Cuba: first impressions

I honestly believe that no amount of research and pictures on the internet can truly prepare you for Cuba. You can expect the old cars, the crumbling buildings, the colours of everything, but there’s something magical about this place, a hot fire in your belly that blazes with passion and curiosity whenever you wake from your slumber. I feel it now, I’m sleepy, I’ve woken from a deep sleep with the sounds of Havana outside. Stumbled out of bed to open our balcony doors and take in the morning scene unfolding before me. The cars, the buildings, the people. It’s like having woken up in a different world. A dystopian daydream of a post apocalyptic world where time has stood still since the 60s, only to crumble and deteriorate since then.

I had read everywhere online that Cuba was not the place to go for a foodie holiday, that the food here was bland, uninteresting, and lacking in, well, everything. But let me tell you one thing, there is no such thing as a non-foodie holiday for me.

Challenge. Accepted. Bring it on! I will share as much as I can with our limited internet use (it’s very restricted here and involves queuing up for internet cards and finding public WiFi spots).

Cuba so far has been a wonderful experience. It’s only day 3 and I’m already sad that I am going to have to leave at some point. Our first taste of the country saw us jumping in a taxi back to the airport where I had left my passport… what a start! Note to anyone wanting to exchange money in Havana airport: they have money exchange machines where you must scan your passport in a stupidly placed scanner at head level. So yes, I left it in there. When Laura, our lovely host, asked for our passports to check in to the apartment we had rented, I realized with paralyzing dread that I had left it there, a half hour drive away. With Laura trying to calm me with “tranquilo Alissa, tranquilo”, I started to plan for the worst. My head was spinning and nothing Laura was saying to me in Spanish was making sense. So we rushed back to the airport to find it right where I had left it, an hour and a half before. As I clutched it to my chest and ecstaticly hugged Ariam, my taxi driver I remembered the phrase that Laura had said as I left, the very same that Ariam had said when I jumped in the taxi; “nothing is ever lost in Cuba”.

So with that, we took on our first few days in Cuba, me absolutely over the moon to have my documents back. From Laura’s warm hands holding mine as she comforted me before we headed back to the airport, to Ariam’s smiling face through the review mirror, to the guy at the pizza shop down the road from our place that smiles toothlessly as he jokes around with Lachie – everybody here has been a grounding force of kindness and generosity.

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