My parents, the Brit and I were off to Cuba for a week back in April. It was a wonderful trip and I had a lot of thoughts. Not only was it my first time in the Caribbeans, it was my first time at an all inclusive and my first time not totally in charge of a trip either. It felt so good to be in a warm country after a very long winter and a terrible summer last year! And it felt even better to be back in Latin America after over 7 years.
I took a while to draft this post (and even longer to push the button!) because a lot of my random observations reflected my privilege. That made me a bit uncomfortable and wanted to think longer about those observations, about why I thought certain things.
I am highly privileged to come from a country and live in another with great (though sometimes lacking) infrastructure and even social benefits. Seeing the way people lived in Cuba was interesting because we hear so much about that country. Growing up in a very socialist household it was an even more interesting perspective to realise some things simply are better at home and others definitely better in Cuba too. Everything depends on your perspectives, and your values.
We also realised a lot of things about Cuba from being there and chatting with locals. My cousin used to live there so we met with some of his friends. They were some great discussions!
So without further ado, I give you my random observations about Cuba:
>> Havana is possibly the most beautiful and interesting city I’ve ever visited. The character, the vibe, the colours, everything!
>> The two different currencies are very interesting, albeit a wee bit annoying. There is the Cuban Pesos for locals but also the Convertible Pesos which is basically the tourist money which came to replace the use of the US Dollar. That means the rate is much higher, and things end up more expensive than you think.
>> A lot of the facilities were a lot more run down than I expected. Even more so after the hurricane hit them last autumn.
>> Pollution in Havana was choking sometimes.
>> The weather in Varadero was much nicer and less stuffy than in the city, where concrete seems to block all the wind and nice air. Thankfully Havana has a border with the sea or it would probably be stuck with much more smog.
>> I’m glad for my mom’s high maintenance, because she brought on-the-go toilet paper with her. A lot of places charged for it so it was nice to have our own (and at the quantity you want).
>> Being opened to understand each other’s privileges and problems is the best way to share experiences. Heart to heart conversations with locals were magic for that.
>> There is so much more than Varadero and there is so much more than Havana.
>> My poor wee Scottish man definitely did not handle the Tropical weather all that well. The next trip to the Caribbean may need to be a girl’s trip or family trip again.
>> Nothing is efficient in Cuba. Not the hotel check-in, not the buses, not the taxis, not the food, nothing.
>> ‘Con calma’ (i.e. calmly) is a lifestyle. It seems stressful when you come from a society that pushes you toward stress all the time, but relaxing once you lean into it. Took me the whole week to learn how to do that just a little.
>> The Brit said he finally saw how Latin American I look after observing people in Cuba.
>> While I enjoyed the relaxing environment of an all inclusive resort, those kinds of holidays aren’t for me. I loved being in the city, walking and seeing things much more.
>> Swimming in the sea in Cuba was magical. It was my first time in a clear sea with white sand and not freezing water.
>> I didn’t love the charming personas of Cubans, it felt a bit put on and since we got swindled a few times in Havana, it left a bitter taste in our mouths.
>> Being swindled in Havana is also possibly just part of the experience.
>> I would 100% go back to Cuba!
Have you ever been to Cuba? What did you think?xx