming to Cuba since 1960. She was attractive and a Irish Lad named “Shane” was in her company. In a nutshell she said. “Cubans’ have minimum of 12 grade education. Health care is such that a clinic for approx. 100 people is an Md., nurse and social worker. 4% infant mortality rate for total population of Cuba . Cubans live longer than Americans. No one is homeless” I listened intently as to compare what I’ve observed so far. I also found interesting that she said most prostitutes here hold Masters degrees in neuroscience, economics etcetera and can outsmart the most intelligent person. “They have a 5 year plan so don’t even think you can get one over them” I wasn’t planning to. I asked why so preoccupied with Che “because he’s dead ” Her bent was obvious. And she was leaving Monday to go home to America. Ziajian
My travel ambassador said “I think we better go to Cuba before it opens up to 20 flights a day into Habana” Europeans come for sun and rest I guess. While others have been coming here for decades. Customs immigration gal said “DON’T SMILE” as she examined my passport. Balmy air quickly squelched my fear of not stepping over boundaries Drive from airport notice livestock with bony prominences. Dry and arid landscape, fences that could fall with a push of a hand, rubbish and debris then soot. Brightly colored clothes on women yet in the 4 to 5 past days I’ve yet to see a clothing store or anything closely resembling one. Our particulares via Airbnb was nice but be careful not to get shocked while showering. A wire directly woven into one is reason for flip flops. The HaBana with a a “B” stands for be careful of uneven streets be aware of some of the food and be sure to exchange money for “CUCS” 1 CUC is about one dollar. Ziajian
Although I haven’t left California lately it’s a the idea of going home to be with people I love. A sadness came in the form of death. Attending a funeral of someone who represented all that is good. Family, love and commitment was Mrs Retrosi’s Forte. The silver lining was reconnecting with all the schoolmates I knew as a single digit midget. The warm fuzzy feelings are there especially when you know everyone is thriving. Laughter supercedes all other emotions followed closely by love and touch. Selfishly I beam with pride. No one in jail for extortion or anything scandalous just a sense of wholesomeness. I’m leaving for Cuba in a few days and the first time in Long time I’m kinda of nervous. A former friend went about 10 years ago and she was mugged. I am going utilize the love I received and like a invisible cloak, wear it knowing I’ll be just fine.