Time Travel

cuba2

Tuesday, 2 April, 2013

Varadero, Cuba

After a morning of drinking on the beach, followed by a quick siesta, I’ve decided to kick start my day again on the hotel balcony; before Elliot and I pursue evening entertainment.

I am writing this blog with a beautiful bottle of rum placed alongside my chair and an outstanding cigar sitting in an ashtray on the window ledge. Oh, I also have a background view of the sun going down. Right now, I am the champion of the world!

Ok, now that I am done being a smug wanker, let me tell you a bit about Cuba. It seems as though the country hit the 1950’s, thought ‘I like this’, and didn’t bother to evolve with the rest of the world – it’s fascinating, as well as educational.

Cuba has been like jumping into a social experiment. We got a first-hand view of how people behave without phones and laptops. They were playing with water guns, sharing ice cream and having fully focused discussions; oh, it was awful – they didn’t even take a photo of their ice cream before they ate it for Facebook likes!

The lack of internet has been a minor glitch though, perhaps confirming that I, too, am lost in the modern world and need my own daily dose of status updates to survive. We soon realised that the internet is an extremely addictive, but very useful monster. Without it, we were unable to research or book the rest of our trip.

A couple of days ago frustration hit an all-time high. So, I wrote my bank details on a piece of paper, placed that note into a bottle and launched it into the sea. I think I’m right in assuming that is the way people sent a message before the internet?

We hope the bottle finds its way to the hotel that we plan to book in Montreal. You’d probably get better odds on a couple of dolphins using my digits to have a grand old time down at the caseano though.

Those dolphins were probably just grateful of the opportunity to use authentic cash, if I’m honest. In Cuba, only the locals are authorised to use real money – a rule in place to prevent their currency leaving the island.

Therefore, each time we wanted to exchange money we were required to queue up at the bank and trade our real money for fake notes – the line was always an hour long too. It is crazy when you put things into perspective, so many people were keenly waiting to depart with their hard earnings for ‘monopoly gold’. It is the equivalent of swapping a diamond necklace for a daisy chain your niece made you.

That said, the value is exactly the same. I’m essentially just carrying around a collection of vouchers as opposed to money. Other than the bank queues, it doesn’t really have any negative impact. It’s the cashiers in the shop that I feel sorry for, it must make cashing up a till at the end of a shift a bit of a nightmare.

Cuba is also the most colourful country that I have ever visited, in the literal sense – on this island the streets have more colour than the TVs. The buildings are usually blues, yellows and pinks, rather than the gloomy browns, greys and blacks the world is accustomed to.

Such a bright and cheerful setting seems to generate a far more vibrant atmosphere among the people as well – it’s a good vibe. Perhaps the best way to reach a more positive Britain would be to paint Big Ben turquoise and the Angel of the North bright pink.

Most of the cars are also extremely colourful and vintage. The vehicles are usually retro American designs from the 1950’s, such as Chevrolets, a car more commonly found in a museum than on the road these days. All of those mad scientists going out of their minds trying to enable time travel, should really just book a holiday to Cuba.

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We’ve spent our week at an all-inclusive hotel, which has meant a boatload of rum and coke without having to depart with my little boy money too often.

The majority of our evenings have consisted of watching the crappy entertainment shows – the booze is free, it’s the easy option, and frankly, they can be pretty funny. The all-inclusive holiday clichés really shine through at night too, we’ve witnessed the full range.

We have the group of fourteen-year-old girls that spent their afternoon pool time choreographing a dance, which just so happens to fit the beat of every song the DJ plays on an evening. There is also the twenty-year-old that has fallen in love with the thirty-year-old rep, follows him around and listens as he tells her that she is his ‘true’ love.

Further entertainment comes courtesy of the flirty fifty-year-old women that get steaming drunk, before pressuring the hotel chefs and cleaners into dancing with them. Just to clarify, the ages stated are all just rough estimates; I have not been going around stealing passports.

I, myself, am the bar guy. I pull up a stool at the bar and make small talk about the simple things in life with the barman, while getting slowly loaded on endless refills of rum and coke.

Last night’s poolside offering was ‘The Crazy Show’, which we later discovered was simply a music quiz – the DJ spins a tune and the winner is the fastest player to shout the song title. I bet they didn’t sleep for a week when they were piecing all the craziness of that one together!

Only two members of the audience were keen to compete; nine-year-old, Martina from Mexico, and, mid-forties, Mark from Canada. The contrast in competitors alone increased the possibility of this becoming a ‘crazy show’.

The scores were tied at 4-4 with one question remaining. Up until this point, Little Martina’s four points came courtesy of helpful whispers. While, Mark from Canada had been slipping, burping and occasionally blurting out a winner here and there – he was highly intoxicated and great to watch. Either way, we were in for one hell of a final showdown.

You could hear a pin drop among the crowd, as they waited in anticipation for the next song. The DJ dropped Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’ and Martina’s corner were stumped – the audience gasped. Was Mark from Canada about to take the win?

He took the presenter’s microphone, slipped on the floor, stood up, bellowed, “Mark from Canada”, dropped to his knees and instantly fell asleep. Was it the pressure? Was it the beer? It’s hard to be sure. Although, one thing was clear; Martina was now odds on favourite to take the win.

As it goes, Martina’s family are more familiar with TLC than Madonna and being that Mark remained asleep, the nine-year-old announced the second tiebreaker answer with confidence in a slightly anticlimactic finish. Her victory landed her a hard earned bottle of rum.

I must say, the title of ‘The Crazy Show’ made a lot more sense while watching the host present a minor with a bottle of booze.

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