I am back from vacation. This is the first vacation where we have gone for 7 days and I can tell you, I notice the difference. When you have 10 days or 2 weeks, you truly unplug. With 7 days, I never really wound down .. mental note.
We went to Cuba for the 2nd time and it seems that traveling to Cuba is full of myths. So, as my duty, a few myths busted:
1. The army is everywhere with guns. Nope. In fact, I saw a single policeman, he was setting up a speed trap (It is the same everywhere. Basta!)
2. You cannot take electronics. Nope. They will not allow in large items (Like a full size DVD player) or certain communications devices (Satellite phones, walkie talkies). However, if it is a personal electronic item (laptop, DVD player, gameboy) .. no problem. This is a real point of confusion, I have heard time and time again that they confiscate these things to prevent them from going to the black market. Wrong. You can take them. We did not .. because we were busy hanging on the beach. But many people around us did …
3. They do not have access to medicine or common things like shampoo. Again .. no. While they do appreciate these things (Because it means they don’t have to spend money on it locally), they would rather that tourists brought them cool things that they cannot get. Designer cloths, a cool Titleist hat … things like that. They have access to it at a low rate, as the government provides … but they don’t make alot of money.
4. If your passport is stamped Cuba, you will get stopped by US immigration. No again. In fact, I have been twice, and the Cubans did NOT stamp my passport once. I just noticed this today as I was curious what it looked like .. and there were no Cuba markings.
What is true?
1. They do make a pittance. 30 pesos per month ($40 CDN roughly) was the going rate at the hotel and everyone (Well, I am sure not everyone) makes the same. But, everyone has a roof, they can all go to University at no cost (If you don’t, you get a stint in the army), they are very proud to note that no children are on the streets (Unlike Mexico, I did not see 5 year old kids out selling Chiclets at 11PM at night), there are no drugs (Wonder what a Cuban jail looks like?) and crime is quite low (A woman we were speaking with said the biggest crime is the crime of passion over a jilted lover).
2. The beaches are the nicest in the south – that is for SURE. Better than Mexico, Jamaica and Dominican. White sand. Great weather. As the tide heads out, you can walk out 200 .. 300 meters. Love the beaches.
3. The food sucks – or is at best, mediocre (Although, the seafood is GREAT). The nation does not have the access to the same fresh fruit imports that other countries have (Don’t know why ..), but the food is not great.
4. The people are very nice, and it seems VERY safe. I have never had a problem .. and unlike Jamaica, Mexico and Dominican, there are zero people bothering you on the beach, trying to sell you stuff.
I have to tell you, I wonder if Communism or socialism (As Fidel calls it) is not the right approach for Cuba? Go to Mexico or Dominican, the ‘free and democratic’ workers make the same crappy wages with no social system to support them (no health or education system in place to take care of the poor, that is for sure). It is my humble opinion that the Cubans that I have met are very happy .. while the Dominican’s I met were not .. that is for sure.
A topic for another blog.
Greetings from Shanghai.