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The goats next door

We played tag, running through the faded red labyrinth as often as possible. We threw stones at the dogs when they got too close to the kitchen and splashed in the lake with the horses. There was school of course, but I remember the smell of the goats next door much more clearly than anything they ever tried to teach me.

I vaguely remember someone leaving for university and never coming back. When I see my children dashing past enormous tour busses to get to the now pink labyrinth, I wonder: If I had left, would I be like these tourists now? Going to far away places with strange languages to see other people’s children play. To see other people’s homes and families and eat their food. And what significance would it have, seeing a place I had no connection to, where I had no family, no friends, no memories. Would it even matter to me at all?

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A Trip to Cuba, Part 4

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Back in Habana, a Mix of New and Old

The next day we took the bus back to Habana. It stopped a couple of times along the way so that the driver could do his shopping. I saw him buy milk, pork and some bananas.

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Our driver buying pork and bananas.

This time we took a taxi into central Habana to see the sights.

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We walked, though.

Again, we saw many beautiful buildings although some were in disrepair. They were renovating and building a lot, but there were still some empty lots.

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The Capitolio is being renovated…

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… and across the street, is an empty lot.

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A facade with an overgrown scaffolding. As you can see, there is no house behind the facade.

 

They had many small parks, sometimes just a corner with some trees and bushes and a mural or statue. They have used old cannons and cannonballs as decoration on many of the small streets, but I also saw modern art.

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Sometimes, they were placed to stop cars from driving up the streets.

 

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“So I said to him, why would I need a torso?”

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Lamps grow on trees, didn’t you know?

Last Thoughts

Cuba seems like a rather poor country. They are building and renovating a lot in Habana, so maybe in about five years Habana will not seem poor anymore, but I do not know when it will spread to the rest of the country.

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A house we passed on the hike from Hotel Hanabanilla.

They seem to run out of things. For example, I did not have any ice cream while I was there, because they never had any. Some places had signs showing typical nestlé ice creams, but no ice cream.

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At sunset in Trinidad.

I did not have any internet while I was there. It is possible to buy internet cards, which give one access to internet for an hour per card, if you are at a hotspot. My sister told me that they worked fine, although some homepages were blocked, typically by the United States.

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On the same street as our casa particular in Habana. I think this was a school? On a side note: Education is free in Cuba. For Cubans of course.

We spent a large percent of our time in busses and taxis. The taxis were of course an experience in themselves, but I would have liked to walk around more in between. If you are thinking of going to Cuba, I recommend spending at least two nights in each place, and if you are from Europe, I recommend spending at least two weeks in Cuba, to get some more time without jetlag.

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I met this man at the airport.

It took a lot longer to write about Cuba than I thought it would. I hope you enjoyed reading about my trip, and that I have inspired you to visit Cuba. It is definitely an experience.

 

The next post will be flash fiction, I promise.

A Trip to Cuba, Part 3

Hanabanilla

We arrived at Hotel Hanabanilla in the afternoon. The hotel is on the shore of a large lake created by a dam, which is close by. It is built in two parts with small bridges between them and has very comfortable rooms each with a small balcony with a view over the lake.

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View from one of the small bridges between the two parts of the hotel.

The rest of that day felt like a slow Sunday. While eating some sandwiches for a late lunch, we were entertained by some chickens chasing each other for a piece of ham dropped by a waiter. When I went to my room later, I was pleased to find that they had hot water in the shower.

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The very empty pool. It seems like it was being repainted.

 

I woke to birdsong and strong sunshine the next morning.

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From the balcony of my room.

After breakfast, we went for a walk up the only footpath we could find. Maybe it is the only one there I; we could not see any others on the map, they had on the wall at the reception, and the hotel shop did not sell any maps of the area.

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I saw this tree on the way. It has some kind of fruit or nuts on it, but I don’t know what it is. If you know, please tell me in the comments.

We saw lots of vultures. Three of which sat on the path right in front of us until we came too close and they flew away.

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If you zoom, you can see one spreading its wings, another behind it and a third to the right.

 

Halfway up the hill we found an orange tree, with green turning orange fruit hanging from the branches. In several places, we crossed withered palm leaves, at least two meters long. A humming bird flitted about a bush, but it was gone before I could get my phone out.

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The hotel in the middle and the dam to the right.

All in all, it was a great experience to see their rain forest, and I would have liked to see more, but the next day, we took a taxi to Trinidad.

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The horses seemed to enjoy the place too.

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I found these outside the hotel. I don’t know who they belonged to.

Trinidad

Our casa particular in Trinidad was filled with stairs and bright colours.

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The winding stair leads to the terrace and more rooms.

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The first level of terrace. The next is up the stairs to the right.

We went to Plaza Major, where there were many beautiful old buildings. Then we went for a walk around the church. We found many galleries in Trinidad (also in Habana, when we went back there) and the paintings were of many different things and in many different styles, but it did seem like most of them used bright colours.

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We went up a bell tower, but did not see much of the museum on the ground floor, because they were closing when we got down.

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We went up as far as we could get.

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The bells! The bells!

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From the tower. The forest is not that far away.

As the sun set, live bands began to play in all the cafés and restaurants. We ate our dinner listening to Guantanamera and Muchos Besos.

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If you are a fan of old cars, Cuba is the place to go.

To be continued…

A Trip to Cuba, Part 2

At the Casa Particular

After a drive in our red (inside and out) taxi, we arrived at our casa particular. A casa particular is very much like a bed and breakfast. In our case, our rooms were actually two small flats in the garden, one on top of the other.

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The door to the lower flat and the balcony from which one could enter the upper flat.

At this point, it was close to 8 pm local time, which means it was 2 am for us. So after a quick dinner at a local restaurant I collapsed on my bed.

I woke at 4 am and again at 5 am and again at 6 am. When I finally got up at 6:30 I was very groggy, but the shower cured most of it. Especially since there was only cold water (in the red tap) and icy water (in the blue tap).

Outside it was a beautiful morning with blue sky, birds chirping and it was already warm enough to wear only a t-shirt. Our landlady put things on the garden table until it looked like this:

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We never had too little to eat while in Cuba.

And then she asked us how we wanted our eggs.

Our fruit plate consisted of a banana, some watermelon, some pineapple, some papaya and a fruit, which I still have not found out what is.

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I ate it anyway and swallowed the pips…

It is the one above the pineapple and watermelon. In the soft middle part, it had lots of small, ball shaped pips, which were too hard to chew. If you recognize it, please tell me what it is in the comments.

Horses on the Motorway

After breakfast, our driver from the day before took us to the bus station, so we could take the bus to Santa Clara and from there a taxi to Hanabanilla.

It was a long and cold bus trip. I had to put on my jacket and scarf because they had set the air-condition to arctic. However, there were plenty of interesting things to see along the way. On our way out of Habana we were on a four lane motorway and in the first lane I saw both cyclists, scooters, hitchhikers and horse drawn carts.

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They seem to use them for transporting both people, hay and furniture.

Later, I also saw a man ploughing his field using oxen. It was like watching a film where the director could not decide on a century. In one field they use a tractor, in the next oxen. First we were passed by a modern Volvo, then a pair of cowboys with their cattle.

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Taken from the taxi.

Our taxi from Santa Clara to Hanabanilla was a classic example of a car that would have been expensive in 1950. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it. Even when our driver stopped the car halfway up a hill, pulled the handbrake, tied the handbrake to the steering wheel with a piece of rope and got out of the car to pour water on the motor. We got out of the car, just in case, and watched as he opened the hood. There was smoke rising from the engine, but our driver did not seem worried, and sure enough after he had poured on the water and untied the handbrake, he drove us the rest of the way to Hanabanilla without incident.

To be continued…

A Trip to Cuba, Part 1

Since I came home from Cuba, I have been thinking a lot about how to write about it. It is difficult because of mainly two things: First, I do not know enough about the history of Cuba and second, I do not know enough Spanish, so most of the time I could only speak to Cubans through other people.

This means that I cannot put things into their proper context. Therefore, the following will be my impressions during my trip and then, hopefully, you will be able to put them into context yourselves.

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When I tried to find pictures of Cuba on google, these houses from Habana kept popping up. Now I’ve seen them in real life and taken my own picture.

The Arrival

We landed in Habana airport at 6 pm local time, which means it was midnight in my head. After a thorough passport check and a lackadaisical security check, we queued up to exchange some euros to pesos convertibles. Cuba has two currencies, peso convertible (CUC) and peso cubano (CUP). One CUC is 25 CUP or about 0.94 Euro. The CUP is only used by the locals, while the tourists are expected to pay in CUC. I only found one café where they listed prices in both CUC and CUP, in all other shops and restaurants I went to all the prices were listed in CUC only. I imagine it would have been different if I had gone to less touristy areas.

When we got into our nonofficial taxi, I spent several seconds searching for the seatbelt. There wasn’t any. And while in Cuba I did not see one.

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Maybe the modern cars have seatbelts? I saw plenty of modern cars around Habana. However, I would not describe any of the cars I drove with in Cuba as “modern”.

Most Cars are a Taxi

As I said, we took a nonofficial taxi, by which I mean we paid a Cuban to drive us to our casa particular in his private car. This is not a strange thing in Cuba: My sister went to central Habana with her Cuban friend. When they had to go home, her friend stood by the side of the road and gestured for a bit. It was not long before a car stopped, but it did not have any taxi sign, so my sister asked:

‘How do you know it’s a taxi?’

To which her friend replied with a shrug:

‘Most cars are a taxi.’

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From inside our first taxi. It was a red Lada with red LED lights inside.

To be continued…

Going to Cuba

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(Credit: sun-surfer.com)

I’m going to Cuba tomorrow morning and since I haven’t made any updates in advance, there won’t be any posts before I get back next week.

I’m bringing my notebook though, so I hope too have lots of Cuban inspired writing when I get back.

See you later!

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(Credit: Gabi Ben Avrahahm)

Home Again

I’ve just been on a trip to first London, to visit my friend, and then Cambridge, to visit my sister. It was really nice; we even had some summer weather to wander around London and paddle up the river Cam.

However, when I got home, I got really sick, which was not so nice; I spent two days just lying in bed.

Now I’m much better. I even finally got around to doing some spring cleaning.

So it’s back to writing.

I just have to find something to write about…

Norway

I went to Norway for two weeks and climbed Snøhetta and Rondeslottet among others, and during those weeks I had no connection to the internet. In fact, most of the time I didn’t even have coverage on my phone. But I was clever and wrote four updates in advance and scheduled them, so that I didn’t miss a single update during my vacation.

(I was on Stortoppen which is the top to the far right.)

(Snøhetta. I was on Stortoppen (2286 m) which is the top to the far right.)

Then of course I missed the Wednesday update after I got home.

Anyway, it was a lovely trip. We had beautiful sunshine most of the time and the one day where it really poured we spent reading in a cozy hut.

One of the first days, we saw the musk oxen in Dovrefjell which are actually not oxen but goats.

We sat down with our guide about 200 meters from them and had lunch. The musk oxen looked at us when we approached and sat down, but at soon as we put down our rucksacks they were back to grazing or ramming each other or in the case of one of the calves, suckling milk from its mother.

(Credit: Randy Kokesch)

(Credit: Randy Kokesch. I didn’t get any pictures myself.)

They are usually very peaceful, but we didn’t go any closer, because if they feel threatened, they ram whatever they feel threatened by, and since they weigh 500 kilos and can run 60 kilometres per hour, it is best not to make them feel threatened.

Well, I’m back now, and I had better get on to writing more fiction so that I won’t miss the update tomorrow.

I hope you’re all enjoying the summer as much as I am.

See you around!

Going to Norway

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Jotunheimen

On Sunday I’m going to Norway to cross a glacier or two and since I haven’t written enough between getting my bachelor’s and now, updates will once again be scant. I’ll bring pen and paper though. Hopefully, the mountains will help me getting into the grove again, so that there will be updates aplenty when I get back.

Have a great summer!

Be Back Soon

My updates have been a bit erratic recently, but I hope to get back on schedule after next week. I’m visiting my sister until next week and will be back on Sunday the thirteenth. I’ll do my best to get something written then.

 

Thank you for reading.

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