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    Annoying Things About Cuba

    Sunday, July 5, 2009
    Your Woman in Havana:
    Annoying Things About Cuba
    By Stacy Rodriguez

    Chomping at the bit to visit Cuba? You might want to consider reality
    versus my romanticism.

    If you like fancy, air-conditioned, comfortable surroundings and tony
    boutiques, it's not the place for you. But if you like camping and the
    outdoors and living in a culture rather than outside it, pack your bags.

    The following are my external observations of casas particulares, family
    homes that rent out a room. I don't know about inside the hotels.
    Listen, I am not complaining — I loved every family I met. This is just
    the reality of a Third World country. I don't care about this stuff.

    This is for those of you who do.

    Listo? Ready?

    Things you like, expect or can't live without:

    Convenience stores. No. Nada, nope, non-extant, none, nonexistent. There
    are only inconvenient small stores offering everything from a spool of
    thread (just one) to a Chinese lipstick (two) to chicken in a cooler and
    elbow pipes.

    ATMs, credit cards. Not for North Americans. Cash only. Most places
    cannot even take traveler's checks.

    Food. Do you enjoy food? Cuba is a diet camp for people like you: Rice.
    Beans. Eggs. Eggs. Eggs. Ham. Cheese. Chicken. Rice. Beans. Eggs. Eggs.
    Ham. Cheese. Chicken. Rice. Beans…. I exaggerate (very) slightly. The
    fresh fruit and freshly squeezed juices are great. Meals are lacking.

    Capitalist pigs who support an economic apartheid in an "equal" country
    can opt for an expensive lobster dinner. (No judgement. Really.)

    Streets and sidewalks. Havana's streets have potholes the entire
    Americans With Disabilities Act could disappear into. There is no
    sidewalk, street or pathway — minus patches on the few touristy blocks
    — without cracks, bulges and sometimes cavernous holes. And there's
    nobody to sue if you break something. It's caveat walker.

    Hot water. Do you like hot water? Enjoy hot water? Take steamy showers
    or luxurious hot baths? If not, you will enjoy Cuba. (Yes, a reverse one.)

    There actually is hot water in most casas particulares, but you can get
    shocked — literally — since you must manually flip a switch with
    exposed wiring attached to the shower head.

    "Do you want hot or cold water?" a hostess asked me.

    Hot is scalding, cold is freezing, and never the 'twain shall meet.

    Perfect English. If communicating effectively all the time in your
    native language is something you expect, Cuba will disappoint you. Yes,
    there are other languages in the world and not everybody speaks ours.

    Pillows. Even your adventurous woman in Havana struggled with this one.
    If your dream of a vacation includes sleeping in on fine linens with
    multiple big, freshly fluffed, perfect pillows, don't wake up in Cuba.
    The best pillow I encountered in Cuba was, say, 20-by-10 inches, with
    severely pilled fabric and a filling that, the best I could figure, was
    coffee beans.

    Think camping. Think grainy, scratchy beans in your face.

    Lighting. Forget about reading in bed. Abe Lincoln would still need a
    candle. I didn't think it was possible to call such a low wattage "light."

    Satellite TV with movies. Just stop it. If you get a TV in your room, it
    will be a 10- to 15-year-old Russian/Chinese model with no remote. You
    will be puzzled and your thumb will flail about, impotent. No, honestly,
    some of them do have remote controls, but there are only four national
    channels and they are b-o-r-i-n-g. The hotels get a "Cuba" channel that
    actual Cubans do not get, probably because they'd riot. It's a sort of
    MTV spiel that makes the impoverished country look hip.

    Bathrooms. I saved this one for last so as not to gross you out
    immediately. If you like good plumbing, Cuba is not for you.

    Best-case scenario: A toilet seat, a functioning chain protruding from a
    tank above, which you must pull and hold, gingerly, for a successful
    70-percent flush.

    Worst-case: No seat, broken, zero-percent flush, etc. Use your imagination.

    Many of the toilets do not have seats. Why this is I cannot imagine. Did
    the Russians leave just before the container ships of toilet seats arrived?

    Toilet paper is iffy outside of homes and businesses.

    I didn't even get to the air-conditioning issues — related to the
    scalding/freezing water situation — or piles of concrete rubble in the
    middle of bombed-out looking streets, the remains of balconies
    disintegrated to the point of collapse.

    Still want to go?

    Meet me in Havana.

    srodriguez@keysnews.com

    Your Woman in Havana: Annoying Things About Cuba | KeysNews.com (5 July
    2009)
    http://keysnews.com/node/15016

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