Isla Cuba Experience 2017

I can’t believe its been a month since we’ve arrived in Havana!  It feels like it was just yesterday that I was strapping on my fanny pack, hoarding our TP in G’s backpack, dancing to the constant street music and listening to sweet Doris tell stories all afternoon.  Cuba was everything I thought it would be…visually stimulating, historically profound and bursting with Isla culture.  You see, Isla, which the name is scarce at best in the states, is by definition ‘island’.  Let me just say, Isla Cubano was plastered all.over.the.place.  It was refreshing and it gave me immediate purpose on this trip.  I needed to know more about this mysterious place laced with my husband and children’s lineage. P.S. I was surrounded by little Isla man clones everywhere I looked.  It was pretty amazing to see so many dark skinned, light eyed, hotties running around.  Even funnier, everyone I met thought I was Cuban, too.  Seeeeeee, I told you G and I have the same eyes!

IMG_0261

Back to the story…G-Pa asked us many months ago to join him on a trip to Cuba.  He’d been dying to show his sons and families his heritage ever since the sanctions were lifted and travel was opened up to US citizens.  Truth be told, I was sketchy at first.  Sketchy because we have a new president that has been trying to shut down ties with Cuba all over again.  Needless to say I was nervous traipsing down to this “communist/socialist” country without having my kids nearby.  I mean, let’s be honest, I was going in blind.  So was G.  He hadn’t been to Cuba since he was 6 years old.  Cuba was ripped from so many people’s livelihood once the embargo solidified.  People began to forget about Cuba, including myself.  I grew up knowing nothing about why Cuba was off limits.  Just that we cut off relations and it wasn’t amicable.  Che Guevara and Fidel Castro were “anti-American” and Cubans would do anything to leave…and had.  That’s pretty much how it was portrayed to me and many others.  So hence the nervousness and befuddled approach prior to our arrival.  But as many know…I’ll try anything once and I was eager to  learn more about my family’s culture.  One of the most rewarding outcomes from this trip was the knowledge to think differently and see this beautiful country for what it is…joyful, hard-working and full of life.  More on that later.

We arrived around 8:15 am on Day One.  It’s insane to think a country so far removed from so many minds, was a mere 45 minute plane ride. Hopping off the pane and on to the Cuban soil was like a rite of passage for G and I.  We had reached a place we never thought we’d be.  Instantly, the vintage US cars amongst all the palm trees stood out like a sore thumb, a pristine, bright and dreamy thumb.  Iliana, G-pa’s cousin, is an Entertainment Director and is involved with anything ballet, theater, orchestra and performing arts entering through Havana.  She and her driver, Juan Carlos, picked us up in a ’56 Bel Air that had a trunk fit for the mafia.  No seriously, in G’s words…”That trunk could fit 5 bodies in there”…ummmm, I sure hope that theory was never tested.  But again, the Mafia was legit and huge back in the day.  #VisuallyStimulating.  P.S Juan Carlos was our personal driver for the first half of the vacay, something we would learn to appreciate as time rolled on.

Anyway, needless to say I was recording the whole drive…and several drives throughout the week.  Seeing the land and life exist was one of my favorite past times.  I could have done this all week long.

Once we arrived at our home away from home for five days, we soon realized we were not in Kansas anymore.  It’s a simpler life in Cuba.  One that is without existing internet, ongoing security when it comes to basic utilities and toilet seats.  Yes, toilet seats are scarce in Cuba.  It’s not a given and something we as Americans definitely take for granted.  P.S. like I mentioned before, we brought toilet paper with us and had that on us at all times.  I felt like I was smuggling a precious gem on the daily.  Iliana has a home on the outskirts of town and an apartment in the heart of Havana, which is where we stayed.  It had everything we would need, however it was a definite change to our privileged life in FL.  So much so, she seemed less effected by the fact that we got locked out of the apartment and lost power within the first two hours our feet hit the Havana streets.  I feel like I should explain the last part….

Iliana and I ventured out to the “market” for some food shopping.  She wanted to cook for us the first day and it was way past breakfast time.  So off we went on foot and left the two George’s to fix the ceiling fan in our room (thx to G-pa’s stateside connect, he rolled into Cuba with ceiling fan parts, who knew?), more on that in a sec.  But FYI the driver, Juan Carlos, left Iliana one of his screwdrivers from his car to use in fixing the fan (tools are a hot commodity).  Back to the market story, I was totally lollygagging behind Iliana’s quick pace in these streets, mainly because I was making eye contact with everything and everyone along the way.  Next thing I know, Iliana darted into a side shop where I was met with metals bars, a walk up counter, a small sign tucked away in the corner and the aroma of Pan Cubano aka Cuban Bread billowing into the streets.

IMG_9719

It was heaven.  Once we purchased one soft and one hard loaf, we zipped back onto the street and onto the next stop.  As I walked, I listened to the music and laughter and saw the camaraderie and relentless pride in the Cubans and their day to day efforts.  Next thing I knew, I was being pulled into the courtyard of a quaint Italian eatery where Iliana guided me to side door that happened to be a mini mart where she quickly snagged a single can of tomato sauce.  Before I could say Hola, we were back out on the street huffing it again.  I wondered how many of these stops she would have to do in order to complete her menu list.  I couldn’t question this as I didn’t speak the language and I had just met Iliana only hours ago.  I wasn’t questioning a dayum thing at this point.  I was more than good with embracing it all as it came to me.  Our next stop was a deli type store that looked abandoned, but was not.  One deli case was empty  (from what I could assume was already picked over and sold out on Sunday morning at 10am).  The other case had random cheese, some liverwurst and oh snap….pancetta.  We stood in line for a good 15-20 minutes (meanwhile Iliana left me in line at one point while she maneuvered herself into obtaining a bag of dry milk, and some soap…remind me to tell you about the soap omg).  So yeah, there’s me, feeling like I’m lost in an episode of Carmen Sandiego, watching pans of semi-frozen chicken legs flying from the back room.  I proceed to watch each person in line purchase a grocery bag full of chicken legs. I’m talking open to the air, non-packaged, raw chicken being slung into plastic grocery bags.  I couldn’t peel my eyes away. Not because I had never seen raw chicken legs before, but because there were flies all over the place and I couldn’t stop shooing them away from the chicken with my super strong ‘blu-ray’ vision. LOL #VisuallyStimulating.  In any event, we were next in line and Iliana finally decided to join the party already in progress.  As we approached the counter I noticed the line had grown out the door at this point and Iliana pointed out Sunday was the day most people shopped for food.  They work six days a week and Sunday is the only solid time to handle these types of things.  Not much different than the typical home dynamic in the US.  However, as the young girl at the counter piled on our raw chicken legs into that thin and hopefully sterile grocery bag, I saw the total amount to be $5.50 in the American money conversion rate.  HOLY CRAP!!  That’s all?  There must have been at least 16-20 legs in there.  I thought, what a bargain….until I was told this was equal to a week’s worth of pay for an average Cuban citizen.  As we snatched up our chicken and I looked at the others in line, my heart immediately went from pained to shame.  We just so happened to have taken the last of the chicken for the day, and it was only 10:30am.  People were pissed.  Not necessarily at us, we had waited our turn in line like the rest.  But they were visibly upset at the let down.  This two hours in my life would dictate the rest of my time in Havana.  It forced me to reconcile myself and what life looked like.  Iliana assured me there were other markets but maybe not as close by…a clear struggle for most people, how to get from point A to point B.

Back to the morning of Day one…Iliana and I carried our multiple grocery bags back to Luz street where the two George’s were lingering in the alleyway.

This is where we were met with our first “Oh Shit” moment.  Apparently while we were gone, G-Pa and George managed to shut the apartment door without the key in their hand.  Total lock out!  Meanwhile, as G was excited about performing his best MacGyver moves, the electricity went out in the alley.  Viva la Cuba!!

So there we were, in the dark, G’s hand wedged in between two slats of wood shutters with a shifty nail as his saving grace, the bag of raw chicken exposed and on the cement alley floor, and G-Pa offering his best advice on how to avoid getting locked out lol.  It was a lot, but everyone was calm.  This didn’t phase anyone around, not the people in the next hallway over, not the kids who were making light of the dark, nor Iliana, who was G’s helper in the now dubbed, November Break-In.  A few pieces of wood, some handy photo skills, a shank of metal, and a bent nail and we were inside the apartment.  No thanks to the coveted screwdriver sitting inside minding its own business.  No sooner could I get that raw chicken inside, Iliana was lighting the gas stove for light, and cooking eggs and pancetta with bread for G-Pa and us.  Our phones were being used as lanterns, because lord knows, that’s all they were really good for in Havana.  $2 a minute for a phone call?!?!  Nope.  Luckily Iliana had a spare pre-paid phone we added minutes to and used to call the kids twice while we were there.  Talk about disconnection 5000.

Once we were finished eating, Felix, Libia, Raphael and the young boys popped over and it was on.  We ventured out on a walk through Havana to catch a quick overview of key places to come during our week long stay.  Felix and Libia are Iliana’s parents and Felix is G-Pa’s cousin, who I learned was like a brother to him.  Let’s just say, they have all the shenanigan stories.  Raphael is Iliana’s brother and a Colonel in the Cuban Army.  He’s the handy brother that seems to come in and fix everything.  He snagged that screwdriver like he’d been waiting on it all day.  As a matter of fact, he swooped right in and started tightening a handle on a frying pan, changing out a fluorescent light kit, and was left with the young boys in the dark to finish cooking the chicken and rice for later.  I felt some type of way about leaving the kids in the dark, but I was pretty much told to get over it and that it’s no big deal.  The lights would be back…eventually.  I just kept praying the electricity would stay on while we were occupying the apartment.  It did.  Whew.  It was great to meet everyone…

So the walk was exactly right on time.  We stopped for cerveza and every band playing along the way.  Needless to say we were distracted every few steps.  It was bliss.  After a few hours, we hailed a taxi (yes a taxi, for the 7 of us…no seatbelts, no fcks given) and we were back on Luz street in no time.  We walked in to bright lights, chicken and rice and the kids having a blast.  Day one was shaping into the longest and best day imaginable.

A quick nap to regroup and we were off again, to Castillo de San Carlos de la Cabana, to witness the must see cannon ceremony.  The cannon ceremony takes place every evening at 9pm sharp.  It is put on by young soldiers who are dressed in period clothing and uniforms.  I couldn’t imagine such a ceremony happening so close to where we were standing.  Firing a cannon is not something anyone is used to seeing.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t see anyone with ear plugs, and it was deep with people.  So I had hoped being pushed into the front of the crowd would be a good thing.  WOW…was I shocked.  I recorded the whole thing leading up to and during the ceremony.  G was adamant that I record this epic event, hence being shoved up front.  That’s cool.  I take the vacay documenting role serious, people.  Well, let me just say the cannon was no effing joke.  So much so, that cannon went through my body when it fired.  Something I had never felt before.  Something my iPhone had never felt either….the shock killed my video and I actually didn’t even get the boom.  Ahhhh, memories lol.

 

After some shopping along the castle, and a quick drive by the Jose Marti monument, we were finally ready to wrap up our first day in Cuba.  I couldn’t wait to wake up and start a new adventure all over again. And we did it…over and over again.

The next day we visited Doris, who I would adopt as my favorite.  She’s the sweetest and most gentle human I have ever met.  She and I couldn’t communicate verbally without some translation biz, but we bonded emotionally and over her love for family.  I left part of my heart in Cuba with Doris.  She raised her grandson alone, was robbed, attacked & left for dead in her home, and spends every waking moment thinking and caring about her family.  Marta, who we met in Miami the night before we flew to Cuba, is her daughter and their story is heart-wrenching, yet full of love.  I will pray for them every single day.  My wish is to have my children meet Doris.  She truly is a bright light.

 

We also met her grandson, Michael, and he was just as nice.  She raised a good one.  G and him quickly exchanged numbers and he greeted us with pizza from his new Pizzeria, Pizza y+.  We even got a tour of the joint.  What a feat for a 25 yo in Cuba.  He was in school for engineering, but this was his true passion.  Way to go Michael…hit us up when you make it to FL.

 

One of our favorite moments in Cuba, was our visit to the Cigar factory, Tabacuba.  Cigars are the trademark to Cuba…like a hefeweizen is to Germany.  Felix, Iliana’s father, is a retired doctor.  He now works part time at the cigar factory as their resident clinician.  He’s also pretty much the ‘Godfather’ there…he runs things, or at least that’s the vibe I got.  We had a private tour of the factory with a factory spokesperson.  It was super neat when one of the cigar rollers yelled down to our tour guide and brought her a half smoked cigar to test out a new flavor.  The multiple women I saw with a cigar hanging from their lips was astounding.  Over 70% of the cigar rollers are women, they make the best rollers we were told. We had the opportunity to see one of the cigar experts at her station doing the dayum thing and even though we couldn’t take any photos outside of the lobby and Felix’s office, we managed to take one of the best photos of the trip…or maybe that’s just my geeked self.  Anyway, during our walkthrough the factory, we noticed there were group tours going on as well.  But their’s didn’t have the ‘Godfather’ running the show.  Not only was it more intimate, but I was able to roll my very own Cuban cigar.  This is HUGE!  It’s not part of the standard tour….nor was this shot that they let G take while I was rolling with the homies!  What an experience!

So here’ the skinny…it takes 5 leaves to make a Cuban cigar.  4 for the middle and 1 to wrap it in.  The leaves are gigantic.  We saw a room full of people whose primary job was to take the leaves and pull out the middle stem to make two separate leaves (P.S. the stems are not thrown away, they are sent to several cologne/perfume factories and used to make certain colognes….nothing wasted!).  I could have stared at that all day.  It was sorcery how they created this all by hand.  Not one machine in that place.  Anyway, each leaf has a significance job for that one cigar.  One leaf gives it the flavor, one for the strength, one as a binder, one to control the burning and one to wrap the cigar.  Since I couldn’t take any photos, I found a great video that gives a more in depth look inside a factory.

https://video-api.wsj.com/api-video/player/v3/iframe.html?guid=BC8DF817-D29A-4AF1-91A8-CAFA8A7A6C02&shareDomain=null

I was not only in awe of their skills, but we learned the employees go to school for 9 months before they are allowed on the floor.  It was definitely an art and I will never forget the experience inside the inner walls of Tabacuba.  We left with a beautiful wooden box of 25 Habanos cigars that were perfectly rolled.  We got a screaming deal being that our Family member was the ‘Godfather’ there….let’s just say, the box we brought home goes for over $400 in the US.  That’s just how magical these stogies are.  Thank you to Felix for providing a once in a lifetime experience.

 

Next up on the agenda was the Revolution Museum.  I was looking forward to this the most.  I stumbled through most of my marriage (married to a Cuban) wondering what really happened between Cuba and the US.  No one really talks about it.  No one knows the Cuban’s side of things as we’ve been so far removed from them.  The basic “Castro sucks, Che Guevara is against the US?, Cubans want to leave Cuba and the US cut ties so we are verboten” history lesson.  That’s the gist.  I knew there was more.  I knew the people of Cuba loved their country, but I couldn’t understand how Castro lasted so long, how he was accepted by so many.  I mean after all, he is labeled a communist, socialist and he was still a dayum Dayum DAYUM dictator!  And Che Guevara…who is he?  Why does his face resonate negativity from the US?

This is Che….he’s kinda cute,  just saying….in sort of a guerrilla warfare, bad boy kind of way.

Che Guevara is NOT Cuban!!  His face may be graffitied all over the Cuban island and on every hat or shirt, but Che is in fact from Argentina.  He was a revolutionary (Abraham Lincoln was a revolutionist by the way) and with the Castro brothers, Fidel & Raul, and Camilo Cienfuegos, one of the revolutionary leaders, decided to launch the 26th of July Movement to end the run of the current Cuban dictator, Fulgencio Batista. July 26th, 1953 marks the day when Castro was arrested for attacking the federal barracks near Santiago.  He was imprisoned but in 1955, Batista was receiving international pressure to release political prisoners.  Castro would then move to Mexico to plan his next step towards the revolution.  There he found other Cuban exiles who felt the same about Batista.  Batista was corrupt, repressive and plagued the Cuban people with economic and social inequality.  Batista was also backed by the US government.  Cuba and the US were allies, a time you would think would help Cuba to thrive.  However, Batista was a self-motivated murderous leader.  According to those I spoke with, he didn’t care about Cuba and it’s people, he wanted the power and resources to propel into an even stronger dictator.  The US government did not meddle in Cuba’s affairs as Batista had told them the Cuban people were defiant and traitors to their country.  When in actuality, Cuban people loved their country and would have wanted nothing more than to share that with others.  Batista was playing both sides…and not very good.  He was executing Cubans who defied him, he was stealing all the imported goods for personal gain, undermining the work of the citizens and taking their profits and he was telling everyone who would listen that his people were against him.  Well, what the hell, of course they were.  He was a terrible man.  Some of the personal stories I heard and read were heart breaking.  Stealing people’s homes and kicking them on the street to house government officials.  Killing anyone who had impairments or who slightly deviated from the ‘law’.  When the Castro brothers decided to call on Che Guevara, it was to finally liberate Cuba and its people from the incompetent and murderous Batista. In Mexico, they rallied up those who had escaped Cuba under Batista’s ruling and wanted to take their country back.  Hence the start of the revolution…with Castro, Guevara and Cienfuegos leading the way.

The plan was to leave from Mexico on November 25th, 1956 in the Granma, a small yacht built to hold 25 people max, which would end up carrying 82 Cuban rebels and enough fuel and food for the journey.  December 2nd, the Granma arrived to Cuba….15 miles off target, but all 82 men had made it. Unfortunately, they arrived in daylight and the Cuban Army was waiting for them.  The 82 men had dwindled to about 20 and these 20 people would become Castro’s inner circle.  As they stayed out of sight, hiding in the mountains of Sierra Maestra, Castro continued planning and gaining resources, allies and intel to subsequently overthrow Batista in 1958.  Havana streets triumphed as the the Castros, Guevara and Cienfuegos marched amongst their people.  Liberating by definition. Che Guevara later moved on to liberate Bolivia and while there was captured and according to everyone in Cuba, executed by the CIA in 1967.  Below is the stretcher his slain body was carried on.  He was eventually taken and reburied in Cuba where thousands of Cubans would honor him in a ceremony and to this day.

So, to the Cubans, these three revolutionaries saved their country.  Even if Castro was a dictator and communist….he was the lesser of two evils.  He cared about Cuba….as opposed to just himself.  This is why it’s so conflicting.

At this point, the United States wanted nothing to do with Cuba.  According to the Cuban side of the story, the US had been supporting Batista who was telling them nothing except the Cubans were rebels, against its leader/president, and traitors.  With Castro in control, the US decided to cut diplomatic ties with this “rebel” leader and in 1962, JFK signed the embargo.  To make matters worse, Cuba signed a trade agreement with the Soviet Union.  The US saw this as a threat and so the divide deepened.  When I asked why did they go to the Soviet Union, the answer was simple.  The US had all the trades, resources and money, and they shut the door on Cuba.  They had to get things where they could.  And the Soviet Union was right there to take advantage.  Desperate times call for desperate measures I guess.

So what happens when you’re cut off from US trade?  Tourism dies, money is scarce, production stops and people become resilient as hell!!  Time stands still in Cuba when it comes to anything “American”.  Think of everything American made and long standing in your life.  Now rewind it to the 50’s.  That’s what’s going down at Isla de Cuba.  There are some modern conditions, but they are mostly made from other European countries and places in Russia.  This leads me to the majestic automobiles I will forever have engrained in my memory.  I will just let them speak for themselves….

The fancy American cars we associate with Cuban culture are enchanting to say the least.  Being that the embargo began in 1961, that’s the last time a single US car part has entered Cuban territory.  So my question was…how in the world have these cars been in such immaculate condition for over 50 years?  The body stays intact because road population is scarce as it is, so accidents are few and far between.  Plus, the owners are obsessed with keeping the very best paint job and wow factor on these American classics.  However, under the hood and in the features/accessories, you will notice things are a bit ‘sketchy’.  Actually I prefer the word resourceful.  They make do with what they can get.  And it’s not much.  Have you watched Cuban Chrome?  It breaks down this whole automobile cat and mouse game in more depth.  I quickly realized the cars are all piece-mealed once you get past the stunning exterior.  They are piece-mealed with European and Russian parts which is fascinating in itself. These cars are the money makers and for the record, a driver never leaves his car unattended.  All of the 50s American cars are used by personal drivers, taxi services, and for tourism purposes of course.  Speaking of tourism, we saw a cruise ship at the port on day one and learned that to leave the ship, once must be accompanied by a guide.  Tourism is still in its non-existent form.  It was something I could smell in the air…the yearn for American tourists.  Seems like an oxymoron, but cutting off tourism, cut off Cuba’s lifeline.

Now on to the WOW moments…because you know I am a magnet for eccentricities!

  1. Cuba is not accustomed to having toilet seats in restrooms…anywhere!  This isn’t that odd to us…we lived in Okinawa and it’s no different than squatting over a hole in the ground.
  2. If the lack of toilet seats don’t bother you, what about lack of toilet paper?  Yes folks, paper is off the reservation.  No paper towels, no toilet paper, no packaging paper.  I want to think about what that means big picture, but we just rolled through (pun intended).
  3. The juice there, hell all the produce there, is legit organic.  Raw and pure and delicious.  The guava was my fave.  The harvesting and care taken by the Cuban people of their crops is intricate and all done by hand.
  4. I have never used so many forms of transportation in 5 days.  In addition to the oldies cars and the European hoopties, we tried a couple alternatives.  The coco taxis are super cute…little motorized scooters with a yellow orb style shell.  They try to charge you as much as a taxi car, but the George’s weren’t having it lol.  The pedi cabs are the bikes forever toppled with a fit young dude who’s angsty because he has to cart your ass around the block.  I couldn’t do this but once….I felt bad for them huffing it uphill and I was tired of looking at butt crack.
  5. Pan con Bistec was harder to get than we expected.  It took us three days to find my favorite Cuban steak sandwich.  I would have never even know it was in this joint….for $.80!!  We were told beef was scarce due to the hurricane wiping out many of the cows and such.  But wow, what a gem we found…thanks to our new friend who we ended up spending half the day with.  Did I mention gems abound in Cuba?
  6. Our new friend ended up being a tour guide who works the evening but was just strolling along when we asked him where the rum museum was.  He ended up showing us half of Havana…the local route. We found the rum museum and I had my first Guaranejo cocktail (check photos for the recipe) and G-pa had his first mojito, then we got to see the Russian Orthodox Cathedral where we met the priest and his toddler son, and finally we visited the Mambi…the Presidential train car that was given to the Cuban President from the US when the railroad made its way over to Cuba. I thank him for sharing the neighborly vibe of the people with us.  We had wondered if we should pay him for his time (hours) and showing us the sights, but we also didn’t want to offend him either as G-pa had pointed out.  We offered, he denied and said you can pay me by telling the story of the Cuban people.  That was a fantastic afternoon.
  7. The Cuban landmarks mirror that of the US.  I was shocked to see their Capitol building…and how it looked identical to ours.  The Jose Marti’ Monument reminded me of the Washington Monument.  They even had a plaza/hotel area that was named Central Parque.  It’s where all the tourists seem to gather and also where we hopped on the double decker bus. For two countries so separate, there were many similarities.
  8. The animals….Ok, so we all know Cuba is lacking when it comes to overall funds and income.  Sooooo, that means not many people can maintain having a family pet, let alone animal shelters.  We saw a couple people with pet dogs but it was few and far between.  Immediate question…what does that mean for all the strays?  There were an obscene amount of stray dogs and cats in Havana.  They withstand a day to day life all their own.  I made the comment it was like they were people…walking the streets, looking for opportunity, trying to maneuver and avoid less than ideal situations and just surviving the masses.  The first day on our city walk, we stumbled upon an area that was inundated with strays.  We learned really quick how stranded these animals were.  One lady was selling puppies for next to nothing.  Pugs, Maltese, even Yorkies.  I wanted to take three home right away but of course then I’d have to squat there indefinitely and replace my kids with dogs.  Then to the right, was an elderly man who had at least 25 kittens surrounding him and was feeding them what I could only describe as slop.  However, he was doing what he could to help these poor babies survive.  This type of thing was reoccurring throughout our trip.  One spot had two ladies caring for kittens with a mom cat there being sucked dry by multiple babies.  However, she began to tell us how the ‘Policia’ had come through the night before and injected most of the kittens with poison.  It was ‘necessary’ to control the pet population there but I couldn’t make sense of it still.  One kitten walked up to us and peered its mucus filled, innocent eyes into my soul….and it would be dead within the hour we were told.  This was one part of the trip that made my stomach turn.  I spent nights in our alleyway watching animals dodge cars and me trying to shoo them to the sidewalk, G-Pa and I would throw any food we could to the animals as some of the stuff they were feasting on was super questionable, but mostly I tried to show them some love….who knows how often they get that.  Just sad….and something I wish I hadn’t witnessed.
  9. There were signs during our visit of gypsy activity (or as G-Pa quickly blurted out…VooDooism).  There could be some voodoo biz going on….but realistically, the gypsy life is lingering in Cuba.  So much so, we almost tripped over a wooden dish in an alleyway that had some kind of vermin in it…clearly a sacrificial ceremony had taken place there.  It had an orange sheen on it and was straight chilling in the sun….and not alive.  The deep dark and seedy Cuba….something I need to research more.
  10. Since we were on a quest for cigars from day one, I decided I would do what I could to snap a photo of anyone I saw smoking one.  This made for some fun conversation and let me just say….every one of them were smiling and feeling that cigar.  My favorite photo subject was the lady of course 😉

Here is the link to all the photos on our trip…even the iPhone ones.  You can totally follow along.  Enjoy!

https://disla.smugmug.com/Traveling-Islas/Isla-Cuba-Experience/

I wish I could have taken all my kids with me now that I’ve seen the lay of the land.  It’ll happen….I mean if you know who doesn’t jack it up for all of us.  Just sayin’.  I’ve never been more welcomed, I’ve never seen more pride for a country besides in the US (Dude, like in America, flags representing EVERYWHERE), I’ve never seen more love given to a total stranger and I’ve never seen as many people in one place NOT on a device (people are actively LIVING). I am thankful to my Father-In-Law for taking us on this adventure and I learned so much more about him and his story that I will cherish forever.  His eyes lit up in Cuba.  When he was around his family, I saw his heart and that’s not always easy with G-Pa sometimes.  Thank you to Iliana for being a gracious hostess and giving us the real taste of Havana and for stringing us along through her well-connected lifestyle.  We cat wait to host her next year when she visits the states.  Thank you to Doris for reminding me how Family history survives with stories and patience.  Thank you to Xiomara, Marta and Mario for allowing us to stay at the home in Miami the night before we flew into Cuba and for telling us to roll with toilet paper in our backpack on the daily (lifesaver) and for the fresh nightgown (such hospitality) and for sharing all the stories of your families.

Here is the Isla Cuba Experience Walkthrough Movie I made…

I will continue to tell the stories of the Cuban people and our Family there.  I am humbled and enriched beyond words…Viva la Cuba!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s