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Day 85 – Goodbye Cuba!

It has been the weirdest say weather wise in Havana today. I think Cuba was trying to give me all its options in one day…of course it finished with torrential rain, like what I arrived in! The storm was so bad that I was waiting to check in and the airport had a power cut so we were standing in darkness!!!!

Today I haven’t done much at all. I got up late, took my time showering and packing, wandered to the WiFi park to use up the last of my cards. Got caught in the rain so hopped into the local restaurant which I have been at everyday this week. They recognise me now!!!

Wandered to school, had lunch and said goodbye to most of my school buddies. Then spent the afternoon chilling with Carola at our favourite restaurant enjoying some good food and drink.

I was getting super excited and nervous to leave. I haven’t felt like this in a long time. But then I haven’t been home in a long time now….I decided a while ago that I needed to go to my grandma’s funeral and made the plans with a friend. I haven’t told anyone else…..so I am hoping it will be a nice surprise for my family to help deal with the sadness of the funeral.

Hopefully the storm won’t cause any problems with the flight or my change at Frankfurt….here’s to the next 13 hours!!!

Day 83 – Tilda Boo

Today is one of the most special little girl in the world’s birthday! 5 today – I can’t believe it. I remember having a cuddle with her when she was one day old. I’m sure time has gone even quicker for her very special mum! I am sending all the love I possibly could from the other side of the world and the biggest birthday squeeze.

I sent a voice message yesterday with my birthday wishes so they would be there when Tilda woke up this morning and at school today when WiFi randomly worked for 2 minutes I got the best voice message reply. It made me smile all day.

Today I still wasn’t feeling 100% but I was definitely heading in the right direction. Spanish and dancing went well as always although I am sad to say tomorrow is the last one of each….I am both happy and sad that my time in Cuba is coming to an end.

After dancing the heavens had opened and rain was coming down in torrents so I hid out at school for an hour waiting for it to die down to be able to run back to my casa. On the brief pause I made it back before the skies reopened with a vengeance. 

As I am not feeling tip top I decided to have a film night with my laptop and a few plain snacks for my stomach. I am hoping the early night tonight will allow me to enjoy my last night tomorrow – fingers crossed!

Day 73 – Back to Havana Again!

Our last day in Varadero….of course we spent it on the beach!!!!

It is truly like a Sandals TV advert there, so peaceful, so perfect. The only thing that ruins it is the rubbish. We sat lounging on the deck chairs under the umbrella all morning except for the occasional dip in the sea.

We checked out the market and hit the shower before the taxi turned up at 4pm to take us back to Havana (a two hour journey back – luckily with air conditioning!).

Back in Havana, it was school for dinner and then packing for more travelling tomorrow! It has been such a laid back weekend, I have so enjoyed it. I really needed it and with great company too!!!

Day 71 – On the way to Varadero

Today was eventful. Four of us decided we wanted to take a weekend trip to Varadero and so at 2pm a taxi came to pick us up. It was a traditional yellow taxi with black leather seats…..urgh in this heat!

Half an hour away from Varadero we stopped for a toilet break and the taxi decided to stop working. As it was a Cuban driver, of course everything was ok and no stress was needed. It was all smiles and laid back while he tinkered under the bonnet and 15 minutes later we were back on our way.

Our casa was nice and close to the beach and after dropping our stuff we went on a search for an ATM as I wasn’t able to change money at the school before we left before going to check out the beach. Of course, there had to be some drama.

When we found the ATMs I quickly went and out my card into the machine which it took. I then looked at the screen. The black, blank screen…..2 seconds later a guy came over and confirmed that it wasn’t working. A slight panic started to enter my thoughts that I would be without money but I was already telling myself that’s a problem for after the weekend and to just enjoy myself. However, the chilled out Cuban told me my card would be spat out in 5 minutes or so. Sure enough, with some kind of insane luck, it came out the machine!

We took a little walk to the beach just to check it out. It was beautiful. White sand, blue sea and skies. Nothing on the horizon. Very peaceful even with the other tourists.

We decided to go to the Chinese restaurant on the beach for dinner. I was super excited as I haven’t had Chinese food in so long! They even had dumplings in the menu, although nowhere near as good as the ones at home.

After dinner we went to the beach to watch the sun go down (which decided to go behind a cloud so we saw nothing) and have a few drinks. After a bottle was finished we headed to a bar across the road where the piña colada’s commenced. I’m getting good at ordering them in Spanish!

Dancing, singing, a burnt eye (yes I ended up with a  a cigarette to the eyeball) and swimming in the sea later, I think we finally made it back about 2:30am.

Day 84 – Last Day in School

It has felt strange today. I have been here such a long time, to think today is my last day of school has been so bizarre. 

My last Spanish lesson was really great. We spent most of the lesson talking about Cuba, Cuban people, the economy, tourism, politics, equal rights and monuments around the world. For my Spanish it was pretty intense….lots of vocabulary I will probably not be able to recall again though!!!! It was a different class but it was so interesting to talk about Cuban life and see the passion, pride and emphasis from the Cubans. It was probably my favourite lesson. At the end I asked (in Spanish of course) if we could have a picture together to which Gisela was most excited and gave us her email address so we could send me the picture and email her in Spanish – she is totally the best Spanish teacher ever!

After Spanish it was time for my last salsa class. It was fun as always but today Roger didn’t go so it was all girls which made it a little less entertaining as rather than partner dancing and turns, it was more line dancing with some interesting moves. I hadn’t felt so British in a long time!!! I swear Cubans are able to dissolve their bones to move like they do when they are dancing….

I spent the rest of my day talking with the some of the other students and eating what I hope to be super safe food….I am a little afraid ahead of my flight tomorrow. It would be just my luck! I am taking no chances. Tomorrow I will be eating the plainest food possible and have tablets on hand!

Day 82 – The Norm

As per the norm, I was feeling ill again….there was no way I was missing school and falling behind! Roger was also ill today and hadn’t made it to school so it gave me a bit of a chance to catch up on the lessons.
After Spanish it was into salsa. It was just myself and Roger’s wife so we had an intense lesson being twisted and turned this way and that….back and forward…left and right….at the end of two hours I was ready for a break and left Vilma to have her next two hour lesson!

I spent the rest of the afternoon cruising about and chatting with Carola. We had an early dinner to test how I was feeling and so I could head back early, do my homework and get some sleep after missing so much of it yesterday. Hopefully I will feel fully better tomorrow!

Day 81 – Hard Work

I am a bit of a grumpy madam today. I didn’t sleep well so everything has been a bit of an uphill struggle all day.

Spanish class was super duper intense today. I was behind from travelling last week anyway, we had a new student join us today who is very good at Spanish and we were learning sooooo much new material. To say I was out of my depth today would have been an understatement.

I was really glad to be back at salsa today, something I am not horrendous at!!!! We have the usual problem of more girls than guys and with Roger’s wife now being in Cuba and doing salsa classes, there are no guys to switch round in the class. Luckily our teacher is good at dancing with two at a time! We were redoing some of the basic steps because of new students so it wasn’t too taxing which was nice after my brain had been sapped in Spanish class.

After dance, I headed to the WiFi park to see if I could connect. I should know better by now….it’s Cuba….I managed to get sporadic connection, enough to check emails and message a few people. I ended up in a restaurant with one of the ladies from school having a slice of cheesecake (daring but totally worth it – the first sweet thing in Cuba that isn’t terrible!) And a piña colada as that seems to be my go-to these days.

Before dinner I headed back to my casa to try and do some homework. I felt more inclined to put my head in an oven but after 15 minutes of just rereading the lesson I felt a little more positive and set to it….I guess we’ll see tomorrow how it went!!!

Tonight was a big sociable dinner with everyone who is currently a student at the school (twelve of us this week). For half of us it is the last week we are here, the rest have a varying amount of time left at the school…I think the longest left now is 5 weeks but the longest stay in total is 7 months!!!! My stay comes to an end Friday. Three more days of school to hang on in there….

Day 80 – Tourist Time!

Take two for the cemetery today! Roger’s wife arrived late yesterday and a new student at the school too, so both joined us today which was great. We had breakfast at the school (Roger’s wife had bought Swiss chocolate – what a hero!) And then we got a taxi to the cemetery.

The cemetery is massive. It is where people are buried today. Currently there is approximately 2.5 million inhabitants! The grave stones and crypts are amazingly beautiful. There are roads running through the cemetery it is that big.

A guy found us in the cemetery and gave us a mini tour and some stories about the important graves. We had the story of the tallest and most important there and the explanation of each of the symbols on the sculpture to the funniest story of death by dominoes (only in Cuba!).

My favourite story was Amelia…. Everyone loves a bit of superstition! So Amelia fell in love with a guy in a lower class and station than herself so naturally it was forbidden….they got married anyway (as all stories go!) And he went away to war. She found out she was pregnant but unfortunately the baby died and she died whilst the doctors tried to save her. As per the tradition she was buried with the baby between her legs. Six years later a sculpture was commissioned of Amelia holding the baby and was put on her grave. Another five years passed and her husband now returned wished to see her one last time and asked for the grave to be opened…..on opening the grave, they found Amelia in perfect condition, looking only to be asleep and the baby no longer between her legs, but in her arms like the sculpture! From then on her husband believed her to be only sleeping and so the tradition began that he would knock on the grave three times to wake her, touch the baby in the sculpture and make a wish then walk around the grave stone anticlockwise but never with his back to Amelia.

People from all over the world have done this, many many times over many many years and loads of people believe it to be lucky and to grant wishes. Naturally I had to try it before reading the plaques. There were so many plaques from so many countries thanking Amelia for granting them children, making someone healthy, granting them love etc etc. It’s always bizarre but quite inspiring to see.

Next up we headed to the old part of Havana. After getting out the taxi we headed up to the roof bar of one of the nice hotels (it has an awesome pool up there!), We got a drink and took in the views. It was quite stunning to see the new builds, the well maintained against the crumbling and old buildings.

We wandered round the old town listening to live music, visiting the markets, looking at street art, smelling the smells of Cuba (99% gross I can assure you). After a while we decided to be real tourists and pay for a half an tour in one of the classic cars – it was really good! The sun was bright and I had to squint a fair bit, but it was the best maintained car I had been in in the entirety of Cuban, so it felt special!

Finally we went for dinner (tapas yum) and I had the world’s largest but tastiest mango daiquiri….

The taxi ride back was amusing. The driver had no idea where to go and we were stopping and asking locals at every street. Add to that the usual breaking to bits car and it’s a good laugh. When we got out I ended up walking the new student Jessica home as she couldn’t remember where she lived so by the time I made it back to my place, I was more than ready for bed before my last week of school starting tomorrow!

Day 79 – Hemingway House

This is the first weekend I’ve been in Havana. It felt very strange to wake up and not have school. I went to school for breakfast and we discussed going to Hemingway house today as none of us had plans. We ordered a taxi which was typically Cuban and arrived 20 minutes late and then headed out.

I had heard about the house from other people here in Cuban and so had reasonably high expectations. I forgot that this was indeed Cuba. The house was beautiful and you could look through into each room…. The décor left much to be desired being mostly animal heads on every wall. The tower had an awesome viewpoint…

Then the typical Cuban kicked in….a cock fighting ring….well….just a tree and a sign….

The tennis court was my favourite, it was a sign by a boat with a wall behind it. I couldn’t help but laugh.

We were finished there after 20 minutes and decided to head to Verdado and try the best ice cream in Cuba at Coppelia’s. For Cuba it wasn’t bad but not a mark on Devonshire cream, Ben & Jerry’s etc.

Next up, we walked through town to a roof top bar for some pictures. It looked like a rough council estate at home and when we got to the roof top bar there seemed to be done strange modelling tryouts going on with women in shorts and bras. Awkward. We took our pictures and crept out as soon as possible.

The group then split up and we headed to the cemetery. Here in Havana there is only one and it is so big there are actual roads and signs to get to certain plots. It has a guided tour there so we thought we would check it out.

5 minutes from the cemetery the heavens started to open, so we took cover quickly and got a drink to try and wait out the heavy rain. We sat for over an hour before it started to get lighter (I had the BEST lemonade in that time!) So we decided we would try our luck.

We got to the gates to be told the cemetery was closed. It closed at 5pm and it was now 5:15pm. Typically now would be the time for the Cuban’s not to be Cuban! So we got a taxi back to the school. This was no ordinary taxi though…..this has to have been the most run down taxi I have ever been in. It was raining INSIDE the taxi and my feet had a pool….the door had to be opened specially and the windows couldn’t be moved. It was impressive that it drove ok!

We made it back in one piece and went for dinner at school with the other students. We’ll try again tomorrow!

Day 78 – Back to Havana Once More…

Today was long and boring for the most part. We had a reasonable start with an​ 8:30am breakfast and then we were on the road until 12:30pm from Santa Clara to Havana. The roads are pretty horrendous so it can take some time on some parts.

Once we got back, we had lunch at the school with the other students. It was nice to catch up and see what they have been up to this week and share our journey. 

After lunch a couple of us went to the WiFi park. About 15 minutes after we arrived it started to rain and when it rains in Havana, we run for cover. We sheltered in a nearby restaurant grabbing a drink and chatting for a while.

I had a headache so I got an early dinner and went back to my casa. I ended up going through my photos and sorting them on my laptop before popping some pain relief and snuggling into bed. The weekend should be more exciting once I get some sleep!