Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Only 3 minutes left of internet time and I can't think of a title!

Ack, the pressure! The Internet is so expensive here and I've already used 3 minutes just getting to this word. Yesterday, when I first tried to get on the Internet, the woman in charge of the two computers said it was lunch time and to come back in an hour and a half. I didn't think computers needed a lunch break, but whatever. I smiled and thanked her and went off to kill some time. When I came back after lunch, the woman couldn't find the pad of paper with the passwords on it. She felt around the desk, lifted things, opened a drawer, then told me, "It's not working... I lost it... don't worry. Come back later."

I'm so glad I read some guidebooks and negative reviews before we came, so I was prepared for the more relaxed Cuban version of service. Some of the reviews on tripadvisor were so negative, I thought, I never want to use that harpie tone to describe having to wait for something or eating bland food. The horror! Speaking of food, I am eating fairly well. They make fresh bread every day, which is great, and the desserts are also way too yummy for my own good. The meal in between is ok if a little unsatisfying, which makes me eat more dessert. I had profiteroles the other day for the first time, and seriously loved them! No wonder all those British chit lit books mention them.

The other day when I blogged, the woman in charge had a friend visiting her. The friend pointed to the paperback I'd brought with me and sounded out the words. Eat, Pray, Love.

"What is this word in the middle? Pry. What does it mean?" she asked.

"Pray," I told her, and mimed a praying pose, palms together in front of my sternum, fingers pointed up. She looked like she wasn't getting it, so I tilted my head to the side and cast my eyes down, trying to look serene, like the Virgin Mary or something. She got it.

I point to the book again and ask, "You already know Eat and Love?"

She laughs heartily. "Oh yes! Eat -" she puts her hand to her mouth - "and amore" her friend finishes for her. They laugh again.

Swee'pea is slightly more peaceful today. Slightly. He's been enjoying the beach and yesterday he went for a swim in the ocean. He's more recognizably ours now, still with meltdowns but mostly only when he's really hungry and tired. Last night we went to the seafood a la carte restaurant, and he was downright pleasant to dine with. The musicians immediately made friends with him and so did the server. He gets such great service.

This morning at breafast a server stopped to ask him "What's up?!" and held out his hand for a High Five. To our intense embarassment, Swee'pea grabbed an empy butter packet from his plate and handed it to him, saying thank you and looking quite pleased with himself. Sugar D and I blushed puce and told Swee'pea to give him a High Five and finally he did it. Oh yes, we're raising quite the aristocrat.

In the lobby yesterday as I was making the dinner reservation, a man suddenly started screaming at someone behind the desk. He screamed. His face went red. He gesticulated madly. I wondered if it might actually come to blows he was so out of control angry. The woman I was dealing with shook her head and said, "It's always the same with Russians. It's like they don't go to school. I don't know what it is with that country, but it's always the same. And not just here but at other resorts too. Always the same. A few nights ago, a Russian punched the manager on duty for no reason and broke his wrist." Now, I'm not sure whose wrist was broken, but you get the idea. Eventually the man stopped screaming and just stood around looking angry and menacing, so I left.

Tomorrow morning we're going to Havana. We'd been thinking about not going because Swee'pea's been so unpleasant, but I think I'd be more bitter about going to Cuba and not going to Havana than I would be if we had a horrible lousy time in Havana. I've been trying to make arrangements with a local tour guide who people raved about at the tripadvisor forum. But apparently I gave him the wrong room number and with my problems getting online yesterday, we didn't hook up on the phone until last night.

He sounds so lovely and he's making our accommodation arrangements and taxi arrangements and we have total flexibility about taking tours of the city. I feel so much better having him to help us. I can almost hear my mother questioning my trust since I just pulled his name off the web but there was not a single bad word about him and lots of good, and sometimes you just have to trust. I almost feel adventurous, because we don't know yet where we're staying. Jorge knows we have Swee'pea with us and he's first going to try for a good private house, but he warned that they're hard to get for a single overnight, so we may have to stay at the Hotel Nacional for A LOT more money. We'll just have to wait and see where the taxi driver takes us tomorrow.

I keep swinging between thinking I could get used to this all-inclusive resort business, not having to pay for drinks or meals, just wandering and lazing around, and feeling suffocated by the inertia and lethargy this place inspires. It takes such energy to get away from it, and then when we do, we do something stupid like forget the stroller, or like yesterday, get on the bus in the wrong direction and ride a hot bus for an hour and 15 minutes instead of the usual 15 minutes.

Sugar D and I have already agreed that in Havana I will get my own tour by myself to make photos so he doesn't annoy me (yesterday, Swee'pea was perfectly happy in the stroller but Sugar D stopped on - I swear! - every single street corner, wondering if we should stop and let Swee'pea out or get a drink or something. I was open to stopping for a drink or a bite, but then he'd decide not to - until the next street corner when he'd stop and wonder again.) I was also frustrated to come up against my old self-consciousness with my camera and I found myself paralyzed yesterday. I'd see someone or something I'd want to shoot, but I'd stop myself because I felt like a spectator at a zoo - oh look, there's a Cuban! On the porch of his crumbling abode! How Cuban!

Not sure how or if I'll get past this in Havana, but it doesn't help that so far Cubans only look at my camera with one of three expressions: curiosity, hostility, or resignation. In this sense, I haven't seen much evidence of Cubans' warmth or their reported love of being photographed. Maybe Jorge, our tour guide in Havana, will help? Or maybe it's just that one can't make sensitive photos of a place until one's been there for a while and interacted more with the people.

Anyhow, I'm loving the heat and sun and the ocean never stops surprising with just how turquoise it is. It's so... Caribbean! Today we walked outside and as I mused on the how idyllic this place is, Sugar D said, "Jeez, you'd think we were on some tropical island paradise or something." Exactly.


Mimi said...

It is beautiful, isn't it? We loved our trip to Havana, btw: even the drive there is very interesting, if your guide will be explaining it to you as you go. Good luck! I'm trying to cop some of your turquoise Caribbean vibe ... :-)

Lisa b said...

I can't wait to see your shots of Havana.
Your vacation blogging is making me feel all warm and tropical.

Cloud said...

Oh, I'm jealous. I'm just back from a trip, too- but we only went to Arizona (my home state). Far less exciting than Cuba!

I'm reading Eat, Pray, Love, too!

Suz said...

Hey K.,
been wondering how you've been making out in the land of rum, cigars and... Che. Great to read your posts -- almost like being there! Nothing new in the office; I'll still be here on Tuesday as I got my "Dear Applicant" letter from you-know-who (which was a huge... relief.)
Have missed you this past week; a couple of times I could have really used your advice, insight, wisdom.
Anyway, glad you're enjoying the trip (despite everything!).
See you soon!