Day 5: Still Cienfuegos, Trip to a little fisher village

After my awfully melancholic day, I decided to try an other mean of communication in order to be in touch with people I care about. This phase of loneliness had to end right here. So, I went to the same shop where I got the ph20150223_191732one card, Etecsa telepunto, and I got a 1 hour internet card ‘tarjeta de navegacion’ with a log in code and a password. And I was surprised- the internet was fast, the computers alright and there were not even a lot of people- the huge line in front of the shop corresponded to those who wanted to recharge their phone prepaid card or who wanted to pay their phone bill. $5CUC for 1 hour internet is probably not affordable for every Cuban. I enjoyed my internet time, and with some more positive energy I went to a cafe to get some beer.

I enjoyed watching people walking by on the streets, and then here he was again of course, Julio. Can he smell where I am?? Anyways, he talked to me and told me that at one o’clock the boat is leaving- al barque- and that I should join him to see a typical fisher village.20141219_135021
No matter how disappointed and angy I still was, I couldn’t resist. I came to Cuba to see how people are actually living, and this was my chance. I had to pay $1CUC for the boat ride (of course, Julio was allowed to pay in $MN), but it was fantastic. Although the boat was not fast and it was packed with people standing, I enjoyed the wind which played with my hair and the view was simply gorgeous.No matter how bad my mood is, the view of the ocean, the sun and a light summer breeze make my heart beat faster.

Julio wanted to buy some fish for his mom, 20141219_135006so he talked to different people and fishermen of the village in order to find out where to find fresh fish. I just followed him and looked around. It was amazing. the boats were in a bad state compared to our standards, people wore old clothes and all of them were barefoot. And there was fish everywhere just laying in the sun in the boats. Pelicans were in the water next to the boats, eyeing the fish. Sadly, there was also a lot of plastic garbage next to the shore.

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As apparently, a white tourist girl was not really a good companion in order to find cheap and good fish, Julio asked me to wait for him while he continued his search. In the meanwhile, I went to a small castle, the ‘Castillo de Jagua’ and for $1CUC I even got a guide to explain me things. I discovered for instance, that next to the castle, there was the only Nuclear Power Plant which Cuba build during the time of the Soviet Union. However, it was never used, and up to now Cuba does not have a single nuclear power plant. Yeay! Later on during my travels, I would also see a lot of solar pannels.

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Julio came back successful with a bag of fish, and we went back to Cienfuegos. He had to bring back the fish and asked me, if I wanted to come with as his mom really would like to meet me. I was hesitant- he could turn out to be a rapist or killer….
But again, my curiosity was bigger and I really wanted to see how he lived. We walked to his place, which was only 10 minutes by foot from the Plaza Jose Marti. I followed Julio through a gate and we were immediately surprised by a dog. I love dogs, so I didn’t have a problem with it. And really, there was 20141219_135743his house. Or if it can be called a house. It was more like a stone shed. His mother and aunt sat in front of the entrance and they both welcomed me very friendly. I followed Julio into the house and I was in shock. There were no doors, only some curtains. Everything was made out of stone, and it was basically a big room including the kitchen,living room and dining room. There was also a bed in it. Then, there were three rooms adjacent to the big one, two bed rooms, and, I followed Julio into the third room- I thought he would show me his room, but as I started to hear a water-like noise and he started to scream, I realized that I just had followed him into the bathroom where he started to pee. Ooops. I was insanely embarassed, quickly turned around and started to yell that he should have warned me. While he was busy, I used the moment to have a closer look at the apartment. There were no valuable items in it, everything was very simple and old. When Julio came back, he showed me his passport with the visas to Germany. So, he really had been to Germany before and this was not just a scam. He showed me proudly his German dictionnaries and books, and I somehow started to feel very bad.

The rest of the day didn’t make it better. Although on the one hand, I didn’t want to trust him anymore, I still felt bad. His family was poor, he lived in a stone shed without any d20141219_164432oors,…no privacy at all! But still…he was a Cuban guy. He even said it himself.
Anyhow, we spent the afternoon at ”El puente”, a nice place with a great view. He bought me fish as the guy who works at a bar nearby was his cousin or some close relative. And we talked a lot. Then, we met two Australian tourists and he started dancing with them, since I refused to join. The three of them decided to go partying at night, but I refused to join them. I really didn’t want the same thing to happen again. Plus, I wanted to leave early to continue my travels. Since somehow, I felt like I was done with Cienfuegos.

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Day 4, Cienfuegos. Or: Outch

I woke up in a horrible pain. Where was I? What had happened? The smell, the heat, the uncomfortable mattress. I opened my eyes and looked around. Now it came back into my head. Rum. Music. Party. More rum. Julio. Oh no. I got out of the bed, it was ten in the morning. I felt horrible, but still I had breakfast, fruit only. They wouldn’t last long in my stomach, though. I remembered the last night. The crazy club. I had never seen something like that before. It was open air, we bought another bottle of rum with coke and ice. Everybody was sitting at tables and there was a huge stage. We also had little lottery papers which were handed to us at the entrance. The club was next to the beach (yes, there is also a tiny beach in Cienfuegos), and it was at the beginning like a comedy show. The moderator asked all tourists to raise their hands, so I did (there were not that many). And the host then approached me and dragged me to the stage where I had to show him how I could dance! I was embarrassed, still I did my best and went back to my seat then. Of course Julio had talked to the guy to tell him to pick me. After a whole acrobatic show, comedy things and the lottery, it was finally time to dance and everybody got up and started dancing to Cuban Reggaeton, or ‘el son cubano’. And yes, this was not like our European definition of dancing. It was literally crazy. This sensual, Latino style of dancing where the bodies are really close together and there is this tension made by the rhythm of the music and the moves of the dance partner. And yes, Julio did his thing. And as he said before that Europeans are horrible dancers, I wanted to try my best. So we danced. Really close, but I didn’t mind. I told him right at the beginning that I was taken and I knew that this kind of dancing was just normal here. A Cuban dad would dance with his daughter in the same way as the two of us did. I was having fun, I felt the alcohol and I admit that I was actually drunk. But hey. This was my holiday and my first actual party in Cuba. As I enjoyed the music and everything, all of a sudden, I felt a mouth on my lips. I was completely confused. Drunk-me was not fast enough to react. After a couple of seconds I pushed Julio away and quietly whispered ‘Quiero ir en mi casa’- I want to go home. He looked at me with his widely-opened eyes and nodded. We got to the taxi, he refused to let me drive home by myself. So we sat in the taxi, quietly. After a couple of failed attempts to open the door (I tried to open the door of another house…), I made it home.
So there I was, the next morning. I felt horrible. A) The hangover. B) I hated myself. I felt guilty. Why did I go out with a stranger? And of course. Cubans. Macho Latino guys. They don’t care about girls having boyfriends. Ridiculous. Plus, I felt guilty regarding my relationship. I trusted a strange guy and as a result, the guy kissed me. And there was nothing I could have done in this moment.
I felt horrible, and alone. So, I decided in this moment to call my boyfriend.
After a whole struggle, I went out into the sunny city centre, I managed to buy a $5CUC phone card at Etecsa. I left Etecsa and went on the streets to look for a telephone I could use. And there he was, Julio. Cienfuegos really is a small city. But really? He looked at me, confused. And the only thing I said was ‘I need to call.’ So, without any ado, he helped me to look for a telephone and he dialled the numbers (you need to dial some extra numbers before dialling the actual one). The phone call was ridiculous. Not even three minutes, we just said hi to each other and in the middle of the sentence, a peep tone. And then, he was gone.
I couldn’t hold my tears back and I startephoto (1)d crying. Julio was standing there and he hugged me. No matter how furious I was at him, I did not refuse. I just cried and he asked me what was wrong. I told him that I just needed to be in my room for this day. To get a clear head. And to get over my melancholy. So, I spent the whole day at home, sleeping and reading. But then, I started to get hungry in the evening and I had to leave the apartment in order to look for food. Before that, I wanted to walk a bit next to the sea and write my postcards. And again, Cienfuegos is a tiny city! So, who was there? Julio of course. Although I told him that I really wanted to be alone, he insisted on talking to me. He apologized 10000-times and he said that it was just in the genes of Cubans to get closer while dancing and to kiss. I thought about it for a bit… And then I said that it was ok as long as he would not try to kiss me, or touch me again.
And even though I agreed to hang out with him the next day, I was sure that I could not trust him. Could I ever trust any Cuban again after this?

Day 3: Off to Cienfuegos!, or: NO.MORE.RUM.

++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. 20141217_143531 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….

20141217_145434 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 20141217_180235and 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.