When I woke up today, the first thing I saw was the beautiful view from the room. It was 6:45 a.m. The sun had not risen yet, and the ocean was so peaceful and quiet. Though there is a free delivery service for breakfast, we decided to have it downstairs.
You can sit in the small dining area and enjoy delicious coffee, have some fruity desserts, and view the Malacone. People were doing exercises, cars and bikes were passing by, and nobody was following the rules of crossing the street. A man was fishing, people were cleaning the streets, and the dogs were running around. There are a lot of dogs here!
It seems like there is much going on, but at the same time I am not getting the feeling of the big busy city. I don’t feel that the people on the street are in a hurry. We definitely live on Latin time here! It is just impossible to schedule something. We planned our class to be at 8:00 a.m. and we started it at around 9:00 a.m. because breakfast took about an hour if not more with all the service.
This trip is really a different travel experience than what I am used to. Traveling in a group requires you being patient, listening to other people, and just being flexible and cool. So far, we are doing great! And we realized that the best way to make everybody happy is to split into groups by interests. Though it is our second day here, it feels like we have been here for at least a week. There are so many emotions and new information!
Today I had my longest and biggest lunch ever! The places we have been eating are so different. Our lunch place this time was in a residential area. It was an outside area with a covered top, home-decorated art, and there were two cages with a bird and one cat trying to catch a bird. This place is usually closed on Monday but since we made a reservation there, they opened for us. People were really nice and offered us the chance to try different local food. It was delicious and it was a lot! We spent two and a half hours there and, of course, we were late for our walking tour around Havana. I have started getting used to being late for everything! As I am an explorer by nature, the walking tour was great in spite of a LOT of walking under the heat. Even the Cubans told us that it was really hot for Cuban weather today. We got to see the historic part of the city called Old Havana. Our tour guide seemed to know everything and was happy to tell us the history of the city and its economical and political situation. For example, being a Russian, I was curious about the relationships of Cuba with Soviet Union back to those days, and my classmates were willing to know about the Cuban prospective on Americans. Here are some interesting facts I learned from the tour. Eighty percent of Cubans work for the government, and their salaries are really low. That’s why people prefer working in the tourism industry where they can get tips. The other thing is that you cannot tell for sure who is living in the houses. It really can happen that a poor person can live in a big, nice house and a successful person can live in a small apartment.
We walked along the streets, visited main squares, cathedrals, and buildings, and got the feeling of the city. Havana is a very diverse place and you can see the buildings of various styles and architecture as well as different people. After the tour, we met Humberto Mirranda, a professor at the Institute of Philosophy in Cuba. He is an open-minded and independent thinker with pro-revolutionary views. He is also a philanthropist and a world traveler. He gave us a unique and insightful perspective on the situation in Cuba and the position of Cuba in the world. I think talking to the local people about their country is the best way to learn about the culture and the nation.
Our dinner ended in two different places in the university area in a very reasonably priced restaurant. We were looking for a particular restaurant to have dinner there, but it didn’t work out because they wanted us to spend a lot of money. We then met a guy at the street who suggested another dining place. It appeared to be a paladar —someone’s private house. The food was really good. There were a lot of people hanging out, and some of them were singers. We felt closer to the locals because there was a just one table of tourists. Another busy day is waiting for us tomorrow.