Cuba - A beautiful poverty.
14.11.2015 - 03.12.2015
Before I start this off, I would like to clarify the title. Although not actually impoverished, it is the only way I can describe this incredible, amazing, friendly, crazy, heartbreaking, beautiful place.
Crumbling buildings shoulder restored masterpieces; Che and Fidel Castro murals and tributes at every turn; rubbish piling up in streets while around the corner a stunning park fountain bubbles away surrounded by tourists. It is impossible to paint an accurate picture for you all as it is such a contrast to anything myself and Cat have ever experienced.
Making on average $25CUC a month, which exchanges to around $35AUD (I was told that if you make $35CUC a month is amazing and $40 almost unheard of), the struggle is visible and the occasional person will try to exploit a tourist, but majority of local Cubans are happy to just sit, chat with you and make sure you are enjoying their country.
The people themselves were what made Cuba for us, always a smile on their face, always willing to help (with the fun of translation issues of course) and the guys are always trying their best to hook up with a tourist.
We heard it all walking down the streets and in the bars, so much so, that after awhile of attempting to dodge it all, we gave up and talked shit back to them. If they asked you to be their girlfriend, we said sure, this catches them off guard so much that once they have gathered themselves for a reply, you are already around the street corner being a smart arse to the next one.
For male tourists however, they have the tricky job of dodging boyfriends who will pimp our their girl for some quick cash, to opportunistic prostitutes (locals girls who have never sold themselves before, but decide to make the most of the situation and quote a price for the night).
All of this made for some interesting days in Cuba.
Going out in Cuba is a big difference to going out basically anywhere else in the world. Some Cubans will go out every single night to Salsa until closing time, get some sleep, go to work and then back to Salsa. After a week we realised it is quite acceptable to tell the bartender your drink is weak, he will then take out his bottle of rum and top you up until you are happy with the result. By week two we found that it is also totally fine to bring your own drinks to the bar, beer or bottle of rum is cool, everyone is doing it!
Keeping up with the locals, we danced until the lights came on, were taught to salsa by the naturally rhythmed Cubans and Cat even got to showcase her 'free dancing' (a lot of hands in the air). To Cubans, the fact that we don't have 'traditional dancing' like salsa, is unbelievable.
As a backpacker in Cuba, the bed of choice is what is called a Casa Particular, a bit like a B&B. Set up in a family home, there is between 1 and 4 bedrooms. Some were run by the whole family (literally you never saw the same person twice) and others by just one lady or husband and wife.
With a private room, en suite bathroom and sometimes our own balcony, we made the most of it before we hit dorm room territory in Mexico. Each Casa was different to the last, but all offered to cook your meals, book your tours and organise your next casa in the next city.
Needless to say, I would recommend Cuba to anyone even considering a visit. You will experience a culture that can be compared to that of Latin America, but is unique in its own right. Whether your into Rum, Cigars, Chocolate, Beaches, Classic Cars, Cities or small towns, this gem will have you wishing you booked for longer!
To follow - Exploring Beautiful Cuba.