#3 LEAVING THERE
Now I love to travel – that should already be a known fact by the reader of this blog. And the last day on any trip is the worst possible day of my life at the time. Not because I don’t want to go home, because I do, but because I have gotten such an extreme thrill out of visiting whatever country I am in. But I have to say that to leave Cuba was unusually hard on my mental psychic, to say the least. So here is what I am going to miss about Cuba for the rest of my thrilling life.
I will miss the transportation other than the group tour bus.
- I will miss the Taxis. Believe me, if you have never ridden in a Cuba taxi you are missing out on a whole bunch of thrill. Not only are these taxis fun, but they are still very cheap (about 10 cents US). I won’t bet the farm on the stability of the units either, especially if the driver is breaking the speed limit, turning corners, trying to avoid hitting someone, or in heavy traffic (none of which are major concerns in Cuba).
- I will miss the vintage cars. These cars were made in the USA (Chevys, Fords, Pontiacs, Edsels, Cadillac’s, and I am sure I have left out some other USA cars). These cars were left behind when USA had to leave Cuba in the 50’s. Same with the USA motorcycles, of course, really old Harley Davidsons are most popular. If a citizen in Cuba owns a vintage car, the car is passed down through generations. The owner of the car is also free to sell it. Other cars in Cuba are owned by the government, but can be rented/leased/otherwise provided to the people. Here’s the problem with the vintage cars – any parts that are needed to keep the cars running can not be purchased or imported from the USA. The group and I learned on our people-to-people exchange that these cars are kept running by using duct tape, spit, and big time improvising. We visited repair shops with homemade machines and presses fabricating homemade car parts. These people are experts at vintage auto repair. Not only do the Cuban Vintage car owners keep the cars running, but also the cars are kept immaculate. The vintage cars are polished and shined so brilliantly it makes your eyes string to look at them.
Notice the Russian car in the background that is NOT spit shined in the picture below. That’s a government provided car and is not owned by the people.
Now, make no mistake, there are all kinds of new cars in Cuba, but there are none from the USA. We saw Audis, Volkswagens, lots of Russian made cars, to name a few. We even saw Cuba’s very first car factory. It was Mercedes.
- I will miss the donkey/mule and cart, still one of the most dependable and accessible transportation for the majority of the Cuban citizens.
I will miss the music and gaiety of the place. Now, I understand I can get Cuban music and dance in southern Florida (it’s not that far away), but it’s not the same. I am going to miss music and dance performed by Cuban citizens, in Cuba, because it takes the atmosphere to make it so special. No one can imitate the song and dance of Cuba without the heart and breath of the people and their land. The music just breaks out spontaneously. You can hear it everywhere you go. The music is ingrained deeply in the soul of the Cuban people, and it doesn’t take a USA tourist long to figure that out – not even one that isn’t paying attention. It’s everywhere.
The dance and music takes on many forms, colors, and souls. Native Cubans start singing and dancing at birth and continues through life.
The gaiety of Cuba can break out at anytime, on any street, in any city or rural community for little reason. A parade filled with music and singing and colorful stilt walkers, and nobody I spoke to even knew why.
I will miss the art and the creativity of a people that have so little. Cubans make art out of anything. In the picture below, the neighborhood, the houses, fences, gates were all mosaic, and this was no small neighborhood. Just little chips of ceramic. Can you imagine?
One artist scavenged for any kind of wood he could get his hands on; old doors, old window frames, whatever, and craved portraits of the town’s residents. He was a self-taught artist as most are. And some said the cravings were more real to life and 3D than any digital picture could be.
And don’t forget the beauty of the county.
And I did get to bring back a few souvenirs. However, its limited what a USA tourist traveling in Cuba can bring back. For example, Tee Shirts, coffee mugs, nut scratchers, beer cozies, and other tourist souvenirs made in China cannot legally be brought back to the USA. You cannot bring back a vintage car or the Cuban sun. And for sure, you cannot bring back Cuban cigars or Cuban rum. Major DANG!
A USA tourist can legally purchase Cuban art, Cuban music, and Cuban literature, so I got to bring home a few made-in Cuba remembrances.
In summary, I don’t want to sound selfish here, but when Cuba totally opens up to the USA tourist, I would hope and pray that so much of what Cuba and the Cuban people have now would not change. I do hope the living conditions and all that entails would improve for the people, but I hope the smiles and kindness, the unpolluted environment, and the untouched genuine country to mention a few things, do not change, but somehow, I know they will.
Till Next Time
P.S. Coming soon will be the Ramblings of a Traveler on a Family Vacation. 1st posting of a series of 3 will be entitled, “ #1 Who Gets To Come.”
Stay tuned for the exciting family vacation of a Rambling Traveler or forever weep and cry from loss of the thrilling blog to come.