Vamos a Cuba
It was an early morning rise here in Miami to get to the airport. It’s never any fun to get up at five am on a vacation day. There was a special counter for those who were going to Cuba. Then came lots of paperwork, passports, visas, forms to fill out before we can get on that plane.
The conversation that was buzzing among our circle of friends all expressed the same sentiment… “let’s go to Cuba before things change too much, before the effects of the sixty year US embargo vanish with the new influx of tourism,” which was rapidly spreading to the island.
We’ve had some words of wisdom from a few friends who had already been there…”The beds are hard. Don’t drink the water. They don’t have very much fresh produce. The air is really polluted because the cars have no smog controls. Bring your own toilet paper. Don’t bring anything larger than a carry-on. It will take up to two hours to get your suitcase.” Forewarned is forearmed.
As we line up to board the airplane, we encounter our first issue. The airline security is making the passengers put our carry on luggage into the sample metal carry-on frame to make sure that everyone’s suitcase conforms to the correct size. The word is coming down the line of the passengers waiting to board the plane, and we can see that they are taking suitcases which seem to be bulging a bit and making the passengers check them in. There’s a mad scramble among the passengers to rearrange clothing, stuffing whatever is making their bags swell into backpacks and tote bags. Two from our traveling group had their carry-on luggage confiscated. Darn! I guess now we are going to find out for ourselves just how long it takes them to process the luggage in Cuba.
So equipped with our carry-on luggage, our cameras, and a spare roll of toilet paper from the US stashed in our backpacks, we are headed to the land of mojitos, hand roller cigars, salsa music, and 1956 Chevys. Vamos a Havana, Cuba!!
It’s a short flight from Miami, only 75 minutes…barely enough time to get a drink and a biscuit from the stewardess. We deplane, and head for baggage claim to capture the luggage of our friends who were forced to check them. To our pleasant surprise, the bags arrive in fifteen minutes! Whew, we dodged a bullet there.
We gathered our group of twelve friends traveling together, looking for a foreigner, holding a sign for Creative Tours, the company which would be escorting us across the terrain, standing among the sea of other sign holders. The possibilities drop from a couple of hundred sign holders, to a few dozen, to only a few. After a good forty-five minutes, we are all starting to worry….there’s nobody here waiting for us…
With our gathered luggage and our handful of cellphones with no internet service available to us in Cuba, we start our first day in this foreign land…and whew…it’s hot here.