December 15, 2016
Santiago de Cuba
We arrived yesterday by bus from Holguien. After waiting an hour and a half for the car we had reserved, we grabbed a bici-taxi to the bus station and met the same guy flogging rides. He claimed the car was on its way; I told him we didn’t believe him any more.
Santiago is, like Holguien, is a clean city with many parks and plazas. People are friendly. There is quite a different feel compared to La Habana where many streets are dirty and stores are uncared for. We got talking to a young man who is an urban sociologist. He thinks that there are people from all over Cuba in Havana who don’t have a feeling of belonging there and who lack pride in their surroundings. We are going to meet him tonight to chat. His English is quite good, but he lacks practice.
I also had a long chat with two older gentlemen near the port where we were walking. They talked to me about their pride in what Cuba has been able to accomplish since the revolution. This is a common theme from people I have met this time even though they do not deny the shortcomings and the poverty.
December 16th AM
We have a nice breakfast every morning here at our “casa particular”. Papaya and banana, an omelette, toast and coffee. It is served on our terrace where we are surrounded by beautiful plants. But I feel like a big sore thumb as I have broken out in a rash on my hands and face. Fortunately, both the man and his wife are doctors; they prescribed medicine and cream for me. Although I don’t look any better yet, I feel a bit more at ease having a diagnosis. The young man we met last night, picked up the medicine for me in a local pharmacy. It cost under two dollars.
Then we went to a wonderful jazz concert. $5 dollars each and 50 cents for him. It was a group led by Roberto Fonseca. They had invited various from Santiago to join them, and at the end they had a conga group come out and lead us to a boisterous finale.
You know that American are now allowed to visit Cuba, but there is still a lot of red tape involved. They can not get a visa for more than one month; they must state why they are coming, and plain old tourism is not a good enough reason, and they have to have a return ticket. Even though I am Canadian, they applied the same rules to me. As I did not plan on leaving the U.S. by plane, I did not have a return ticket and had to buy one. A regular return to Miami for $149 was non-refundable, so I bought a $1000 edition, which I will return for another to Mexico. But I need some time on a computer, and the $2 cards give me very unreliable connection when it is available. We saw an Internet café yesterday, so we are hoping that the connection there is more stable.