Sunday, February 5, 2017

Waiting and other impressions

Cubans spend a lot of time waiting.
As we are cycling along the carrateras, at every crossroads and in every village scores of people stand waiting for a bus or any other means of transport. This silent, expressionless waiting makes me sad and feel pity for them. I can't help seeing myself standing like this, endlessly, bored, depressing. Why are these people here, where do they want to go and why?
Then they stand in lines for shops. In the bigger shops (don't imagine more than 100m2 ) there is a staff member letting in just 1 or 2 persons a a time. People just stand in line. When they arrive at the line they will ask who is 'ultimo', so that they can even stand or sit somewhere aside and spend their waiting time there.
In every public building or office building the one thing you see when you look inside is a small desk with, you already guessed, a waiting person. Waiting for someone to come in or not, just waiting. These persons have this special look that you get when your days exist of waiting for nothing to happen.
In parks and on squares there's wifi. With a tarjeta (card) from the provider Etecsa you can log in. But, to buy such a card you have to stand in line for the Etecsa shop and wait. And trying to get connection with the wifi results is often very long waiting untill you get the connection. Then the hope is that logging in will succeed. If not, well, just wait for the next trial.
As the information in all tourist guidebooks tell you that ATM's (cash-dispensers) in Cuba don't work with western credit- or debet cards, tourists carry all the money that they think they will spend during their stay in Cuba with them, plus an extra amount for emergencies of course. Imagine all that cash walking around in tourist areas. Now you have to change this money into Cuban convertibles (CUC). You can do this at a Casa di Cambio (Cadeca). And stand in line and wait till the door-person will allow you in and you will notice that the employees in some of the booths are working, some just chatting with each other.
It was a surprise to notice that in all reasonably sized places there are ATM's accepting creditcards and even Maestro. I tried one and it worked!

In Cuba dogs don't chase passing cyclists. This is a great convenience. They just let you pass, sometimes they keep an eye on you, sometimes they just don't pay any attention. The worst country in this respect was, as far as our experience can tell, China. There dogs will really try to bite you in the leg. Or your pannier. Remarkable was, that as soon as we passed the border from China into Laos it was over. Dogs just watched and ignored you. My conclusion is that dogs reflect the human culture in which they are kept.
Now think of Holland and how dogs behave. Might give you something to ponder upon.

Coffee in Cuba is extremely good. In cafetarias they will serve you a very small cup, size Italian espresso, of very sweet and very tasty coffee for the amount of 1 Cuban peso (CUP). That is the national money for the Cubans themselves, not the convertibal currency for the tourists and for international products, which is CUC (1CUC=25CUP=app.1€). 1 CUP= €0.04.
In the same places you buy a hamburger (a simple version) or a roll with fried egg for 5 CUP, a pizza (not the Italian taste) for 10CUP. So very cheap.

We have visited a number of historic cities now. Havana, Cienfuegos, Trinidad, Sancti Siritus, Camaguëy. We noticed that most historic buildings, and there are very many, are in relative good shape. In other words, the city centres are not in the delapidated condition that we expected. Our hopes are that the system will allow more economic chances to continue and improve this important work.
The casas particulares where we stay very often are in historic colonial houses, with high ceilinged roofs and high doors, collumns and patios. Often very nice places to spend time.

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