I woke up late, around 9:30, on my second morning in Cuba. I spent awhile lounging in bed, reading on my Kindle, and letting my poor, aching, foot rest. At around 10:30, I emerged from my room and asked my hosts if it would be relatively easy to find a taxi in front of the house.
Claudia began making calls immediately. It took nearly a half hour, and we finally decided to just go down the corner and try and find a cab! I was surprised by how long it took. Once in the cab, I was surprised when the cabbie told me it was only 5CUC to get downtown. I definitely was not going to pay more than 5CUC to get home tonight then! No way, Jose.
I had him take me to Central Park, where I planned to stay on the internet for an hour or so. I didn’t need to be anywhere until 12:30. I sat online and caught up.
Shortly after I parked myself on a bench, a man came and sat down next to me, trying to strike up a conversation. After 30 minutes of stilted conversation came the sob story. He needed to go pick up his baby and he and his wife had no money for milk. If it were anywhere else in the world, I’d have given him a couple bucks to get him off my back. But this is Cuba. In Cuba, my credit and debit cards did not work. My money supply was limited, especially now that I was relying on cabs.
I apologized and handed him a few cents. Less than .50cents. But it was all I could spare. And with that, he left. Shortly thereafter, another man came to strike up discussion. I shut him down quickly telling him I needed to be on the internet, and so he moved along.
At this point, I decided to go to ETECSA and pick up a few more cards. Why not? I was not doing anything. I grabbed three more cards and sat and enjoyed the wifi for a bit. It was time to head to Sloppy Joe’s Bar to meet my Airbnb Experience! I arrived right at 12:30 and introduced myself to the two guys. There was a driver and a photographer. Both seemed nice! However, the other two people who had booked the experience did not show, and by 12:40, we decided to go without them.
I lucked out, I had a 2 hour private tour of Havana by car, and due to the fact that the others had booked it and bailed, I was able to only pay $20 for the whole thing. Typically, a car rental costs $60 (according to most Airbnbs–this is not necessarily true here in Havana). However, since 3 of us were meant to be on the tour, it was meant to be $20/person. The host graciously honored that pricing for me, despite taking a huge loss!
I enjoyed the tour for the most part. I had chosen a very short, very flippy dress, and it happened to be the windiest day of the year. It was ridiculous. On top of that, the host spent a lot of the time hitting on me, which was super unprofessional, in my opinion. It was the first time I felt uncomfortable in Havana! But we did see many cool places, including the statue of Christ and El Morro, two places I had not expected to make it to during my trip (not for lack of want!).
After the tour, I met back up with Marcela by heading to meet her at her place. And guess who I saw outside? My salsa teacher from the day before! What are the odds? It was a fun, brief reunion.
Marcela and I decided to try El Teniente del Rey, and it did NOT disappoint. We both got the Mariscada, which was a chef specialty. It was grilled lobster, shrimp, and fish, served with rice and veggies. For only 15CUC! It was a ton of food and it was delicious! I also splurged and ordered a piña colada, which was also fabulous. We had the whole restaurant two ourselves, which was nice, and service was fantastic. Halfway through our meal, we were joined by a begging cat. The waitress informed us that she had given birth days before. She had 7 kittens, but only 3 were surviving. 4 had died. What a tragic story!
From El Teniente del Rey, we walked up to Central Park to connect to wifi. I also showed Marcela La Floridita and La Gran Manzana Hotel! I could be a tour guide by now. We agreed to meet back in Central Park at 6:20, after my next tour!
From Central Park, I took a “death cab” as I decided to call them, up to La Punta to meet Daniela, my next photographer. Of course, my decision to hop in a death cab was met with so much rain! I was wet and cold by the time we reached La Punta.
I met Daniela at 4:30, and had a blast getting to know her and taking so many pictures over an hour and a half. We visited many famous places, such as La Punta, El Paseo, the Capitol, the Revolution Museum, and more. And the pictures turned out amazing!
At 6p, I told her I had to go and meet Marcela. She even walked me back to Central Park, as I was hopelessly spun around! She was absolutely fantastic.
Marcela and I wandered around for awhile. We were stopped by a woman who was begging us for diapers. She wanted us to go into the drugstore with her and get them, as she was heavily pregnant. Due to my limited funds, I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t. The woman wanted like $30 worth of stuff! Marcela proved to be a much better person than me.
We went into the store and purchased diapers and soap for her (well, Marcela did). They were crazy expensive!!! I attempted to take a picture of the store (as it was EMPTY), just so I could show my Mom what a drugstore was like. (She had told me to go buy “liquid band-aid” to fix my foot. I said I didn’t think drugstores had anything. I was right.) Surprisingly, the pregnant lady saw me trying to snap a picture and started yelling at me!!! So I didn’t get a pic.
After this interlude, we simply parked ourselves in the alley by Hotel Inglaterra and hung out on the wi-fi! We stayed for nearly an hour and a half! Her excursion for Saturday had been cancelled so we tried to see if she could join me for mine! Unfortunately, it did not work out. We said our goodbyes, as she would be leaving before I returned on Monday, and I hopped into a cab back to Centro.
To ruin my day completely, I was ripped off by my taxi driver. I wish that I was the kind of person who could say something or stick up for herself when that kind of thing happened, but unfortunately, especially with the language barrier, it’s very difficult. I’m not an idiot though, I know to pay attention to my money.
I handed him a 20CUC and asked for change. He “sneakily” swapped my 20CUC for a 20CUP he was holding. Then told me I needed to give him 20CUC. So I was forced to exchange a perfectly good 20CUC and take his 20CUP which he was claiming was initially mine. It sucked. Majorly. I got into my room and cried about it. I had just lost over 30USD to a 2km cab ride.
To further explain: 1CUC=.87USD. So basically an even conversion. However, 1CUC=24CUP. So it takes 25CUP to make ONE USD. That conversion is astronomical. He took my 20CUC (the equivalent of 20USD), and swapped it for 20CUP (the equivalent of LESS than 1USD). It was the scummiest thing!
I wish I could’ve or would’ve said something, but I knew nothing would come of it. My day was officially ruined. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted! But I refuse to let this ruin the rest of the trip. I allowed myself to cry for the night, but the next day, I would be okay.