If I get to a new place, I usually need some time to digest what I’ve seen. That’s one reason, why this blog is not proceeding as I’ld like it to be. This is even more true after our trip to Cuba. But some of the first impressions want to be told and written down.
Of course we knew that we would experience something different by signing up for a bit more than a week in Cuba. We had some doubts going there and even more staying longer. What are we going to do, if the kids get sick? Is it safe to rent a car, to walk through the streets late in the evening? How will Linnéa like the food? Will she eat anything at all? Where are we getting supplies for the baby? Finally we crossed the border with everything Niklas needed, like food, milk powder, diapers, etc. and a mixed feeling, if it was really the right decision.
The reason why I wanted to go was that I wanted to experience the “real” Cuba, before it might change too much. After being there, talking to many, many people, staying in casas particulares, driving through quite a bit of the country, I think we shouldn’t have worried too much. We felt safe. All the time. More. We felt invited. Always after a short while people started talking to us about their lives. And everybody has a story. They got personal, shared what they think is good and what’s not. They helped us on how to behave correctly in a society which was so unknown to us. It felt like we were moving constantly like in a train, seeing the surface. And every now and then somebody hopped onto the train and got us a deeper understanding of what we saw.
As a family, there isn’t any place we’ve visited so far, where we felt more accepted. Family has such a high value there. If you go to a restaurant with a baby, the waiter offers to take him as long as you are eating. Understanding the situation. Trying to help. Not stopping with the first cry. Really trying. I met a family on the beach. When I told them that I noticed how important the family is and how I admire them for it, knowing it’s very different from Germany, one guy answered: “Sure, that’s all we’ve left!”
Due to the kids and all our luggage we didn’t want to rely too much on the buses. So we took a huge rental, which sometimes felt like a fortress driving through the countryside. I didn’t feel too good about it. I didn’t take pictures in those situations, trying to be respectful. As soon as you’re off the beaten track the country changes. Where the tourists pass, the people are prepared. Knowing how to sell you something. Stopping you. Asking for help. Sometimes for real. Sometimes not. Impossible to tell. Where they don’t, you see village after village. People on the road. The villages are lively, colorful and run down at the same time. Most of the buildings let you imagine how nice it must have been before it fell apart. Columns at the entrances, old paint crumbles. Whole pigs, half pigs, chickens are sold on the street. Bakeries offering one type of bread in two shapes. Some dancing in the streets. Others buckled, walking, loads on their back, on the long way between two villages. Passed by horse carriages. At some point we arrive at a village. The road to the east ends. A couple of kilometers we try to continue on a dirt road with potholes bigger than our SUV is able to take. Turning back to the beaten off path. Back on the highway. Stopping for cows. We learned that they immediately jump off the road if you honk. So they did. We got used to people, horse carriages and slow vehicles on the highway. On the left lane of a highway, where it’s allowed to go a hundred and vehicles who can go faster, somebody stopped his broken Lada, crawling under it to get it to work again. The family left the car to watch how it’s going. Another one is trimming the gras with a scythe. Every worker seems to have his part on the highway, he is responsible for. Getting there by bike.
Manual labour is big in Cuba. In the National Park of Viñales, because it’s not allowed otherwise. Somewhere else, because they cannot afford anything else. You see oxen pulling the plow. People preparing every plant on the field by hand. Everywhere they praise their products and diss the ones of the neighbour region. Especially cigars. If you don’t know anything about them, don’t by them. Not for a relative. You will be so confused after a while, what is real, what is good and why that you get sick of it. As you might get sick of the coffee you can by which was all prepared manually.
It was worth it going there. It’s beautiful, nice and interesting.