The Gang Learns Spanish

Before my trip I made three goals for myself, to learn Spanish, how to surf and dance salsa, or the three Ss as I like to call it. My new roommates Bernarda and Nelly in Puerto Escondido as well as my Austrian traveling partner, Helena had similar goals so we all decided to take Spanish and surf lessons together. After doing some research online I found a Spanish school close to our hostel, Instituto Lenguajes de Puerto Escondido. It had good reviews and was reasonably priced at $8 USD an hour, so we decided to head to the school to check it out.

The four of us loaded up into a taxi instead of walking because Helena had sprained her ankle the day before. On the way there we realized it was a little farther than we had originally thought, which meant we would have to take a taxi there every day. Bernarda began complaining about the distance and said she probably wouldn’t end up doing lessons there, Nelly and Helena were in agreement. I was thinking to myself, fine then! Find your own damn Spanish school!

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This isn’t Goodbye but See You Later

 

During the 7 days I was in Santiago de Cuba, I can honestly say I didn’t do much – there also isn’t that much to do. My days consisted of sleeping in late, taking a few cold showers, going out to eat and taking naps. I got into a routine of getting a daily cappuccino at my favorite coffee place, Wen (for only .45 cents), then trying to do at least one thing with my day.

I’ve now learned that once you’ve been traveling for awhile many of the things that use to be important to you stop being important. I just don’t have the energy to care about things that don’t directly impact my trip. As I’m writing this, I’m on day 43 of my trip – I don’t wear makeup anymore or really put that much effort into my appearance. Just thinking about how I wanted to bring my eyebrow dye on my trip makes me laugh – even though they really need it.

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Late Buses and One Night Stands

 

Lucas and I arrived at the bus terminal at 1:15am. There were two other women from Holland waiting for the same bus. We were all really looking forward to sleeping on the bus.

We started chatting while we anxiously waited for the bus. Every time we heard a noise that sounded like it could be a bus we jumped up in anticipation. By the time the bus was an hour late we knew something was up. Of course the bus station didn’t have any information so we just kept waiting. Finally at 3:30am we were told the bus had broken down so it wouldn’t be arriving until 4:30am or later. So much for taking the over night bus.

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Losing It in the Streets of Santa Clara

 

Lucas and I took a the morning bus North from Cienfuegos to Santa Clara. It was only for $6 CUC for the hour and a half bus ride. We had planned to spend the day sightseeing and would then take an overnight bus to Santiago de Cuba. Santiago de Cuba is located 16 hours (by bus) East from La Habana. I was still feeling very sick and tired so, I spent most of the day sleeping instead of sightseeing like we had planned.

We met a woman at the bus terminal who, let us stay at her home for the day for $10 CUC. Dinora was an older woman in her 70s who, lived with her husband as well as her daughter and her daughter’s family.

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Food Poisoning and Single Cuban Ladies

 

I can’t stress enough how nice the people are once you get outside of Havana. It’s not that Cubans living in Havana are terrible people, they’re just living a different pace of life, in a different culture. You can see a real switch in the genuine kindness once you get outside the city.

The casa particular Lucas and I stayed in in Trinidad was owned by one of the nicest families I have ever met. The husband, Emilio was Swiss and his wife, Marcia Cuban. They had met here two years prior while he was on vacation. Marcia showed me how to prepare food the Cuban way using a pressure cooker for everything but rice which you use a rice cooker for. Their cleaning lady, Belkes even taught me how make Cuban blacks beans. Most people use a pressure cooker to cook everything and a rice cooker for rice. It’s rare here that a kitchen will even have an oven.

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Salsa Cover Bands and Prostitues

 

I met up with my new best friend in Cuba, Leduane. We went to an outdoor cafe in Vedado. Vedado is a great neighborhood in Havana full of restaurants, bars and clubs. It’s much more “tranquilo” than Centro Habana and cheaper than Habana Vieja. However on the weekend the streets are filled with more people than I have ever seen and the party usually doesn’t stop until pretty early in the morning. I ate some ice cream that was basically soup and he had a beer.

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