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.
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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.