February 23rd, 2010

La Habana

But he went the Hemingway, weirdly on wings and with maximum pain

The last bastion of chocolate on the island of Cuba in lean times is the chocolate museum. The air is pregnant with it, and the courtyard out the back is perfumed with cinnamon. One step through the door, and Nae's super special chocolate elation face come on with a fearsome intensity. Even here though, not all items are on the menu; the Aztec hot chocolate was stricken due to lack of some spices. However, you can buy chocolate cast in all manner of shapes; cats, crabs, cars, cigars. Maybe your favourite shape has to start with 'c' in The Queen's English. These, however, as so rich that a cigar is more advisable than a monstrous crab.

There are three statues of similar name of famous lefties in Havana: 2 Lenins and 1 Lennon, with Fidel having declared the later a revolutionary. One of the Lenins is in Parque Lenin, and the Lennon in Parque Lennon, so when getting into a taxi, we must overcome our thick gringo tongues (I'm certain Spanish requires a tongue of more athletic build) by emphasising 'Len-IN' or 'Lenn-ON'. En route to the airport for Chris and Honor, we went to Parque Len-IN, a giant reserve with families playing soccer and having picnics and doing all those things we are told dreary communist life precludes. It also has a sweet 10-foot tall Lenin bust mounted in a 24-foot monument, replete with quote on what Fidel thinks about the old Vladimir Ilych. The monument to Celia, the most native flower woman, is also in the park, though apparently the remains are elsewhere.

The taxi driver who drove us there, then to the airport, and then back downtown was most pleased at making weeks' of wages in one day, and was at our disposal for the rest of our trip.

Naomi and I then returned to Havana Vieja, so I could get a photo of the Museum of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, an organisation in each neighbourhood somewhere between the local council, ensuring you have utilities and services, and the KGB, keeping a file on each and every person, who they know and what they do. This is on the same street as the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where Ernest Hemingway lived for a couple of years before the revolution. Why he left and the events thereafter are one of the most clouded issues we encountered. The Cubans tell you he left because the US forced it's citizens out, and that while he wasn't a revolutionary he liked Fidel and left his property, including thousands of books, to the state in his will. The Americans tell you he was tired of Cuba and moved away after the revolution, and that the Cuban government seized his property after the Bay of Pigs, two months before he died. The Cubans say maybe he shot himself because he was sad at leaving Cuba. Official record suggests he had a terminal illness and decided to die with dignity. Either which way, he wrote The Old Man and the Sea based on the lives of fishermen he knew in a town near Havana. Naomi tells me it's a story about a fisherman and his special relationship with a young boy. She hastens to add that it's not suspicious.

It seems my free 1 GB of storage for photos is now up, so I have to decide whether to cough up some cash, or find some other photo sharing service, all of which will likely cost me eventually if I keep accumulating travel-based content. Ideas?