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Friday, January 07, 2011

Day 441 - And We're Off To CUBA!!!

I arrived at 05-something in Toronto. I found out where I needed to go to catch my final flight. On my way there, I spotted a quiet corner with 2 chairs. I asked the security gal if I could rest there & she said, ‘No problem.’ I couldn’t fall asleep to save my life, but I uncomfortably tossed & turned, dozing off from time to time. I checked my messages & nothing too urgent. I emailed Mom & she replied something about getting my text, which completely confused me, but nothing new there!

I finally got up & decided to head towards my gate, as the time was nearing. I hitched a ride in one of the little buggies. The lady offered me a ride & I found it funny, as Mom2 & I were just talking about how they never give you a ride when you need it. And I didn’t really need it today, but I took it anyways.

When I got to the gate area, there were these really neat black arches & the light was reflecting off the windows & arches beautifully. It was nicely done! I contemplated getting some sushi, but changed my mind. I sat down to check emails again & a Japanese visitor sat down beside me. We enjoyed a chat about travel, Canada, Japan & America. When I checked my messages, Mom emailed me back to say the text was from Kim, the friend I was traveling to Cuba with & that her plane was delayed & she wasn’t sure if she would make the connection to Cuba with me.

Oh dear. That was a bit alarming, as I didn’t know where we were staying or anything about the trip – for that matter! My bad, I know! I usually always have the details worked out! Not this time!

I decided to go to the counter & let them know that Kim was coming in on a flight from Ottawa & she would be cutting it close to make her flight. When I told the lady, she typed away on her computer & then said, ‘She’s not on the flight. She boarded, but then got off.’ WHAT?! No, there must be a mistake! ‘No’, the woman reassured me Kim was most certainly not on that flight. Great. Now what?

I called Mom. No answer. I tried about 5x. No answer. I called Kim. No answer. ($5.20 for one minute at the payphone! Guess I need a cell!) I was perplexed. If she didn’t get on the plane, why isn’t she answering her phone? What is going on? What am I going to do now? Hang out in Toronto for a week? Until tomorrow? Oh I was in FULL panic mode now!

I went back to the counter to tell the lady to pull my bags off the plane & sort out what was the next step. I asked her one more time – ‘Are you sure she didn’t get on that plane?’ She said, ‘Yes’, as she typed frantically on her computer. And then, ‘Oh. Wait. I’m wrong. She IS on the plane.’ Phew! Then she says, ‘But we’re about to start boarding. I don’t think she’s going to make it in time.’ Just then the phone rang. Kim was at Customer Service & she was on her way. (AMEN!) I knew I would be the last person on the plane regardless, so I didn’t wait in line. Instead, I waited, with camera rolling, to see Kim hookin’ it for the gate. And sure enough, I saw this little china doll bopping down the escalator & then she popped out the end of the pretty arches, bags flopping, hair blowing in the wind from her run… I’ve never been so happy to see someone in my life! (Well, until 21st February when I get to see Jaco again!) We hugged & hopped onto the plane. We were off!

We visited for a while, ate some food & then we both fell asleep. I’d say we crashed, but since we were on a plane & all, I don’t think it is appropriate!

We landed in Havana & had to clear customs. 1.5 hrs later – yes, we picked the wrong queue – we were finally in Cuba! We found our driver, exchanged some money & headed for downtown to drop off an envelope for the photographers.

It was love at first sight. No, not with the photographers - they turned out to be delightful - but with Havana. What an incredible city. Amazing architecture, old cars, beautiful people… it is going to be an amazing week!

We found our ‘home away from home’ next. Kim has a friend from home who has an Aunt in Vedado – an area in Havana – and we were going to stay with her. The cab driver dropped us off & Kim proceeded to drag her big suitcase up three floors on a very narrow & dark staircase. A gentleman came along & carried mine up for me. I followed suit with my carryon bag, which was just as heavy as my checked bag! We arrived at the top & went out onto a little patio overlooking the area. We sat down with a glass of water & coffee only to be told the woman had rented out our room for the next month! Minor detail! In any case, she had a neighbor across the street who had a room for us. He came over & introduced himself as Fernando.

We hauled our suitcases back down the narrow staircase & headed across the street. (208 to 209) Fernando showed us to our room on the second floor. It was tacky & dated, but it was home for the next week. Floral curtains, matching bedspreads, brown tile, pink walls, and best of all, a sliding curtain for the bathroom door. I guess I’ll have to watch my rice & beans intake for the week!

We unpacked our bags & decided to go out for dinner. I was a little nervous, as Kim said we could walk & it was already dark. I’ve never been comfortable walking in a 1st world country at night, let alone a 3rd world country! Nonetheless, we set out for our restaurant. Kind of.

It was someone’s home who is authorized by the government to serve food. We had a nice meal – I can tell I’m going to struggle with the food – Cubans like a lot of meat! The lady showed us a few rooms in the house after our meal. WOW. 8’ doors, chandeliers, amazing antiques – pretty much indescribable! We walked home along the Malécon. It is a main road that runs parallel to the ocean. The waves crash against the wall & splash high in the air, often splashing onto the sidewalk & street at times. It was impressive! I loved the ocean breeze & the sound of the waves. But what I loved even more… I felt safe! No one gave us a second glance! Well, okay, they certainly glanced twice, but Cuban men like to make their appreciation known & additionally, they probably don’t see too many Asian women or bald women!

We made it home safe & sound! Tomorrow we’ll have breakfast at Fernando’s (where we’re staying)  & then venture out to see Havana Vieja (Old Havana). It’s also Kim’s birthday, so we’ll try to do something special for her!

Buenas noches

Shadows stretching long. 
Free ride! 
 Crazy fast bumpy walkway
 Funky arches
My Japanese friend 
 The queue waiting for Kim!
 Up & away
 Clouds & shadows & water
 Little town in Cuba
We're here! 
 Cab ride
 Monument to José Martí
I'm in love already! 
 Just keeps getting better!

Our room.  
 Mmm, not for me.
Antique & crazy coat rack.


Kim said...

oh my goodness you have an impeccable memory! What a DAY we had! And that was only just the beginning...

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a good start to your vacation. Looking forward to your subsequent blog posts! Janis

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