Sunday, 30 October 2011

Buses, trains, religion and curiosity!!

The noisiest, dirtiest, oldest and earliest running bendy buses in the entire world are Chinese and operate in Havana! This is a real fact, although in essence I have no proof about the earliest running part because although 4.25am seems pretty early - outside your hotel - and I was on the fifth floor, it will always seem ultra early. Clouds of polluting smoke and drivers that feel they have to over rev their bus for ten minutes before they leave.  Half full though what's that all about!!? However equally that makes them the emptiest of the day as well!! I guess being outside a tourist hotel is a good incentive though!! Once all the workers are home however you won't see many buses on the street at all and the one that terminates and consequently starts from the Hotel Presidente is noticeably missing from about 7.30pm, Monday to Friday! The funny thing is though that the only guaranteed service in the day is the earliest one, after that they become desperately irregular in a wonderfully, almost traditional, Cuban way!
Just a footnote to that "Cuban Way" I went down to the railway station to get a train to a town called Trinidad and I was down there well before 9am. Now since I was very young I have been able to read timetables, it's just one of those things. Whichever way I read it there was a train at 10.17. Cuba was the first country of the Americas outside of USA to have a railway system and was the only Caribbean island to have a railway system and it was a system, allegedly, second to none for reliability. I took some pictures, how unusual(!) of the 'living' museum of the old steam trains that adorn the street 

It distinctly says PISSTBURGH!!
in close proximity to the station and despite there being a few engines in the station there was no carriages. The day before there had been the longest train, made of carriages overspilling the platform ends I'd ever seen, but there didn't seem to be any movement of any rolling stock just hundreds of people. Despite my terrible Spanish I did make an enquiry as to the train, not a complaint of course, that would just have got "It's Cuba" - the traditional response! However I think she said something that included the word Manana, which this time I assume meant tomorrow!! I popped back later in the day and viewed from the tour bus the station that looked like there had been absolutely no movement at all!!
Back to the buses!! Oh yes Saturdays are slightly different. The first one on that service and not so full is about 7.30. Although I did see earlier services on other routes about 6am with completely full buses! Sundays however are family days and church plays a big part to an awful lot of people/families and the most grid locked roads, Monday through Saturday for buses and overall traffic are empty with no buses until at least 9.30 am and so much fewer buses running at all.

Religion is a strange thing to try and describe properly in a total communist regime. Active members of the communist party must not actively worship in a church. However the churches are all a) Catholic and b) Packed to the rafters, even for the limited services during the week as well of course as on Sundays when to be fair there is only one service. Families worship together and all children are welcomed and given free candy as they go in!! Most of the churches are open all day every day with no obvious presence of any church elders, kept in a perfect (ish) condition and are are all beautiful old Spanish type buildings. 

I am not going to make any conclusions about you and your chuches or even me and mine but only really mentioned as something to may be learned from.
The ancient cathedral in the centre of  the city.
Normally when you travel the way I do you have a bit of a poke about and will find a minority church or worship place but in all my poking (not the Facebook type!!) I found nothing but Catholic churches and of course a cathedral in the centre of the old city which is catholic. This 'may' be because that any other church for any other religion is considered by the state as a business and therefore is not allowed to be operated by foreigners, take for example Lutheran.... I am deliberately not including the Russian Orthodox religion, because it is considered to be more catholic than catholic by most people and that would explain the beautiful Russian Orthodox cathedral hidden away down by the docks. 
However again I didn't find any other Russian orthodox churches.
Finally no religion is spoken about at all by any of the tour guides of the state run tours, interesting hey?



Friday, 28 October 2011

I really don't want to call this Cuba #1, so........

First of all seriously there are parts of Cuba and huge parts of its capital Havana that really are not for for everyone. If you want to be a tourist of course go to Cuba, they need people to visit, but as a tourist keep to the huge Spanish/Latin American owned all inclusive resorts all around the coast and keep your eyes firmly shut all the way off your plane to the resort. Then it will be easier to imagine the luxury that you would be existing in to be almost any of the other Caribbean islands, Spain or its islands or Greece/Turkey.
Don't forget though there are high winds, hurricanes, tropical storms, lots of rain and thunder and lightning, flooding and power cuts. Even in the all inclusive resorts! Oh yeah as well as all year sunshine!

There is tremendous poverty and terrific pollution and in order for most people to accept either or both of these negative points you have to be a traveler and not a tourist!! These two negatives are balanced with an unbelievable greenness and people with an amazingly happy disposition.

Manana they say in Spanish territory around the world, it literally means "tomorrow". The Cubans say Manana, manana for which there is no literal translation! It's certainly not "tomorrow, tomorrow" more like "Maybe, maybe not". Closest is probably "This is Cuba - be Cuban!" 

I wrote copious notes while I was away, probably hoping to make them all Facebook status's or do the story live on blogger. This immediately created another problem... Internet access. For example it was my last night that I got a site specific internet card from the hotel that I was staying in. Although the books all say there are opportunities to get on the internet from all major hotels I had to pass two large hotels, one where you had to be resident, the other that suffered from the same fate as The Presidente where I stayed to get to another hotel about quarter of a mile away to buy a card at 25% more expensive. First time there was a power cut, the second - no internet available. Then a full half hour of my hour's card to get rejected three times by Facebook!! (This) Blogger was non existent and my gmail account was the easiest thing and only consistent thing I could access. Facebook got better but was never brilliant - forcing me on Facebook to say that Latin America and Facebook should never really be mentioned in the same sentence.

Anyway don't worry all those notes will be revealed bit by bit right here over the next (lots of) posts. Pictures will keep cropping up probably forever!! Here, here and Facebook!!

Some of the first notes involved the extremely long flight direct from Paris, Charles de Gaulle to Havanna but the first one I am going to relate is one filled with irony and now I look back is so funny!! 
A slightly older 'Jumbo' (incidentally I always feel so much happier with 4 engines flying that far!!) with only central video screens and not seat back but there the first film was to be 'Pirates of the Caribbean - On Stranger Tides (4)'. I hadn't seen it and really looking forward to it. Many of you know of the link between Captain Jack Sparrow and myself and after all I was going to the Caribbean!!!
Channel #1 for the sound headphones on here we go............ English language film, dubbed in to Spanish with English subtitles. 
No worries, channel #2 English language film, dubbed in to French with English subtitles!! 
Serves me right I guess for flying to a Spanish speaking destination on the French national carrier, Air France!! Quite a surprise to me though to be in the third section of people language wise - that was a first! Now also it may become quite obvious that all the time I was away and until my return flight from Paris to Manchester I was never in the majority language group!! Unlike almost every part of the world very little English is spoken by the ordinary Cuban and poorly even in the hotels, where often French, Italian or German are more popular.
As for Pirates, well on the way back seat back DVD's I was able to watch it again in English!! My favourite beer on the island was called Bucanero, which means of course Pirate!!!

The first 10 pictures of 3768 have been published around and about and are here to brighten up this post in an album that will be added to daily (ish!)

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sunday, 9 October 2011

How's your confidence?

How's Your....

C-ertainty of success?
O-pen mind towards change?
N-erve when fear is an easy alternative?
F-ortitude in thought and action?
D-etermination to do what's right?
E-nergy for life?
N-ever quit attitude?
C-aring among apathy?
E-nthusiasm amidst the mundane?

How's your C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-E?

"It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves"
          ~Edmund Hilary

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Retro Commercial!! YAY!!

"Oh we are the lads from Country Life —
And can´t put a better bit of butter on your knife,
If you havent any i-i-in have a word with your wife
And spread it on your toast in the morning!
Its Country Life, its English too,
From the cow to the dairy, from the dairy down to you,
Its pure and fresh, and creamy through and through,
So spread it on your toast in the morning"

Check out this Cool Coca Cola Clock!!

Tuesday, 4 October 2011



BLONDE (Confused) : T--G--I--F--
MAN (Slowly) : S--H--I--T--