Cuba Si, WiFi No…

Tourist quarter of Havana

Tourist quarter of Havana

continued from previous…

…move out of my first hotel to save a few bucks and because nothing works right… take an Indonesian mandi-style splash bath for two days, rather than watch them turn my room into a work-site, or God forbid, loan me a screwdriver.  That would’ve required another chapter on Marxist class struggle….

…move to a casa particular to save a few bucks, but looks like any savings will quickly get squandered in Internet charges… if I stay, that is… doubt that Cubana de Aviacion will let me change the date of my return with such a cheap flight… can hardly travel without Internet now, booking for the next stop a few days in advance… usually I don’t worry about such things.  In the high season in the Caribbean I do, especially here.  Chill, Hardie, chill.

Barrio chino

Barrio chino

casas particulares buzz you up by dropping down a key on a cord.  But still they aren’t THAT much cheaper than the cheap hotels, and they don’t have cable TV either.  Commie TV sucks, lots of shows about cows and the weather, but at least it has no commercials.  So I tentatively book a room here for next weekend and figure I’ll wing it this week, starting in Trinidad.  At least I’ll see some countryside in central Cuba.

…but Cuba is in the dark ages with respect to Internet, not a Wi-Fi signal anywhere.  Other ‘Communist’ countries replete with them… other commodities similarly lacking.  What passes for groceries here is pretty pathetic.  Ever bought a box of cookies from a jewelry showcase?  Fortunately the street is ahead of the shops.  They learn capitalism from the ground up, flea enterprise, buy two sell one buy two more ad infintum until rich.

Queuing is a way of life in Havana...

Queuing is a way of life in Havana…

Half the city walks around with a sandwich in hand in the mornings and a pizza in the afternoon, all sold from tiny home-based outlets and restaurants selling on the streets as well as inside to compete.  Now that’s my kind of communism, cottage industry…

Everything weighed and measured here, from bread to espresso, or at least advertised as such, one of the lasting legacies of communism apparently… Business is swift and the lines are usually orderly.  The legend of Commie queues always emphasized the shortages, not the orderliness.  That’s like talking about suicide bombers and focusing only on the bombs, never the suicide…

…no plastic bags though, or only available for sale in markets, never just handed out.  My great point of pride is that I intuited this, and brought along my growing plastic bag collection rather than trash it (I think there’s a pun there)… so Communism has common cause with environmentalism… poverty is the original form of conservation…

New Havana--El Vedado

New Havana–El Vedado

…may be too little too late to save much of Havana… old city crumbling… may be too late to renovate… only part of the old city that sparkles are Hemingway’s old haunts around the wharf…

Black ladies with fruit on their heads and cigars in their mouths pose for tourists and tips, and Cuba’s legendary Afro-derived music is played in tourist bars and restaurants.  The newer (turn of last century) west-of-downtown Vedado buzzes with activity also, but there it’s the locals, not tourists.

If Miami has its Little Havana, then Havana likewise has its Little Miami—Vedado—with modern office buildings busy streets smiling people… but the vast gray area in between—aka Centro—hangs in limbo, waiting to be rescued… even find my Cubana airline office in the new quarter.  They’ll change my flight for $100.

Posing for tourist and tips in Havana

Posing for tourist and tips in Havana

…no resolution to the Internet problem in Cuba… few salas de navegacion that exist are Intranet only, with an ‘a’ not ‘e’, and that means Cuba only.  No amount of Southern US accent will change that… and you thought China was bad… Here they just block the whole thing, pretend it doesn’t even exist.  Intelligent people ask me what I need it for; they don’t even know… ‘real’ Internet available only in hotels, and at prices approaching $7 per hour, highest I’ve ever paid anywhere in the world. That smarts. And that’s not smart.

…and Wi-fi does not exist at all…  nobody told me that, not Lonely Planet, not volunteer sugar-cane harvesters, nobody.  I can’t deal with it.  I can suffer many inconveniences, but not that.  So I go back to Cubana de Aviacion and change my return date, cutting my trip almost in half.  Then I go to the bus station and get a ticket to Trinidad, the colonial gem on the southern coast.  To be continued…

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