Welcome to Cuba! A slap in the face!

We land in Havana at 8pm. Checking our documents goes really quickly, as here people with a kid are picked by the officials from the crowd and taken to the front. No pushing, no big deal, it’s simply reasonable and human: you have a baby, you go first. People say that coming to Cuba is like a slap in the face. Well, it is true: it is like a slap in the face with “humanity.” You are no longer an insect with a baby disturbing a “civilized European nation,” no one rolls their eyes, pushes you around or pretends no to notice you. You are in Cuba, from this moment on you will be a respected human being; you will be a family with a kid to whom people smile and talk. Welcome to Cuba!

On Havana airport we don’t really see the poverty that all tourist guides and travel blogs have been preparing us. Of course the airport does not look like one in Germany, but there is a flat TV playing popular music videos. Women from the working staff have acrylic nails, jewelry, and lace tights. After reading that people ask you on the streets for soap and pens, it makes no sense. Everything looks normal, but seems to be slightly faked to make the show go on. And indeed. It is enough to get off the airport to see how everything is messed up. But it is a magical mess…

window Havana Cuba
window Havana Cuba
Havana
Havana

In Cuba in February the sun goes down after 6 pm. We are driving with a taxi so fast, we barely manage to stay in the street lines. It’s a yellow cab in average conditions. We will later find out that those taxis are the more luxurious ones. It’s dark outside and we can barely see anything, but what we see, is already stunning: old colorful cars, beautiful buildings begging to be renovated, holes in the streets, people sitting in front of the staircases. MAGIC! Cuba looks exactly like on the pictures. And of course, Fidel, Che and revolutionary slogans are present everywhere on huge posters. When we stop in front of our casa, Zosia starts to cry again. Although it’s already late, the streets are full with life, but the life is totally different from the one we may see in European cities. People are sitting on the stairs, standing in the doors of their houses and talking. Cuban old-timers are passing by and late night Havana’s heat is resting on our skin. I start describing for Zosia everything happening around us. With the sound of Cuban music and old cars passing by, she fallls asleep again…

 Che Guevara mural Havana
Che Guevara mural Havana

 The next day I notice that from the money I exchanged at the airport there is 70 CUC missing. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN? We waited eternity for our luggage and our baby stroller we had to pick up in a totally different part of the airport (which btw. we found out by accident). Our taxi driver was waiting for us around two hours. He was eager to go as soon as he could, but I had read that the most comfortable way to exchange money is at the airport. The exchange rates are supposed to be almost the same as in the city but you don’t have to wait hours in the line. Our taxi driver suggested exchanging money the next day in the city and simply paying him with Euros. But I was determined to do it here, I read travel blogs, so I knew better. Zosia just woke up, she had no idea what was going on and started to cry. I managed to get in front of the line to exchange all the money that we needed for the whole trip. Although the worker counted the money with a bill counter and one more time in front of my eyes, I didn’t see that I got 70 CUC too less. Well what a wonder! It was 10 pm, I didn’t sleep for 30 hours, and my baby didn’t want to calm down. The next day I was so angry with the exchange office worker. “She must have seen it. How could she? She saw I’m with a baby! We brought so much stuff to give away for Cubans and that’s how we get treated the first day!” I was furious, and promised myself that I’m going to write how horrible this woman was and what she did was definitely done on purpose. STOP! The true lesson from the airport incident is:

  • don’t be arrogant: you can’t know better than the locals; it is almost certain that locals will give you better tips than any blog;
  • of course be careful but remember to trust people, the majority of Cubans are giving tips not to trick you, but simply because they care;
  • stay reasonable: if it is late, your baby is crying and you see just the half of what is happening around you, do not decide to exchange all the money you have, only because some blogger wrote it is a better way to do it;
  • don’t judge too fast: after three weeks travelling through Cuba and meeting many many Cubans, I am 99,9% sure that the exchange office worker didn’t trick me on purpose; from Cubans we never experienced anything but love towards our family;
  • stay modest, you are entering the country of people with big hearts: Cubans we met on our way often shared with us everything they have, although they don’t have much. It’s something they have in their blood. They will give for your kid the last yogurt they have. Even kids will share their toys, although they have just one or two of them. So by thinking, I’m doing a big charity by leaving medication or some things as presents, I just proved how rotten to the core I became 🙁
Callejón de Hamel Havana Cuba
Callejón de Hamel Havana Cuba

More about Cuba:

Havana

Ciénaga de Zapata

Cienfuegos

Trinidad

How to Prepare Your Trip to Cuba

How to travel in Cuba

Casas Particulares in Cuba

Cuban Currency

Merken

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Post Author: lovetravellingfamily

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