I spent my birthday week in Havana, Cuba. I'm still very amazed at my curiosity to stay with the locals after hearing story after story of discomfort and disgrace. Sometimes it's those with no perspective or gratitude that try to stop others from certain experiences.
Before traveling to Cuba, I heard several stories on why I shouldn't travel there. Things from you'll be robbed or something so extreme of like you'll catch the Zika virus. This may have happened but my experience was nothing short of amazing.
When my friends and I arrived we were greeted by our Airbnb host at the airport in a shiny classic old school car. We exchanged our money for cuc's. Their money is worth more than ours. Once we arrived in Old Havana, our host helped us settle in our very modern apartment which was on the third floor with a balcony and sliding doors. The city of Havana has tall apartment buildings, a variety of colors. Most are really old but has character.
The people of Havana are all shades of white, brown and black. Every street is filled with people, singing, laughing speaking their native tongue. Children playing soccer in the street, walking to and from school in uniforms. Cars driving fast on the small narrow streets blowing their horns for people to move.
We had a chance to roam the streets morning, noon and night. No matter the time of day guys cat called us which was hilarious, wanted to know where we're from and what we planned to do. They offered us a taxi every second of the day, offered us half priced cigars from a "cigar festival" which later we found out that was a lie. We visited many souvenir shops that was made in a small space of many of their homes.
We booked a Havana Tour and photo shoot and a Cigar Pasion Tour before arriving. Both experiences were phenomenal. It included so much information, history and culture from the actual Cuban people. It was nice to speak with an individual from the island to learn the naked truth. Totally unfiltered, straight no chaser.
Many of them earn about $30 per month, no tissue is allowed to be flushed down the toilet, after use it must be thrown away in the trash can next to the toilet. Clothes are hung on a rack or homemade clothing line to dry and there is no internet. WiFi is available in some parks but you must purchase a WiFi card, normally with one hour of time on it for two cuc's on the black market.
Food! The food was great at the many places we tried for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The food and drinks are priced at a really great rate. We ordered lobster, shrimp, vegetables and rice for about 14 cuc's. A mojito or margarita was priced at 4 to 5 cuc's. I was able to shop a fruit and vegetable street stand.
Overall, I had a great experience. A few things wasn't to my liking but I survived. And those people do it every single day, happily and cheerfully. There is no one stronger than a survivor in my book. I commend them for making the best of their situation and finding ways to make ends meet or simply survive.