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Showing posts from March, 2018

Discoteca Habanera: dances for sale

My Cuban friends Pablo and Vanessa picked me up at my B&B on my fourth night in Cuba. We caught a taxi collectivo to Havana Vieja to meet another friend. Then the four of us walked a few blocks to a dance bar, called Jager Bull.
The interior was minimal white, animated with multicoloured spotlights. Sexy salsa dancers loomed over the room in a huge wall projection. I ordered a round, including virgin Pina Coladas. These were the real thing: coconut milk, fresh pineapple – delicious!

A few dark-skinned guys busted out synchronised dance steps. We had fun copying their hip-hop/ Afro moves. One of them greeted us, introducing himself as Andy. He danced with me a few times – mostly salsa – and taught me a three-count step in another style. The other dancers were not as friendly, but most said yes when I asked for a dance.   
I noticed Jean’s metallic pink shoes first, and then her warm smile. She was slender and tall, her face dark and lined. I sat beside her and said hello. In Frenc…

Havana: art and live salsa

By my third day in Cuba, I was feeling optimistic. I had made three attempts to get on the Internet and one of them was successful. I had also found an eerie and magical park near my B&B, called Quinta de Molinos. It reminded me of similar decadent walled estates in Portugal, that testify to the deep inequalities of the colonial empires. You step out of the dusty, concrete cacaphony of Havana’s urban highways, through guarded gates, into a green tropical paradise about eight city blocks in extent. 

The Quinta contains a ruined summer Palace, an educational institution, an aviary and various smaller buildings. Like the rest of Havana it has quite the faded grandeur. There are towering palms and figs, statues and busts, ponds linked with bridges and crowned with gazebos.

You might expect such an urban lung to be popular with tourists and locals – but most of the visitors I saw that day were students with Downes Syndrome on an excursion. When I asked the guardian at the gate about t…

Welcome to Havana – capital of contradictions

Dozing and waking to the earth-shaking roar of unmuffled car and truck engines, I heard the sound I hate the most in the world: the whiny, pointless gurgling of motorbikes. There were loud conversations, hawkers, car horns, barking dogs. I leaned out of bed to check the time: 07:40. "Six more days of this? I will be exhausted!" I thought, wondering if I had made a mistake in coming to such a noisy place. The infernal din was soon augmented by the sound of drills and hammers.


I walked from my bedroom through my private lounge room onto the patio and looked down on the wide street for the sources of the noise. There were very few vehicles, but the few that were passing through were old and extremely noisy. From cross the road, inside a building, came the hammering and drilling. In the street below my patio, nothing interesting was happening, just people idling their engines while shouting to each other over the noise. That first morning in Havana I was reminded of Bali. The f…