Our Time in Havana and Return to Grand Cayman

July 22, 1998 6:00pm

We're back in Grand Cayman after a day and night in Havana. Havana is as bad a place as Cienfuegos is good. We were not able to walk 10 feet without being encountered by hookers or hustlers. Every place we were, people pestered us for something. To see Havana once is good enough to convince me to avoid it the way I avoid New York City.

The Monument to the Revolution       A tank outside Havana's Museum
A bayside slum just outside of Havana
A historic Church near Havana's downtown   One of several Forts in Havana
A typical Havana street scene

We arranged for a room for Chris that was safe for my photo equipment and a garage for the rental car. I took a room a bit down the street that consisted of a bed in the hallway between the kitchen and bathroom.

We spent the afternoon and evening in Havana walking about and sightseeing. Chris spied a Havana style Chinese restaurant where we both ate for five dollars. I've been sick since. Afterwards we split a bottle of rum to help us be able to sleep in the rooms we had taken.

I managed to sleep until about 5:00am when the power went out again and the fan I had been loaned stopped. An alarm in the street went off every 10 minutes and the families using the bathroom next to my bed kept me from sleep.

Chris and I met in the morning, loaded the car and wandered Havana until we found the airport. We were sent from one terminal to another until we were sent to Terminal #3 - the new International Terminal for Cuba.

Here we were to see Alfredo who was holding our tickets, but was not to be found.

Desperately needed a restroom after the Chinese food from the night before. I found the best bathroom facility I've seen in Cuba. Tile and toilets with seats, running water and paper for purchase. Heaven!

While I sorted out our tickets, Chris argued with the rental car agency, TransAuto, who wanted to charge us for the tire that blew out. After we looked at it, the tube had fifteen patches in it and the tire was threadbare. Nonetheless, we paid twenty dollars for a new tube after negotiating down from one hundred and twenty for a new tire, tube and rim.

Our flight from Havana was almost uneventful though different from other flights. We bought several bottles of rum and freely shared them with the other passengers. Giddy on rum, several of the passengers engaged in a good spirited brawl while the stewardess rushed in to save the bottle of rum from spilling! Havana is the only terminal I know that permits smoking in the terminal, even cigars and rowdiness on its flights.  
    Photo Courtesy of C. Pritchard

Back in Grand Cayman at Indies Suites, I've enjoyed my first shower in warm water in a month, an air conditioned room with no insects and a telephone call home.

Tonight I'll be able to taste some beef though, I doubt I'll be able to eat much. Beef is scare in Cuba and to kill a cow is a crime against the state. We've become accustomed to eating little but eating when we can. Our appetites have definitely grown smaller.

Cuba is both a wonderful, amusing place and terrible at the same time. The living conditions are dismal. To see and enjoy what Cuba has to offer, one must throw themselves into the Cuban lifestyle. Endure the conditions they do, live with them, and soon these seem normal. There, one sees the Cuban people for what they are; warm, giving and generous.

I look forward to my next visit to Cienfuegos and would very much like to tour the Cuban countryside. Perhaps early next year?

1998 John Petrak

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