Cuba: Cuida Tu Vida

Cuba, old fashioned car  I told myself I would not be late. Last time we were headed to the airport Olivia and I were rushing, running straight past security, and managed to make it right on time for the plane. This time, I left 4 hours before my flight departure (giving myself a hour and change of commute) Yes, this originally started off as a girl trip, but it’s not much so anymore. Olivia invited her dad, her brother and sister along and we would just wing it. We would go our way and they would go there’s, only meeting up for Olivia’s birthday dinner that’s supposed to be towards the end of our trip. I say wing it, but not really. We’ve been doing so much homework, so much planning has been done, itineraries printed and everything. We tried our best to be over prepared since the lack of internet access would probably be the doom of us. New Yorkers are so spoiled with coverage, that’s the only thing I think I’m a bit worried about. There will be no texting each other “I’m here, come downstairs” no Uber ordering, no googling addresses. No. 

  It’s 8:20am, our flight departs in 40 minutes, we’re all the gate waiting to board, Tanya’s not here. We text her asking her whereabouts… she slept right through her alarm, she rushes to the airport and she’s not even allowed to go past check in. Wow. They’re not letting her pass, and her seat goes off to another passenger on standby. Oh, and did I mention, it’s her birthday?JetBlue blesses us with wifi, and while I’m over Miami I decide to send her a message. She’s been rebooked for tomorrow, we promised to hold off on her birthday plans for the next day, she has the address and I tell her to meet us at the house when she lands. Daaaaaamn, so glad that’s not me.

      The structure is of the airport is on the oldish side. The uniforms of the attendants are what stood out to to me the most. The military beige style with mini skirts, an when I say mini, I mean short. It seems like the only personality they could add to their uniform was pantyhose, and many of them chose to express themselves with fishnet stockings. Getting our check in luggage made me realize that I wasn’t in NYC any longer. I had to remind myself that some of the reading that I had done, mentioned that Cubans are in no rush. The pace is pretty lenient, and the cart belt agreed with me.

   We make it outside and a see handsome gentleman holding up a sign that says “Milli” Jovani asked me if he could take my luggage, we made small talk while we waited on a long ass line to exchange currency. Changing my USD into Euros first was probably the best thing, since the exchange rate from Euros to CUC was 1:1 compared to USD which knocked me back a couple of bucks. Our driver was patient and didn’t complain once, all while taking care of our luggage. 

   We were so excited to be riding in his car. An old school green Chevrolet. I sat next to him in the front seat, while Olivia and her sister Kristina shared the backseat. I was in charge of the translating. He was sweet, and every time we passed something historic and worth mentioning, he wasn’t shy to share information.

  We pull up to our place at Vedado, the modern city. He steps out first and opens the door for the ladies in the back. I stay in the car and wait, he pulls my door open and hands me his hand… I mean, he already joked with me, calling me his novia. (His girlfriend) and trust me when I saw I looked horrible. Me after a plane ride, not pretty.

    We meet Beatriz our lovely host, she shows us around, gives us a few key information and heads out. We’re starving, the men, Olivia’s dad and brother Julian meet us at our place. They’re spot is only 4 cuadros (blocks) away, but we’re all starving. We decide to walk, and right up the block from our place is a cute little restaurant hidden by trees. If you don’t look close enough, you just might  miss it. El Balcón de Diego was outdoors, overlooking a spot of Havana from their rooftop. That view, though not very far, was pretty damn good. My favorite was probably the view of a locals’ rooftop and their hang line, their laundry just drying in the wind.

  We order, and I’m surprised how cheap the menu is telling us everything is. I order a langosta, a lobster dish with pineapple, rice and beans…. Oh my goodness! The perfect blend of sweetness. We toast, to Tanya, Happy Birthday.

After stuffing our faces, we debate if we should even go out. We’e all exhausted, but we don’t want to miss a night. We arrive at t=The Malecón, a fortress kind of walk that over looks the ocean. The waves are strong and high, they overlap the barrier wall. The side walk is drenched. Julian walks right through, hoping a wave hits him, it misses him every time. We walk into a small bar, and the waitress doesn’t seem to be fond of us. She introduces herself with an attitude, as if we’re a bother to her by just being there. She asks us what do we want to drink, and doesn’t give us choices, she was expecting and answer and we just answer ” tres cervezas por favor.” The band is setting up and when they start playing, I get into the moment with the salsa that starts to take over this outdoor bar. We ask our waitress for a food menu, she ignores us and walks away. When she returns we ask again, and gives us a snarky response, giving us about four food items off the top of her head. No, no thank you.  When she walks away Julian gets up and goes up to the bar, picks up a menu and brings it back to the table, definitely more than 4 items. She comes back and asks if we went to order something off of the menu, Oh, the one you didn’t bring to us?  She kind of messed up our night and when asking for the check we had to ask 3 times. How rude.