Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Last day in Cuba (for now)

Mama, Carmen's son's girlfriend, Carmen and Maria

Scott and I with the family
On this our last morning in Havana I did my blog entry for Day 9 and Scott went to the Bank to change some more money. We brought Mexican pesos with us and have been changing them into C.U.C.s as necessary. It costs a little more to change American dollars. He also stopped at the Infotur office to tell Dariana how much we enjoyed the concert and to thank her for all her help. She was delighted that he stopped in.
We'll get to see her again in April. For a number of reasons we have decided not to take the boat to Cuba but to fly back again when our oldest son Josh and his family come for a one week trip starting April 12th. And perhaps earlier if Larry Barns decides to visit.
All of Carmen's family and friends turned out to say good-bye (her son, boyfriend and uncle all met us down at the taxi). We have enjoyed staying there and getting to know them so much.
However I don't feel comfortable having my son's family there next month. Of course, to say hello and have them all meet. But there is a real danger of fires in this crowded center city and if there were one, everyone would probably perish. Carmen's apartment is on the 3rd and 4th floors. The 4th floor where we stayed has only one exit - a steep staircase to the living room. Carmen's apartment has only one exit out and that it a very steep narrow staircase down 2 flights. There is no other exit from the building (the two ground floors have a separate exit). I even checked out the roof (the 5th and 6th floor apartment shares the same single staircase with Carmen) - no way off. I realized this immediately and decided to take the risk but wouldn't with my grandchildren.
This is a common problem in the old section of Havana. Carmen acknowledged it, but they just live with it. Some people may not think of these things but my grandfather was a career fireman and I was brought up to always look for exits and plan a way out in an emergency.
Carmen arranged a taxi to the airport and we checked in for our flight without a problem. There were 20 or so booths for immigration agents so we passed right through. That was the end of "easy". All 20 exits from immigration dumped out into chaos. There were only two customs lines and although some people, including ourselves, went to the end of the line, everyone else just pushed in directly to the center. Tempers flared, including my own, and it was a miserable 40 minutes before we managed to get through.
Then our flight was not listed on the screens. And there wasn't a gate number on our boarding pass. We tried to talk to officials but they all refused any responsibility or ability to help. Finally an experienced traveler took pity on us and brought us into the "VIP" lounge where they suggested that our plane had not arrived yet and eventually, when it did, the flight would appear on the screen with a gate number.
So we thought about having some lunch. Again, chaos. There was one cafe serving food for all the gates. Two large lines had formed both ending at the same place with one woman taking orders. There was no menu anywhere but we watched what people had when they left and it was a choice of chicken or pork with rice and salad. I guess they originally had sandwiches but those were gone by the time we got close.  The food was actually pretty good!
Hours later our flight finally arrived on the screens. Another line awaited us to board the buses which took us out to our plane on the tarmac. It was very hot. What a relief to land in the very modern air conditioned Cancun airport!
But this was really the only negative time in our trip. Cuba is so worth visiting! Come soon before MacDonald's arrives.  The people, architecture, music, scenery, lack of traffic (and antique cars)...all unique and wonderful.

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