For the last 2 months I´ve been living Internet and Facebook free life.
OK, I have to be honest. It´s an almost Internet and Facebook free life. You´re reading this so it means I posted it somehow. True. But I don´t have access to Internet every day, sometimes not even every week. How does it work here in Cuba?
Well first of all you have to be lucky enough to life in a place with Wi-Fi point. Viñales has 5 of them. 3 in the hotels (too far away from our home) and 2 in the town. There is one on the main square and on in front of bar/shop Cubanitas. Both are on open air which is so annoying because when it´s hot and sunny you´re sweating and see nothing on your screen. When it´s raining (and it´s hurricane season now) no way to go online.
Ok, so we have two Wi-Fi points. Yuhu! But Internet is not free here. It´s actually quite expensive. An hour of Internet costs 2 EUR. You may think it´s not that much. But for how many hours are you online per month? Not that cheap anymore right?
There´s only one place in Viñales that sells Internet cards like this – ETECSA office. ETECSA is the only telecommunication company in Cuba. So in their office people buy phones, pay bills, arrange stuff, buy Internet cards. The lines at the door are usually long. And it takes forever to buy a card because they will ask you for the passport and write down all the number of the cards you bought. Eh Cuba.
Writing a blog from Cuba is rather a challenging task. I write at home, in the parks, in the bars posts for a week or two, go online and schedule everything. No time for Facebook anymore. The only thing I miss? Google 🙂
When I think about my life in Cuba I always think about the joke my best friend once told me.
One day a guy dies and gets to decide if he wants to go to heaven or hell. First he visits Heaven and it´s really nice. Blue skies, puffy clouds, angels playing harps everywhere, all quiet and chilled. The guys thinks “oh Ilike it, bit boring but nice, let´s see how Hell looks like”. So he goes to Hell and there´s a huge party, drinks, hot chicks and rock´n´roll. He loves it. After few days of thinking he decides to go to Hell. He comes back, it´s all quiet, no sign of any party…the Devil opens the door and he´s like :
– you see, little guy, this pile of shit? I want you to start to clean this is up
– but where the party? where are the chics? where are drinks like the first time?!?!
– oh you see- the Devil says – the first time you came as tourist. Now you´re emigrant.
So here I am. An emigrant in Cuba which looked so nice from the window of Viazul bus. Living in a country and visiting a country are two different things. And Cuba is not the place most of people used to Western Style of life would manage to stay in for longer. But definitely there´re are some benefits of living here.
Education in Cuba if totally free and mandatory for every child until the age of 15. Thanks to that Cuba has a 99.8% literacy rate, which is one of the highest in the world.
Cuba has the highest doctor to patient ratio in the world. There are so many doctors in Cuba, that doctors are often sent abroad to countries with a great need of medical professionals.
It may sounds silly but the weather really makes the difference in people´s lifes. When I was still living in Poland I might have had more stuff, my house wasn´t a wooden barrack but the grey sky was making me nuts. There´s nothing better than starting your day with the sun shining.
There´re good souls everywhere I know but I just love the fact that Cuban families are big and everybody knows everybody. In Portugal I was living in a building with 10 apartments and for 3 years have never met my neighbours. In Cuba it never happens. I have aunts, cousins and friends stopping by my house 10 times a day. So no running around naked but still love it 😉
I wrote before how my rented little house looks like. Now I would like to show you how most of the Cubans live like.
Beside of bigger cities most of the population live in the wooden houses. Wood is still the cheapest material and the construction is pretty easy and fast. Those houses are usually really basic with no bathroom and one or two rooms.
Viñales has some colonial architecture in the center but if you walk a bit you’ll notice that still most of the houses look like these below. It gets really hot inside during the summer.
In Cuba unfortunately there’s no canalization or water supply system. How do we have shower or flash the toilet if we have one? Well, this is why. Every house with bathroom needs a tank like this one to have “running water”. That’s why in Cuba washing machines are half manual. They do spin but you have to keep pouring the water inside…a lo cubano.
The kitchen like I said before are really basic and look nothing like the kitchens we are use to. The counter is usually really small and full of rice and pressure cookers. I haven’t seen any oven in any of the houses I visited.
The bathrooms are small, the showers have poor water pressure and the toilet…well the pipes in Cuba are so small and get clogged so next to every toilet you’ll find a small bin for toilet paper. Yes, all the toilet paper you use.
And this is how we lock the door. Lock made in Cuba. Very safe 🙂
Another Cuban invention I love are windows…no glass. Just a system of wooden or metal elements that rotate. Makes sense in this climate but since you can never actually totally lock the window all the bugs and insects get in easily.
My little house is quite comfortable, but still no fridge, no table. “Be patient Magda. This is Cuba” – the Cubans say. So I’m waiting for my place to get done.
Food in Cuba is rather…limited. In all the ways. In one hand there’s rationing system so things like rice, eggs, oil, beans are provided and may be bought for “libreta” which is a little book where it’s written how much of each product you have a right to buy. Since Cuba almost don’t import anything you can only get things that grow or are produced here.
The base of Cuban diet is rice and beans. You’ll see it on a Cuban table every single day. You buy it for pounds, it does not come closed in plastic bags as we know it so the first task before cook it is to separate the grains to make sure you cook only the good ones. If you have a big family it make take ages 😉
Cooking in Cuba is a challenge. Nobody has an oven and usually there’s only one stove per kitchen. Everybody uses rice cooker and pressure cooker and they look at me as I was an alien when I say I’m almost 30 and have never used one of these before. Because how can you even thinking of cooking without a rice cooker…” You don’t eat rice everyday?! So what do you eat?! ”
Cuba is an Tropical Island so it seems that the diet should be healthy and full of fruits and veggies. Nothing like that. There are a lot of fruits like bananas, mango, papaya, pineapple, guayaba, avocado and much more (I haven’t really learned all the names yet 😉 ) but not many Cubans actually eat them. The prices of the fresh product does not help. Thant’s true. It’s expensive to be veggie lover here.
So what do the Cubans eat beside of rice and benas? A lot of cooked and fried meat. Fried platains or root vegetable. Fried everything! And pizzas…yes. There are street stands with pizzas for 10 Cuban Peso so the lines are big. I’m not suprised that Cubans are getting bigger and bigger .
To help the diet, Cubans are big fans of soft drinks. They drink it alone, with ron or with meals. I wonder how long my body will stand this new way of eating…