Cuba had fascinated me for a long time and my dream was to see Cuba before the end of the Castro era, to get a feel for Communist Cuba the way it has been existing after the Cuban Revolution. I also wanted to study Spanish, my favourite language, so in April of 2005 I spent 12 days in Cuba of which the first two days were spent in Viñales, a picturesque village in the Pinar del Rio region. I stayed with a local family and Sandra, my hostess, also took me on a hike through the Valle del Ancón where I learned about traditional Cuban agriculture and vegetation. I also went on a bike ride in town to explore the local Mogotes mountains.
Then it was off to Havana where I was scheduled to take two weeks of advanced Spanish at the University of Havana. The university itself was built in the early 20th century and many of the lecture rooms still looked original, without fancy modern equipment (or toilets or toilet seats for that matter). Havana was an utterly fascinating and mind-boggling experience; a colourful and vibrant city yet with the steady undercurrent of the watchfulness of a totalitarian regime. It was refreshing not to be bombarded by commercial messages and advertising the way we are used to in Western Capitalist countries. Of course the commercial messages are replaced by plentiful political billboards and slogans.
I had a chance to rent a vehicle and drive out into the countryside, spent some time riding around using very overcrowded public transit (the “camello” or camel buses), went on several excursions and field trips with my professors and also spent time with a local Cuban family. Havana was a really incredible experience and I hope I have a chance to visit this fascinating place again soon.
Tuesday, April 5, 2005, 6:00 pm, Hotel Havana Libre Thanks to a severe case of the Revenge of Montezuma (or Ricky Ricardo?..,) I am sitting here in the Hotel Havana Libre and I finally get… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Tuesday April 5, 2005, 6:24 pm So Saturday I had already planned to go to Vinales, a beautiful area in the province of Pinar del Rio, 190 km west of Havana. I… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Tuesday, April 5, 2005, 6:54 pm On Sunday it was gorgeous. The cold front had finally passed through, the rain was gone and we had a beautiful warm sunny day without any… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Tuesday, April 5, 2005, 7:20 pm Yesterday I had to sign up for my Spanish course at the University of Havana. The Campus of the University is an astoundingly beautiful collection of… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Friday, April 8, 2005, 2:47 pm I am sitting here at one of the most famous hotels in all of Havana, after I just withdrew Can$250 (200 CUC, Pesos Convertibles) from my… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Friday, April 8, 2005, 3:21 pm It is such an amazing experience to live the life of a student again, after 15 years in business, 2 business degrees and at almost 40… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Friday, April 8, 2005, 3:45 pm So, of course, not everything is politics, learning, philosophizing and studying languages. Life also has to include some fun. And Cubans, despite all the hardships, know… Read more.
Hotel Habana Libre, Sunday, April 10, 2005, 11:10 am After picking up the bicycle on Thursday, I finally took my first ride on Friday afternoon through the beautiful residential area of Vedado. We had had… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Sunday, April 10, 2005, 12:30 pm Yesterday morning I had arranged to meet one of the women from the from the university, a very nice lady in her late 50s, who agreed… Read more.
Hotel Havana Libre, Sunday, April 10, 2005, 12:45 pm After my walk through the Vedado neighbourhood, my friend Pedro came to pick me up since I had suggested a little excursion with a rental car… Read more.
Etecsa Telecommunications Building, Downtown Havana, Wednesday, April 13, 2005, 3:06 pm So I am sitting here in a new place and I gotta hurry since I bought a $6 CUC Internet access card and I… Read more.
Etecsa Telecommunications Building, Downtown Havana, Thursday, April 13, 2005, 3:32 pm I really gotta hurry, I only have about 28 minutes left on my Internet card so I am going to try to be brief… Read more.
Hotel Habana Libre, Thursday, April 14, 2005, 3:02 pm The last few days I have spent quite a bit of time walking around downtown Havana – or Habana Vieja, as they say around here. It… Read more.
Hotel Habana Libre, Thursday, April 14, 2005, 3:38 pm During the past close to 2 weeks, I have really been trying to understand Cuba, its politics, its economy, its people, its mentality. I have been… Read more.
Hotel Habana Libre, Saturday, April 16, 2005, 9:51 am So my stay in the Cuban capital is rapidly coming to a close. Even the good weather seems to have taken leave. This morning it clouded… Read more.