Cuba is a country which was my dream already at the University. I was postponing this trip for plenty different reasons, but now came my time. Why dream? Not because of the beaches. I don’t care much about them. My main reason was desire to see the system we used to have in my country. To see all the old cars in the streets. Drink rum or dance a bit salsa (in my case try to do so…). In general to experience Cuban life.
Short after my landing in Havana I had a chance to experience how it is to be in communist country. For almost 3 hours I was asked why, where, when… At the beginning they tried to communicate in English, but when I saw how useless they are, I admitted that I can speak Spanish. Well it wasn’t such a advantage as I thought. Actually this made my “chat” with customs even longer. Obviously they “trusted” me so much that I had a company even on the toilet …
Everywhere else Havana would be just one of the big capitals. Because is on “Isla de la libertad” and its lack of cars (at least in comparison with rest of the world) the city became special place to be. Basically you can divide the city for tourist suburb where you pay in dollars, all is repaired and prepared for tourist and the rest. Other parts of the city are not that fancy. Actually they are quite dirty. Kids are playing on the streets, locals let time pass by and make them busy only by playing chess or drink rum with smoking cigars. That means part of the city which is exactly my taste. In same time place where I spent most of my time. For me most authentic and best place to be for nice chat with people.
Even though most Cubans have half of the relatives out of the country, sometime they still don’t really get why you have to go back home and work. Mostly they tell you “You work too much. You should relax and enjoy the life”. For sure they are in many ways right, but on the other hand their lifestyle is a bit extreme. In general most of their time they spend partying no matter what day or time is. On the other hand they don’t have many other options. When you earn around 600 Czech crowns per month (24 USD), you have job given by government with not much opportunities for change and in regular shops is not much to buy… You naturally loose desire for doing anything.
Therefore in Cuba you can see two extremes. If you go to tourist resorts you can have all you want. When you get on the street in random Cuban city you see almost empty shops and you will be glad for rice with piece of pork steak, or pizza (well pan with quite shitty cheese). You are on island, but there is almost impossible to buy fish. In case you are lucky to find some, then for locals is too expensive anyway.
To make things a bit confusing. Cuba is country of two currencies. One is “Peso Cubano” and second “Peso Convertible”. First one is equal to one Czech crown, other is equal to one dollar. That comes to the point that you visit one restaurant and you pay 1/2 USD for a meal and in next restaurant 15 dollars for meal. Therefore main issue is to find the right / cheap place to eat. Well with some Spanish it is feasible. Then how you have two currencies are as well two types of intercity buses. Those for tourist and those for locals. I think price difference doesn’t have to be mentioned here. Same story is with shops. You have shops where you pay with peso Cubano with almost nothing to buy. Then are shops where you pay by peso convertible. Here you find decent variety of goods. Of course as a tourist you should not shop or use transport which is used by locals. The reality is different story …
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