Cuba 1: La Habana

This is a combination of notes and photos from a full day’s travel and the first day in Havana. All but two of the photos (guess which!) are from Havana. All the ones under the text shown in order they were taken.

The young fella is just off the plane in Paris and he’s snapping pictures like a crocodile of everything he sees with the camera he got from Santa. He’ll learn. I had to tell him to hurry or we’d miss the flight to Havana.
“Have a pleasant fight,” the pilot said. So we did, great fun. He watched Dumbo and loved it, enchanted, laughing out loud. He constantly wanted to look at the map to see where we were. He’s obsessed with maps. Eventually though, thankfully, he fell asleep, and before long we were approaching the Bermuda Triangle, Isla Somerset on the left.
We survived the Triangle and landed. Passport control, visas, forms, searches, baggage scrambles – chaos. We walked up the broken escalator to the toilet. The toilet didn’t flush, there was no soap, the tap didn’t work.
“Nothing works here!”
Yep, welcome to Cuba little man. It’s great.
All was quickly forgotten when we got outside.
“Palm trees!!!”
“Did you already see a real palm tree?” he asked me in the taxi to the hotel. Vintage cars were going the other way. The taxi driver laughed at our excitement over the “coches antiguos.”

Breakfast: omelette and pineapple.
“I’m looking forward to seeing palm trees. I will do a picture from palm trees,” the young fella declares.
You’re going to get into palm trees to take pictures? I think he wants pictures of palm trees.
Walking walking walking. Best way to see a place. I get goosebumps when we leave our hostal in Vedado after seeing all the old cars, loads of them! Then the people, the place, the bustle, everything. Actual goosebumps. So happy. A dream.
The young fella says he’s grand walking. We continue up to the Habana Libre hotel, then Malecón, Habana Centro, Habana Viejo, the fort, cathedral, Plaza Vieja, back through Chinatown, San Martin, a wrong turn, major fuck up, leading to more wrong turns. Suddenly it’s dark and we don’t really know where we are. The young fella sits on a stone and looks up at me with big sad cow eyes. He’s exhausted. I’ve never seen him so tired before. We never walked so far before, 15 or 16 kilometers altogether. Not bad for a still-five-year-old. The rain starts when we finally find our hostal. The relief!
We’re out again after getting a restaurant tip from our friendly hosts. The young fella makes new friend of the waitress, tickling and chasing, not tired any more. She asks us to come back again in two days – she’s off tomorrow.
He made loads of friends today. We stopped along San Martin to watch kids playing baseball on the street. He’d never seen or even heard of it before. They invited him to play. Of course he didn’t, just wanted to watch.
Cuban kids are so brazen. Just straight up, what’s your name, where do you come from? Adults the same, friendly as fuck.
“It’s dirty, everything’s going to shit and nothing works but it’s great,” I tell the young fella. He smiles. I struck a chord.
I love the place already. Three mojitos, 313 pictures taken.

Comments

  1. Those cars are pretty special, coming from me that's saying something... as in I like cars which I don't usually. But those. Bet they stink, though. A living museum. Well, isn't everywhere.

    More street photos please. Love those amazing buildings. And people photos, too - or don't you like taking photos of random people? As long as they're ok with it, that's cool.

    Haven't read your text yet just looked at the photos, now to read.

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    Replies
    1. You're right, I didn't take too many pictures of people because I always feel like I'm intruding. Especially in Cuba, you look at the people and they have nothing, and there you are, a millionaire waving a big shiny camera around. I guess I felt like a guest, privileged to be there, and I didn't want to overstay my welcome by poking my camera in people's faces.
      It's something I'm gonna have to get used to though, because if you want good pictures of people, you gotta point the camera at them, maybe after asking for permission first - perhaps that's the way to go.
      I saw one guy come out of a bar and walk up to two old men trying to light their cigars. He produced a lighter, lit them, and then asked if he could take their photo. Of course they said yes. But fuck - either I'm the cynical one or he is. Maybe we both are. I wouldn't have tried to curry favor by producing a lighter.
      I'll try taking pictures of people in Berlin first! Lots of characters with interesting faces here too. I'll start in the Spätis. But thanks for the kick up the arse - it's something that was on my mind and that I have to get over.

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    2. !Ay Carumba! Viva Cuba! I'm GOING! Must must must!

      Finally found the 'follow' button for your blog. Yeah, I'm techtarded. So now I'll get regular digestible news McNuggets from McMann. Before I dive into all I've missed: 1) Probably the first time you've had proper goosebumps since biking around Berlin in a thin sweater, 2) Mmmmmm.. Mojitooooooooos, 3) As a people photographer for a living and as a travel hobby, it does take time, courage and tact to approach a stranger. My humble advice: start a conversation. No language barrier? Then ask if you can take a silly tourist photo of them. Sometimes they will laugh and say 'sure.' Language barrier? Like you said, smiles go miles. Sometimes I will smile at a stranger, and if they don't run screaming (think Jack in the Shining with his Here's Johnny smile), I'll point to my camera and then them. It often works. If they pose for the photo in their own environment, with friends, those are often the best shots I have ever taken.

      Hasta la vista, Senor

      -Dunkin' Berliner / Wide Body Jetsetter, Inc.

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