16 Jun 2007
I am working on finding the right words. I had a good break in cuba but my eyes opened to alot of things.
Cuba seems to have a good system but the outside world is influencing it in a bad way and undoing alot of the good that was achieved post revolution.
Let me tell you of my experiences first.
I stayed in Havana Viejo (Old Havana). It is basically run down 1950 something homes. most of the cars are old and run down not shiny like in the brochures. The area is a world heritage site. I stayed in a Casa particulars (private home)
I traveled with a friend I met at the language school in cancun.
I think they did not understand that we needed to separate rooms. so when we got there we relised we have 1 room. the owner of the house then said I can stay in her room. Where was she to stay, in the lounge - sleep on the floor. She said it is good for her back and we must not worry.
The next interesting was when we got out of the house, one of the neighbours on the 1 first floor seemed to be shouting at us for something and then soon realised that she wanted us to take the cable she had in her hand and tie it to the neighbours cable across the street. this was there clothes lines. It is remanents of a movie I have seen many years ago but cant rememeber the name.
We walked to find some where to eat. Immediately some guy approached us and greeted us in English. We new that her might be trouble and greeted him and moved on to end of street. On return to a place we've seen anotehr guys comes over and asks us what we looking for and my friend decides to say we looking for place to eat and he takes us to the same place we were walking back to. He then asks us to buy him a drink - we agree one drink. So he then tells us the palces we can go to etc and insists on showing us a place we should visit tonight. so we go along. her then says come on have another drink or buy some cigars. We say no and procedd to walk out. he walks out in front of us and when we walk past him he does not even look at us.
This is what cuba is - hustlers who see tourists as dollar signs. During our chat we explained life in UK and he explained life in cuba but he did not want to believe us when we said that in uk on the salary I earn I cant afford a house and because I want to buy a house I dont buy a car other wise I wont get finance or have enough of a deposit.
Life in Cuba according to this guy, a taxi driver and some students from UK living in Cuba.
The earn low wages minimum $13US a week. Yes that is low but... They get a house, water, lights and food. What they get in the pocket goes to buying clothes, cars etc.
This is not bad. What is $13US. Well it is 312cuban pesos a week. I converted 1 dollar to cuban pesos to see what I can get. I spent half of it in one day on 2 meals at a cuban restaurant, 1 fresh squeezed juice, 2 ice creams. not bad at all.
Cuba has two currencies one for tourists and one for local and the prices ae very different. (PS all this stuff is in the guide book but when you see the real thing it makes a mbig impact)
If I bought all that stuff above in rip off pesos I would have spent about 27CUC or 648 cuban pesos!!!
Cuba is one big rip off and full of a bunch of wining twats who dont know what they have.
The reason they complain is they cant go on holidays to other countries, buy fancy cars, or clothes. Or by the way they love Dolce and Gabana clothes and they are always waring top brands. I was actually underdressed if I stood next to a cuban.
The other good things cuba achieved, homelessness does not exist. everyone has a place to go and if not one is found for them. All children are well nutriened and they have the best infant mortality rate. All women in cuba are educated. From the factory tours we went on we saw people work in very poor conditions but the intereesting thing was they all can study to progress. Interestingly enough, in both the factories, it was the women who had the books opened and reading while they worked. well it could be due to the multi tasking thing.
They have a clinic for AIDS sufferers. they can stay there and receive education on living with the desease and how to be safe in society. they openly discuss the issues with passersby which is good as an educational tool. People say they like to stay there??? must be good conditions - I am not aware of anything like this in England.
After the revolution, all the prostitutes were rounded up and given education and a usefull skill training. In the 90s and with the boom of tourism and greed it has returned. It is not open like in other countries where they walk the streets - the police are strict.
So what do they do, Guys walk the street and talk to tourists and offer them the girls and get a commision. Now this is first example I heard of where they pimp works for the prostitute. Although the Taxi driver said that her is sure that it is possible that some girls are taken advantage off. From what I have seen of the girls in Cuba - they can take care of themselves. We went to a club that is recomended in the guide books and every cuban girl we talked to ( oh well almost all, we stopped talking to them after 3 girls - then they started to approach us) asked us for money.
Afterwards we jsut sat around listening to the music and all the cubans girls came to talk to us and there conversation follwoed the same lines. We used this opportunity to waste their time and ask alot of questions to find out how it worked and they seem to be in control and some who got boyfriends - say that their boyfriends dont know. It is for the extra money. they work during the day as required by law.
I spoke to two girls from norway a few days later, and they went to the same club the next day and did not notice anything unusual. They had a good time I guess because they wanted to hook up with a few local guys, which they did.
It seems every one is trying to cheat the government. Like the taxi driver works his usual shift where the money goes tot he state and he gets his salary. he then works extra hours and tries to cheat the system so the money goes into his pocket. The taxis have sensors to sense if someone is sitting in the car and starts recording the trip and charging. He makes his passengers sit ina certain way (very uncomfortable) so they dont trip the sensors. All cubans know this and follow the system
It seemed liked they got a good system but the external influences affect it. I know that me writing this is probably not going to help as some people who read this might want to visit cuba. - this is an open forum for those of you who dont know. There medical system is good too but medicinces are hard to come by and 1 guess why????
They probably will have more money if no one cheated the system and america did no impose sanctions. I saw a massive sure mill but it is not in use because they cant export sugar. The same goes for the cigars and rum industries. I think America is probabaly afraid that without sanctions, cuba will be a prosperous nation becuase if you look at the social issues they were sorted out, it was the issue of money that reversed the system. Our land lady says that things wont so bad before the 90s.
Now that I have written my thoughts down and chatted to a house mate here in Gautemala I dont think my trip was that bad it is just the social distresses that made it bad. A good trip is decided by the people and friends you make. I made no friends in cuba. Loads of people want to be you friend in cuba but for your money they think you have.
Oh, the cops are not corrupt. no one can bribe a policeman. Show me anywhere else in the world were that is not possible??? The locals dont even try.
The police presence is all over and sometimes armed.
When we were going to a place called Vinales, we got stopped and asked for identification and they really thought I was cuban and did not believe could have a british passport.
So we used that to our benefit. We went to a place and I did not speak and just paid in cuban pesos (5 cuban pesos for me and 24 cuban pesos for my foreign friends to enter a tourist spot.)
Anway that is cuba for you. not sure if I will go back.
I know people who go on packages have a good time, probably because they are herded in the resorts and dont see the real world and they tip people all the time not realising the impact. basically it is now required to tip and they dont do anything more than what they suposed to doa dn if you aske them(tour guides ) for info they say it is not there job. so why should I tip you??? and I did not.
To give an example - you tip in mexico and you get service like no other. In clubs tip the waiter and the speed you get service improves drastically and they look out for you. PS in mexico, if you in a group and tip together let the waiter know. In one place we all tipped together and gave a big tip and then at the end of the evening he came and asked us each for a tip. we told him to shuf it. We already gave him 50 pesos each. Mexico and otehr countries are different where what they earn they have to live off like pay for housing, bills and food.
And finaly ( I know I said this already) They did not want to let me out of the country.
I was in cuba for 6 days and for that time you dont have to reconfirm booking.
I asked the taxi guy (The one we chatted to - we seemed to have taken his taxi twice and then got his number and called him when we needed a taxi- he also insisted on a tip but very politely) to pick me up at 6 and the day before he left a mesage with my landlady that he will come at 5:30 - I did not understand the reason. good thing tho. My flight was at 8 and I got there really early and then see that the board says it leaves at 7 not 8. last minute change they say. Leaving me 1 hour to check. They lady said oh well you have to run.
The ticket had a gate number of b2. When leaving they dont belive I own the passport and interegate me for 5 minutes. then take my finger prints.
Get to the gate and I think the plane has left but on equeires findout it is b13. run to the gate and see only about 10 people.OK. Board the plane and see that all the otehr passengers came from another entrance. I think they herded me with the locals rather than the tourists.