Wandering La Habana Vieja
What a difference a good night's sleep can make! Normally I never
feel good about getting up at 7am -- it doesn't matter what time
I went to bed the night before -- but when I did just that on
my first real day in Cuba, I felt like I was ready to tackle the
I grabbed a warm (if a little weak) shower and got my stuff ready
for the day before heading down to our hotel's restaurant-mezzanine
level. After having to prove that I was staying at the hotel,
I was allowed to eat as much buffet-style food as I wanted. A
couple other early-risers from my group had already gathered,
so I snagged a plate and joined them.
As the rest of the group slowly gathered for the 9am meeting,
I found myself sitting at the "Spanish" table. We spoke
only in Cuba's native tongue over breakfast, a valiant start for
our third Spanish language class in a Latin American country --
too bad it didn't last.
Poor Rick. Ever since the trip to
Mexico two years ago, he's been striving to get us to speak
only in tongues during these trips. I don't doubt that it
would be a "good thing" in that we'd learn all
sorts of new words as well as getting much more familiar
with speaking and listening to the language. It's an ideal
to strive for, but the problem with ideals is that they
can almost never be fully achieved. I would love to do what
some couples have told me they've done on vacation in Latin
American countries - only Spanish before dinner, English
for desert. There are a couple major hurdles to monolingual
bliss with a large group of travelers, though. First, not
everyone has the same level of mastery over Spanish. In
this particular group we ranged from one student with a
single semester of Spanish under her belt to those who were
practically fluent. With such disparity, it can be quite
frustrating for both extremes to get their points across
to each other. Secondly, when a group is traveling together
in a foreign country something very interesting happens.
Because everyone is thrust into a strange environment, a
strange culture, a certain kind of bonding occurs. Strong
friendships quickly develop among people that might not
give each other the time of day in their own country. We
all want to share the wonders we're experiencing with our
new friends and the easiest way to do this is in our native
language. Rick shouldn't fret too much. I still maintain
that we learn at least as much Spanish in three weeks of
social interaction in these foreign countries as we do in
a full semester at home. Someday, I hope to go hard-core
Spanish myself - I just doubt that it'll be on a school
As we were finishing up our breakfast and the meeting time was
falling farther and farther behind, a quick head count showed
that we were still missing four people. Bed rousers were dispatched
and shortly thereafter the late-nighters, Nina, Robin, and Kean
showed up looking a little blurry-eyed. Travis still couldn't
be found and some of us were a little worried because his bed
didn't appear to have been slept in -- did he come in at all the
Rick started our class assuming (correctly) that Travis was just
out and about and would join us soon. We continued to speak entirely
in Spanish and it appeared that only Nova would have problems
understanding everything said. For our first class session Rick
stayed away from language lessons and focused more on our ground
rules while in Cuba. We were to stay with groups of at least three
people, stay up as late as you want as long as you make it to
class in the morning, things like that. We did get one assignment
for the next day, though: Write a note/letter/postcard to Fidel
Castro -- Rick would deliver them with gifts from the governor
and The University of Alaska the following day. Maybe we'd get
lucky and be able to meet him!
After the meeting we scattered to get ready for a day of exploring.
I grabbed my essentials -- camera, passport, money -- and headed
for La Habana Vieja (old Havana) with a whole mess of people.
Rick, Nina, and Robin quickly pulled into the lead while Tia,
Nova, and Jennifer stuck closer to Adrian and I while we snapped
photo after photo.
Our walking route took us down the hill that was Hotel Colina's
namesake and then proceeded along the Malecón -- a stretch
of road bordering the ocean. On one side you had a low, concrete
wall separating the sidewalk from a 10 foot drop to the waves
crashing on the rocks. On the other you had seemingly abandoned
scaffolding covering the facades of old townhouse-style buildings.
In between were four lanes of relatively sparse traffic.
By the time Adrian and I had reached the fortress that marked
the entrance to Havana's port, we'd lost sight of Rick and Robin.
We found Jennifer talking with some older men whom had, moments
before, been snorkeling/spearfishing off the rocks. They let us
take their picture and invited us over to their house for coffee.
We took down their addresses to be nice, but I don't think anyone
was planning on stopping by.
Those of us remaining together decided to head off in the direction
Rick and Robin had last been seen. We never did find them, and
later found out that they'd been invited into someone's house
for coffee. We probably walked right past them...
Our next stop was a touristy looking attraction complete with
stylized road signs pointing us in the right direction. A small,
concrete building, labeled as the Cárcel Real, was situated
in the center of a nice little park. Taking time out of our walk
to La Habana Vieja, we stopped to see what was the story behind
As we approached, I noticed an older man sitting in a chair propped
up against the wall seemingly enjoying the shade. When it became
apparent that we were going to take a look inside, he pushed his
chair back onto the ground, straightened his hat, and stood up.
He stayed politely to the side until one of us asked a question
about the significance of this strange jail cell with paintings
on the walls and ornate ceilings. Then he launched into a well-practiced
Our first inkling
that the communist workforce might, indeed, be quite different
from our own was at the Cárcel Real. Seeming to us
to be a somewhat trivial job, the "tour guide"
who spent most of his day with his chair tipped back against
the wall was, in fact, gainfully employed. See, that's the
interesting thing about a communist country. The government
controls all the jobs, and everyone is supposedly looked
after, right? All that adds up to an ideal 0% unemployment.
Okay, well, not true - remember what I said earlier about
I must admit that the full impact of this didn't hit me
until later in the trip when I learned about Cuban garbage
men. I found myself at the Capitolio one afternoon with
an empty soda can I'd been carrying around for about an
hour. (Havana has an amazingly low trashcan-to-street-block
ratio.) Finally, I got tired of hauling the thing around
and asked someone where I could throw it away. He took the
can, held up his index finger in a "watch this"
gesture, and set it down next to another empty can at the
base of the capital building's steps. No, no, no. I can't
do that! I went to pick it up, my upbringing against littering
too strong to break. But I was stopped from doing that and
told that if we didn't leave the can sitting where it was,
the other can would get lonely! Funny, but not a good enough
reason for me. So he explained: In a communistic country
like Cuba, garbage cans aren't needed. They have garbage
men patrolling the streets all the time, cleaning up the
mess. If the citizens didn't litter, they would be put out
of work! Sure enough, I noticed afterwards that Cuba had
the cleanest streets of any country I'd visited
It's very interesting. Apparently you're urged to take a
certain path in school and the State will send you in the
right direction. I don't know for sure what indicates to
them who is destined to be the doctor and who is destined
to be the garbage man, but I'll bet it has a lot to do with
the student's politics.
We had some difficulty understanding everything he said because
of his accent, but we understood enough to learn that this historic
monument was the only cell remaining of a larger jail of the 1800s.
The reason this particular cell had been saved from demolition
and turned into a landmark was because, for a time, it'd been
the prison of José Martí -- a revered poet and patriot
Not knowing if it was really expected or not, we gave our presenter
a couple dollars as a tip for his little presentation. While I
asked if there might be a store nearby where we could buy something
cold to drink, Nina took time out to sketch a little of the interior.
Lucky me, there was a little tienda right across the street.
While the others waited on a dilapidated park bench, I hurried
over to see what they had. Working my way through a crowd of Cubans
who appeared to only be window shopping, I found myself a couple
of the more common Cuban sodas -- TuKola and Tropicola. I also
noted that the prices in this store were less than half that of
those at the hotel!
I regrouped and we found ourselves wandering a little bit afterwards.
We knew the general direction to Old Havana and were walking in
that direction without consulting our guidebooks nor having a
specific destination in mind. The first item of interest that
we came across was a small tank set upon a pedestal at the end
of a huge, open plaza. On the other side of the tank was a huge
palace that had been converted into Cuba's Museo de la Revolución
(Museum of the Revolution.) Well, that seemed interesting enough.
We decided to visit.
At the door we all checked our bags and paid a $3 entrance fee
before being turned loose inside. Without planning we eventually
segregated into three groups - Nina and I, Jen and Adrian, and
Tia and Nova. For the next couple hours we wandered through this
museum devoted to everything Cuba over the last 50 years.
Almost every display had captions in both Spanish and English
so my language skills were not going to be challenged. The museum
itself was huge - far too much for me to absorb in one day. In
fact, I found myself skimming whole sections because boredom began
to set in
It really was interesting, though. I, as an American, have been
exposed to a grossly different view of Cuba's revolution under
Castro than the average Cuban citizen. Obviously the museum would
be biased. Why not? It's their country they're celebrating, right?
But so much of the wording smacked of communist propaganda. Everything
about the Bay of Pigs incident(s) called the opposition involved
"murderers," "traitors," etc. All their martyrs
"fell" in combat or were "murdered" - they
never just "died" or were even "killed." I
need to find a museum of our own Revolutionary War and take a
critical look at that now
While crisscrossing the museum, Nina and I ran into Jennifer
and Adrian. They apparently had found (or had BEEN found by) a
couple of Cuban guys looking to sell them some cigars. They thought
they might take them up on the offer and wanted to at least talk
to them a little more about it. We decided to finish up our museum
visit by taking a look at the converted war machines, The Granma
(the boat that brought Castro's original party over from Mexico),
and miscellaneous other paraphernalia kept out behind the Museo
de la Revolución before meeting them back in the plaza.
When we finally did meet up with them, Adrian and I broke out
a Frisbee and began our month long campaign to bring disc awareness
to Cuban society. There was a large plaza in front of the museum
that had ample room to throw the disc around. We had a grand old
time tossing that white piece of plastic back and forth while
idle Cubans watched with amazement. As we'd discovered two years
back in Mexico City's zócalo, it wasn't so much that they'd
never seen a Frisbee, only that they've never seen people who
could throw it so accurately - and with style!
By the time we'd had our fill of sun, exercise, and sweat, everyone
else had gathered on a set of benches along the side of the plaza.
Miguel and his friend (the ones anxious to sell cigars) offered
me many compliments on my throwing skills. Sensing that Adrian
might be a little indignant, they assured him that his catching
was bar none - the perfect match for me.
Before rushing off to buy some vaunted Cuban cigars, we decided
that we needed some lunch. Miguel was more than happy to take
us to a restaurant. We made it clear that we didn't want anything
too expensive. Just a small lunch. Well, they led us a few blocks
deeper into La Habana Vieja to a block-corner bar called El Angel
de Tejadillo. While we sidled up to the counter and ordered drinks
(rum, beer, or lemon soda), Miguel went across the street to a
house that doubled as a take-out restaurant. When he came back,
he announced that he could get us a full plate of pork, black
beans and rice, and a salad for $5 US per person. Okay all around?
Moros y Christianos
Before embarking on
this trip, some of us had resigned ourselves to living off
rice. Not that we wanted to, just that we might have had
to. Well, as we found out, even if that was the case, it
wouldn't have been that bad.
A traditional Cuban dish is black beans and rice and most
Cubans get such a kick out of explaining to you their name
for it -- Moros y Christianos, that is, Moors and Christians.
Blacks and whites? Get it? Yeah, we got it, we got it...
The inside joke, if that's what it can be called, is nationwide.
Menus rarely print "black beans and rice." It's
always Moros y Christianos. And you want to know the funniest
part? The whole plate is actually a sort of gray color...
While we waited for our food to arrive, we attempted to talk
among ourselves over the din of the bar's terrible audio system.
Miguel and his shy friend (from whom I never did get a name) lived
just around the corner. They worked in a cigar factory by day
and assured us that the cigars they wanted to sell to us were
legit - they were allowed to take home so many each day. Adrian
finally gave in and said that they'd purchase a box of them after
Our first Cuban lunch arrived and it wasn't too bad. We had a
plate piled high with beans and rice, topped with a huge, greasy
slab of pork, and a few slices of cucumbers and green tomatoes
off to the side. Before coming to Cuba and hearing about the food
shortages, we didn't know what to expect. $5 US for this? Hey,
not bad. Better eating (and more of it) than you'd get at McDonald's.
After lunch Miguel asked the majority of us to stay put while
he worked out the cigar deal with Adrian and Jennifer. We didn't
see them leave, and because of that we had no idea where they
went. We finished off our drinks, waited at the bar for a bit,
and still they hadn't returned. Anxious to explore more of Cuba,
we moved outside to the curb to wait for their return.
Tia and Nova seemed content to stick around as long as it took,
but Nina and I were a little antsy to go. I noticed a police officer
on the corner watching us - and I thought that perhaps that had
something to do with Adrian and Jennifer's delay. After a half-hour,
with or without them, we were ready to go. I only wanted to leave
a message for our friends so that they would know that they hadn't
At one point, I noticed Miguel appear from someplace and engage
the policeman in conversation. Miguel very obviously led him away,
walking down to the next corner. I used that opportunity to get
up and take a look down some of the side streets. I was hoping
that I might be able to pick out Adrian and Jennifer in some shady
doorway as they conducted their subversive activities
I guess my doing this was pretty obvious. Although the cop wasn't
around to see me, someone in the bar in which we'd just eaten
had. He came up to me, nodded his head down one street and motioned
for me to follow. Uh, okay. So I left the group and followed him.
We walked down about 5 or 6 doorways when suddenly he stepped
between two men sitting on a doorstop and started up an unlit
"Oye. Va a tomarme a mis amigos, ¿no?" He'd
never said one word to me since I saw him. I wanted him to know
for sure that I was looking for my friends
Venga." He definitely didn't want me standing around on the
street. Not knowing quite what to expect, I stepped between the
guys on the stoop and started up the stairs.
The insides of the building are just about what you'd think they'd
look like after seeing the tattered facades outside. The steep,
narrow staircase was dark. What color that there was on the walls
had long ago turned to curling paint chips. Bare electrical wires
(most without even insulation) ran at crazy angles among the copious
cobwebs. We reached the top and I suddenly realized that this
was the entrance to more than one family's home. An open-air hallway
stretched deeper into the building's recesses and there were half
a dozen doors spaced at intervals.
I was led to an open doorway just off the top of the stairs and
ushered into a dark living room. Fortunately, Adrian and Jennifer
were sitting right there talking to different members of a family
- Miguel's? I thanked my silent guide and directed my attention
to my cigar-smoking friends. They assured me that they'd finished
their transaction - indeed, they had a new, wooden box with them,
presumably filled with cigars - and were just looking for a polite
way to finish with the social chitchat. I relayed that the group
was getting anxious to leave, and that they should make an effort
to hurry up. That was just the excuse they were looking for.
When we returned to the street corner, I noticed that the police
officer was back and watching us intently. Miguel assured us that
there would be no problem, "No te preoccupes." And as
tourists, we later learned, we had almost nothing whatsoever to
worry about from the police. They were there for OUR protection
and they were far more interested in making sure that Cubans did
not take advantage of us. At that time, though, we half-expected
to be questioned - and with Adrian packing illegal cigars, we
decided to wander off in the opposite direction.
Not really knowing where we were heading, we managed to find
ourselves smack dab in the middle of the most touristy section
of Old Havana. Surrounded by expensive, outdoor restaurants and
all manner of taxi (horse-drawn, car, human-pedaled, cocotaxi)
were a few main attractions. On each side of Havana's port entrance
are huge, castle-like formations that were successful in keeping
out pirates and invading armies centuries before. Situated just
a little further back was a large cathedral. Nice place to take
pictures. Better place to relax.
Having already eaten, but always thirsty from the heat, Adrian
and I decided to cross the Malecón for some "imported"
drinks - Coca-Cola. We returned to the girls and spent some time
lounging around the Castillo Real de la Fuerza's moat. It was
a good time to break out the Lonely Planet guide and decide what
to do next.
We noticed right off that the Capitolio Nacional (the old capital
building) was only a few blocks off, so most of us decided to
head that way. Somewhere in all that relaxation we managed to
lose Tia and Nova - I think they decided to head back to the Hotel
Colina early. We finished our Cokes and headed off in the general
direction of the Capitolio.
The old Cuban capital building, architecturally, is much like
our own White House. There's a large, pointed dome on top, big
stairs to climb. Very Old World. We avoided the photographers
and other hustlers at the bottom, climbed the stairs, and looked
Obviously, this used to be an important place. There was a large
theater on one side of the plaza, impressive facades on all sides,
and, of course, the splendor of the capital itself. At the top
of the stairs, huge pillars guarded the entrance along with two
gigantic bronze statues. Adrian and I were clicking away when
someone approached Jennifer and asked if we'd like a tour.
Jennifer reported to us that we could get a "free"
tour of the capital building simply by purchasing one, $3 US drink
in their built-in restaurant. Well, we weren't up for the $10
dinner special, but we decided that a drink wouldn't hurt. They
led us into a dining room off one of the spectacular, high-ceilinged
hallways and took our orders. I think we had piña coladas
While we were waiting for our drinks to arrive, we started up
a conversation with an enterprising youngster who followed us
in from the stairs. His name was Oscar and we all took turns talking
with and teasing him. He was especially interested in Adrian and
my cameras because he had an old manual camera with him with which
he tried to make a living. Turns out that he didn't have any film
just then, though, so he wasn't using it much.
While the sun was setting outside our window, we drank our drinks
and let Oscar play with our cameras. He really liked messing with
the flash! At the end of it all, to show us his appreciation (or
perhaps he was just working for a tip
? Nah!), he gave each
of us 3 film canisters - as if I needed more stuff to carry around.
But he had a whole plastic bag full of them, and I didn't have
the heart not to accept. (Adrian, on the other hand, packed one
with spare change when Oscar wasn't looking and tried to give
it back. Oscar wouldn't have anything to do with it, though, until
he picked it up. The brief, confused look on his face was priceless!)
So after we'd paid for our drinks, we were led across the hall
by a "guide" who set us off on our tour. She opened
up a room that turned out to be the old senate floor and let us
photograph, climb around on, and generally do whatever we liked
to the podium and amphitheater-style chairs. Oscar followed along,
perfectly at home there and was joined by another youngster about
his age. When we signaled that we'd seen enough of this room,
the woman "guiding" us just told us that we could exit
through the opposite door and continue to tour the capital building
by ourselves. Hey, alright!
We found out soon enough that the most interesting places were
roped off. You could see into many rooms, most with plaques describing
what, of historical importance, went on within them. Oscar and
company darted indifferently in and out of these closed rooms,
all the while ensuring us that it was perfectly okay. (Want to
take a picture? Here, I'll hold the rope up for you.) The only
opportunity we declined that I regret was a climb to the top of
the domed tower. Oscar beckoned us to follow him up, but we were
a little too nervous about breaking the rules. Too bad, maybe
After the first 15 minutes or so, Oscar's presence started to
get on our nerves. Sure, we had fun "touching his hair"
- the Spanish equivalent of pulling his leg - by asking him things
like "This is a urinal, right?" at the drinking fountains.
Unfortunately, this got him jazzed up and he and his friend spent
more time trying to steal our Frisbee and toss it around in that
museum-like atmosphere. Boy, would those botched throws made an
incredible, echoing racket in there -- we thought we'd be thrown
out for sure!
On our way out, I was taking a picture of, supposedly, the world's
second largest indoor statue when Adrian came up with a good idea:
Wouldn't it be great to get a picture of us playing Frisbee in
these hallowed halls? Well, we didn't want to offend anyone, so
I told him I'd do it if we could get the (now-watchful) guides'
permission. Jennifer agreed to ask, but only if we could stage
the photo. We weren't actually going to throw the disc around.
They gave their slightly puzzled consent and while she snapped
away, Adrian and I set up action shots. We only dropped the Frisbee
once - but it was enough. They've got great acoustics in there!
On our way out the door (and all across the plaza), Oscar hit
us up for a tip for his guiding services. By then, we knew it
was coming, and we pretty much unloaded all the change in our
pockets on him and his friend. Big mistake. They argued, hassling
us more to make it equal, or give so-and-so more because he worked
harder, etc. etc. They were tenacious, but we didn't give in by
breaking out the bills. After a block or two they got the point
and stopped following us - it took them that long to realize that
there was no more money to be had.
At that point we had at least a couple-mile walk ahead of us
to get back to the hotel and we were almost running late for our
scheduled meeting. Without really consulting our maps, we headed
off in the general direction, walking the now-darkened neighborhoods
of Havana. We hadn't gone 3 blocks before trouble found us, or
rather, me. Oh, it wasn't all bad. I was just latched on to by
a jinetero (Spanish for jockey), a street hustler. Oh, it happened
to all of us at one time or another. Rick had one latch on to
him the first night because he let on that he spoke Spanish. Heck,
even Oscar was a jinetero-in-the-making. No, I just fell for the
oldest, Cuban trick in the book: I answered the question: "Where
you from?" Hey, it was my first day.
I suspect that every country you
go to will have different opening lines for people to give
tourists. I dont remember Mexicos, but Ecuador
had Hello, mister! You couldnt walk five
city blocks without at least one Ello MEE-stair
springing up next to you. It took only a few times before
you were used to it (longer if you happened to be female
-- they used the same opening line regardless of gender!)
In Cuba everyone uses Where you from? (in English)
as their opening line. It took us longer get the hang of
At first, it was a kneejerk reaction. Theyd ask where
we were from, wed respond with Alaska!
Most people know a little about our state and it was fun
to get their reaction -- a good conversation starter. What
we didnt understand, though, is that while they were
quite interested in starting conversation, they had no interest
whatsoever in where we were from. You see, by the end of
the trip, most of us had realized that the people who start
conversations with Where you from? were simply
interested in selling something.
After a month of practice, we had a little fun with these
characters in Havana.
Where you from?
Where you from?
We always used English-speaking countries, but more often
than not, the questioners didnt know what language
to use on us! One guy suspected something was up when we
pretended (poorly) not to understand his Spanish. He eventually
wandered away, mumbling Its really too bad you
dont speak Spanish, because if you did, I could sell
you some great cigars...!
Yeah, so he asked me where I was from. I answered "Alaska"
and he did what everyone else does in the Latin American countries
I've visited. He said "¡Oh! ¿Mucho frío,
no?" I swear, it's like a knee-jerk reaction for them. Before
I knew it, I found myself engaged in a conversation with this
black, teenage boy with a disconcerting wandering eye and none
of my companions were going to help me out of it. In fact, they
seemed to draw off a bit! In my IQ's defense, I have to admit
that I knew what was happening. He worked in the standard offers
for cigars, hotels, and restaurant advice in with the not-so-standard
offers for prostitutes, drugs and other things. He was discreet,
even polite while he made small talk around these topics, except
for one time in which he really insulted one of the women in our
group. (It was a joke, crass and sexist, but taking into consideration
the whole macho aspect of their culture, understandable.) I tried
to act indifferent to everything he said - for whatever good it
At the end of our walk (he followed us almost the whole two miles),
he offered me his last resort - a place to stay for New Year's.
To be nice, I took down his name and address. Told him I'd consider
it. At that point I had no intention of taking him up on anything,
and he knew it. He was just hoping that being polite would butter
me up for what was to come: "Hey, can you give me some money
for all I've done for you?" I gave him the poor student traveler
routine, which he definitely did not believe (and why should he?
I had plenty of money at that point - it was just an excuse not
to give it to him!) He left a little irked, mostly because his
4-mile, roundtrip gamble didn't pay off. I didn't feel guilty.
(Why is it that I feel the need to be polite? Why can't I just
brush these people off and tell my conscience to take a flying
leap? Well, all I can say is that later in the trip, we all got
much better at doing just that.)
We arrived back to the hotel just before the appointed time,
but there were still a few of our companions out and about. To
pass the time, a few of us decided to play a few hands of Shithead
in the lobby. Before long, the last of us had arrived and we decided
to move the group on up to Kean's room for a little quiet.
Rick started us off by asking if anyone wanted to share a story
about their first day in Cuba. We all had our impressions to speak
of and, of course, there were questions about some of the places
we'd visited. Was the Museo de la Revolución worth seeing?
How about La Universidad de la Habana? How long should you expect
to spend there? That sort of stuff. Then, we got to our little
anecdotes. The one I remember most clearly involved Robin being
put in the uncomfortable position of having to ask the Spanish
word for "to flush
" I leave the rest to you imagination.
Before long, we got around to the real reason we had to have
a meeting that night. You see, we'd only booked two days worth
of reservations at the Hotel Colina, and the following day we
were not planning on staying there again. Oh, it was nice enough,
but we were paying far too much and, in a way, it was keeping
us more separated from the Cuban people. Rick had asked us in
the morning to split up and either look for some casas particulares,
sort of like bed & breakfasts, or perhaps just some people
willing to put us up for a night or two.
Well, there was no lack of hospitality on the part of the Havana
people. In fact, by the reports we'd heard, we had more than enough
people offering to put us up in their own house - illegally, though
- for the small sum of about $5-$10 each. I, myself, didn't happen
to encounter anyone that day that broached the topic of a home-stay,
but that didn't bother me. I knew that with half our group already
decided, I could let things just settle where they may tomorrow.
After the meeting we found that some people had already eaten,
had plans for eating, or weren't going to eat at all. I found
myself dining with our illustrious professor, Rick, at El Monguito,
the restaurant in which I'd eaten the night before. The menu was
the same, basically "dinner with either pork or chicken,"
but the combination of extras was a little bit different.
We spent the time talking about our first impressions of Cuba
- his more accurate than mine because of his better grasp of the
language. We compared these to our experiences together in Mexico
and Ecuador and also talked about how this particular group of
students was different than the last. (I also found out what happened
to him and Robin earlier in the day. Apparently they didn't just
ditch us - they were invited to someone's house right off the
street for a little bit of conversation
By the time they'd
thought to look for us, we were long gone.) All in all, it was
an enjoyable dinner with the instructor.
We returned to the hotel and played a few more hands of Shithead
with some of the less wild (or more tired?) group members who
didn't go out looking for discotechas. Just before 1am I headed
up to my room to turn in. Couldn't help one last look at the US
football highlights on ESPN first, though. It turned out to be
the last time I'd hear anything reliable about the playoffs until
I returned stateside in mid-January