Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back to the Airport

The next morning it was back to the airport.
Above, finally on the tarmac after several hours, a lot of red tape and pesos, and now waiting in line to board Cubana Airlines. Below, a photo of me with Miguel and his lovely wife. He looked severe, but he was the sweetest man, and as curious about me as I was about him and his wonderful hat. He also sported a neatly trimmed moustache that I liked a lot. He was a total package that I would liked to have had the opportunity to paint. I did draw him in the airport,
which was the real the ice breaker.
After that, we were friends.

Here's a shot of Cuba from the air. I loved the look of the fields,
and the color of the earth.
After landing, going through immigration and customs and money change, we walked out of the airport. An American man named Charlie and a driver were loading Charlie's luggage into the van he'd hired to take him to his casa in the Vedado area of Habana. We didn't know Charlie, but we quickly wound up in his van taxi and shared the fee. It was agreed that Charlie would get dropped off first and the 45 minute drive was spent getting Charlie's history with Cuba. He was spending three days in Habana, and by the end of the ride, we had agreed to meet him the next day to work out the details of a catching a ride in his rental car to the far side of the island. We dropped him, and headed for Habana Vieja, the oldest part of the city. It was raining, and we had no fixed destination since we had
no advance reservation. 

Above is the street outside Nelson's Casa Particular. This casa was highly recommended in Lonely Planet with the only negative listed as small windows in the rooms. After much discussion and checking three or four other places in the dark, it was finally decided to take a room at this casa. The room was available for only this one night, so in the AM we would have to move to another casa. No big deal, I was tired and grateful for a nice place to hang my hat for the night.

But I found the best thing about this casa
in the bathroom. A Sorolla shower curtain!

It had been a long day, we'd had nothing to eat since breakfast,
the rain was bucketing down,
and I was in Cuba.

Monday, December 13, 2010



I'd never been to Mexico before, and never thought I'd set foot on Mexican soil without my traveling companion, but she'd been detained from the very start. As the plane made it's descent towards Cancun, all I could see were acres and acres of trees, jungle. Then all of a sudden, a housing development! It was a far cry from Cancun's expensive resort hotels and beach loving tourists. This view from the plane was the closest thing I got to the real Mexico. It fascinated me in it's simplicity. It was obviously inhabited by people that had very little, and I am sure that on one of these simple dirt courtyards I saw a bed frame with a mattress sitting outside. I was reminded of the palette bed in Orchha, India, that had been carried outside and placed near the source of the community's water pump. Each morning we'd drink our chai up on the roof of our hotel and look down as life's quiet drama unfolded before our very eyes. The first thing that the women did in the morning was to come to the watering hole and fill their pots with the days water. Here, looking down at Mexico, I saw no watering hole, just very straight roads and little hovels.

Once I'd gone through immigration and customs, I spent a long time with the travel agents at the airport. When they were finished with me, I walked outside. I had a five hour wait before the plane bearing my fellow artist would show up. I was a bit angry at her stupidity, but what could I do? There was no way to communicate with her, and we'd not booked a hotel in advance. All I felt I could do was to wait. I decided to sit at Starbucks of all places. I was hot and thirsty, so I ordered an iced green tea slushy thingy. The picture shows how much of this large drink I'd downed before it dawned on me, "STUPID GIRL!" I shouldn't be drinking anything with ice in it! I was kicking myself hard. I wrote it all down in my journal and figured if I was going to get sick, it would most likely happen way before the person I was waiting on would arrive. The good news, I never did get sick, so I suppose that either Cancun is safe to drink the water, or Starbucks used filtered water for their ice. Either way, I'd had more than a few minutes of worry. It just had not been a good day so far. Still, here I was in Mexico, with Spanish spoken all around me, and funny money in my pocket.