Monday, July 5, 2010

Cuba Libre?

Havanna is unlike any other city I've ever been to, my head spinning with images and ideas as I try to type fast, because using the internet (which is legal only for foreigners, not Cubans) is incredibly expensive and as slow as it was in the mid-90s and I have only eight minutes left of my half hour time allotment after dutifully emailing my mom.

On our first day here, M and I scored a fifth floor apartment from the sweet tobacco-and-domino-loving Rolando, which looks out over the Centro Historico, Havanna's beautiful crumbling center. Despite the dog poop on the sidewalks, the little kids peeing in gutters, the rank dumpsters, and the sad disrepair of the gorgeous old buildings, the Centro pulses with a ferocious heartbeat. Music spills out of cafes all day and night; little rowdy packs of shirtless boys play soccer on any available patch of pavement; girls hold hands and eat ice cream cones and break into spontaneous dance; we feel safe and cushioned, anonymous, though the edge of economic sanctions appears to cut deep.

We were thrilled to have a kitchen until we took a trip into a grocery store, where fifteen people waited in line for a pint of yogurt or a hunk of cheese, which are kept in display cases and doled out according to ration cards. The shelves are not stocked. Long lines snake down the sidewalks, people waiting for fresh bread, eggs, and a turn at the bank teller.

Yikes! Time is up.... what else? So much! The mojitos run sweet and strong, the night-time rain last night as locals danced in the streets to the tunes of the bars that they can't afford to drink in, polished and preserved for the tourists, was surreal and enlightening. I can't believe this place.


  1. Jess, I'm not the most adventurous traveler and I so look forward to your beautiful descriptions and experiences from all over the world. They're like a cairn that tells me summer is finally, fully here. I loved your depictions of the Havana streets and hope you can manage more internet time to allow us to enjoy your travels with you.

    I just spent half the week in St. George Utah--100 degrees at 10 pm--and half the week on the Puget Sound where, though breathtakingly beautiful, it rained so hard that our tent failed and we spent the final hours before dawn in the bucketseats of our trusted, but cramped in terms of lodging, Toyota Matrix. The weather of the northwest and southwest made me appreciate coming home to Sebastopol with its predictable foggy mornings, clear afternoons and cool breezes.

    Does a Havana mojito taste different than a regular mojito? Cause it sure sounds cooler!

    I look forward to your next posts, D


  2. hey jess, your writing is so descriptive and enjoyable to read. too bad you only have 30 minutes on the internet. you probably should have bought an ipad before you left the states. can't wait to here to hear more. Love,

  3. Yo Jess,

    I wanna buy you like 10 hours of internet time so I can read more of your blog! Excellent descriptions, I feel like I can already see the places you've been. I hope you bring home some pictures anyway though!

  4. Wonderful to be traveling with you! Keep up the good work. xox, L

  5. Omg another fan here. I will pay for your internet time when you get home haha...I need more Jess Updates. Miss you TONS at home and can't wait to see you and hear all your impressions and stories from the source!