Cuba Travel Stories, Page 4

Living in Private House in Cuba

The Lonely Planet says there is 3000 Casas Particulares in Havana. Everyone with an extra room wants to rent it to a tourist, I see more rooms than tourist, but it feels as if there are price controls, whether real or agreed upon, everyone appears to ask 25-35 CUC per night.

I do not believe tourist negotiate.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Monday, December 7, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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I will start to look for a cheaper room today, or offer the owners of my Casa Particulare 15 CUC per night. I am in an illegal one, there is no moral high ground for the owners, they cannot say they are paying taxes. They are excellent people; however, I do not believe Cuban people are accustomed to people negotiating. It is tough to negotiate when all the tourist around you are silly, naïve, rich and stupid. Locals become indignant, how can you ask for a discount. I find it quite easy, if a person really only makes 20 CUC per month, then allowing that same person to earn a profit of one month in one day is abusive and exploitive, inflative and harmful to he economy. It is not real money; it is not gained by giving good value.

It cost me 1 dollar to go and return from Centro Habana or Habana Vieja, I can easily live here and travel to the area, but I will not be immersed. It is hard to taste the flavor of people, unless you live with them. I know the flavor or Vedado is horrible, I know the flavor of Centro Habana is better.

I have 10 more days in country; this is a Caribbean Island, maybe it full of beautiful beaches. I feel is cheaper than the small Caribbean Islands, I am asking myself daily, what should I go see that is different. What is special about Cuba? I cannot say the USA economic sanctions; this only stopped one country, not the rest of the world. Castro made this Island the way he wanted, more the way he wanted, then the people of Cuba.

The people are free, however they can only buy what is allowed in the country, the gate keeper determined the products here.

Is there anything different in Cuba, I am from Colombia; we have many of the same types of building, nothing that unique here so far. While my family is rich in Colombia, it appears my family would be average in Cuba.



Habana Vieja looks like this, building are newer, older, dirtier and cleaner, there is no substantial difference, I think two days of living with this in Habana Vieja, and I would be finished.

I have been reading the guidebook; this country is permeated with tourism. I want to find a small city like my home city of Sincelejo, Colombia. We do not have tourist, I want to see what a city in Cuba looks like naturally without the tourist influence. Habana Vieja has a tourist street; it is not old as much as it is tourist.

In a country designed to maximize the tourist dollars, what saves tourism here is the ability to live in private homes. If there was or is real competition, then tourist can live in this country extremely cheap, cheaper than any of the other Caribbean style islands.

My friend called it oppressive, I am lost to understand, tourism in full force is always oppressive, stifling and way to keep all the people on the same track. I have not found anything different about the tourism here than any other country. They want you to pay, give you bad service, and you need to say you like it, this is normal.

Where shall I go, this is my question, I am surrounded by tourist traps, I do not want to fall into one. I am from Colombia, I not have the money the European tourists have, I cannot afford to fall into these money grabbing traps. I will go see if there is a Casa Particulare in Centro Habana for 10 or 15 CUC, my Norwegian friends did not care about money, they are gone, and I do not need to go along to make them happy now. I am glad this was only 3-4 days of this mentality, I would have had to tell them they were paying too much, too silly if I hung around longer. I do not like to agree to be stupid; sometimes friends cause me more headache than they are worth.

She does not like beggars, I finally realized, she gives them money, she always feels abused, she cannot say no, they extract money from tourist, I am glad she feels abused.

Living in Private House in Cuba


Cuba 1 in 20 Cars is Old

This is just a guesstimate, but I think about 1 in 20 of the cars in Havana are from about 1950-1965, I do not know cars.



You can see this older car protruding forward like an old man, surrounded by young boys.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Monday, December 7, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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It would be misrepresenting Cuba to show you just photos of older cars, without showing you, the country is very modern. I saw a double decker tourist bus yesterday, coming from Habana Vieja; truly, this is a 100 percent capitalist society, with some socialist import export rules. This place is probably free, as long as you do not disagree.



I will insert many photos of these older cars, there are so many it become boring.

What makes Cuba obviously rich is their ability to keep the street clean, the cars in good repair, and organized. I have yet to see any poverty worth looking at; just a few beggars who know the tourist are soft targets, lazy people convincing silly tourist to give. The majority of Tourist looks Cuban, they probably moved to another country, and feel rich in comparison their former country. This skews their opinions; they treat the country personally and not as true tourist. However, the truth is, 99 percent of tourist love the country they are visiting. They only do big vacations every few years, they paid a lot of money to come to Cuba, they need to appreciate it and not devalue the trip, Tours are by nature, predestined to make a nothing, into a something.

Cuba 1 in 20 Cars is Old


Cuban Taxi to Airport

I think a friend of a friend was making big money to take my Norwegian friends to the Airport.



There is a pure strain of naïve and silly tourist in Cuba; the white people here swallow whole all the prices given to them by Cuban people. It is common to say,
“The Cubans make 20 CUC in a month.”

Then pay them to do a service where they make 10 CUC in one hour, the tourist do not understand the value of money, they live and die with the thought. This is cheaper than I pay in my country, never understanding how irresponsible and inflationary it is to overpay. Cuba has been preserved by Castro, not saved, but preserved.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Monday, December 7, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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My Norwegian friends are in love with Cuba. When a person loves a country, the see beauty in everything, and realism takes a back seat. As we took a 4 CUC taxi from Habana Vieja to Vedado area she looked at the seawall on the Malecon and says,
“This is beautiful, I will miss it.”
She has been to Cuba eight times, she has been robbed four times.

I said, you truly love this place, when a person could look at this horrible stretch of seawall, water that is jet black, polluted, with a perimeter of almost deserted building, and say this. I has to be love; the Malecon is a two when ten is beautiful. I want to invite her to see Cartagena, Colombia, it is obvious there is no status in going to Colombia, she must stay safe, even though the world is safe. I do not see the big deal, Cuban are mostly Black, they are not European, just a mix of slaves and Spanish trying to be European.

Cuban Taxi to Airport


Chubby Cuban Women

I want to call this photo,
“My Cuba.”



Finally, I saw smiles on the faces of Cuban people. These four women clustered together as we walked in Central Habana and demanded we take their photo.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Monday, December 7, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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This man is smoking a cigar, relaxed, open, and easy to talk.

Maybe I can look at the smiles, but I am looking at the souls of these average Cuban people and they are happy. Yesterday, I was happy to see smiling faces, I am living near the Hotel Melia Cohiba area of Vedado, it is depressing.

This is either in the Centro Habana or Habana Vieja, there is no sign telling you when you are leaving one area and entering another.

I believe the girls above know they are fat, know they are happy, and do not care. The Cuban people love to have their photos taken. I was in Haiti for about five days with Andy, the Haiti people were more beautiful than Cuban, however are difficult to photo. I think I want to call this photo “My Cuba,” not because Cubans are fat, beautiful or intelligent. Moreover, because they believe they are handsome and smart, and this belief is infectious. A person believes he or she is trendy, therefore all their friends also agree.

I walked up to the eighth floor of the Melia Cohiba yesterday to meet my Norwegian friends. As we walked down to the swimming pool, I said,
“The maid is gorgeous.”
My Norwegian friend looked at me as if I was crazy. We got to the elevator, she forgot something and we needed to go back to the room. As we walked by the girl, this time she looked at the girl close, I said,
“Her face is perfect, thin, smooth, a soft black color.”
The Norwegian girl dismissed the conversation in as a frumpy way would, as we need to ignore the special common people.

Many Cuban people are fashionably dress, the house cleaner was in a uniform, behind the cart, and all we could see was her face. I think my Norwegian friend saw the situation, the social status, I saw the person.

Cuba is a very rich country, and people dress like overweight people from Miami. The people with more Spanish blood have droopy face, longer noses, and slouch. People of European descent look older, weaker, while the people here of African decent look younger, but get fat quick, there is no stopping genetics.

Cuba is like Brazil, Venezuela or Argentina, the majority of people are so so, but when you have one beautiful girl, she can be exceptional. I am happy the girls of my Colombia are on average, much better looking, we seem to have the proper mix of African, Indigenous and Spanish. There are many Italians here; I am trying to see how this influences this new race called Cubans.

Chubby Cuban Women


Coca Cola Sold in Cuba

I went with two Norwegian people to a Jazzcafe at Galeria Paseo, located at the Paseo-Malecon. It cost 10 CUC to enter, many people tell me this is half of what a local earn in a month, and I think somebody is lying.



I forgot, asked for a Coca Cola, and the waiter brings me a Coca Cola.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Sunday, December 6, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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The stamp on the can says Mexico, the Norwegian people said,
“The mystery of Coca Cola in Cuba.”

Coca Cola Sold in Cuba


Cuba Human Development Index 2009

The 2009 Human Development Index that compares the 192 Nation States of the United Nation defines Cuba as High Development. This index normally shows 179 of the 192 members, and has problem collecting data from all member countries. There are 252 countries on the planet, give or take 25 according to your definition of a country.

Cuba is 48 of 252 countries on the planet, this is very good.

Three Levels of Human Development

High
1 Iceland to 75 Bosnia and Herzegovina
Medium
76 Turkey to 153 Senegal
Low
154 Nigeria to 179 Sierra Leone

Iceland is winning the top spot, however since their economy collapsed in the current economic situation, they will probably drop down. Sierra Leone wins the last spot, and it truly an advantageous situation for this country, all the member nations send them money.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Sunday, December 6, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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The list of the High development Nations.

My home country of Colombia is rated 80, and Haiti where I met with Andy is 148, therefore both were listed as Medium Human Development countries. Colombia is not at the bottom, but Cuba is still much better than Colombia.

I am envious of this country, but the cost of living is high for me, a person from Colombia, however Haiti was also expensive. I feel the tourist industries of the two countries are abusive, although there is more competition in Cuba for tourist money, while Haiti had no tourist. I wish Colombia would stop being defined as the Cocaine country; I would have greater freedom to travel the world. I am grateful I come from a rich family.

Cuba Human Development Index 2009


Bici-Taxi Cuba Tuk Tuk

Cuba has extremely modern looking Tuk Tuk‘s. The Lonely Planet calls them Bici-Taxis and says tourists are not allowed to use them. I will soon see, since I am from Colombia, generally look the same as the locals, I think there will be no problem.



Bici-Taxi in front of the Five Star Hotel Melia Cohiba.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, Sunday, December 6, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
Travel Gear
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Reading the guidebook, a person gets the feeling there is a secret. Somehow, Cuba has a crisis, that life is bad. However, for me, a man from Colombia, this country is very rich.

Bici-Taxi Cuba Tuk Tuk


Casas Particulares Vedado Havana

I am paying 25 CUC per night to live in an unlicensed Casa Particulare. I am in a Private home; the price of the room is cheaper than Haiti. I have air conditioning, hot water, security, and intelligence. If you list out all the benefits, the value of a room in Cuba a better value than Haiti.



My apartment building, feels like 1965, it is a great room, and if I want, I see how upper class Cubans live in their homes.

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Havana Habana Cuba Saturday, December 5, 2009
By Andres Hidalgo with editing
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The Vedado area of Havana near the Melia Cohiba is boring. There is nothing to do; old Habana is 2-3 kilometers away from here. This is like Miami, complete with overdressed women with push up bras, who wiggle and waddle when the walk. However, it is safer to enter a stable part of cities, learn how the country works, then move in the more crowded and interesting parts of the city.



The only interesting thing to photograph in the Vedado area is the cars. However, they will be in all areas, and not a reason to visit the Vedado area of Cuba. I will take many photos; one in 15-20 cars is either old American or Russian. My Norwegian friends told me, Cuba does not allow many cars to be imported; therefore, the locals preserve the older cars. It is not about USA sanctions, it is about the country of Cuba, not allowing freedom of import and export. I have seen many Mercedes Benz taxis dropping people off at the Melia Cohiba.

There are no restrictions on photos, there is nothing but these boring building to photograph, I will walk or take a colectivo taxi to Habana Vieja today. I will change Casa Particulare as soon as possible, so I can walk around in a more interesting area of Havana.

The standard price in the guidebook for Casas Particulares is 25-30 CUC per night. I believe it will be easy to find one for 10-15 CUC per night. However, not by using the Lonely Planet guidebook, it is focused on expensive travel, not Mochileros.

Casas Particulares Vedado Havana