Life in Evergreen

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Cuba - Part Two – Tourism in Trinidad

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

We travel from Havana to Trinidad in a collective taxi with another couple, squeezing four adult passengers and four suitcases into a modestly-sized “modern” car, which means something newer than 1959, ours perhaps just 40 years old. It takes three men pushing the vehicle to get it started, and then we are off at 8:30 on a Saturday morning.

The 1950s (and older) cars are ubiquitous, making up about 60% of the vehicles we see. Some are truly spectacular.

Billboards with photos of Fidel and Raul Castro are frequent sights, as are slogans about the benefits of Socialism.  

Few people have cars, so traffic on the main highway is very very light by our standards. About 30 miles into the trip, the taxi exits onto a dirt road leading back into the densely treed, jungle-like area. We can’t help but wonder if we might be robbed, but it is just a matter of filling the gas tank with black market gasoline, using a funnel. The fumes remain prominent, at least for the person sitting immediately behind the driver with gasoline on his hands. He proves to be a safe and conscientious motorist who pulls over to accept a cell phone call, as it is illegal to talk or text on a cell phone while driving.

The trip costs $120 – $30 per person – up 50% from the 2016 tour book which quoted $80 – a sign that things are changing quickly. We learned in advance this is the standard rate for the route. A modern bus, which takes 6 hours, is an alternative at about $20 per person but requires advance reservations of several days.

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Tourism – “All aboard!” in Cuba

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

John and I are in Cuba for 11 days, and I’m reporting as a journalist having made all the arrangements on my own…. If the Internet cooperates, I’ll be coming to you from Trinidad on schedule on Tuesday, April 11th.

Things in Cuba are changing … rapidly. In general, Cubans seem to be happy with Socialism, certainly with the free education through the university level. Upon graduating with whatever degrees, young people work two years at half the designated amount of income to repay the government. They’re particularly happy about recent changes that enable individuals to make money from the tourist industry.

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LIFE IN EVERGREEN: Buying gifts for neighbors in Cuba

Written by Linda Kirkpatrick on .

Shopping this week reminded me of a time in 1966 when my cousin, stationed in Vietnam and working with the locals, asked me to send presents and goodies to throw a Christmas party for the kids. It was a challenge finding gifts that would mean something to Vietnamese children who probably lived in huts without even the most basic conveniences. They wouldn’t comprehend toy blenders and miniature ovens or other 20th century toys in the hands of most middle-class children in America back then. It was a real eye-opening experience for me as a teenager.

What to buy? There are dozens of lists of suggested items on the Internet. Aside from the soccer ball, AA batteries, flashlights, fishing tackle and personal hygiene items, I’ve added a few items of my own. It’s been fun. With frequent power outages experienced in Cuba, the clip-on headlamps that attach to the bills of ball caps seemed appropriate for men, as did the Gorilla Glue, Gorilla Tape and Super Glue. The Cubans are considered masters at repairing anything and everything, but I doubted they had easy access to some of the wonder products we take for granted coming from Home Depot.  I even threw in a hot glue gun I'd purchased years ago and never used!

One writeup suggested sharp knives – but cautioned not to provide them unless the recipients already have a can opener, as they use knives to open cans…. So I’m taking some can openers as well as sharp utility knives with replaceable blades.

EChO had a nice selection of used toys – stuffed animals; Beanie Babies; and hand-held, non-electronic games. I even found a wonderful coloring book for someone learning the alphabet IN SPANISH, likely brought back to the US by some loving grandparent who’d traveled to a Spanish-speaking country on vacation! I found two large superhero-type figurines for boys. Construction paper, scissors and glue sticks seemed like fun; I’ve yet to repackage them for handout.

I have jelly beans and malted milk Easter eggs, as we’ll be there until Easter Sunday.

Reading material is essentially not available at all in Cuba. I wasn’t successful getting to a used bookstore with publications printed in Spanish. I’m told movie star magazines – even in English – are popular.  I only found one to take along.

We’ll be staying in people’s homes – casas particulares – and eating with locals the entire time. I’m thrilled at the prospect of this kind of interaction. Since my husband, John, speaks pretty good Spanish, we’ll make the most of every opportunity. I’ve already drafted questions and translated them into Spanish (thanks to the Internet).

I’ve made arrangements in advance through host families to meet with others in the tourism industry. I’m eager to see how opening tourism to the average citizen has changed the lives of those who now engage in renting out rooms in their homes, for instance. It seems that they can make more in one night’s lodging than the average citizen makes in a month ($20/month is the average income there).

We’ll be in the colonial city of Trinidad for a week; and depending on the availability and reliability of wifi, I plan to publish from there next Tuesday. If JustAroundHere.com doesn’t arrive on time, you may know why….