I survived my first night in Havana after I spent the evening watching Cuban TV. I enjoyed the 4 channels I had with the bad quality and the only channel which was not about sports was a political documentary about Hugo Chavez. Such a cliche!
At 8.30 am I got up to have some breakfast. Nice tortilla (omelett) and fresh fruit.
I got dressed and then my tour through Havana started.
Picture retreived from: whereig.com
I started walking towards Habana Vieja as I actually wanted to do some sightseeing to start with. But then again, all those guys. Uh. ”Hola!Linda!Hola!Hola!HOLA!?”
”Where are you from?” (In super broken English).
”Oh! I have a… brother who lives in Munich!” Of course. During my trip I would learn that EVERYONE has a brother living in Munich, a cousin studying in Toronto and so on. If you want them to remain quiet, tell them you are from Somaliland or Uzbekistan or whatever. But at my first day I did not posess this wisdom yet.
So, I played the game. I was honest, and I was hoping to maybe have nice conversations with nice people. Big mistake as it would turn out.
The third or fourth guy who talked to me in literally a short period of less than 10 minutes (!!) was especially persistent. He greeted me and told me that he was my neighbour and that he is a good friend of Isabel’s. Actually, he was nice and I thought that he might not be a bad guy. Then, he told me about a cigar festival that was apparently taking place now. I just answered ”Ah ok, well that’s nice.’ But I didn’t really show a lot of interest in it.He kept talking about it and explained that today is a special day where cigars can be sold at a much lower price than usual. It was really strange, I just kept going on the streets in order to explore the city and he just followed me. This is usually what I do at my first day when I travel- I just walk around without having an actual idea where I am going. But this is how you can find the nicest spots.
So, I wasn’t really happy to be followed by this guy. He was about 40 or 45 years old I assume and he was constantly flirting with me and telling me how beautiful and smart I was and how great my Spanish was. So he just followed me but then proposed to show me a bit around. I didn’t refuse, so he guided me through some streets and at one point- I don’t even know how that happened it all went so fast- he softly pushed me through the entrance of an apartment.
I was freaking out as I thought that he might kidnapp and kill me, but as we all know this did not happen.
But we just ended up in a living room with a table full with cigar boxes. And a nervous guy was sitting at the table and he started talking to me about the great offer he can make today. I immediately knew that all of this was just some stupid trick to rip off tourists. So, I just leaned back and relaxed and smiled. I would play this game, but I would be the one having fun. I put my business-face on and looked interested. I asked the guy to open one box…. Then the other one… And I took the cigars in my hands and smelled at them and asked him to show me how I can test if a cigar is good. So the guy had to explain and show that I first had to press the cigar with my thumb and index finger hard in order to see if the cigar then goes back to its original shape… and that you have to roll the cigar between your hands to make sure that no tobacco is falling out. This was actually fun and I even learned something. I faked some interest and occasionally said ”ahh”, or ”woooow?” and ”de verdad?”
Then, of course they wanted me to buy cigars. $300CUC for the big box Cohiba (I would buy the same box somewhere else later for $40CUC 😛 ) and $180CUC for the small one. I just started laughing out loud and asking them if they are crazy and why they would think that I would have that much money. ”Soy estudiante!” (I am a student!). The guy got even more nervous and started sweating. He said, that this was the only day of the year when they are allowed to sell cigars at such a low price as it is an extra offer from the government (BULLSHIT). He offered me that I could buy the big box for 100 Euros now. I refused and said that I wanted to leave. So, I did. They were not happy at all but I was not willing to support this dirty scam.
So, I was back on the streets again, somewhere in the centre of Havana. But yes, my stalker ”neighbour” did not leave my side again. He asked me if I wanted to go out with him tonight (WHY ON EARTH would I go out with a 45 year old guy who is even OLDER THAN MY MOTHER!?) because- of course (!) what a coincidence! It is also the salsa festival! He proposed to pick me up at 5 pm, take me to dinner and then go to the casa de la musica in order to teach me how to dance salsa. I refused, but I said that I might go to the casa de la musica as well tonight and then we might see each other. (Nope). He tried to convince me to accept his offer, but I was just so done. So, I asked him to leave me alone. And finally, I was alone! And for a short time, I could enjoy the streets of Centro Habana…
So again, without any idea where I was actually heading, I just continued walking through the centre of Havana.
And then at one point, two women started talking to me. They said ”Have a nice holiday!” and I smiled and thanked them. I felt actually happier since this was the first time that I heard something genuinely nice where no creepy old Cubans would hit on me.I continued walking, and the two women seemed to be walking in the same direction, towards ”El Barrio Chino- Chinatown”
El Barrio Chino- Without Chinese people, though. They all left after the revolution
The two women were really nice and we chatted a bit. They asked me if I wanted to have a drink with them- and I agreed. It was nice to talk to women, somehow I felt more comfortable. We had mojitos in a cafe and we had nice conversations. Both of them were teachers and they asked a lot about Germany and Europe. Of course, they have never travelled and they don’t have the opportunity to do it. One of the women took a piece of paper and started writing a list with things down which I could do in Havana. Weirdly, the two women also started talking about the cigar festival. And I told them that I already heard about it but that I am not interested. They then tried to change my mind and said that I would really help them if I went with them to buy cigars- since they would get a commission then with which they could buy milk and other products. Aaahhh! So, this is a whole organised thing. I refused and I started to be disappointed. Those two women also tried to get money out of me. I just wanted to get out of the cafe and be alone again. I asked for the bill, and the two women did not even make any gestures to get their wallets. Well, I had to pay for the three of us which was alright, though. I just wanted to get out of there.
We were about to leave the cafe and then one of the women asked me if I could buy her a bottle of milk for her child. Apparently, milk is very expensive in Cuba. I thought, alright, I mean a bottle of milk is usually super cheap and does not cost more than 1 euro in a German or Dutch supermarket. We just left the cafe and there was this street shop (Basically just a table set up), and it seemed like the owner of the shop was already waiting for us! The women just said something quickly to her and she grabbed a bag which was already prepared. It contained three bags of milk powder. The shop owner looked at me and asked me to pay $30 CUC. And in this moment, I got very, very angry.
Me: ”Are you kidding me?You cannot tell me that this costs $30CUC!”
Jintera: ”Well, everything is soooo expensive here in Cuba….”
Me:” In Europe, for me, $20CUC is a couple of days of grocery. I am a student!What makes you think that I have a lot of money?”
Jintera:”Well, ok, can you buy two packages then?”
Shop lady: One? For $17CUC?
Me: ”Don’t you see that you don’t make any sense at all? What makes you think that I am stupid as well?”
Jintera: ”Please…give us something…”
I was soooo angry. Really. But I knew that they would never let me go without further argument. So, I just grabbed a couple of coins from my wallet and handed it over. But I said: ”I really hope that you have a child. And that I am actually helping you know with those coins. But if you lied to me, then you should really think about it.”
And then I turned around and left.
I was super angry. And just done. I think that I handled the situation quite well, I did not really pay them much, definitely not the $30CUC. But I can imagine that tourists that do not speak Spanish and that do not have the courage to say ”no” might have a hard time.
But this was sadly not my last jintero-story of the day (!!).
In the evening, I was just walking on the streets again, looking for a restaurant to eat. I only had had breakfast in the morning and since then I hadn’t eaten. (Does beer and Mojitos count?) I was waiting in order to cross the streets and one of the annoying guys which are omnipresent EVERYWHERE followed me. I said that I didn’t have time to talk now or go somewhere since I wanted to eat. (BIG MISTAKE TO SAY THAT).
He kept following me and told me that he was a salsa teacher at some hotel. He was younger than the average annoying jintero and he looked quite fancy with more than average clothes, so I thought that he might be a normal guy who is just hitting on me.
Then he told me that he knows a nice restaurant. I told him that I am a student and that I am travelling on a low budget. He assured me that it was a cheap but good restaurant. And (I have no clue why), I just believed him. Of course, he was hitting on me like crazy. Really. He constantly grabbed my hand and started dancing with me on the streets. And dancing in the Cuban sense- pulling me very tight to him. I told him that I did not feel comfortable doing that as this is not normal for Europeans. And I also added that I am taken anyways. He did not seem to care about this, though.
After a while, we arrived at the restaurant. It was completely empty.
I was immediately seated and like with some magic spell two Mojitos appeared. Then the menu: $15 CUC for the cheapest fish!! This is NOT budget travelling. I was super angry. Why was I so naive? Was it the travelling by myself?
I tried to relax and just ordered the cheapest fish. I was insanely hungry, it was getting dark, and leaving the restaurant immediately would mean endless explanations again. I was really annoyed. And then, to make it even worse, the guy turned out to be an absolute -excuse the expression- asshole.
While I was waiting for my food, he asked me if I was interested in sleeping with a Cuban. I laughed and told him that in Europe, being in a relationship means to most people not to sleep with other people. He did not seem to understand it.
Creepy guy: ”Why? You are travelling now, you should also try to sleep with Cubans just to see what they are like. And I can tell you, they are the best lovers!”
Me: ” I am not interested in finding out. And also I don’t believe that they are the best lovers.”
Creepy guy: ”Of course we are! We have a better sense of rhythm and also Cubans have bigger penises than Europeans.”
Was this really happening? I was waiting for my food and this absolute stranger talks to me about the churro in the Cubans pants?Why?What was wrong with him? And did he think that this would convince me to change my mind and to sleep with him?
The whole conversation was just absurd. He asked me how big the average European penis is, what ”big” means to me, made gestures with his hands,.. What the hell? Thankfully, my food arrived and he had the decency to get up. But of course, he didn’t do it without trying to kiss me. I was fast enough to turn my head and so he just managed to place a kiss on my cheek. Oh and of course he also left his number on the table. The guy went to the bar and chatted with the bar tender as if they were best friends. It seems like he is frequently bringing stupid tourists like me to the restaurants. And yes, I was so right.
While I was eating my fish, another Cuban man entered the restaurant together with an elderly tourist couple! He kept talking to them and they looked at him in a fascinated way.
At least I am not the only naive tourist. After I paid the bill (they even charged 10% extra service costs 😦 ) I left the restaurant. I was angry. Disappointed. I could not believe that I got ripped off.But, I could only learn from this experience….