Santiago de Cuba
Goin' to Guantanamo

MAY 3, 2015

What happened…

Andrew writes: I love to dance, and my friends know me for a dancing fool. Amanda has been an amazing dance partner, ever since we took our first lessons together 10-years ago. It was actually a ploy of mine at the time, to take my dates out to a series of dance lessons. We’d show up at the dance studio and everyone knew my name, and would ask who my victim was this week. So while in Santiago de Cuba, I wanted to take some dance lessons to get more into the cultural side of things here.

I asked my host if he knew anyone who taught, and after a few phone calls, Pompi showed up at the door and we arranged for two, 2-hour lessons over the following few days. The lessons were very helpful, and I think that if we practice, we can have a lot of fun with salsa.

Meanwhile, we decided to use the other time we had in Santiago de Cuba to do some exploring. We walked from one end of the Centro to the other on one afternoon, and I picked up a wicked sunburn. It’s incredible to me; how I can get so much sun while out on the bike, but when I forget to apply sunscreen ONE DAY, that I end up looking like a lobster. Amanda never burns; I don’t understand it.

Our rest days weren’t without drama. One of the things we wanted to do while we were in the city was to take out some money to finance the next few weeks. When we went to the bank, Amanda waited in line while I went inside to find out who I needed to talk with, to get money on my VISA card (debit cards don’t work here). Lineups in front of the bank are a common sight here, I think it is because maybe the banks run out of money towards the end of the day. Anyhow, one thing lead to another and I managed to cut in front of about 50 people. I asked the teller for $1,000CUC ($1,300CDN) and he went to work punching buttons, processing my VISA, asking me to sign things etc. and the next thing I knew, I had $2,000CUC! It was really confusing, and I wasn’t sure how to fix the teller’s mistake. I went outside to tell Amanda, and the crap hit the fan. She was really upset about it, because in the end we will end up taking a hit exchanging back the money that we won’t spend; sort of like throwing good money after bad. There aren’t many things that upset Amanda as much as anything to do with money, and I’m horrible with it, so that makes things worse.

Cuba is in some ways quite an inexpensive country to travel in, but I definitely think that we will be “over-budget” after two months here. It doesn’t help when camping is so difficult, and so we spend most of our daily budget just on accommodation. Looking at the numbers right now, we are spending $400/week which is almost double when our budget allows for. This doesn’t take into account the $2,000 we spent to get here. Still, I try to think of the long-term, knowing/hoping that somewhere down the road we will have periods where we spend a lot less. I don’t think Amanda has very much faith in our ability to make it that far down the road with our current spending habits. I know that it’s up to me to change my ways, and to try to become more responsible about spending. I guess some habits die hard.

One of the things I really enjoyed here in Santiago de Cuba was the Saturday night we spent in Plaza de Marte, near our Casa. This large square was host to thousands of people, many of whom were there for the dance competition, but there were also many who were just spending an evening with friends and family. There were lots of street vendors, and kids were riding bikes around the square, and the music made for such an electrified atmosphere. Amidst the cacophony, was an element of Cubanism that I’ve experienced in every town we have visited; one of community, high-spirits, and happiness.


Today’s Photographs

Santiago de Cuba
Goin' to Guantanamo