Thanks for your letter welcoming us back from Cuba. We are so glad we decided to go. It was an amazing, sometimes bewildering, but always interesting experience. I’ve been trying to write up an account of our adventures and misadventures based on scribbles that we took at the time and some notes I made as soon as we got back. But I’m having great difficulty in doing it justice, or summing it up in any coherent fashion that doesn’t just seem to sprawl all over the page. Tho’ maybe that’s some kind of metaphor for what Cuba is like anyway. We’re still suffering withdrawal symptoms I think. It gets underneath your skin and seems to stay there.
We experienced some amazing sights and sounds/music. We met a whole lot of people, mainly fellow travellers, beginning with a highly entertaining Cuban/Grenadan, ex male model now Jehovah’s witness, in Seat 80 of the plane going out. He is threatening to come and visit us in Glasgow in the summer. Two lovely English couples who we spent the day with in Las Terrazas and then met up with again over a few mojitos in Vinales, a friendly Swedish couple in Cayo Levisa who we bumped into again in Trinidad, three Californian guys with whom we shared some red wine (ours) and rum (theirs) in our casa in Vinales, an Algerian who had been travelling all through South America since May and who rolled up to the Hotel Jasmine in Vinales by horse, a young Chilean journalist in the casa in Trinidad who was impressed by the fact that I knew a folk song about Victor Jara. He observed that if you speak to tourists in Cuba, they say ‘ Cuba’s bound to change’, but if you speak to Cubans in Cuba, they tell you, ‘Cuba will never change’. The Cuban guide in the Maqueta de Trinidad. He took us up two rickety flights of stairs to the roof of the Casa Frias and tried to explain all the different branches of Cuban music, and talked with great feeling of the importance of family in Cuba. The Irish owner of a new restaurant in Trinidad, ‘La Redaction’
which she runs with her Cuban husband, an exile recently returned from Amsterdam and a good friend of the aforementioned Algerian. (She explained that her in-laws had moved into the place twenty years ago from Sancti Spiritus. How did they manage that? They swopped houses. No money ever changed hands.) The guide in the Camera Obscura in Plaza Vieja, Havana who pointed out how the clocks on the public buildings in Havana all tell the wrong time. ‘But that’s important, because it’s best to let time flow. You live longer that way. Tranquilo’. Oh and a very, very young and expectant mother and father hanging out in the pavement in Trinidad, waiting for her to be admitted to the local maternity home.
Tho’ our conversation consisted only of ‘Hola’, followed by a broad smile and a ‘Hola amigo’ from the excited father to be (well he could afford to be excited, he wasn’t about to go into labour) it felt like real communication.
I won’t bore you with all the sights and sounds, you’ll have more than enough of your own. But I’ve cut and pasted some of the tentative diary and enclosed what I hope might be useful feedback on the itinerary, our experience of the transfers, and some feedback on the accommodation.
Sorry if it goes on a bit, but it is Cuba after all!