We had dinner back at the Casa and talked to Armando and Belkis about life in Cuba. We learned that citizens couldn't really buy or sell houses, travel freely, or stay in hotels. Oh and the ability to salsa dance is in a Cuban's blood. After dinner, I passed out early while Val worked on her homework. Cienfuegos was a pleasant enough city but we decided we could have skipped it.
The heat finally got to me in Cienfuegos. At some point Valentina made a comment about the U.S. having concentration camps during World War II. I corrected her and said they were called Internment camps. She insisted they were the same and I explained that to call them concentration camps was like calling us Nazis. It was ugly. Tempers flared and the next thing you know people were staring at us, arguing like an old married couple. Too much sun and dehydration. Sorry Val.
After a short drive to Santa Clara the next morning, we found ourselves feeling stuck in nasty heat without a Casa to stay in. Valentina had wanted to visit the city as it featured some important Che Guevara sites, like the Monumento a la Toma del Tren Blindado where he captured 300 of Batista's troops, as well as the Che Guevara monument and memorial. Other than that, there wasn't much else to do in that town but sweat. We made our way back to the bus station and killed the rest of the afternoon watching Friends and the making of Lord of the Rings on Cuban television. Though I was delighted to have bumped into the two cute British girls we'd hung out with in Trinidad. We all agreed that Santa Clara was a **** hole. Sorry Santa Clara.
Back in Havana, I enjoyed one last taxi ride with the British girls and happily returned to Martha and Alfredo's Casa in Habana Vieja. We hit the sack pretty early and woke up the next day to take one last walk around Havana. Val and I were down to our last few dollars with just enough to pay for a taxi ride and the airport exit tax. We did visit the Museo del Chocolate for a couple of cold drinks. But most of the time, we walked through the super windy streets, trying to keep the dust out of our eyes. Before it was time for Valentina to leave, Alfredo invited me to have a glass of Havana Club Anejo 7 rum to commemorate the end of our awesome time in Cuba. I remembered thinking that the rum was like love on my tongue and fire in my throat. And this was just the beginning.
Valentina took off back to Paris and I continued to sip rum with Alfredo, discussing life, dreams, baseball, and women in Cuba. Although I saw Cuba as a wonderful and beautiful place, he reminded me that life is hard for a Cuban in Cuba. He has dreams of traveling to New York and Tokyo. I felt fortunate that I had the freedom and good fortunate to visit both of those places. He told me, "Cuban women think about sex all of the time". I told him that I had no idea and reminded him that I was traveling with a friend whom everyone thought was my girlfriend. Alfredo looked sympathetic for a moment and offered to discount my night's stay so I'd have some spending money that night to explore the other side of Cuba that single men discover. But I was much too broke and tired. Instead, I took him up on another serving of rum and started to drift into a haze as a heavy storm rolled in. Rain started pouring through the middle of the house and thunder clapped out on the empty street. Some of their friends came by and I sat quietly writing in my Moleskine notebook, scribbling down my thoughts since I knew zero Spanish and had no idea what they were discussing.
"A language barrier is life exclusion- being on the outside of inside jokes.
I'm just a human being far away from home. But where is home? Home is comfort. Home is a place of familiarity where you can walk through the hallway at night and not bump into furniture because you know where things are, even in the dark. Home is where your bed is, where you wake up and you don't ask yourself 'Where am I?' For the next eight months, people will welcome me into theirs but time will reveal where I will call home."
When the rain stopped, I took one last walk to the Malecon. A couple of jinteros approached me and chatted for a bit but left as soon as they found out my wallet was empty. It was a beautiful walk at night with couple on the street and people dancing in windows. I snapped a couple more photos and I went back to pack my bag up for the 5am taxi ride in a few hours. As I undressed for bed in the dark, I saw a piece of 'lint' on my leg. It seemed to be stuck to me. I even thought it was some sort of weird mole I'd never noticed but I finally picked it off. When I turned on the light I discovered it was actually a tick. I quickly stripped down and examined the rest of my body for more stowaways. As disgusted as I was, it was a bit amusing to think of this Cuban tick, trying to make his escape to a different life in the US.