Cuba linda de mi vida, Cuba linda siempre te recordaré.

2 06 2008

How do I put into words the experience that I’ve lived here in Cuba for the past four months? More importantly, how do I choose those words so that they convey that experience as I lived it, not as I reminisce about it?

With just twelve hours left until I leave this behind, I’ve come to realize that I count Cuba—Havana in particular—as one of the few places where I truly feel at ease. I don’t mean for that to mean that everything is always perfect here nor that things are easy. Every single day since I’ve arrived here I have experienced moments that absolutely infuriate me, others that humble, and others that delight.

Despite the fact that it is a political situation that has made Cuba the incredibly unique place it is, you have to put that aside if you really want to discover what Cuba is. For me, that comes down to two categories: people and places. El pueblo cubano represents the most special part of Cuba for me. From people I’ve known since February to those I just met last week, Cubans have welcomed me into their homes with a warmness that is almost impossible to imagine in the United States. That being said, in some cases my nationality has proven problematic as Cubans who spend time with yumas are often closely watched. Nevertheless, as I literally head up north to colder climates, I know that I’ll miss the warmness Cubans have provided me during my brief stay.

Ah, the places. Cuba is a beautiful island, but over everything, a place that lets itself be discovered easily. You can literally see history here. Aside from the beautiful provinces, the places I’ll miss most are scattered about Havana: the tranquility of the Malecón at sunset and at night, the constant movement of La Rampa, the absurd line at Coppelia, walking the stairs leading to the University, the grit of Centro Habana, the elegance of Miramar, the ridiculous horns people install in their cars, someone asking for the último, the history of Habana Vieja, passing through the tunnel on the P-11 to Habana del Este, the smell of fresh fruit at an agro, the sound of a máquina approaching, and the familiar faces that connect everything together.

And here I am, all packed and nearly done saying goodbye. I’m ready to go back, to be in a country where things function like a real clock, where I don’t have to resolver for everything I want to do, where my family and friends live, but also where we ignore the connections between our success and other’s failures, hardly know our neighbors, and quite frankly, waste much of our opportunities. I am going to appreciate being in the United States like I have never before, but also be more critical than ever to improve it, having seen what is capable elsewhere. The U.S. stands to learn a lot from Cuba, just as Cuba can learn a lot from the U.S. One of my goals in coming here is to help with that process. This website is just the beginning of that.

Farewell Cuba, I’ll always remember you.

Ian Yaffe
June 2, 2008 // 11:46 p.m.
La Habana, Cuba

Last Week // 7 Days in La Habana.

2 06 2008

Monday, May 26 //

Let me start by saying that we’ve been having issues with my old room (E) so I’m not in a new room (X). One of the windows is broken in X and the air conditioning doesn’t work that well so I’ve been sneaking into E at night through the balcony so I can get a good night sleep. With that out of the way, I woke up in E, made my way discretely to X and then had a desayuno especial at the Costillar: fried eggs, bread añejo 7 años (also known as croutons), and some mediocre fruit. Walking town 23 and then up J, I made my way to the university arriving to my first class of the day, Latin American Philosophy, a few minutes late. Nothing a permiso won’t solve. We talked about a rare subject—race—and the difference between its conception in Latin America and the rest of the world. For the most part, the profe made great points, except when he said race is messed up in el imperio and that Mariah Carey is considered negra. Maybe I’ve been gone too long and things have changed. Anyway, after a break and return to the residence, I went again to my other class today, History of the United States. We watched “Soldier Blue” which must’ve been made in the 70s about the U.S. treatment of American Indians in the 1800s. No surprises there.

After my last class and making plans with friends to go out once I get these papers I’m not writing done, I went to Jaqueline’s to get a hamburger and to my surprise, fresh pineapple juice too. I haven’t been there in a while because franky, a pork hamburger gets old after three months, but I’ve definitely been missing out. She must’ve changed up the recipe a bit… I think I saw peppers in there! Back at the residence, I spent the afternoon “working” on my paper and more accurately, watching George Lopez. At sunset, I took a coco taxi to the Malecón and stayed there for a few hours, enjoying a Cohiba and taking pictures of one of my favorite spots in Habana. I was there so long I missed dinner! That leaves me with a Crunch bar (from Brasil) and María Integrals to munch on before I go to and hopefully, continue working on my papers.

Tuesday, May 27 //

I was supposed to begin by day with History of Latin America (1929 to today), but that was cancelled due to an event going on at the University which explicitly said it would not cancel classes. Education is really important to Cubans, except if you can find an excuse to miss class. After spending some time just hanging out at the Facultad, I made my way back to the residence to try and make some more progress on my final paper for Latin American Philosophy (due tomorrow, of course).

Lunch was at Fabio’s today—since I’m leaving early I can afford to spend $4 on pasta instead of $.50 on a mediocre sandwich. That $4 put me at $0 in my wallet though so I had to bring the last of my dollars and change them into CUCs at the bank. Unfortunately, one of the windows wasn’t open so a normal five minute transaction took a full hour. Waiting in line is one of the things I won’t be missing about Cuba… except that they do it with style. Given how much of a Cuban’s day is spent in line, there’s a system in place to ensure that you don’t actually have to wait in line, but you still keep your spot. Just go to a line and ask for el último and you’ll see what I mean. Tonight’s going to be low key. While I’ve absolutely got to finish this paper, Deadliest Catch and Alaska Experiment are on so we’ll see how that goes. Tomorrow’s my last day of work though. Regardless of whether I finish or not, I’m enjoying my last weekend here in Habana (including Thursday in true college style).

Wednesday, May 28 //

I actually managed to finish my José Martí paper and after going to the Habana Libre to print it, turned it in at my professor’s office near the University. Next stop was my favorite place for pizza, San Lazaro No. 1019 esq. Espada (esq. is short for esquina which means corner, all addresses include the neighboring streets since many buildings don’t have numbers). They have Pizza de Cebolla (onion pizza) for $10 pesos, or about 40 cents. The only downside is that you have to wait about fifteen minutes since it’s so popular. Today, that turned into an upside as I debated with another student about the best pizza and she told me that the place in her neighborhood (Santo Suarez) is better so we’re going there on Friday to prove it. That argument put me a few minutes late to my U.S. history class, but again, nothing a permiso won’t solve. I think the highlight of the class was when we were talking about the elections of 1888 and the profe said those were recognized as the most corrupt elections in U.S. history then paused and laughed, saying “well, until 2000.” Ah, U.S. history. My final assignment is to write a paper about what people in the U.S. think about Bush. I think everyone knows what Fidel and Raúl think about him.

With classes over, I returned to the residence and was on my way to the gym when it started raining, something we haven’t seen here in Habana for months. That finally pushed me to check out the gym at the residence which I had heard was terrible, but is really perfect for one person. Dinner here was similarly surprising: steak with seasoned rice. Given steak is heavily controlled by the state and seasoning absurdly expensive, dinner featured an unusually tasty combination. Actually, dinner has been really good this week. I think it’s because a group is back that complained the bad food was a form of discrimination against feminists. I spent a few brief seconds thinking about the paper I’m not going to turn in tomorrow before getting to work on compiling all the things I’ve learned here so I can make a guide when I get back. This time in a week, I’ll be in Canada!

Thursday, May 29 //

Since my only class of the day—History of Latin America (1929-today)—was cancelled, I walked over to Coppelia where there’s a guy who rents mopeds. Transportation has greatly improved here over the past few months, but with just a few days left on my trip here, time is very important so having the moped will allow me to save about four or five hours of traveling time per day. First stop was a cruise down Malecón to catch a picture of el Morro (the fortress that’s across the harbor) and then make my way to Plaza de Armas. One of the buildings in the plaza houses a pretty sweet museum of the history of Habana. It even has Havana’s first fire engine! From there, I walked to the artisan’s market, bought a painting, and went back to the Residence to drop it off.

I set off for lunch in Barrio Chino, but made a detour to the Museo de Ron (Rum Museam) in Habana Vieja by Plaza San Francisco. The museam doubles as a Havana Club distillery (on a very small scale) allowing visitors to see the whole process from start to finish and of course, sample the goods at the end. For those of you who know Cuba, I’m talking Añejo 7 Años. Being that I was in the area, I stopped in the Bar Dos Hermanos, Habana’s oldest bar which had excellent camarones enchilados, sautéed shrimp in a Caribbean tomato based sauce. You can be assured I’ll be eating well these last few days.

Back at the residence, I found out I was still in Cuba, discovering that I would—yet again—be changing rooms for some obscure reason. Accomplishing that task, I set off for the Malecón to see the sunset and then to the Meliá Cohiba hotel to get some wireless internet (don’t worry, still dial-up). After running into another group of U.S. students (form USC), I went back up Avenida de los Presidentes to the Residence and showed Gloria (the lady who works at the front desk) all my pictures of Cuba since this will be the last time I see her before I leave. She’s been out of Habana a few times making her a very well traveled Cuban, but in four months, I’ve visited more places across the island than she has her whole life. While transportation has vastly improved in recent years, it’s still difficult for Cubans to travel because if they don’t know someone where they’re going, they won’t have anywhere to stay (hotels and casas are just too expensive and Cubans truly don’t have extra room in their houses to start).

Friday, May 30 //

After a less than stellar breakfast at the Costillar (at least we had huevos a la orden), I gave Gloria a ride back to her apartment and made my way over to the Hotel Nacional to meet Lt. Commander Rod Rojas of the U.S. Coast Guard whose title here in Havana is “Drug Interdiction Specialist.” As the only U.S. official—military or civilian—who has direct contact with Cuban officials, his job expands to meet nearly all needs that come up regarding international law enforcement. We talked about his job here and his career as a Coast Guard Officer, confirming my desire to apply for Officer Candidate School next fall. Who would’ve thought I’d reach that decision in Havana?

By the time I got back to the residence it was already noon and given that I have a lot to do today and tomorrow, I had to get started. First stop on my Havana list was Casa Natal de José Martí, the birth house of José Martí. The architecture reminded me a lot of Trinidad and the museum had just the perfect amount of information to make it a worthwhile yet quick stop. Continuing upon that theme, I made my way the Plaza de la Revolución which holds the Monumento José Martí. Since I’d already been to the museum before, I went through the exhibits quickly so I could go up to the top of the monument to the mirador de La Habana. For that you get a certificate acknowledging that you’ve been to the highest point in Havana, a seriously great view.

I spent the rest of the afternoon cruising around the streets of Miramar, what I think of as the country club section of Havana. After the majority of owners fled Cuba in the 1960s, many of their homes were converted to embassies and official offices that are very well maintained. Being in this section reminds you of how rich the elite of Cuba were in the 50s, but also of how unequal Cuban society remains today. The highlight of my visit was probably lunch at the Meliá Habana Hotel which has—hands down—the best burgers in Cuba, but I also stopped by Club Habana (the former yacht club for rich Cubans which is now just a yacht club for rich foreigners), Marina Hemingway (a massive marina that is almost always empty since nobody from the U.S. can visit it anymore), and Karl Marx Theater.

How could I forget my quick picture of the clock at Fifth Avenue and Tenth Street? You’re not allowed to park on Fifth, but since part of the sidewalk is collapsed, I just left my moped there to take the picture and just when I came back was stopped by a cop, who promptly saluted me. He told me I just took my most expensive picture of Havana and was going to have to pay the state a multa (fine) of $30 CUC before I left. When I showed him my carné (Cuban ID) he said he could give me a break for $15, but he ran out of tickets for $15 so he had to try for $5. I don’t really understand what he said to his partner next, but he said I could just go, but should come back with beer and rum for them since they were going to have to work all day (5 hours). Ahh, Cuba.

After dinner and trip to the gym on the roof of the residence, I came back to my new room and unpacked so I can figure out what I’m leaving here and what I need to take back. I bought way too many books. This’ll be interesting.

Saturday, May 31 //

I got a relatively early start to the day, arriving across the harbor at about 10:30 to the La Cabaña Fortress and Havana’s lighthouse. The first chunk of my visit was spent at the guardhouse, talking to the guards about U.S. politics and what this upcoming election means for Cuba. I am convinced that Cubans follow our election closer than we do and probably know more about it than the average U.S. citizen. The majority are Obama supporters with that group split into two sectors: one thinking that he will open the doors for Cuba and the other understanding that any change in U.S. relations will be slow. With the clock ticking, I made it to the fortress and saw the great views of Havana offered by its lighthouse.

On my way over to the Christ statue, I ran into a set of Soviet missiles ominously pointed north, not too far away from some canons. I don’t even know how to explain it, but that sight was just so absurd to me that I had to take a picture. The Christ statue has another great view of Havana, this time extending well into the bay where the commercial shipping operations are. What was supposed to be an easy five minute trip back to Havana Vieja through the tunnel ended up taking me two hours since the police wouldn’t let me through on a moped (even though it’s faster that half the things on the road). Instead, I had to wait for an hour and a half for the ciclobus which is essentially a really old bus with the seats removed so you can stand with a bike inside it. Just love that inefficiency! I wouldn’t be disappointed next either, waiting over an hour for my Cuban-Chinese food in Barrio Chino. Lo Mein, sort of.

After a brief stop at the residence, I then made my way to the Necrópolis Colón, a huge cemetery that should be more accurately described as a municipality. My two key stops there were the Firefighter’s memorial (constructed after the deadly 1890 fire) and the American Legion memorial. Seeing anything about the U.S. is always interesting in Cuba. My plans to go out were put on hold by rain (everything in Havana closes when it rains) so instead I went through my photos from the past few days and worked a bit more on thinking about packing.

Sunday, June 1 //

First of all, I can’t believe it’s already June! With that in my mind as I woke up, I got an early start to the day and made my way to Luyanó to get some jugo de tamarindo and sweet-talk the shop owner into selling me one of their glasses made from old Havana Club bottles. Driving around Habana for the last time, I just took in the sights on the way back to Vedado where I had to turn in my moped. For some reason there wasn’t a line at Coppelia so I enjoyed an ensalada especial of vanilla, literally a “special salad” this is the $5 peso gigantic bowl of ice cream that Cubans wait hours for. Needless to say, I lost my appetite for lunch which ended up helping me out so I could walk around Habana Vieja without having to wait two hours for food at a restaurant.

I really enjoy the atmosphere of Habana Vieja and how you can swerve out of the impeccably restored streets of Mercaderes and Obispo to see the “real” Habana just two blocks away where it doesn’t look anything’s been done to the buildings since 1959. For the first time I brought my camera along with me which was a good idea so I can show people what this place looks like, but also a terrible one since I had to explain why I didn’t want cigars at every corner I passed. Ahh, the hustlers. While I took in all the sights I wanted to see, I was anxious to get back to Vedado and shed my camera and with that, the only visual clue that I’m a foreigner.

I skipped the Costillar dinner tonight and took the P-9 to Santo Suarez to get what a friend of mine from the University told me is the best pizza in Havana. Luckily the stand is just a block away from her abuela’s house so we had plenty of time to enjoy it (she was right by the way). Over coffee produced in Miami (she has family there), we talked about the two Cubas that have interested me since long before I touched Cuban soil—one that is reserved for foreigners and one that is reserved for Cubans. Only a few groups of people get to cross those boundaries: international students and Cubans with family abroad or who work in the tourist sectors. What links these three groups of people? Take a guess. Money.

Riding the P-6 back to Vedado, I realized I’m really going to miss this place beyond my imagination. While I expect to return to Havana in the near future, I don’t see myself living here again and certainly not as a student. Between all the problems that Cuba has and people who have to resolver everyday, there’s something that I’ve found here that I haven’t ever experienced much elsewhere—alma (soul).

Last trips outside of Habana: Trinidad, Cienfuegos, and Santa Clara.

27 05 2008

Last Tuesday I made the 150 mile yet six hour journey to Trinidad, Sancti Spíritus. We stayed at an incredible Casa Particular: Casa Muñoz which is described by the moon guide as the best casa in Trinidad. The beauty of Julio and Rosa Muñoz’s house is almost unbelievable—with tall ceilings and antique furniture, you can easily get lost in time. Of course, we didn’t have much time for that as it was already well past noon by the time we got settled in and we’d only have two days to explore this area. First stop was Playa Arcón, just a fifteen minute drive from town. Albeit beautiful, the beach annoyed me. Being that we’re getting into the hottest time in Cuba and Trinidad is on the southern side of the island, the water was absurdly warm. Like how a heated pool feels in the winter. Maybe warmer. You get the idea. To stay cool, you’d have to go in and get out real quick and let the breeze cool you off before the water evaporated off you in seconds.

Sunset brought much needed relief to the weather and another surprise: fresh fish for dinner. I knew we were going to have Red Snapper, but it was served to us high-class restaurant-style, that is, whole. I don’t doubt that the fish had been swimming just a few hours earlier. Delicious! You truly eat well when you stay in a Casa Particular, particularly when you get outside of the major cities and people go out of their way to please you because face it, there just aren’t as many tourists. Interestingly, Julio Muñoz has become famous enough that he has to turn people away! He’s so popular in Trinidad that other Cubans will impersonate him in order to get people to stay at their houses. This popularity rewards him and he says he’s able to support three families with his income, not to mention he’s the first Cuban I saw to sleep with air conditioning.

The evening made it a little easier to walk around and I got a chance to explore this city, from its cobblestone streets to brightly colored houses. The best part, as you’ll soon see in my photos, was the view from Julio’s roof. A combination of brick roofs, palm trees, blue skies, and a backdrop of mountains made that a pretty cool place to hang out. Of course, nighttime was upon us and we headed out to see Trinidad’s music scene. With Cuba Libres in hand, we enjoyed the quick beats of Cuban salsa on a grand outdoor escalinata (staircase) leading to the top of the local Casa de Musica.

Next morning (after, of course, a great breakfast), we made our way to Parque Cubano, a small park on the outskirts of town that has a very cool waterfall. We spent the morning there, hiking to the waterfall and then having fun jumping into the refreshingly cold water from some quasi-cliffs above. The afternoon was spent wandering more of Trinidad and checking out a few museums. From the perspective of how deteriorated Habana is, Trinidad is really a miracle. We walked through houses that were centuries old and carried their original furniture and paintings. I also got to accomplish a mission that I’ve had since I arrived here: find the Trinidad library and see if a collection of books from the Brunswick-Trinidad Sister Association arrived. Mentioning the state of Maine was enough and the librarians immediately thanked the association for their generous donation and went about showing me how everything was being used. Libraries remain a very important place in Cuba as often the only place to get information about the world. Books are like fruit here: they only run in season (printed once) and once they’re gone, you have to wait until next year to taste them (also know as another edition). That being said, if the state doesn’t like oranges, you’ll probably only find apples for sale.

The next morning, we got up early to take the bus back westward, this time to Cienfuegos, literally translating to one hundred fires and sometimes even written 100 fuegos. Although many places were renamed after the Revolution, Cienfuegos predates it by many years and is not in honor of the revolutionary hero Camilo. Traveling there from Trinidad is especially important in a historical sense for the destiny of each town is intertwined. Trinidad is one of the oldest towns in Cuba and like other places, was founded first for the safety its harbor offered the Spanish fleet (and later pirates). Not too much later however, the Spanish encountered Cienfuegos Bay which is vastly superior to Trinidad and since then the city has prospered at Trinidad’s expense. It is for this precise reason that Trinidad remained colonial-looking while Cienfuegos developed, ironically turning Trinidad into a much more attractive tourist destination and bringing prosperity again to the town.

Walking from the bus terminal, the first thing I noticed was how clean the city was. It really reminded me of Santiago de Cuba. Surprise, surprise! In the center of Cienfuegos is Plaza Martí which is surrounded my many beautifully restored buildings including a church, theater, and college. From there we headed to the edge of the bay, but first by walking along Avenida 54 which is heavily commercialized (with CUC stores) and reminded me a lot of Malecón in Puerto Vallarta. Along the way to Punta Gorda, I couldn’t help by notice a Yacht Club with something you don’t see often in Cuba—yachts. I could see the masts of what must have been several sailboats longer than forty feet each and in the distance, a 100 plus foot mega yacht flying a Bahamas flag. Despite the Helms-Burton act, international tourists still manage to get to Cuba in what’s probably the most rewarding way possible: by sea. Punta Gorda is most notable for the “jewel of Cienfuegos,” the Palacio de Valle, with incredible views and some really good lemonade (con Havana Club, por supuesto).

Taking a horse wagon back into town, I made my way to the bus station where I knew I’d be able to find a Cuban with a car who wanted a few CUCs in exchange for a ride to Santa Clara, one hour away. Paying $15 CUC, I got the ride there along with two Cubanas who drove another taxi driver crazy. He tried to get them to go with him, but they refused noting that the girl he was interested in had two husbands and to hang out with her, “hay que tener una casa y dinero.” That sent him walking back to the station to try and catch some other tourists for a ride. The cubanas got out at their house on the way as I continued north to Santa Clara.

Arriving in Santa Clara, I became immediately aware that it is both the center point of transportation in Cuba yet doesn’t really seem geared towards tourists at any sense. The two sites of importance to me there were the Plaza de la Revolución with the Che memorial and the Tren Blindado, the monument to one of Batista’s trains that Che derailed, giving him control of the city and therefore, the entire east of the Island. For people from Santa Clara, Che is the hero they trump—while he was a part of Fidel’s movement, they credit him with their freedom.

That brings me to an important question: Do Cubans support Fidel and Raúl or is this all just a political stunt orchestrated by a dictator? Obviously, the answer is not simple. You’ll find more discontent in the cities where opportunities are truly limited and exposure to foreigners creates a sense of relative deprivation. Of course, in those same cities you’ll find plenty of true loyal supporters to the revolution and many who are living quite comfortable (meaning they have access to dollars) be it through family connections abroad, work in the tourist sector, or high-level government jobs. Out in the country though, more people support the government because they are the ones who benefit most from it. A campesino is a lot better off today under Raúl than 50 years ago under Batista. While there is widespread discontent with the government (less than in La Yuma though), a large majority of the population here recognizes the tangible benefits that the Revolution has brought them.

And here I am—beginning my last week in Habana after a four month journey. I can’t believe I’m at this point and just as I’m excited to go home, I’m beginning to understand how much I’ll miss the Island that’s welcomed me as if it were home. Just as I’ll take a part of Cuba with me up north, a part of me will always stay here.

Isla de la Juventud and el Primero de Mayo.

1 05 2008

Last weekend I continued my trend of traveling by paying a visit to Cuba’s largest island, Isla de la Juventud (Isle of Youth). We got up early Friday morning and after about half an hour searching the bus station, we finally found the check-in line and eventually got on the Astro bus heading to Batabanó, the departure port for Isla. I knew that we’d be riding on a high-speed catamaran, but I had no idea how nice the boat was going to be until I got aboard. For those of you in New England, this resembles the New England Fast Ferry except that it also is equipped with flat screen TVs that show the latest movies and shows from the U.S. (the ones that aren’t out on DVD yet). The ferry is also equipped with high security than we have at airports including police patrols (on board), metal detectors, and X-rays; this boat could easily out run the Cuban Coast Guard and be used to emigrate to Mexico. The 80 km journey took about two and a half hours and about six hours after leaving Havana we were in Nueva Gerona, capital town of Isla de la Juventud. After getting settled and making our excursion reservations with EcoTur, we explored Nueva Gerona and spent the rest of our night at the local bar, El Cochinito.

Saturday morning I was up early again, this time to head across the island to Punta Frances, the southwest corner of the island that is inaccessible by road and today largely hosts a nature preserve. To get there, we took a taxi to El Colony and then boarded an old 40 foot Sportfisher which took us the rest of the way by sea. It was great to be out on the water again (as opposed to stuck inside the ferry). The beach site we were at used to be very popular when the Spanish Oceanliner Pulmantur made weekly stops here, but since that vessel was bought by a U.S. firm it is no longer allowed to touch Cuban waters (Helms-Burton Act). The positive side of that transaction is that the beach is completely empty. We spent the morning snorkeling and then after convincing the Captain that my Firefighter’s ID included SCUBA certification, I departed for an afternoon dive in one of the many coral reefs that surround the area.

I should start by saying that I’ve never been diving before, but heard that Cuban waters were something not to be passed up. After a five minute crash-course, I jumped off the stern of our boat and after deflating my vest, began to descend into the reef. It took a few (excruciating) moments to get used to the pressure, but after then I enjoyed all 48 minutes that I stayed under water. Think about all those ridiculous pictures of absurdly blue waters and ridiculously beautiful fish that you’ve seen in magazines and on the internet. It was just like that.

Back in Nueva Gerona, the time for the second amazing part of the day was nearing: our surf and turf dinner (off the black market, of course). We shared four lobsters and at least two pounds of steak for the five of us (plus all the fixings)! With a long day of being on the beach and walking around town behind us, we went to bed early to begin our return trip at 6:30 a.m. on Sunday, arriving back in Havana without too much difficulty by 1:30 p.m. The rest of the week went by without too much event… until today that is.

May 1–Día de los Trabajadores—is one of three major holidays in Cuba (in addition to July 26 and January 1). Pretty much everything gets shut down as people prepare to march on the Plaza de la Revolución. By 6:30 a.m., the streets are bustling with activity as people converge on starting points for the various routes that take people right to the José Martí monument in the center of the city. I met up with other students from Filosofía e Historia and by 7:30 a.m., the march had begun. The colors of the day are red, white, and blue (the colors of the Cuban flag) and loud speakers carry revolutionary chants across the city.

More of a time to relax and socialize, the only real moment where everyone seemed to be actively participating in the march was passing under the watchful eyes of Raúl and other top government figures, some of whom use binoculars to better see the crowd. That isn’t to say that people don’t support the State, but as you can imagine, there’s only so many times you can say ¡Viva Raúl! or ¡Viva Cuba Libre! before it gets repetitive. Nevertheless, when the FEU was called, my entire section went crazy for about a minute, waving Cuban flags and shouting revolutionary chants.

I ran into one of my friends who is a Chilean journalist and managed to take my camera and get an incredibly close-up picture of Raúl himself (who is in the center of the whole event). After then, the march just sort of ended and people go their own ways, but I stayed around for a few extra minutes to see two important groups: the medical students (a few of whom flew U.S. flags) and trabajadores sociales (social workers) who flew hundreds of Cuban flags and street sized banners with slogans including one with Fidel’s picture. By evening, most of the events had finished and things were quiet as people got some much needed rest from such an early start. That’s what I’m about to do. Until next time.

A week in El Oriente: Santiago de Cuba, Baracoa, Guantánamo, and Pico Turquino.

20 04 2008

Day 1: La Habana & El Tren “Especial” // We arrived at the train station in Centro Habana at 5:30 p.m., plenty of time to confirm our tickets and get food for our scheduled 7:00 departure. I’d heard mixed views on the train in Cuba—about fifty percent said I would be better off walking, twenty-five percent didn’t have any idea, and the other twenty-five said that as long as I took the Tren Especial Frances, I’d be all set. At 7:00 there was still no train and at 7:30 they finally announced that we would be delayed because the engine was in the shop. Without any official news besides that announcement, the waiting and gossip games started. I got my information from a cop who was in our same car and occasionally some soldiers, thinking they’d be in the know. At 10:00 the train pulled into the station, but they said the engine was still broken so we waited until midnight to board. By 12:30 we were underway for our twelve hour journey across 800 kilometers.

Day 2: El Tren “Especial” & Santiago de Cuba // Even in first-class, the deteriorating seats made it hard to find a good spot to sleep. The conductor made that even harder by demanding we eat our merienda (snack) at 1:30 a.m. just after many had finally fallen asleep. The train was making a slow pace but at least we were moving. At 10:00 a.m. we arrived at the half-way point and the day continued at a slow pace—and a hot one once the air conditioning began to fail around noon. At 4:00 p.m. the engine broke again and as we waited on the tracks, the operator said we’d just have to wait for a new one. I wandered off to see how far from Santiago we were, but as I was away we literally hitched a ride with another train and I had to run and jump on just as we started moving again. At 6:30 we finally arrived at our destination: 10 hours waiting to buy tickets, 5 hours waiting to board, and a 20 hour trip for less than the distance between Boston and Washington, D.C. It was all worth it though for we finally made it there. I “checked in” to the casa particular that I’d be staying in ($20 per night for two people with breakfast included). We wandered around the city a bit, saw the view from the top of a hotel, and then finally got a good night’s rest.

Day 3: Santiago de Cuba // On April 13 I had the best breakfast I’ve had since leaving the United States—Ester (the owner of the house) cooked us delicious eggs, tomatoes, mangoes, coffee, fresh bread, and better. I knew it would be a good day after that. Our first stop of the day would be Cuartel Moncada, the military base where the Revolution began on July 26, 1953. The gun shots on the outside of it still remain though they’re rumored to be replacements since Batista has the building cleaned up after Fidel’s failed assault. Today, the building serves as a school and a museum of which we had a private guided tour (for free) since we were students. We also visited the Museo de la Lucha Clandestina (Museum of the Underground Fight) which used to house a police station and now has information about all of the sabotage efforts that the 26 July Movement used to overthrow Batista. The rest of the day I spent with some friends who worked at a bookstore near our residence and sampled the local food.

Day 4: Baracoa // We left Santiago at 7:45 a.m. aboard Víazul (the tourist bus) for a five hour trip through the mountains and Guantánamo province to the first settlement of Cuba, Baracoa. I was amazed our bus made it through those mountain roads, but we still arrived on time and without any hassle—something that wouldn’t have been possible if we were traveling under our Cuban residency. Unfortunately, that also meant the entire town of Baracoa seemed to come and greet us at the bus station offering taxi rides (on bikes) and cheap rooms for the night. Add in the oppressively hot weather and it was nearly impossible to breathe. I finally found a place to stay for a great price since I was a temporary resident and student. Our first stop was the Bahía de Miel and the black sand beaches that line the town. Afterwards, we enjoyed coconut ice cream with a cup of fresh melted chocolate (a specialty of Baracoa) for about 5 cents. For dinner, we went to an old fort right on the Bahía de Baracoa that was completely deserted, but well staffed. After about an hour, my Enchilada de camarones (shrimp in a tomato base) showed up and we enjoyed the ocean breeze.

Day 5: Baracoa & Santiago // Being one of the easternmost parts of Cuba, Baracoa has the privilege of seeing the sun 45-minutes earlier than Havana and for that occasion I woke up at 6:00 a.m. Despite a bit of cloud cover, it was a pretty impressive sight and equally impressive was to see the town wake up along with the sun and begin moving around by 6:45. My next stop was to get on the lista de espera (standby list) for the 2:00 bus back to Santiago and then enjoy breakfast before biking around the town. There’s not too much to do in Baracoa so I think I spent the right amount of time there. Still, I got a chance to see the monument to Hatuey (the first American rebel who led a failed uprising in Cuba against Spain in the sixteenth century), el Yunque which literally looks like an anvil, stop by the firehouse, and get a view of the city from el Castillo. After a five hour bus ride, we arrived back at Ester’s house in Santiago and it felt like I was coming home.

Day 6: Santiago // We got up early to rent mopeds so we could see the whole city and thought we’d be all set only to find out that they were mysteriously broken since we only wanted them for a half day. Instead, we walked around and took a taxi when we needed too. The first stop was right near our casa, the Museo Municipal Emiliano Bacardí which houses all sorts of historical artifacts and artwork relevant to Santiago from the pre-colonial days to the Revolution. They had a lot more than I thought they would about the Tainos, but unlike most of the museums I’ve been too there wasn’t as much written information so I had to ask more questions of the curators who generally knew everything. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take pictures except of two things, but there was really a lot of unique artifacts and artwork that I think are deteriorating because they aren’t in a climate controlled environment. The next stop was the Cementerio Santa Ilfigenia which houses the remains of important figures in Cuban history most notably José Martí who has an honor guard present twenty-four hours per day and fresh flowers delivered daily. That night we had dinner at Ester’s—fresh fish, fried sweet plantains, rice and beans, and salad. Probably the best dinner I’ve had here and all for $5.

Day 7: Pico Turqunio // Waking up at 3:30 a.m., we began the drive to Pico Turquino at 4:00 in a “Jeep” which ended up being an old Lada like everything else. The highway in that part was wiped out a few years ago in a Hurricane and there are literally sections of it that washed out to sea forcing drivers to take a makeshift dirt road at times. Every time we saw a mountain we thought that was it, but then around the bend we’d just see another taller one. Finally, we saw Pico Turquino though the summit was still covered by the clouds. We started hiking at 8:00 a.m. and made the grueling 11 km hike with a vertical of 2 km in just about 4.5 hours. Arriving at the top was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had—just seeing the José Martí statue made me start sprinting until we were there. We slept for a few minutes until we were rudely awoken by our guide to begin the descent. I thought that was going to be the easy part, but by just a few kilometers I was beginning to loose feeling my legs and with 4 km to go I was ready to give up. We made it to the bottom—finally—at 7:00 just in time for a three hour drive in the cramped Lada back to Santiago. Ester almost fell out of her chair laughing at our faces when we stumbled through the door. All I can say though is it was worth it. We set a goal, met it, and now anytime says they were somewhere with a view in Cuba, we know we’ve been to the highest point.

Day 8: Santiago de Cuba & Víazul // My last day in Santiago was spent sleeping in and recovering from the hike to Turqunio until about 11:00 a.m. followed by another delicious breakfast from Ester. With just a few things on the agenda, I set out to see the Colegio Jesuito where Fidel went to high school which had a few things on display in a makeshift museum and continues to this day functioning as a high school (though of course it’s no longer private). My last stop was the firehouse which was closed for renovation so I had to go to the central station in a taxi. The Fire Department is part of the Ministry of the Interior and considered a part of the military. For this reason, firehouses aren’t open to the public and the chief wouldn’t let me in nor accept my gift of a CFD shirt without prior approval from the regional commander. I managed to take a picture, but only from across the street. I had better luck in Havana where I’m planning to spend a night to see what it’s like being a firefighter in Cuba. Anyway, at 6:00 we boarded the 6:00 p.m. express to Havana and watched the Oriente slowly pass us by on the road back west.

Day 9: Víazul & La Habana / I had plenty of time on the 12-hour bus ride to reflect on my trip to Santiago and I did that for awhile until I finally drifted to sleep in the middle of the night only to wake up at dawn in La Habana. I felt like we were in a completely different part of Cuba—just like being in California as someone from the east coast—but loved almost every moment of it. Hiking Turquino was a major accomplishment and learning about the birthplace of the Revolution made everything else worthwhile. Everyone’s told me that people in Santiago are more friendly and relaxed and I found that mostly to be true—especially if you look like you want a taxi. Here I am now in Havana—feeling like I’m back at home, but really so far from there. Now it’s time to get back to classes and explain where I was for the past 10 days. Luckily it rained a few days so I only ended up missing a few classes.

Varadero, La Habana, & Playa Girón.

10 04 2008

The past two weeks have certainly flied by here in Cuba. This past weekend I was in Havana, but went to Varadero on Sunday with the group of journalists staying here at our residence. All of the journalists here now focus on sports and in addition to covering much of Latin America, there were even a few from France too. Our rickety ride to Varadero (two hours from Havana) went pretty quickly with the help of some good music and Havana Club courtesy of the periodistas. Once we got there we went right to the water and enjoyed a nice lazy day on the beach. Not to mention that Varadero is probably once of the nicest beaches in the world. It’s not really worth explaining because only a photo would do it justice. I’m hoping to get those online in a few weeks.

Monday morning I was supposed to begin the school week but due to some early morning rain, none of the Cubans showed up and classes were either extremely shortened or cancelled all together. When it rains here people pretty much stay inside since many can’t afford an umbrella and it’s really too hot to wear a rain coat. Still, it was my first “rain day” and I was quite amused (and annoyed since I still woke up early to get there).

Tuesday morning it also rained but we had to brave the weather to get to the train station early to buy our tickets for this weekend. Unfortunately, it seems like taxis don’t really run when it rains so it took about 30 minutes of standing in the rain to get a cab. After about two hours in line the ticket agency opened up so we could sit down in the waiting room and continue enjoy waiting to buy tickets for another hour when they’d start selling them. Overall we had to wait about 5 hours to buy train tickets but since they were in Cuban pesos I don’t really have many regrets. First-class on the “special” train which includes a snack goes for 72 pesos or 3 dollars. Not bad. Yet, many Cubans don’t travel because once they arrive somewhere new if they don’t have family or friends, they won’t be able to afford to stay anywhere.

Today I continued the trend of traveling as we went on a trip to Playa Girón, part of the Bay of Pigs area famous for the battle that occurred there nearly fifty years ago. Cubans are obviously proud of the Bay of Pigs because they defeated the United States in a military battle—the first country to do so in the world. I’d compare it to the Battle of 1812 in the U.S. The Bay of Pigs confirmed Cuba’s status as a free country that could govern its own affairs even at the expense of U.S. interests. I still don’t know a lot about the history of Bay of Pigs and look forward to learning more about it. My understanding previously is that we lost because Kennedy would not allow air support and we basically let 1,200 Cuban exiles on their own in a battle they could not possibly win.

The side of the story told here is that we did provide some air support, but Cuba still triumphed over el imperialismo yanki. Cuba still likes to display bits of evidence documenting that the U.S. was behind Bay of Pigs (like a uniform or wreckage)—a fact that confuses me because I don’t believe that we’ve ever tried to cover up our involvement (at least after we lost and it was overwhelmingly obvious who supported who). The peace agreement after the battle is what really interests me: Cuba simply sent the prisoners back in exchange for $7 million worth of supplies like baby food.

At any rate, after visiting two museums, we spent the afternoon at Playa Larga, enjoying the tropical seas and cooling sea breeze. Again, you’ll have to see pictures of this to imagine just how beautiful it is. Tomorrow, I’ll board the 7:00 Tren Especial with a destination of Santiago de Cuba. If all goes well, we’ll arrive at 7:00 Saturday morning ready to begin our 7-day recorrido of the eastern provinces. El Oriente, as the region is called, was the birthplace to the Revolution and is rich with history. We’ll hope to visit Baracoa, Bayamo, and Pico Turqunio while we’re there. If the train gets in on time, we’ll get to go to Game 5 of the play-offs between Santiago and Ciego de Avíla. Until I get back, keep emailing and enjoy the beginnings of spring up north.

Mantanzas, Santería, and Headlines from the Island.

2 04 2008

This past Saturday I spent my first night outside of Havana since I was in Toronto. That day and Sunday I was in Matanzas on a trip to learn all about Santería. We traveled aboard the guagua periodista which left us stranded last time I tried to take a trip on it. The bus showed up to the residence a few minutes early and left right on time—without any of us. An hour later, the driver told us he went to bread. Nevertheless, after about two bumpy hours on the highway, we arrived in Matanzas ready to begin our journey.

Some background: Matanzas is the province directly east of La Habana and its capital city is Matanzas. Within the province there are several spots of interest I hope to visit in the next month: Playa Girón (Bay of Pigs) and Veradero (allegedly home of the nicest beaches in Cuba). Santería is the hybrid religion that combines Catholicism with the traditional Yoruba religion of Nigeria. Barred from practicing their native religion and converted to Christianity, colonial slaves in Cuba kept their traditions alive by masking them with Catholic ones. The most obvious form of this practice is the connection between the orishas (spirits) and Saints. For example, Changó (the spirit of fire and war) is often connected with Santa Bárbara (that is not to say they are the same however).

With that covered, our first stop was the temple where we would also be staying on Saturday night. The Templo Otura Di was the first in Cuba (and second in the Americas) to ordain a female Babalawo (the spiritual leader of the temple roughly translating to “Father Who Knows the Secrets”). After learning about some of the customs and rituals of Santería, we traveled around the neighborhood to other templos to see the differences within the religion. Back at the Otura Di, we were part of a full ritual before spending some of the later hours exploring the city. Since we stayed in the houses of various santeros, there weren’t enough beds and I had the privilege of sleeping the back seat of a 1950s máquina.

Well rested, the next day we explored more of Matanzas before heading back to Havana on the bus. After my first night away from the capital, I was happy to be heading “home.” I’m also ready to get more aggressive about traveling around the island as much as I can. For the month of April I have a long list of places I’d like to visit including: Santiago de Cuba, Bayamo, Pico Turquino (the highest mountain in Cuba), Baracoa, Playa Girón, Isla de la Juventud, and the western most parts of Pinar del Río.

Aside from traveling, classes have been at a relaxed pace the past few weeks, but that just means we’ll be gearing up for another round of semanarios in the next few. If you’ve been reading the New York Times recently, you’ll notice that there are a lot of “major” changes happening here in Havana, all of them a loosening of restrictions that have been in place on Cubans for many years now. First was the legalization of the public sale of microwaves, DVD players, and eventually air conditioners, then garnering more headlines, the opening of the cell phone market to all Cubans. Just a few days ago, hotels were officially opened to all Cuban (who used to be prohibited from renting accommodations in tourist hotels even if they had the money to do so).

I’m not trying to take away from the significance of these changes, but would encourage people to think about them using a historical perspective. There’s a huge black market for items that the state doesn’t sell openly so any commodity that can be found on the island can be bought by a Cuban if they have the money to do so. The same goes for cell phones. The decision of the State to openly sell these items resulted from the need of Cuban’s to have access to these items as much as a necessity for the State which looses money when it doesn’t control the method of product distribution. The opening of hotels to Cubans is slightly more significant because that was something that could not be bought on the black market, although there were many ways for Cubans to gain official access to tourist hotels. We’ve now entered the “low” season as Europe warms up and tourism decreases and when you combine that with an overall decrease in tourism over the past few years, you’ll notice that this is a win/win for the state which gets to fill empty hotel rooms and make the (capitalist) world think that Cuba is changing.

What I find significant in these recent measures taken by Raúl Castro is that the government seems to be acknowledging that there are two classes of Cubans—those who have access to convertible pesos and those who don’t. There are two notable ways to gain access to convertible pesos: working in the tourist sector or for foreign businesses and having family residing abroad that sends remittances. From an economic standpoint, the growing availability of commodities available to Cubans with access to convertible pesos will serve as an additional incentive for Cubans to try and gain access to that type of currency. Given that the government can not increase salaries twenty-four fold, this means there is a greater incentive to work in the tourist sectors. Overall, I see the recent headlines as an acknowledgement of not only the existence of socioeconomic classes in Cuba, but more significantly, that the class of Cubans with convertible pesos is growing and gaining political power. Like everything, I’ll have to get in the cola to find out.

Mexican Food & Another Week in La Habana

23 03 2008

I just got back from my most satisfying food experience in Cuba and my first trip to a paladar. Located in Miramar, Mi Jardín serves some of the best Mexican food I’ve had outside of México. Given that Cubans don’t particularly use many key staples of Mexican food, everything at Mi Jardín is made from scratch right at home: the tortilla chips, tortillas, salsa verde, refried beans, you name it. I had an excellent pork dish and shared chips with beans, cheese, and salsa. You have no idea how much I’ve missed cilantro and jalapeños. Now that we’ve found this gem, I’ll probably eat here at least every two weeks. Yesterday, I found some burgers that tasted like they were cooked at a barbecue in the U.S. so I’ve been doing quite well with food this weekend. Not to mention we had pizzas a la orden on Friday night at the residence.

Aside from a weekend of great food, I’ve been exploring a few more parts of the city as I prepare for several trips out of Havana. On Friday we went to a cigar factory where I enjoyed a Cohiba in their ultra-swank cigar room with bone-chilling air conditioning. Afterwards, we walked around the inside of the Capitolio which is used for tours now instead of housing the National Assembly which wouldn’t fit the old halls. The building is designed after the U.S. Capital complete with two sides and a central dome (see pictures on Flickr). The first thing you’ll notice walking in is a huge (three-story) statue of what I imagine is lady justice or liberty. There’s also a glass case built into the exact center of the floor which used to house a diamond until that was stolen by a senator in the 30s (the stone in the middle is a replica). Walking through the building we visited the ornate hallways, meeting rooms, and library which functions to this day and is open to use from Cubans. I think I’ll be able to get in there with my carné so I may try and study there one day. I also have to visit the building again to go on a guided tour which allows you to sit in the President’s chair for a photo op in the old meeting room of the National Assembly.

It’s rained the past two nights in a row so we’ve stayed at the Residence. The journalists left yesterday and now there’s a group of writers from 14 different countries in America here for the next week. Hopefully that means we’ll get an official welcome party tomorrow night! If not, we’ll certainly get one the next week when the new group of journalists arrives for the next class beginning on April 2. Looking ahead towards the future, I’m planning on going to Matanzas next week for a trip to experience santería and in a few weeks I hope to go to the Oriente for a whole week to visit Santiago de Cuba, the Sierra Maestra, Guantanamo, and Baracoa. Now I’ve got to finish up a paper on Brasil under president Getúlio Vargas.

A weekend with Latin American journalists.

16 03 2008

Last Wednesday, most of the other students from the United States left Havana for an educational excursion to Trinidad and Santa Clara. Those of us from the SUNY program had to stay though since we take classes directly with the University of Havana. While the Residence was a little bit quieter, there was plenty going on. Friday marked the National Day of the Press so a party was held here at the Residence of the José Martí International Institute of Journalism.

From 7:00 on Friday night to 3:00 Saturday morning, I celebrated the occasion with journalists from across America (North, South, and the Caribbean). We sat around a table with drinks on the house (the State) and sang songs from our respective countries. Represented at the table were songs from Cuba, Panama, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Brazil, the Dominican Republic, and of course—the United States. I settled with Calle 13 featuring Orishas “Pal Norte.” While it may not be a traditional song back home, the U.S. obviously plays a central role in the song as the country many refer simply as el norte.

Saturday—despite being out until the early hours that morning—we woke up at 6:00 a.m. to begin a four hour journey to Santa Clara. As our school bus pulled up, complete with wooden seats, I knew we were going to be in for a long drive. Just about an hour out from Havana though, we found ourselves back in Cuba as the bus broke down and we were stranded on the highway. With a van coming to pick us up (all 15), the driver was finally able to fix the bus about two hours later and we made our way back to the city instead of risking getting stuck again. Everything worked out and by noon I was sitting back on the white sand and crystal clear waters of Guanabo with some other international students from the University.

Sunday began early as well since we changed the hour here and 9:00 breakfast suddenly felt like 8:00. Shortly after, four journalists and I walked down Avenida de los Presidentes to catch the P-11 heading toward Habana Vieja. We spent a few hours at the Museum of the Revolution and later the Granma Memorial. There’s so much history in that building though (the old Presidential Palace) so I’m sure I’ll be going back again for a third visit sometime soon. Next up was a stop at the Camera Oscura where we got a pretty cool view of the entire city.

Finally, after lunch at the Residence, we took another bus to Miramar where the National Aquarium is. Of course, no visit to an aquarium is complete without a dolphin show and I’ve never seen one so cool. One of the highlights has to be seeing the dolphins dance to different types of popular music here in Cuba—merengue, then reggeaton, and finally rock (which is ridiculously popular in Havana). Speaking of something you wouldn’t expect to be popular here, Cubans love the theme song from Titanic. It played no less than three times during a two hour visit to the aquarium. On our way back, I took advantage of being in Miramar to find the Supermarket (actually Giant or Safeway sized, but it was closed early for some reason) and the only Mexican restaurant in Havana. Now I should seriously think about doing some reading since I have a semanario tomorrow at 8:00 a.m.

U.S. Interests Section in Havana

13 03 2008

Today I went to one of the places most shrouded in mystery back north: the U.S. Interests Section in Havana. Not only are we talking about Havana—a place that people either think is a 1950s paradise or a modern-day example of inefficiency and dictatorship—we’re talking about the building that represents the interests of a country that does not have diplomatic relations with Cuba. My trip was for routine business, but the experience was far from ordinary.

You don’t need the address of the Interests Section to find out where it is in Vedado. Just head towards Malecón and look for hundreds of flags. Normally they’re black flags to represent people who the Cuban government claims have died either trying to reach the U.S. or at the hands of people who had the support of the U.S. Every once in a while they’re Cuban flags, usually on days of national importance such as when Raúl was elected president. Today there were no flags; I think they were repairing the poles. Looking past the hundreds of flag-less flag poles, you’ll notice a huge stage complete with revolutionary slogans and messages about the Cuban Five.

Now that I could see the multi-story, fortress-like complex, I had to pass through Cuban police to gain access to the sidewalk where the entrance to the Interests Section is. Normally I cross the street wherever I need to, but as soon as I did that the police whistled at me and instructed me to cross at the corner. After crossing the street, I went through my first checkpoint, presenting my U.S. Passport. I waited in line for a few moments until word got out that I was norteamericano and the police let me go ahead to the front of the line to wait to go through security. Again, once they found out I was from the U.S., I was moved to the front of the line at security and ushered in through an unmarked door to go through security once again. Now inside the building, I made it past a waiting area for Cubans seeking visas to come to the U.S. and finally through a locked door marked “U.S. Citizen Services.” Along the way, I stopped to look at the items deemed worthy to be hanging on the wall: a letter from Fidel to FDR and pictures of what seemed like hundreds of Cuban political prisoners and the locations of their jails.

Anyway, I was hardly surprised to find out that I was the only U.S. citizen in the Interests Section so I got my questions answered right away. To my surprise though, the staff (members of the Foreign Service) were incredibly open and hardly suspicious of my presence in Cuba. They were familiar with my program and after I got everything sorted out, we even traded information about where the best burgers could be found in Havana.

Aside from my visit to the Interests Section, the past week had been low-key. Classes were cancelled yesterday afternoon for the Cultural Festival sponsored by the FEU (which was sweet) and next week I’ve got my first round of seminarios—class-wide debates where participation counts for a grade. This weekend I’m planning on going to the beach again and with any luck I’ll finally get my carné tomorrow.