#2 BEING IN CUBA
What to do in Cuba with the “Group?”
You can always learn how to dry your rice. All you have to do is have the tour bus pull over to the side of the road, have the group get out of the bus, and talk to some local field workers. So here’s what they do. They harvest the rice, but it is still too wet to be stored. So what does Cuba have a lot of? That would be sunshine, and lot’s of cheap manual labor. So the workers load up the rice in donkey/mule pulled carts, find a paved road and spread it out on half the road everyday until its dry. That saves on electricity, plus its all natural. Lot’s and lot’s of labor and man-hours go into this process, but your work place is out in the fresh air, and it is a paying job. WOW! After learning all this, I ate my next meal of rice in Cuba with a little more respect.
Another cool thing to do with the group is go to a major baseball stadium in Havana and talk to the professional baseball players during their practice. You can even have your picture taken with them and ask them some questions if you can speak Cuban fluently. Baseball is a major big deal form of entertainment in Cuba. I’m not a real die-hard baseball fan, but I understand that Cuba’s baseball is famous around the world, and the players aren’t just screwing around. They take this whole baseball thing super serious, as do the fans. The good teams travel around the world and have been known to defect a time or two, but you would probably know more about this than I, since I am not a die-hard fan.
You could take pictures of super cute hairless Chihuahuas. Chihuahuas are a major desirable dog breed in Cuba. These dogs don’t eat much, which is a serious advantage, and there isn’t a lot of fur that gets embedded into the super cool antique furniture in every household. I saw lots of Chihuahuas in yards with fences, not running around in the streets. Come to think of it, I did not see any breed of dogs just running around in the street. It looked like people actually took care of their pets in Cuba. Oh, did I mention the kid. She’s not too bad to get a picture of either, as kids go. Just kidding, she is adorable, and I think she knows it.
How about checking out Ernest Hemmingway’s 6 toed cat descendants? You can do that with the group. Ernest Hemmingway loved Cuba. He lived and wrote books in Havana for 20 years until the USA told him and all US citizens to leave in the 1950s – 60s. Ernest didn’t want to leave but he did. Anyway, Ernest loved cats. He had up to 50 cats, and he even had special rooms for them in his not to shabby house overlooking Havana. When he had to leave, he could not, of course, take all his cats with him. However, he did get to take one, his favorite. He left Cuba and moved all the way to his house in Key West, (90 miles away). It turns out; his favorite cat had 6 toes on each foot. If you are so lucky as to visit either his house in Cuba or in Florida, you will be greeted by numerous six toed cats, which are the decedents of the original one.
Also, you can visit Ernest Hemmingway’s cat cemetery at both houses. Now, that’s thrilling to do with the group. I bet that is a fact you really wanted to know about. You can just barely see the hull of Ernest’s yacht in the picture below – its still waiting for him to come back. Back in Ernest’s day, Cuba was a good place to go if you were rich. Come to think of it, being rich is good to be anywhere/anytime/any how.
O.K. here is another, more interesting fact about Ernest Hemmingway. You MUST, with the group of course, visit and stay awhile, at the famous bar, Floridita, in Havana where Ernest was known to spend considerable amounts of time.
They even have a statue of good old Ernest in the exact seat he occupied to get inspiration for his next classic novel. I was told, Ernest would come into the bar, make his way to his favorite seat. If someone was in his seat, he would politely ask the patron to find a different seat. If the patron, girl or boy, did not vacate pronto, Ernest would make sure that the next thing the patron saw was the floor really close up. This was a well-known happening at the Flordita, and it seemed to all work in Ernest’s favor. Now, you can have an alcoholic drink/s with your group here, but please do not have fun.
How about playing dominos with the locals? Dominos is the major neighborhood pastime in Cuba. If you are not at a baseball game, you are playing dominos. Now again, this cannot be considered “having fun.” This is a people to people encounter in its purest sense. It was pretty cool, since our group won 50% of the time against the locals who play all the time. Maybe, they were just being nice.
What about, after visiting a place where they are hand rolling the Cuban cigars (culture learning),
you have a group Cuban cigar smoking party, like every night? Consider it the continuation of cultural learning with NO fun allowed.
You could also throw in a Cuban beer or two, after a long 6-8 hour group tour day. I think that could be justified.
The beers are good if you like the pale ale sort of thing. I preferred the Bucanero and you’ll want to get the MAX – more % ALC, it’s not a dark, but good. Or even some rum goes with cigars in Cuba – after all Cuba is known around the world for their excellent rum. Remember, refrigeration and coolness is not a major concern here in Cuba, so if you like your beer cold, you might want to pack some ice cubes.
Something else you might want to consider doing with the group is to go dancing.
Or should I say Dance Watching. Cuban dancing and music starts at a very young age and just continuous forever. Dancing and music is another major thing the country is known for and is extremely proud of. Dance and music can break out at anytime, and on any street corner, and these neighborhood performers are pros. It’s not an activity you can not perform in the comfort of your own home, because in Cuba, folks are born with the rhythm. It comes natural in Cuba.
I want to leave you with one picture of Cuban ART plastered on an outside wall. The group & I thought this form of art and subject matter had a very real message to us as we traveled around Cuba, and it became the slogan our group. This trip always seemed to be more about “Listening” than having fun anyway.
Till next time,
P.S. I will be posting the last in the Cuba series, “#3 Leaving There” soon.
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