Sunshine. Oceanbreeze. The warmth on your skin. Drifting away on a bed on the beach. No room for contemplations, fully relaxed. Going with the flow. Doing nothing specifically. Drinking cocktails in the pool. Watching time pass by slowly.
Enjoying a nice conversation or just being comfortably silent. An after lunch nap. Trying to keep your balance while doing some yoga poses in the sand or in the water, with waves surrounding you. Could think of harder things to do.
When flying all the way up there, only spending time on the beach and in the pool would be a pity. We wanted to have a taste of the culture and history of the country, so we took some trips to see it. So we got up early, spend most of the day in a bus listening to a tour guide telling the Cuban side of history, walked in really hot air, while taking in the scenery of the country. These old towns which are partially renovated and for another part seem like a bomb has exploded.
These contrasts, beautiful decorated buildings with these oldtime classic cars driving around on one hand and dead rats and pig heads on the streets, old homes which seem like they could fall apart any minute and poverty on the other.
You need to see things to be able to understand the story.
People living under conditions we can hardly imagine. Until you have seen it. A regime we only condemn in the west. But when you have seen with your own eyes that it is not the whole story, your judgment changes. You need to travel to a country to be able to see things for yourself. You cannot imagine certain things unless you have been there. It’s easy to judge by just what you hear. Unless you have seen what the cities and people look like, how they are dressed, what they eat, how they live. What they do. How much freedom they have, or the lack of it. Lack of freedom of choice where to live, what to do for a living, what goods you can buy. It is not the whole story.
Freedom of choice
In Cuba people don’t really need to think about choices, they are made for them. Can you imagine when someone else makes the choices for you? Like in which city you can live, what job you can do, in what kind of house you can live? What would that be like for you?
We live in a country where we have a tremendous amount of freedom. I am grateful for it every time I see that other people don’t have that. On the other hand, freedom isn’t everything. You need to provide for things yourself. You need to make the choices. When you make bad decisions, you suffer the consequences and you are the one to blame. That gives you power and not everybody can handle that. All these choices, it makes people stressed and sometimes even depressed.
But, as Jessica, one of the entertainers we have met in the resort, says, when you only have this (see shows a pencil), you figure out ways what you can do with it. You become creative. And you settle, because you know that is the only thing you have. You make the most of it. You don’t have a choice. When you have all these possibilities, what happens is that you want more and more and more, since there is more and more and more. But it comes with a price. There is always a trade of and a downside.
It’s strange to drive on the streets of Cuba, since you see things you don’t see around Europe or other Western countries. You don’t see horses with carriages, cars from last centuries’ fiftees or bicycles on the freeway.
What strikes you when you drive around Cuba is how organized some countries are and how chaotic others. In countries like the Netherlands or Germany there is a plan for everything and you can see that in a city or countryside. Everything is taken care of.
In Cuba you see unfinished buildings, ghost premises, bad roads, unclean cities and hygiene leaving somewhat to be desired. On the other hand you see that literacy is higher than in a large nearby country (US). 85% of the people doesn’t pay rent.
The government takes care of it and with limited budgets choices need to be made.
Work in Cuba
You might think that people living in a communist country don’t like to work and yes, we have seen people who weren’t that motived, but we have also seen enthusiastic people trying to make the most out of it. And others were more creative in the way they could earn a living. We have heard that people in Cuba can be really creative. You have to when you want to make something out of nothing. When you already have everything or you can buy anything, everything is done for you and you don’t need to look for solutions yourself. Like for examples fixing a bike. They use basically every material they can lay their hands on, because they simply don’t have other opportunities for receiving materials.
Education is free in Cuba. After you get your higher education degree, the government offers you a job. You need to accept that job and do it for 2 years. After that time period you can choose yourself.
Could you imagine that the government offers you a job and you have to do it for 2 years?
So what do you do when you are not working as a Cuban? They go to the beach, enjoy the sunshine, drink mojito’s, cuba libres and dance the night away with salsa, reggaeton or merengue with life energy all over. The Cubans are rhythmic people with loose hips.
I’ve tried some salsa moves myself, but I needed way more practice to be able to copy those moves. Probably I will never be able to copy them. They smoke cigars, drink some rum while enjoying a game of domino. Sometimes life is easy going.
At home we take things for granted.
In Cuba there is no power on a regular basis. We only witnessed a black out once, on the day of our departure. Since it was only for a few hours in the early morning, it didn’t really affect us. Can you imagine that we wouldn’t have power for all the things we need it for at home?
The wifi was not steady and many people complained about it in the reviews. You weren’t able to connect every single time and it was really slow. It is quite shocking to realize how addicted one has become to the internet nowadays. We did fine on that level though.
Out of stock or out of order. It’s something we don’t hear very often in our country. You can more or less expect the same quality of a product every time you order it. In Cuba that is different. For example orange juice, but even mojito tastes different every time. When those were the only ‘problems’ we had, we really had a difficult time 😉 Many times we have heard that something is either out of stock or out of order. Actually we are quite spoiled where we are from when you come to think of it and compare it.
Time is an interesting cultural thing. Whenever we were on time for something (punctual) and they weren’t ready to open yet, the answer we received was ’10 minutes’. They didn’t know either. It took us 2 hours to check in, they told us the room would be ready in 10 minutes. And never you received an explanation why things were ‘delayed’ (from our perspective). It’s a different mindset you have to get used to.
You can be annoyed by these things, but there is nothing you can do about it. When you are annoyed the only thing that is ruined is your mood and the atmosphere. For Cuba this is already over the top what they are doing and the goods they serve to tourists. These are things they cannot eat or have themselves. It is a mind switch. It is a different world.
A crook or a hero?
You really do need to visit a country to be able to understand what is going on and yet we have seen nothing and we still haven’t heard the whole story. I left the history out of these contemplations, that would be a whole new story. It does fascinate me though and we bought Che Guevara’s book ‘Guerrila warfare’ at his memorial to understand more about the revolution and about who he was as a person and what he fought for.
Is he a crook or a hero? What can we do to understand the whole story? Everyone tells one side of a story and it appears to be a different version. What is the truth?
I feel grateful for the wonderful vacation we had. For the things we have seen, the memories we have made. The pictures we took, the stories we took away with us, the people we met.
Wonder what our next destination will be…
To enjoy some latin rhythms: