I’m sitting here in Hotel Terral under the stairway sipping on an ice-cold mojito and trying to figure out how to convey our experiences here to all of you! Sierra filled you in most of the events of day four in Havana, so I thought I’d give you some more details on our daily life. Every morning we wake up, open the curtains, and take in the view of the ocean and the Malecon—the sidewalk along the sea that is the central point of all Cuban social life. After showering in our beautiful tiled bathrooms, we head down to the lobby to order the Terral Breakfast. A basket of warm crusty rolls is delivered with butter and marmalade, shortly followed by a Cuban coffee (strong espresso), and a delicious mango or papaya smoothie. The main course arrives consisting of an egg on toast surrounded by beautiful fruit slices, tasty bruschetta bites, and a variety of sausage and ham skewers. When we don’t have class time or tours going on, we spend our time wandering the city of Havana. The rundown yet beautiful architecture in Habana Vieja (Old Havana) is stunning. While I have seen unique and beautiful architecture before, never have I seen so much of it all around me. A glace into a building often reveals a hidden courtyard or fountain.
We have also been enjoying the variety of transportation options. Sometimes in the high heat of the afternoon, walking doesn’t sound appealing and we utilize a taxi. The 1950s American and Russian cars are like stepping into the past. There are definitely some expert mechanics around to keep this ancient machines running. Also fun is the “cocotaxis,” which are shaped like large yellow motorcycle helmets. They are open air and fit three passengers right behind the driver. Last but not least are the “bicitaxis.” The calf muscles on the men that power these bicycle taxis are pretty amazing.
Our evenings often consist of hanging out on the Malecon, or just relaxing on the balcony with a drink in hand and taking in the happenings on the street. The people we have been interacting with have been wonderful. The hotel staff is extremely welcoming and friendly. We know our maids by name and have seen pictures of their children. Last night after hanging out on the Malecon with a guitar, some of the bartenders and cooks from the hotel took us out dancing at a nearby club. A mix of Cuban, Latin, and American music made for a great time and gave us a chance to try out a few of our freshly minted salsa skills—or lack of!
Traveling for educational purposes really adds a new spin to things, and our conversations with workers from across the tourism industry opens up a whole new side of Cuban life and tourism. So far, people have told me that the Americans they meet in Cuba are very nice people and well liked by Cubans, which is an encouraging thing to hear.
Well, time to change clothes after getting caught in the regular, late afternoon rain storm and head off to a baseball game, a great pastime in both American and Cuban culture. Hasta Manana!