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.
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
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
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
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.
Your Woman in Havana: Annoying Things About Cuba | KeysNews.com (5 July