Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Cuba and Barbados - Havana - Day 1

When I was 17, I had the opportunity to live in Barbados with my family for a year. Looking back, it was a pretty special time and I have many great memories. Until last year, it was just that - memories. My sister Suzie and I got talking and we both said we should go back before we got too old for the very long trip over. And so we went. Just a short trip to relive those memories and to catch up on some old friends that were still there. As we were travelling so far, and we were in the region, Suzie decided that Cuba should also be on the list so we spent 3 days in Havana as well. Despite enjoying Havana I was always impatient to get to Barbados, however I made the most of Havana with my camera. Havana was bigger than I expected. The buildings were amazing, and in their heyday they must have been stunning. Unfortunately, they were in much need of maintenance, and as people have no money, it's not a priority. Although renovation work had begun in some parts of the city, however, since Trump has undone all the work of the Obama administration as far as Cuba goes, I'm not sure if things will continue to be improved at the rate that was showing while I was there.

We arrived at the hotel, one of the best in Havana close to the old town and the waterfront. We dumped our bags the headed to the bar where a band was playing cuban music and grabbed our first cocktails and something to eat. Here's Suzie and Rick doing some research into the menu. I chose the Mojito and loved that I was drinking out of a jar!
The band was great - the music catchy and after two Mojitos I found myself dancing!

We had a bite to eat then decided to go out and explore.  First we found an ATM not far from the hotel to get some Cuban money. There's not many ATMs around and this one had quite a queue so that took some time. Temperature was hot, but not too humid.

This was taken while I was waiting at the ATM. The number of classic American cars about was incredible. They have apparently been in the families for years, and once done up, are used to make a bit of money by taking tourists wherever they would like to go!

The Buildings are old and tired and need much work, but they are still stunning with the beautiful ironwork balustrades and brightly coloured facades.

We walked into the area where the Havana people lived. Street battles were everywhere - chess, dominoes and backgammon!! All games were taken very seriously!


After walking a number of streets, we found another hotel serving good coffee at the waterfront, so stopped there to recover from the heat. I got talking to the barman who was a photographer and asked if he knew anyone that might take me around the town so I could photograph locals and their homes. He called over a lovely guy who then took me out on the streets for a few hours. I left Suzie and Rick to their own devices, and went out to get to know the locals.

I was glad to have a local at my side who spoke both English well, and Spanish and was able to ask permission for photography.  I had a wad of $1 usd notes in my wallet so as many wanted to be paid this much for a photo. I was happy to do so, as many locals have no way of earning money as unemployment is rife. In the end for a few hours of photography, I think I paid out $25 usd. A small price to pay for some wonderful photographic memories.

Despite the lack of wealth, people seemed very happy and busy. This Cuban gentleman was thrilled I asked him if I could photograph him and very happily posed..

The lady above when I asked if I could take her photograph, told me through my local guide that she wasn't beautiful enough for a photo. I told her she was, that beauty is not just the outside but what was within. The woman below on the balcony of her own home allowed me this image.

This is my guide with his Mothers best friend in her kitchen. She was lovely and asked me if I was single. When I said yes, she wanted offered a marriage with my guide. Actually he's quite a hunk, maybe I should have said yes!  Our guide actually invited us to go out dancing and to learn the Salsa that night, and we actually set off, but I couldn't find his place again in the dark. Totally lost. Very sad that we missed that evening!

Everywhere I went was a kaleidoscope of colour. None of this corporate black and gray that we see so often in other cities, but bright colours that you could feast with your eyes.

One of my favourite images is of this little girl below. Note the open wiring with the power boxes, the bare feet and the broken concrete. In New Zealand OSH would be jumping down on this so hard, yet this is every day life for those in Cuba. A very big contrast to the way we are able to live in a country that is prosperous in comparison.

While we were walking around my local guide bought some fresh fish for dinner. The total cost of both lines of fish (approximately 5 Fish on each line) came to $2 NZD! This does't mean that we are overcharged, it is just that wages are so low in Cuba that this is all people can afford.

The last photo is one of my favourites of Cuba. It sums up what Havana is really like, with the people milling around, the big american cars, some tourists in between and the beautiful buildings.

I got back to the hotel before Suzie and Rick and waited downstairs for them listening to the music groups that the hotel provides. We got dressed up and went out for dinner at a nearby hotel.  The food really isn't that great, but much to do with that is supply It's really hard for cubans to get access to quality food and ingredients, and in fact, hotels get offered it first, and locals last. But even what hotels are offered isn't the best quality.

While getting ready I was able to capture the sunset from my hotel window.

No comments: