Final Days in Cuba

By ext212
This post is part of a series called Cuba in 2003
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We woke up the next morning to a Morón that was different from the one we’ve come to know the past two days. Stores were still closed but there were more people walking, biking, riding the bus or running after the train. Because of our depleting dollar resources, we just opted to hang around lazily and wait for the time when we would have to drive back to Ciego de Avila and catch our midnight bus back to Havana. We still had to worry about buying an extra ticket.

Señora Noris’ nephew accepted US$15 to drive us back to Ciego de Avila. Back in the Ciego de Avila bus station, the boy kept bothering the lady at the ticket counter every time a bus heading to Havana pulled up. We just wanted to make sure we got back by the next morning. She kept telling us that the earlier buses are full and that we would have to wait for the midnight bus. Three hours and a quick nap later our bus pulls in. We wait nervously hoping the bus has enough empty seats. Luckily the bus was only half full. It seemed that several people whom I never even saw in the waiting room got seats. The boy and I sat joined the other passengers to sleep during the long eight-hour drive back to Havana. You should have heard our sighs of relief!

A little before 8am our bus pulled in the Havana bus station. We picked up our backpacks and grabbed the first cab to agree to our US$3 fare back to Señora Aleida’s casa. Once we were let in, I continued to sleep until after lunch to make up for the sleepless and uncomfortable overnight ride.

We chose not to wire money to a temporary account in Cuba. And it is impossible for us to use our ATM cards. We were on a pretty good budget but we just didn’t expect how expensive transportation would be and how much we would spend on food. As tourists in Cuba we were given tourist prices even though stores and restaurants had no problem giving us Cuban pesos as change. We had to make a plan to make our last US$100 cover one final night at Señora Aleida’s plus the airport tax of US$50 for the both of us.

We ate at a cafeteria-style place full of Cubans for lunch where we were charged US$7 for our two chicken meals with rice. Without enough left to eat out we had to go to Plan B and buy ingredients at the dollar store so we can cook for the night. We walked to the Catedral Episcopal and found a bronze statue of John Lennon sitting on a park bench before heading back to the casa.

For our last night Señora Aleida joined us for dinner after we made spaghetti. She invited her other tenant, a Canadian, to eat and share our food, too. We had more than enough to go around. The next day we refused breakfast and coffee because we weren’t sure we would have enough to make it past the airport gates. But Señora knew instantly what we were up to. She was gracious enough to mark down our bill and arrange for a cheaper fare to the airport.

To say the least, we did not know how else to thank Señora for her generosity. We were grateful to have had her help on this trip. Vicente picked up our bags and we hugged Señora good-bye. On the way to the airport, we heard our last story about Cuba: licensed and private cabs are the only ones allowed in the airport and cars like Vicente’s would have been forbidden if only it wasn’t registered to a certain Roberto Guevarra who happens to be related to Che himself. Apparently, all relatives of the fallen Cuban hero were rewarded in one form or another after Fidel Castro came into power.

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