Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hey strangers!!!

Tricked you! This isn't really a new post, just more excuses. Laying here listening to my baby sleep and reading comments that have accumulated on my blog over the last 2 years while I've been, well, busy. (I'm not even gonna comment on the comments except to say I laugh whenever I see one warning me not to marry a Cuban...WHOOPS, TOO LATE!!)

And by baby, I don't mean my husband, he's in the other bedroom cause the light of my phone was keeping him up and he has a union meeting tomorrow morning. By baby I mean cute , cuddly, needy, sprouting teeth, putting everything on the floor in her mouth, baby.

So yep, husband working a union job, cutest baby ever, 5 years together and we just passed the mark where more of our life together has been actually together in Canada rather than long distance. A lot has transpired between the events of my previous posts and now.

I won't make any promises about when I will write the rest. But at least I can say the real life story still hasn't ended and hopefully never will.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Where'd I go?

Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months...and still no new posts from me! I know, I know, I've been a bad blogger. Life has been super busy recently but I swear I will be back. Don't give up on me, the story will have an ending one day!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Be Back Soon

I'll be noticeably absent for a week or so. But I promise I'll be back...and I'll be super focused upon my return. No more slacking!!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The 'Real' Havana

Since we'd arrived in the city, Odalys and Odalkys had been doing our laundry, cleaning up after us and making all of our meals, I wanted to repay their hospitality by taking them out on the town. I just had one request, that we go out in style and see the real nightlife of Havana! They seemed to be in the know and I was sure that Odalys, being a professional dancer, would be up on all the coolest clubs. We tasked them with picking a venue and planned to meet up later after our farewell dinner with Pedro and Olivia.

Old cars outside El Capitolio...waiting to taxi away folks who eat too many shrimp at the nearby restaurants
After gorging ourselves on shrimp cocktails followed by shrimpy soup followed by giant plates of creamy shrimp in a restaurant across from El Capitolio we stuffed ourselves into a 'vintage' taxi and set off back to Vedado to meet the Os at their nightlife hotspot of choice. I was expecting a dark and seductive club, possibly something open-roofed, full of sweaty locals grinding and writhing to reggaeton. What I was not expecting was a hotel.

When we rolled up to the Melia Cohiba I felt a wave of disappointment wash over me. It had all the charm of an airport Radisson and was the exact opposite of what I had wanted to experience. A tacky white vinyl banner with blue lettering spelling out Havana Cafe hung over a doorway to the side of the lobby. I paced back and forth in front of the sign, willing myself not to cry. Juan, Pedro and Olivia were all watching me nervously, trying to figure out why I was having a sudden meltdown.

'I'm sorry guys. I just really wanted to experience something authentic. I feel like this is just going to be a stupid tourist attraction.This is not Cuba at all. It's just really not what I wanted. I'm sorry'

They continued to look nervous, suggested we give it a chance for now and maybe try something else later if I wasn't happy, offered up the possibility that I might like it once we got inside. I knew I was being childish but I couldn't snap out of the mood that had descended on me. When the Os arrived and we got inside, things just got worse. It was a weird Cuban version of a Hard Rock Cafe, my idea of hell, a mish-mash of stereotypes and nostalgia created for people who wanted to experience a country without actually going outside. There were at most 20 people in the giant room, mostly confused, pasty folks who also seemed to be wondering how they ended up in the theme park. Though when I slid my grouchy stare around the room I was clearly the grumpiest of all the grumpy guests.

The only old cars in Havana that I hated
We sat at a table beside the stage, watching scantily clad dancers work their way through all of the usual numbers of a Cuban Entertainment Show. Pedro and Olivia excused themselves halfway through, they had to work in the morning again and were equally uninterested in the performance. We saw them off with hugs and kisses and then headed back in just as the audience participation started. 7 international man were standing awkwardly on stage but they still needed a Cuban. When the host saw Juan and I walk past his humiliation dream team was complete. Juan was pulled on stage with the rest of the men.

One after another, the 8 men on stage were forced to show off their best dance moves to a variety of Cuban rhythms. Limbs flailed, joints cracked, beads of sweat formed, jaws hung open in concentration. When it was Juan's turn, the other men accepted that the competition was over. As he danced effortlessly to a Cuban reggaeton song, they sat back in defeat. However, the host had other plans. He knew it was too easy to just hand victory to the Cuban, so he plucked a Cuban woman and me from the crowd. She was to dance with an Italian who had exhibited decent dance moves and I was to dance with Juan. For our dance, the DJ selected a waltz.

The dance contest losers watching Juan defeat them
I tried to hide my face in Juan's shoulder as he pushed and pulled me around the stage, knowing just as little about waltzing as me but trying a little harder to fake it. I felt the tears from earlier forming again, this time from complete humiliation. I also felt dinner's multi-course shrimp extravaganza rising in my throat. Juan whispered to me not to worry, to just enjoy how ridiculous this was but all I could think about was how idiotic I must look on-stage, in front of this crowd, trying to waltz. When the dance ended I tried to escape back to my seat but the host was not through with us. He teased me about finding a Cuban boyfriend in Camaguey, wondered why I went all that way when there were so many available men in Havana (with a wink wink nudge nudge to indicate himself). The crowd laughed, I stared at the floor, waiting for it to open up and swallow me.

The floor did not open up. Instead a tie was announced, Juan and the Italian were both crowned dance victors and all the dancers from the show appeared around us dressed in white. Juan somehow slipped away to grab my camera and only the Italian and I were left on-stage, forced into some sort of hellish, never-ending chachacha circle. I kept my eyes on the feet of the dancer in front of me and mimicked his moves, swearing to myself that I would never again come to this city without a plan.

When I got back to the table, the Os were grinning like fools. They were so excited after the dance performance and my 'participation' in the dancing. My angry glares had been making them nervous earlier but after seeing me onstage they were convinced that they had chosen wisely when they decided to bring us to the Havana Cafe. They knew it was popular with tourists, I was a tourist, ergo it would be popular with me. Seeing their eager smiles, and realizing that this debacle of an evening was for my benefit, didn't improve my mood but it did convince me to fake a better one. I dug up the best smile I could muster and told them I loved the show, that I was having so much fun, that I was so happy we were all able to enjoy this awesome place together.

Their smiles got bigger and they grabbed my hands, leading me towards the dancefloor that was filling up post-show. Juan followed close behind me and spoke quietly into my ear.

'Thank you'
'For what?'
'For pretending you're having fun. I know this isn't what you wanted. I guess they just didn't understand.'
'It's okay. They tried their best.'
'Still, thank you.'

With the warmth of his breath on my neck and two grinning cousins in front of me, I realized it really was okay. Maybe this wasn't the 'real' Havana I had hoped for but it was a real experience with real people. I let the last of my bad mood slide away and started to dance.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Picture Time

We did manage to squeeze in a little sightseeing in between our lazy days of mostly doing nothing

The Cathedral Church in Old Havana with its convenient next-door brewery

One of many bougainvillea plants I oohed and awed over

El Floridita, the tourist daiquiri-mecca

The most artistic photo I've ever taken

Che graffiti in Vedado

I never get tired of the old cars

The National Hotel (soon to be featured in an upcoming blog post!)

Nice building, nice sky

This guy couldn't have been more rockabilly if he tried

Another nice building