++Dear readers. Before I start with my actual blog entry, apologies for the huge delay. I spent my last week with lots of work, I did a short trip to Paris, and I spent some quality time with my loved one.Sorry, I will try to write more regularly again!++
Since I was already sick of smelly, polluted, jintero-infected Havana, I decided to move on. First I thought about Matanzas, I even considered going to Varadero to spend a couple of days amongst tourists just to get over my first shock… But then, I got the opportunity to travel to Cienfuegos. The guy who had arranged my casa in Havana also got something for me in Cienfuegos, but this time I told him that I am not willing to pay more than $25CUC including breakfast. And hellas, I succeeded. I took a super cheap oldtimer-car taxi to the Viazul bus station which is located in Nuevo Vedado at 7.30 am and my journey began…
It was a complete chaos at the bus station, the line was incredibly long and a lot of Cubans didn’t care about the order and simply directly went to the front. Such people make me, a European girl with a Western sense of morality FURIOUS. But well, Cuba es Cuba.
$20CUC, 4 hours later after the decent bus ride with air condition, I arrived in Cienfuegos. With a Bici taxi, I got to my casa (somebody was already waiting with a cardboard sign with my name on it at the bus stop). My room was awful. It looked like nobody has cleaned it in the past five years. It was a bit smelly, I lack the words to describe what my bathroom looked like… But well, never mind. I was curious, and I just wanted to discover the city. And yes, Cienfuegos is absolutely beautiful. A small city with French-style architecture. Amazing. I walked around in the beautiful city, I enjoyed the fresh air and it was nice. People were not as annoying as in Havana, and I just felt like… I finally had space again. I bought some post cards for my friends and family (the first postcard actually arrived yesterday, 13 February!-after almost 2 months!). I went to a small bar in order to start writing the postcards. But well, in Cuba, you never end up alone….
For the following stories I have to add something. In order to ensure the security of the persons which I encountered during my travels, I have to change some of the names. So, the guy that I am going to throw into the story now is not really called Julio, but let’s just call him Julio. Julio joined my table with a couple of papers and pencils. He is studying for the German Goethe certificate and he noticed my German Lonely Planet. The afternoon/early evening ends in me, helping Julio with his exam preparation while having some beers. Afterwards, we hang out at the Cienfuego version of the Havana Malecon. Julio bought a bottle of rum and he keeps buying virgin Pina Coladas (In Cuban MN –> 2 Pina Coladas for $50 MN, meaning about $1CUC for one pina colada!!!) and we keep drinking. And of course, the political part of me is interested to hear his side of Cuba’s life story. Here some of his points:
> He is a salsa teacher for tourists. For this, he has to learn German.
> He also travelled to Germany and spent three months in Berlin. This was only possible because of the hotel that he is working for. They organise such trips and have special agreements with the government. Some of the interesting things about this trip -without a special invitiation/ agreement this journey would not have been possible -he is not allowed to stay at people’s places. He can only stay at the place that the organisation arranged for him
> He loves Cuba. He loves the music, the culture, the weather, everything. But still, he wants to leave and live somewhere else. He believes that the German culture is too different, though. He says that it would be easier for him to adapt to the Spanish or Italian culture.
>He is surprised when I tell him that I am 21, that I have a boyfriend but that I am not married and that I don’t have children. He adds that in Cuba, when two people love each other, then they immediately get married. We end up having a huge discussion about that, since my family/relationship values and his do not match.
>We continue talking about the two currency system. Julio explains that the CUC is not realistic for Cubans and that things that tourists have to pay for in CUC are paid in MN by Cubans. Like the Pina Coladas. He pays in MN, I would pay five-times more since they would ask me to pay in CUC. I ask him if even if I gave them MN I could pay the smaller amount. He says no, since I am white and they immediately hear my Spanish accent no matter how well my Spanish is. Too bad. And discriminatory somehow!
Even though Julio paid for my beers and he bought the bottle of rum, I still don’t trust him fully. Does he want money? Did he really go to Germany or is this just some story to ripp me off in the end? He is a bit older than me, he looks typically Cuban but with the same haircut as Sideshow Bob (for the German readers: Tingeltangel Bob) from the Simpsons. I decided to leave my Havana experiences behind me. If I keep questioning people, then my whole trip is going to end up pretty lonely. I could already feel the crazy amounts of rum which I had consumed when I agreed to meet up with him after dinner in order to join him to an open-air club. My tipsy-me was ready for a fresh start in Cienfuegos. And why not begin with a nice party? If only I had known.