Cuba - Colorful, Diverse, Unique

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Chapter 9 - Sunday, February 26, 2017

Arising early, before everyone else, even our B&B hosts (being a Sunday, they must like to sleep in), I was confronted with an even more vexing situation this day. There was NO WATER. Going to wash my face and shave, it was not a pleasant way to start the day. Coming downstairs I found Boris and his wife were not in the kitchen, the dining room table not set as it had all other mornings. Not knowing what to do and not wanting to search their house, I returned upstairs and tried once again to turn on water. Nada, zilch, no such luck. Back downstairs Boris emerged from their bedroom whereupon I communcated with him the lack of water. He checked upstairs and then went outdoors and, I think, tried a main valve or something, and returned thinking the problem was solved. 

Casa Blanca, our B&B

It wasn’t.

Because I wanted to try to get some internet service and use the remaining time on my wifi cards, my decision was to walk to the Presidente Hotel and use theirs. I also figured the breakfast would be delayed with no water. 

Finding a comfortable seat in the lobby of the hotel, I was able to get some connection and stayed there for about an hour. Returning to the B&B, I found my roommates and Matt had left, and by the looks of the table, they had been served and eaten their breakfasts. Now behind the eight ball, everyone else having had any knowledge of any water problem, I was forced to rush to catch up, eat, finish packing, get my luggage downstairs and out to Big Blue. But no time for a shave or washing up very much. Not a good start to our last day in Cuba, for me at least. Being the early bird and getting the worm was definitely not working out for me.

Not to mention I could not locate the others, but sure they had not left without me, it was getting me anxious. Mark and John returned after taking a photo shooting opportunity around the area. When they had gotten up, the water was running, and so, were oblivious to my plight upon my getting up. Well, anyway, even feeling rushed and stressed out,  I took several deep breaths and started to release my anxiety. We were all together, still on time and soon on our way to a few final stops before being driven to the airport.

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In a contination of yesterday’s international discoveries, this day was to include an area related to Afro-Cubans. In a narrow two block long alley is a shrine to Afro-Cuban religions depicted through the art of Salvador González. This small area is another gem, colorful, showing more of the diversity of Cuba and a very interesting and odd assortment of people’s artistic visions and creations. Simple, everyday items were repurposed into art forms. Bathtubs and wash tubs were recreated into shrines or benches and seats, part of them cut away to make them a place to sit upon, or pieces of iron remade into something fun and fanciful. The buildings, too, are lined with brightly-colored paintings, murals, sculptures and objects which depict rituals and deities. Rumba groups are known to play there every Sunday also. What an odd, creative and funky alleyway in the middle of Havana.

Note that they are sitting on bathtub benches.

Our final planned stop was to visit the University of Havana. However, we discovered that the university is closed to the public on Sundays, being chained off at the steps leading up to the campus. 

So much for that plan.

It just so happened that while we were on the street leading up to the university, a friend of Matt’s met us on the street. Apparently Brenda or Matt may have stayed at his apartment on that street in the past. We were invited up to see his place and to be served some juices (no alcohol for mixer). Following José up the stairs to his apartment, we found a very nice, cozy home. He also had rented rooms even further up the stairs for roommates. Even though Matt had stayed there before, José had never told him about his alter-ego. 

An alter-ego? Uh, yes.

José excused himself shortly after we had arrived and were enjoying our drinks and chatting. Moments later he reappeared - in drag - like drag queen, ya know.

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It was hilarious. Feathers and boas and curly blond wig, he pranced and twirled around the room, putting on a mini drag show for his US guests. And for practically the first time, young Tom who was with his father, was actually grinning and laughing after a week of looking sullen. With a lot of laughters and fun, it was gracious of him to invite us up to enjoy a few moments together with non alcoholic drinks. 

It also left a lasting. albeit, amusing, impression of our final day in Havana. 

The time had come, sadly, for us to head off to the airport to catch our flights back to Ft. Lauderdale. This too resulted in a bit of humor. Frank dropped us off at one of the two terminals serving Havana, both being a few miles apart. This airport terminal was nicer than the one by which we arrived in the city of Matanzas. Maybe too nice for where we were headed.

Not seeming right, Matt very quickly discovered we were in the wrong terminal. But, oh no, Frank had already left and was on his way home. A very hasty call to Frank, found that he was still in the airport vicinity, but our flight times were now rapidly approaching. Frank made a quick turn around, retrieved us at the curb and quickly had us at the correct terminal in short order. 

There a long slow line was forming and the ticket agents seemed to be nonchalant, even disorganized in getting passengers checked in for their flights. But you learn to not make a fuss, as things move as fast as they do and it all will be done in its’ own time. And such was the case. We still boarded in time, having time enough to breeze through Cuban Customs, get a sandwich, and buy some chocolates and then stand in line again before releasing us out on the tarmac to walk to our plane.

A smooth take off and we were soon high above, peering down at the island nation of Cuba, a land of such variety, cultures and history that offered us friendships, hospitality, wonderful food and memories of an excellent vacation discovery.

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At last, at the right airport terminal.

But wait, there’s more. 

Arriving in Ft. Lauderdale was going along smoothly - until we went through the baggage check. There a carry on bag of mine aroused the attention of onne of the agents. Oh so close and now this. Taking me aside so that he could open and check the contents,  Nothing dangerous, explosive, illegal or otherwise of any concern was found.

I wiped the sweat from my brow.


I was now safely back in the USA. © Donald E. Kline 2012