Monday, March 03, 2003

The begining of my first full day in Cuba. It is seven in the morning. I thought I might sleep in for ages but no a combination of the heat and the aic conditioning unit has woken me. It is too hot to sleep with the air con. off, but when the unit is on it makes so much noise I can't sleep that way either!

I am some 4500 miles away from home and I am finding it freaky. I got on a plane in England and eleven hours later got off it in Cuba. It might as well be another planet. It is hotter, the language is Spanish and the city looks quite unlike anywhere I have been before. This is not my reality it is the reality for a Cuban, do you understand? For two weeks I can run around this city and then go back home. I am just a visiting alien. Anyway as I said I could not sleep due to the air con. so I got up and sorted out my bags.

STOP PRESS: Things to never leave home without. Memo to myself: A torch (small pen light type), a marker pen, address book and and a knife. I also did not bring any of my jewellrey. That was a product of my paranoia about being mugged or whatever.

After breakfast I set off find Laura's apartment block called Focsa on the eighth floor. I was so tired last night that I could not remember where she said it was. All I can remember is that if I walk along the Malecon (sea wall road) no further than a big statue of Jose Marti, turn right and walk a short distance I should see her appartment block. I seem to remember that she said the block is easy to spot as it has "something"? on the roof but I cant think what it was Laura said. I really should get a map.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

It is very warm and I am a jet lagged mess but as we leave the airport car park I am extatic. Our drive is Anibal he is seventy five and fought with Fidel in the revolution...I. me, yes me being driven through Havana to my hotel by a revolutionary soildier! FUCK! The lift cost $15. I amhalf in a dream half drinking in the streets of Havana.There are the trademark old Americam cars everywhere. I am chattering away to Laura and she is pointing out places of interest as we drive past them. This is something that will stay with me forever. We drive through an underpass by the Place de la Revolutionans I see the giant well known face of Che Guevara on th ewall of a building some 40 feet in height.

I am dropped outside the Hotel Caribbean. Laura came in to see I was OK talking to the receptionist in Spanish. Before she leaves we make plans to meet tomorrow at ten at her appartment if I am awake by then. After a well needed shower I lay on the bed in my room ( a nice claen place with all the required facilities. I can't sleep so I put the TV on and get CNN 24hr news. George W. Bush is on the screen giving a speech about Iraq. I watch that for a while and crack open the rum. It is 01:30 in Cuba 06:30 in the UK I have been awake for twenty four hours! After a few tots of rum I lay back on the bed and have a restless sleep.
Sitting next to me on the final leg of the flight is a young woman, Rosie and her one month old baby. (I asked) The grandmother was with them as well. We talked well waved smiled and said the odd few words we both understood. Rosie gave me her address in Havana and said I should visit her and that if I needed somewhere to stay she would put me up! It was flattering I must say but it turned out that this is par for the course as I found out during the rest of my stay. Still it was good to make contact. I was listening to the Manic Street Preachers CD Know Your Enemy as I flew over Cuba. One of the things I wanted to do was to go on a pilgrimage to the Karl Marx theatre where the band had played the year before to launch the CD. I also bought a bottle ofseven year old Havana Club Rum on the plane for $6.00 thats around £4.00. The same bottle in the UK would cost about £21.00

After landing at Jose Marti Airport and disembarking, basically walking down the steps and standing on the runway to wait for transportation to the airport building. It arives and it is a tractor pulling a coach body. So off I go to passport control. It is warm Gatwick this is not and alll the better for it. I got through customs with the minimum of fuss and am now standing on Cuban soil for real and two hours late but there was an hour long nightmare waiting for my baggage to turn up. My bags are now with me and in tact thankfully.

Will Laura still be waiting for me after three hours? If she isn't what shall I do? Laura is a friend of a friend and we have never met before just exchanged a few e-mails about me coming here. I talked to her once on the phone when she was in England and that was three months ago. Neither of us know who to look out for. I am looking out for some-one holding a card with my name on...nothing. After some nervous pacing about we spot each other.

Saturday, March 01, 2003

Holguin Airport 02:00. 09:00 in the UK. The plane stops here to drop offsome of the passengers then it picks up people for a domestic flight to Havana. There is an hour stop over so everyone leaves the plane. I walk onto the runway Cuba! It is really warm and very humid it's also raining but it is like taking a shower, it's Cuban rain as welll so I don't care. As I entre the waiting room military looking people hand out passes so we can all get back on the plane. At Holguin there is a waiting room, foyer, a few shops and a bar. I make my way to the bar and order my first (of many this holiday) real Mojito. It is good strong and hits the spot.After another one I take a walk around. In one of the shops I see hundreds of bottles of Havana Club Run (El Ron de Cuba). There are lots of good things on sale but they will have to wait until the end of my stay. I make a mental note. Clutching a bag of garlic flavour Cuban crisps I get back on board the DC10 and we are off once more heading for Havana (3am).
12:05 UK time 07:05 Cuban time. I am one hour and fifteen minutes from Holguin. I had some really strange reservations about leaving this afternoon but now I am approaching the land of Fidel and Che, the missile crisis (almost WWIII 40 years ago) and the Mojito I am overtaken by a rush of adrenaline.I will walk on the land Che walked on! Cuba here I come. Although now I am very tiredI am also very excited and it is this that is keeping me awake... how can I sleep? The Miami coast is 90 miles away and the USA has a major blockade on this small Caribbean Island. What a word we live in. Mad or what?

Friday, February 28, 2003

After a two hour delay (this would turn out to be great news for a fellow traveller) I took to the skiesat around 16:15. I had by now changed seats twice so people could sit together and I now found myself in an isle seat which was a bonus! Here I go then nine hours to Holguin the first stop in Cuba. As I spped on my way my mind turns as to why I am on my own. I had already planned and booked my holiday before meeting my girlfrined. I had asked her to come with me but it was not possible. There were three other friends who had expressed the will to come owth me. Two of them could not make it the other an argumentative, cantankerous git of whom I had no desire to spend my dream holiday with was not told of my no you have got to know him really. So here I am on my own and looking forward to every day.
Simon dropped me off in good time so I could check in and chill out before the flight. I put my luggage thriugh the check in and was told that my hand luggage was over weight. Luckily I had packed a small ruck sack and had to turn the bag out and decant some of it's contents, my CD player, note book, reading book and Spanish dictionary (better late than never). I put my soft bag on to the conveyer belt to follow my suitcase into the belly of the Cubana DC10 to probably get pulped en route. I had the pleasure while changing planes in Dalles a few years back on the way to Canada of watching the Dallas baggage handlers throw and kick my suit case from th ehold of one plane to the other. So that why things get broken!
After one last run around the shops picking up those last few holiday items and re-stocking the fridgde with beer for my return I paced the living room (as I do when waiting for people) waithing for my friend Simon to pick me up and take me to Gatwick. Luckily my girlfriend Eleonore had left for Bristol the day before so was not here to witness my manic last few hours in the UK.

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Well here goes. This journal is subtitled RANT IN HAVANA. It was written in my note book for the two weeks I was in Cuba starting from 07:09:02.