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Cuba

2014 - STAR FLYER - HAVANA, CUBA

GETTING TO HAVANA.

I GOT UP TO AN UNFORCASTED SNOW STORM & FIGURED I WOULD NOT GET TO HAVANA TODAY.

THE CAB TOOK AN HOUR TO GET HERE & AN HOUR TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. ABOUT AN HOUR AND A QUARTER LONGER THAN NORMAL BUT FROM THERE ON IT WAS SMOOTH SAILING. UNLIKE THE CRUISE, BUT MORE OF THAT ANON.

FIRST THERE IS A COUPLE OF NIGHTS IN HAVANA.

ARRIVING IN HAVANA

OTTAWA TO TORONTO WAS EARLY AS WAS TORONTO TO HAVANA. WONDERS WILL NEVER CEASE.

I ASKED THE AIRPORT INFO GIRL HOW MUCH THE TAXI WOULD BE TO THE HOTEL & IT IS A FIXED 25 CUBAN CONVERTIBLE OR CUC, PRONOUNCED 'COOK'.

I NEGLECTED TO CONFIRM THE PRICE WITH THE DRIVER & HE CHARGED ME 40 COOK.

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ONE VIEW FROM MY BALCONY...

AND ANOTHER COMFORTING ONE WHEN I REALISE THAT BOMBEROS IS THE FIRE STATION

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NOT MUCH LEFT OF THE DAY SO A QUICK LOOK AROUND THE LOUNGE

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PARQUE CENTRAL HOTEL HAS TWO SIDES. ONE OLD & COLONIAL & THE OTHER MODERN. BOTH QUITE NICE. I WAS IN THE MODERN SIDE

EARLY MORNING AND IT'S UP FOR A WALK ALONG THE MALECON BESIDE THE OCEAN...

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THE NEWER PART OF HAVANA IN THE DISTANCE...

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AND THE OLD PART UP CLOSE WHERE THERE IS SOME RECONSTRUCTION GOING ON & IT CAN CERTAINLY DO WITH SOME...

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THEN I DIVE INTO SOME BACK STREETS...

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YOU DON'T SEE THESE TOO OFTEN ELSEWHERE, BUT THEY ARE NOT UNCOMMON HERE..

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I STOP AT A BAR & ASK FOR A COFFEE - WHICH THEY DO NOT SERVE. THE WAITER DIRECTS ME ACROSS THE STREET - WHERE I DO NOT SEE ANY CAFES'.

I DO SEE A HOLE IN A WALL, WITH BARS ON IT & ON A CLOSER LOOK, THERE ARE TWO ELDERLY LADIES INSIDE.
I ASK FOR A COFFEE & GET A TINY, TINY CUP WITH A TINY, TINY SAUCER FILLED WITH A DELICIOUS COFFEE.
SHE WANTED ONE PESO & I GAVE HER A THREE COOK BILL. SHE LOOKED AT HER FRIEND AND THE BILL & WONDERED WHAT TO DO WITH IT. I HELD OUT SOME COINS & SHE TOOK THE SMALLEST 25 CENTAVOS I THINK.
WHILE STANDING ON THE STREET DRINKING MY COFFEE A LOCAL CAME BY AND GOT A CUP BUT NO SAUCER. I THINK THE OLD LADY LIKED ME.

THEY SMILED & GIGGLES WHEN I RETURNED THE CUP & SAUCER.

THIS PIECE OF GRAFFITI WAS OPPOSITE..

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IT WAS VALENTINES DAY YESTERDAY & THE GIRLS ARE STILL DRESSED UP TODAY... LOOKING VERY NICE...

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I HAD HEARD THAT THERE WERE OLD AMERICAN CARS & EXPECTED A FEW FOR THE TOURISTS BUT THEY ARE ALL OVER THE PLACE

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THERE WAS SOME MUSIC BEING PLAYED ON THE STREET BUT I COULD NOT SEE WITH ALL THE PEOPLE IN FRONT. THESE FOLKS HAD A GREAT VIEW THOUGH...

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MAKING JEWELRY I THINK...

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I SAW LADIES & CHILDREN DRESSED LIKE THIS, ALL IN WHITE, & EXPECT THERE IS SOME RELIGIOUS CONNECTION.

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BACK TO THE HOTEL FOR THE WATER BALLET PERFORMED ON THE ROOF. I DID GO A LITTLE CRAZY WITH THE PHOTOS....

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POSING FOR THE TOURISTS..

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NOW, WAS THAT JULIA ROBERTS? THE ONE WITHOUT THE LARGE POSTERIOR?

NAH!

CAN'T BE..... CAN IT!!!

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THAT WENT ON FOR TWENTY MINUTES OR MORE. NO CHARGE. NOT EVEN A HAT PASSED AROUND.

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OUTSIDE THE HOTEL.. MORE OLD CARS.

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NOT EVERYTHING IN HAVANA IS OLD...

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I SPENT SOME TIME IN A CHEAP & CHEERFUL BAR & THIS IS THE VIEW FORM INSIDE LOOKING OUT TOWARDS A BUS STOP.. NOT MUCH STREET LIGHTING OUTSIDE BUT IT FELT COMFORTABLE ENOUGH WALKING ABOUT AS LONG AS I AVOIDED THE CRAZY PAVING.

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Click here to follow me ....

TO THE SOUTH OF CUBA TO CATCH THE STAR FLYER TOMORROW.... for the cruise.

Posted by hasbeen 13:05 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

2014 - STAR FLYER - CUBA & THE CAYMAN ISLANDS


View 2014 STAR FLYER - CUBA on hasbeen's travel map.

Click here to see my pre cruise time in Havana.....

LEAVING HAVANA

I NOW HAVE TO LEAVE THE PARQUE CENTRAL HOTEL IN OLD HAVANA TO GO TO THE MELIA COHIBA HOTEL IN NEW HAVANA FOR MY TRANSFER. (I WILL ALMOST PASS THE OLD HOTEL ON THE TRANSFER SO I DON'T KNOW WHY I HAD TO SWITCH HOTELS. )

I AM IN THE NEW SECTION OF THE PARQUE CENTRAL & AFTER CHECKING OUT I GO TO THE DOOR & WAIT FOR A CAB BUT NONE ARE ARRIVING SO, I DECIDE TO GO THROUGH THE TUNNEL TO THE COLONIAL SECTION WHERE I KNOW THERE ARE PLENTY OF CABS.

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JUST AS I AM LEAVING THE NEW SECTION, A YOUNG GUY ASKS IF I NEED A CAB & HOW MUCH I WANT TO PAY. THE RECEPTIONIST HAS ALREADY TOLD ME IT SHOULD BE 5 OR 7 COOK.. HE TELLS ME TO WAIT & HE WILL BRING A CAB.
THIS SOUNDS HIGHLY FISHY TO ME SO I DO GO TO THE COLONIAL SECTION, TAKING MY TIME ABOUT IT.

AND, LO & BEHOLD, THE GUY IS WAITING FOR ME AT THE DOOR.

HE TELLS ME THE PRICE FOR HIS TAXI IS 10 COOK BUT THAT IT IS AN OLD AMERICAN CAR. SO I FIGURE I WILL SEE.

WE HEAD AROUND THE BUILDING & BACK TO THE NEW SECTION WHERE THE CAB DRIVER IS WAITING & I AGREE TO GET IN.

MAYBE A BAD MOVE.

MAYBE NOT.

THIS IS THE CAR & DRIVER & WE DID MAKE IT TO THE NEW HOTEL

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THERE WAS A WAIT HERE WHILE OUR GROUP ASSEMBLED FOR THE 5 HOUR BUS RIDE ACROSS CUBA TO CIENFUEGOS.

2 BELGIAN COUPLES. 1 GERMAN LADY WITH HER ITALIAN MAN. 1 GERMAN COUPLE. 1 SINGLE GERMAN LADY WHO LIVES IN AUSTRIA & ME.

BUT - NO BUS.

THEY HAVE 4 BRAND NEW TAXIS FOR 10 OF US. I TRAVEL IN ONE & MY LUGGAGE IN THE OTHER.

THIS GIRL WAS HANGING OUT AT THE PIT STOP....

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I THOUGHT THE HORSE & BUGGY WERE JUST A TOURIST THING IN HAVANA BUT THERE ARE LOTS ON THE STREETS, EVEN ON THE 6 LANE DIVIDED HIGHWAY..

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ARRIVING IN CIENFUEGOS..

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WE DO MAKE IT TO THE MALTESE FLAGGED, STAR FLYER & AFTER A LOT OF RIGAMAROLE, GET ABOARD FOR THE FIRST NIGHT.

NO TIME BEFORE OR AFTER DINNER TO VISIT CIENFUEGOS. A PITY AS IT LOOKED QUITE A NICE TOWN AS WE DROVE THROUGH..

IF THE FIRST DINNER WAS ANYTHING TO GO BY, I AM IN FOR A TREAT FOOD WISE BUT MAY HAVE TO BRING EAR PLUGS FOR THE NOISE LEVEL.

I HAD A SPARE SEAT ON MY LEFT, THEN AN ENGLISH LADY WHO IS MARRIED TO HER EX-PILOT HUSBAND. A SHIPS PILOT, NOT AN AIRLINE PILOT. I COULD NOT HEAR WHAT THEY WERE SAYING & GAVE UP TRYING TO CONVERSE.
NEXT TO THE PILOT WAS CHARLES FROM BURNHAM ON CROUCH WHO I ALSO DID NOT TALK TO AS HE WAS TALKING TO THE PILOT.
NEXT TO CHARLES WAS HIS PARTNER JIM, THEN A BELGIAN MAN & HIS WIFE, ISABEL.

SO EVEN THOUGH THERE WAS ONLY EIGHT, THE CONVERSATION WAS BETWEEN 2 GROUPS OF FOUR.

ISABEL CONVINCED ME I SHOULD TRY THE BEST DESERT IN THE WORLD - FRENCH TOAST. I ASKED HER TO RATE IT OUT OF 10 AND SHE SAID 'TWO'.

THAT WAS MAYBE THE ONLY FOOD I ATE ON BOARD THAT WAS NOT GOOD.

ISABLE SAYS BELGIAN WAFFLES DO NOT EXIST IN BELGIUM.

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NEXT DAY SAW US BEING PILOTED TO THE ISLAND OF CAYO BLANCO.

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THIS IS STAR CLIPPERS DESCRIPTION OF WHAT WE CAN EXPECT.

'Every once in a while Star Clippers find an idyllic private island that offers everything a beach lover could possibly want. Cayo Blanco, located just off the southern coast of Cuba near Trinidad, is just such a Hedonist’s paradise.'

WELL IT IS OFF THE SOUTHERN COAST. THEY GOT THAT BIT RIGHT. IT NOW TRANSPIRES THERE ARE TWO CAYO BLANCOS IN CUBA. THE HEDONIST'S PARADISE & THE ONE WE ARRIVED AT - A ROCK, AN ISLAND WOULD BE TOO GRAND A DESCRIPTION.

WE SPENT A GOOD WHILE WAITING WHILE SOME CREW INVESTIGATES OUR GETTING OFF. IT WAS EVENTUALLY DECIDED THAT WE COULD NOT GO ASHORE.
TOO SHALLOW, I HEARD. TOO ROCKY, OTHERS HEARD.

OUR OPTIONS BECAME

- STAYING ON BOARD.
- TAKING A TENDER AROUND THE ROCK & A SNORKEL TO SEE THE MYRIAD OF FISH.
- SWIMMING OUT TO A BED FLOATING BETWEEN THE SHIP & A ZODIAC.

HERE'S ONE OF ONLY TWO YOUNGSTERS ON BOARD, WITH HER GRANDMOTHER, & INGRID FROM SWEDEN ON THE ZODIAC.

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ANNE, ANOTHER ENGLISH LADY, TOOK THE SNORKEL TOUR & SAID SHE SAW ONE FISH & SOME BROWN WEED. SOMEONE ELSE SAID THEY SAW TWO FISH BUT WE FIGURED IT WAS THE SAME ONE - TWICE.

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THE NEXT DAY SAW US DOCKING AT CASILDA. I SAY DOCKING IN THE LOOSEST POSSIBLE SENSE. WE BLEW PASSED THE QUAY & GROUNDED ON A SAND BANK. THIS HAPPENED BEFORE I EVEN GOT ON DECK & DID NOT FEEL A THING. WE MANAGED TO FREE OURSELVES BUT HAD TO GO A LONG WAY BACK TO TURN AROUND AND TRY AGAIN.

SECOND TIME LUCKY.

MOST PEOPLE OPTED FOR THE SHIPS EXCURSION OR A TAXI TO THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF TRINIDAD, ABOUT 4 KM AWAY.

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I OPTED TO WALK INTO THE SMALL TOWN OF CASILDA & FOUND IT VERY PLEASANT.
IT WAS A BIT HOT SO I STOPPED AT A SMALL BOOTH WHERE A LADY WAS SELLING SOME DRINK THAT LOOKED COLD. A MAN WAS ON THE FLOOR, HONING A CANE CUTTING MACHETE.
I ASKED FOR A GLASS OF WHAT I SUPPOSED WAS SUGAR WATER.
SHE ASKED FOR A PESO & AGAIN, JUST LIKE THE COFFEE LADY IN HAVANA, THERE IS THE SURPRISED LOOK WHEN I HAND HER A ONE COOK COIN.
THE MACHETE GUY WAS TRYING TO PERSUADE HER TAKE IT BUT NO, SHE TOOK ABOUT 10 CENTS.

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I WAS SITTING ON A BENCH WHEN AN ELDERLY GUY WALKED PAST WITH A NICE BASEBALL CAP WITH CANADA ON IT. I THOUGHT HE WAS FROM MY SHIP BUT HE WAS A LOCAL.
HE SAT DOWN FOR AN HOUR OR SO & WE CHATTED ABOUT THIS AND THAT WHILE I WATCHED THE WORLD SLOWLY GO BY. HE HAD PRACTICALLY NO ENGLISH & I HAVE ABYSMAL SPANISH BUT WE STILL MANAGED TO CHAT.
HE DOES NOT THINK SOCIALISM WORKS, EVEN THE LOCAL FISHING CO-OPERATIVE IS GOING DOWN HILL. NO JOBS FOR YOUNGSTERS. HE DOES NOT WORK AS HE IS 75 & GETS ABOUT 30 COOK A MONTH TO LIVE ON.

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AND A WALK BACK TO THE SHIP & A SAILAWAY...

BUT NOT TOO FAR...

MAYBE AN HOUR OUT OF PORT, WE GROUNDED ON YET ANOTHER SAND BAR. TWICE IN ONE DAY MUST BE SOME SORT OF RECORD.

THE CAPTAIN TRIED ALL SORTS TO GET US OFF. USING BOW THRUSTERS, ENGINE & SAILS TO TRY TO DISLODGE US, ALL TO NO AVAIL.

PASSENGERS HAD LOTS TO SAY ABOUT HOW THE CAPTAIN SHOULD PROCEED & I AM SURE THAT HELPED.

EVENTUALLY A TUG CAME AND PULLED US OFF & AFTER A DIVE TEAM AND AN INVESTIGATION BY THE CUBAN AUTHORITES WE MOVED ON.

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NO - NOT THAT TUG. A MUCH BIGGER ONE.

NINETEEN HOURS WE WERE THERE.

THE PILOT WAS SAID TO HAVE BEEN IN TEARS. HERES A CREW MEMBER SWINGING THE LEAD.

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THE VIEW FROM MY CABIN...

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A DAY LOST OUT OF OUR SCHEDULE MEANT WE SKIPPED CAYMAN BRAC AND HEADED STRAIGHT FOR

GRAND CAYMAN..

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WHERE I DID NOT DO A LOT...

THERE WERE ABOUT FIVE LARGE CRUISE SHIPS AT ANCHOR SO THE PLACE WAS JAMMED WITH TOURISTS. AMERICAN MOSTLY. I WALKED A BIT THEN WENT FOR A BEER WHERE EVERETT & GENE FROM TEXAS ENTERTAINED ME. THEY HAD LEFT THEIR WIVES ON BOARD THE CARNIVAL MAGIC WHICH ODDLY ENOUGH I WAS ON JUST A FEW WEEKS PRIOR.

Click here for the story of that trip

EVERETT HAD A HARD JOB SEEING THIS LTTLE GUY..MAY HAVE BEEN THE BEER.

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BACK TO CUBA AND CAYO LARGO....

AGAIN WE HAD A LONG WAIT WHILE THE CREW INVESTIGATED HOW WE COULD GET ASHORE.

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THE TENDER TOOK FIFTY MINUTES TO GET ASHORE. RUMOUR HAD IT THE STEERSMAN GOT LOST. ONLY 30 MINUTES TO GET BACK SO THERE MAY BE SOME TRUTH IN THAT.

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BUT THIS PLACE LIVED UP TO IT'S BILLING AND IT'S A SHAME WE ONLY GOT 2 HOURS ASHORE.

OUR SHIP ON THE HORIZON...

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SAND IS UNUSUALLY COOL & THE SEA AN IMPOSSIBLE BLUE

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SOME WILDLIFE TO LOOK AT....

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HEADING BACK TO CIENFUEGOS, THIS IS WHAT WE COULD EXPECT..

Archipelago de los Canarreos, Cuba

This chain of 350 islands, both big and small, stretches 100 miles westward from the Gulf of Batabano on Cuba’s South Coast. Ranging from unnamed sand specks to the 850 square mile Isla de la Juventud, it is an unspoilt paradise waiting to be discovered by divers and beachcombers. Star Flyer will sail in the archipelago.

STILL UNDISCOVERED BY US AS I GUESS THE CAPTAIN DID NOT WANT TO RISK ANY MORE SANDBAR INCIDENTS.

WE BI-PASSED THAT AREA AND SAT DOING NOTHING FOR HOURS.

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BAD BOY, GOT THE CAT-O-NINE TAILS.

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UNTIL THEY LET PEOPLE UP TO THE CROWS NEST.

HERE'S ANNE AND JULIE CLIMBING

JULIE WAS QUITE WOBBLY WHEN SHE GOT DOWN

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AND THAT'S THAT FOR THE CRUISE.

QUITE THE ADVENTURE.

170 PASSENGERS ON BOARD & I COULD PROBABLY NAME FORTY OR MORE SO I SOCIALISED A BIT MORE THAN USUAL.

COULD BE BECAUSE I SPENT SO MUCH TIME IN THE BAR AS THERE WAS NO WHERE TO LIE DOWN ON DECK. EVERY SUN LOUNGER WAS RESERVED WITH TOWELS.

ONE DAY I WAS ACCUSED OF CAUSING A RUCKUS ON DECK WITH SOMEONE WHO HAD TWO LOUNGE CHAIRS.

ONE IN THE SUN & ONE IN THE SHADE.

NOT ME OFFICER.

HONEST.

LOTS OF HITCH-HIKERS BUT THEY HOLD OUT CASH INSTEAD OF THEIR THUMB

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AND IT'S BACK TO HAVANA....

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I TOOK AN AIMLESS STROLL ON THE STREET AND A YOUNG LADY WITH A GIRL STARTS TALKING. USUALLY I JUST SAY NO THANKS & WALK ON BUT SHE DID NOT OFFER HERSELF OR HER DAUGHTER TO ME & MENTIONED A MUSIC FESTIVAL, SO I WENT ALONG WITH HER SHOWING ME THE WAY.
I GOT A BIT OF HER STORY AS WE THE WENT INTO THE BAR WHERE THERE WAS INDEED SOME MUSIC GOING ON.

THERE IS A SCAM I CAME ACROSS IN SHANGHAI WHERE GROUPS OF YOUNG PEOPLE OFFER TO TAKE TOURISTS TO A CAFE TO TALK ENGLISH AND THE TOURIST GETTING A 100 DOLLAR CHARGE FOR A POT OF TEA. SO I WAS UNDER NOT ILLUSIONS AS TO WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN HERE.

I DRANK A BEER AND THE GIRLS, MARIBEL & DAUGHTER JENNIFER HAD A JUICE EACH.

I GAVE THE GIRL MY CAMERA AND SHE WENT OFF OUTSIDE SNAPPING EVERYTHING IN SIGHT. PROBABLY A BAD MOVE ON MY PART AS THE CAMERA COST 300 DOLLARS, OR ABOUT 15 MONTHS OF HER MOTHERS WAGES AS A TEACHER

JENNIFER IS 9 WITH 3 YOUNGER KIDS DOWN TO A TWO YEAR OLD. THE MOTHER IS 32 & THE FATHER OF THE CHILDREN DEAD A YEAR AGO.

I OFFERED TO BUY THEM A MEAL BUT THE MOTHER WANTED TO GO TO A SUPERMARKET INSTEAD AS THE MONEY WOULD GO FURTHER.
I PASSED ON THAT BUT GAVE HER A FEW COOK TO COOK SOME FOOD.

I ASKED ABOUT SCHOOLING & WAS TOLD THERE IS A CRYING NEED FOR BOOKS SO I MIGHT JUST SEND HER SOME IF I CAN EVER FIGURE OUT THE ADDRESS SHE WROTE DOWN.

THE BILL CAME TO AT LEAST DOUBLE WHAT IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUT STILL NOT A LOT & I WENT ALONG.

THESE PHOTOS JENNIFER TOOK

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JENNIFER'S REFLECTION OF HER PHOTOGRAPHING HER WISH LIST

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MARIBEL & JENIFER.

CUBA HAS THE MAYBE UNIQUE DISTINCTION OF HAVING TWO CURRENCIES. THE CUBAN CONVERTIBLE PESO FOR TOURIST TO USE ( THE COOK ) & THE REGULAR PESO THAT MOST CUBANS ARE PAID IN. THERE MAY BE AN EXCHANGE RATE OF 10 TO ONE BUT I DO NOT REALLY KNOW & DO NOT FULLY UNDERSTAND IT ANYWAY,
I DID HEAR THEY MAY GO TO ONE CURRENCY WITH ALL THE HEADACHES THAT WILL ENTAIL.

I WILL PROBABLY GO BACK TO CUBA AT SOME STAGE & STAY IN A HOMESTAY. VERY CHEAP - UNDER 30 DOLLARS FOR BED & BREAKFAST & A CHANCE TO MEET SOME LOCALS & SEE HOW THEY LIVE.

Posted by hasbeen 13:00 Archived in Cuba Comments (0)

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