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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Last mango in Havana (sorry, I couldn't help it!)

At Havana airport, Sunday am.
Last mango in Havana!

We are on the road back home, about to board our plane to Toronto. Yesterday developed not quite according to plan. We reached Giselle by phone late morning, and asked how to get to her university. She told us it was difficult to find and that she would come by bus to get us, at 6:30pm. She really seemed to want to reciprocate for our taking her to dinner for cooking us dinner, which was great. We relocated to Casa 1932, where we’d spent our first night, and now planned to spend our last. Giselle arrived a bit early, which was fine. Luis apologized that it was casa policy not to allow guests past the parlor room, which was fine. It’s a wonderful room, also serves as the breakfast room. Giselle was mesmerized by the place, said it looked ike a palace. I had the feeling she’d never seen anyplace like it.  Well, it is a bit unusual, with all the antiques and collectibles, and also, I imagine, somewhat sumptuous for the average Cuban.

  I have not been able to understand the class differences that exist here, the poverty of some, the middle class-ness of others, and the seeming wealth of still others.  There are teenagers using cell phones on the Malecon, families strolling and eating ice cream, others congregating and drinking rum. And the families frolicking in the ocean in la Boca did not seem at all poor.  I know those in the tourist related industries make a good bit more in tips, and others receive money from relatives abroad. But it still doesn’t seem to explain the discrepancies.

Well, back to yesterday evening. Giselle seemed to really want us to not just come to her place, but to stay overnight. She said that her university was very close to the airport. She was also worried about finding us a ride back to central Havana late at night. We discussed various possibilities – that we have dinner together in town, and that Luis find a room for her in a casa nearby, and that we stop at her home on the way to the airport early in the morning, that we have dinner and send her home in a cab, etc. We eventually decided, especially as she said the airport was very close to her, that we would stay with her at her apartment, although we had already paid Luis for the room ( and would have done so even if we hadn’t already.)
So Luis called us a cab, who turned out to be the same driver who had driven us to la Boca last week. I always call this guy, said Luis, because he shows up on time.

 Once on the way, the driver explained that the airport near Giselle was not the international one, but an equal distance in the other direction. In oither words, we were going totally out of our way and aside from cost, it would be a one and a half hour drive in the am.

 But that was just the beginning of the problem. When we eventually arrived at the University, the guards at the gate said we couldn’t enter. Giselle talked with them for 15 or 20 minutes, they made a call or two, but eventually she realized that the policy was firm. We never did understand whether it was because we were from the U.S. or just because we were foreigners .Giselle thought it was because we were American, and muttered something about the stupid government. (hers, not ours.) In retrospect, it wasn’t at all a surprise, So we had to quickly say goodbye to her there, giving her the plastic bag we had compiled for her full of toiletries, toothpaste, deodorant,, my Dr. Bronner’s still half full bottle, and all the small hotel bottles we’d taken from the Telegrafo and the Hotel Raquel. Plus a University of New Haven t shirt that had been a freebie when we were touring colleges with Carolina. We'd seen a lot of U.S. t shirts here. That actually reminds me of a story I haven't recounted yet, an incident that occurred at Hemingway's house. (which I also don't think I have described, and so will recount at the end.)

Then, back to Havana and Casa 1932 in our cab. We had the driver call ahead to Luis to let him know we were coming back. Although when we arrived Luis told us he had just given the room to someone else. He was teasing us, though. At that point, it didn’t really matter, we were in “ whatever” mode. We had wondered if we had to redocument, by signing in Luis’ official book (we’d already signed in, then signed out when we left with Giselle) but that didn’t seem necessary. We gave Luis back the five Cucs he’d returned to us, for an early morning light breakfast(juice, coffee, mango, watermelon, papaya, pineapple, guayaba) that we then had, as originally planned, at 5:30 am this morning before our cab man picked us up at 6am.
Our last event, our last night in Havana, after a delicious dinner at the casa, was to stroll the Malecon, along with, it seemed, everyone else in Havana. A wonderful end to a wonderful sojourn.

We are now onboard, about to take off for Toronto. It is disorienting to hear, not English again, but French! 
I shall finish and post the rest of this account upon our return home.

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