Dear Readers, (Lots of photos at the end!)
I hope you come back and find these next blogs about the end of our Cuban adventure! As I’ve said before, it’s a lot easier to blog at night while on vacation than back at home while working! My apologies!
Today, I’ll chronicle our last full day in Cuba. But, come back, as I haven’t completed what I want to post. I have to tell you about the wonderful piece of art we purchased and its artist. And, I want to do a bit more research about a few topics, and perhaps post a little about the food, or other things we experienced; or perhaps didn’t experience! So come back to my site again!
So, here goes:
On our last full day in Cuba, we began our day with the “too much food for even looking at” buffet. (I actually heard someone say that while filling their plate to overflowing.) I have to admit that both hotel’s breakfast buffets were a stereotypical American tourist’s dream — way too much to eat, but we’ll eat it anyways. I’m not sure Cuba is ready for the numbers of Americans that would travel there just for the beaches and the food should they ever change the conditions of the embargo. But anyways, onto the bus.
We went first to Cardenas to visit with the Director of the Centro Cristiano de Reflexion of Dialogo. It was a lovely building with a beautiful courtyard where they offered us coffees after his talk. They are partially funded by Bread for the World organization. He was open to our questions, but yet often seemed “careful” about certain questions we asked. It services folks who come in who wish support for homelessness, domestic violence, and drug use. I think he was saying that they also offer nationwide trainings for counselors as well. What didn’t seem to get answered, or at least the answers were not “satisfactory” to several of our group was that it would appear that the locals had to come to the center for support, and they did not actually go out on the streets or neighborhood to seek out those who needed support. His response to an example of domestic violence was that in Cuba you (the woman) just took the children and went home to live with your parents — this assuming that you didn’t already live with them. It was a lovely place, but I’m not really sure it fit into our tour very well. Perhaps being outside of Havana, there was less to focus on in terms of the arts? I haven’t figured it out.
We then were to go to visit an “orphanage,” but unfortunately Luiz, our Cuban guide, informed us that the government had decided we were not able to be there. Many of us had brought gifts for the children; in fact, I bet my two bags weighed about 8 pounds! I had even sewed fabric bags to carry them in, thinking the children or center could use that sort of thing. I was really disappointed. It was one of the things I really wanted to do – given I am in early childhood, I was thrilled to think I’d be able to talk with and see a place in Cuba that cared for children. But, it wasn’t to be. But, the bus drove back to the Center we had just been at – all this conversation had taken place while driving away from the Center. So, we arrived back, and wonderful Luiz made a few phone calls and arranged for someone from the orphanage to go to the Center and pick up the piles of bags of goodies for the children later that day. Many of us had brought toiletries, pencils, small games and such. I had included about two dozen of a fad toy called Squinkies — I so wish I could have known what the teachers thought about those (not to mention the children)!
And, while I worry that perhaps I shouldn’t say this; apparently our two tour guides decided to allow us to get off the bus in the center of the town and walk about six blocks or so – apparently a break in the planned program, and walking unapproved ground is not permitted? But, nonetheless, it became a highlight of our visit for almost all of us! We ended our walk at the Cathedral Plaza de Colon erected in 1862.
It was lots of fun – walking along the street with so many Cubans doing their daily business. All smiled at us as much as we smiled at them. A baby and its mama waved from a balcony. A decrepit building with Viva Fidel and Viva Raul painted on it turned up its music. We walked by and could see families’ front rooms (or maybe only room); young people playing instruments in the fresh air, carts drawn by horses doing business, vegetable sellers and art in the sidewalks! Delightful!
Back to the hotel with the afternoon on our own. With one of the other travelers, hubby and I walked to the building next door called Mansion Zanadu, once owned by a Dupont and now a hotel and golf lounge (I guess that’s what it’s called!). We had to walk up tiny stairs to a back porch bar area with beautiful views and gorgeous tiles and woodwork. We then walked back past our hotel and went to the shopping mall to pick up some knickknacks. Even the mall was so different from other countries. Small shops with high-end Italian and British chains, boutiques, and souvenir shops; but no Starbucks, MacDonald’s or who’s it’s cookies. It was really refreshing.
Back to the hotel where we split up, and Rich and I went to the beach. Lovely, lovely, lovely! Even hubby went swimming – not a common event as he gets cold easily. The water was refreshing, clean, very salty.
After a bit of swimming, reading, and a lemonade, we went to dress for the evening. First, we went to a Rum tasting, which was okay. I still smile at the information that the rum of Cuba is aged in American oak barrels – interesting embargo isn’t it?
Then we had a last night dinner as a whole group at the Japanese restaurant in the hotel complex, Sakura. They gave us a bottle of champagne to celebrate our anniversary. We had mentioned to a few folks that we were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary year and this was the first of several special things we were going to do to celebrate. One of our fellow travelers was celebrating her 86th birthday – Happy Birthday, Gloria!
After a lovely dinner, off to the Teatro to see the last half of that night’s show: something about the history of Cuba through dance. Oh my, it wasn’t so good. Tacky, risqué, men in the audience who were offensively (to me) enjoying the dancers bodies instead of the dance. It was surprisingly different from the night before, even though it was the same dancers. This show did not demonstrate their artistry at all.
With reluctance, back to our room knowing we would be leaving Cuba the next morning. But, there was one last lovely surprise for us! A “just married” sign on our door, roses, candies, a CD of music, a card, and lovely folded pillows! Happy Anniversary indeed!
A wonderful trip.