Archive for July, 2019

First Book Ordered

July 26, 2019

And summer is done.

Well.

Not quite.

I still have a few weeks before school starts, but I am already doing just a little reading for this upcoming semester.

I said I wouldn’t touch school books until after my trip to Cuba.

I got back Tuesday night at 7a.m.

My god.

My bed was so nice to get into.

I love to travel, I really do, but there is nothing quite like your own bed.

Especially after sleeping 8 nights on a really hard mattress.  I have to admit I was a little let down when I saw my room, but after doing a walking tour of old Havana with a local architect, I got over that shit.

My casa, in comparison to much around me, was really quite nice.

It is one thing to know about the Cuban embargo.

It is another thing entirely to experience it.

The country is poor.

I mean.

Really poor.

And dirty, the streets are disastrous, the cars are all old and there is no smog control, so much exhaust.

So much.

And not actually that many cars, lots of classics, yes, which was fun, I won’t lie, and super cool to see, but there were lots of horses and carts too.

Horses and carts people.

Traveling from Havana to Vinales one day for a trip to visit a tobacco and coffee farm, I counted more horses and carts than actual cars on the freeway.

ON THE FREAKING HIGHWAY.

More horses then cars.

I am not kidding.

These were some of the cars I got to see and go for rides in.  I actually went for more rides in classic cars than regular cars, I didn’t actually take photos of them all.

Sometimes I don’t want to act like a tourist.

Even though I am totally a tourist, I just couldn’t really bring myself to pose on the cars, it didn’t feel like me.

I did, however, quite enjoy cruising around in them, especially when they had A/C.

It was fucking hot.

It was humid.

So humid.

My hair did some batshit crazy things.

And I was constantly sweating.

Er.

Glowing.

I was glowing.

A lot.

 

As you can see, I was “glowing” quite a bit.

I also learned to wear my hair up real fast.

Real fast.

And I was hella grateful that I had brought a travel umbrella.

I actually didn’t use it that much for rain.

There were some showers and one big storm, with hail!

But mostly, I used the umbrella for sun shade.

I was reminded a lot of Burning Man in that regard.  I usually  bring a parasol for the hot days out on playa.

In fact.

Havana reminded me a lot of Burning Man and in some ways having had the experience of going to the event was actually very handy.

I had to bring everything that I wanted or needed.

There were no stores to buy sunblock or extra toothpaste.

I had to use my water filter bottle or buy bottled water, there is no drinking water from the faucets.

Everyone buys bottled water.

Everyone.

It was really dirty, Old Havana is all cobblestone and dirt roads.

I mean.

500 year old cobblestones ain’t clean.

Plus add dogs, cats, and chickens to the mix, garbage, and potholes everywhere.

I’m super glad my friend who had been before cautioned me to wear really sturdy shoes and to bring anything that I might want because I was not going to be able to purchase it there.

I cannot tell you what it was like to see people queuing up for chicken, or to buy one bread roll.

The black market is a real thing there and I found out that I had participated without even knowing it by eating beef one night.

All beef is allocated to the government, restaurants are allowed to have it.

I had it and that means that it was bought on the black market.

Most of the time though I did stick with Cuban classics and I was quite happy with that.

My casa had breakfast every morning, fruit–usually a slice  of watermelon, some papaya, 1/2 a banana and slices of mango with coffee followed by one egg and one slice of avocado.

No bread for me, which my host couldn’t quite understand, but I’m sure she was happy to have the extra roll I sent back each morning.

I dined in a lot of private restaurants, basically in people’s homes.

And I found a couple of cafes that became my haunts, Cafe Bohemia and Papa Ernesto.

Aside, Che Guevero’s given name is Ernesto.

 

This is Cafe Bohemia.

I was so happy to have Pellegrino and mango blended with ice, which they called frappes.  I had a lot of mango.

A lot.

My poop turned orange.

I know.

But it did!

I have never had orange poo before.

Anyway.

The cafe was a life saver as too was Mas Habana.

A restaurant I never would have stumbled upon on my own as it was down a super dirty street with a lot of construction on it.

But I had made a reservation to do a tour of the houses in Old Havana and my host wanted to meet there.

It was a fucking oasis.

An air conditioned oasis.

I went back every day from that point on, either for lunch or for dinner.

On my last day I went there for both lunch and dinner.

I was the queen of beverages at every meal.

San Pellegrino.

Mango frappe.

Cafe con leche.

I had the same amazing appetizer each time, sometimes it was just my meal since I filled up on all the bevvies, tostones rellenos–stuffed fried plantains.

OOOOOH.

So damn good.

Mashed plantains made into patty’s, fried, and then topped with smashed avocado and a shrimp.

I was in heaven.

 

Mas Habana was my little haven.

And on my last night, I splurged and had lobster.

Also black market.

But, fuck it, it was my last night and I knew it was going to be good.

It was in fact, amazing, bathed in a beautiful garlic broth and shelled for me.

All I had to do was scoop it up in a spoon and sigh with delight.

The staff was great and my last night discounted my bill, “for being such a nice customer.”

I am a good tipper.

Once a waitress.

Always a waitress.

I had many more adventures, but I’ve got to get up early tomorrow.

So more pictures to come.

And more tales to tell.

I have a few more days before I need to knuckle back down for school, I promise I’ll show and tell a bit more before I get buried in the reading.

Promise.

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Getting Closer

July 12, 2019

I am three days away from my trip to Havana, Cuba.

Three days.

Where the hell is my damn filtration water bottle and Cuban Spanish/English phrasebook?

Really Amazon.

This is not the time to drop the ball.

Of course, I have only myself to blame, but it is a little hilarious that these are the only things missing from my bag of stuff.

I am really set to go.

And.

I am not too worried about the phrase book and the water bottle.

They will show tomorrow.

I leave Sunday.

I was proactive today knowing that I wouldn’t want to have to deal with annoying things and took care of getting my laundry done.

I almost wore a dress today that I was planning on bringing to Cuba and I thought, um no, don’t sabotage the summery, warm weather, it’s even going to be warm at night, dress, for a foggy grey San Francisco day.

And then not have time to wash it before packing and heading out.

I wore a dress today that will not be coming to Cuba and did laundry and did a tiny bit of grocery shopping and really, I have nothing to do but see clients the next couple of days and get my nails done.

I am really excited.

I haven’t really been on vacation since last July when I went to France.

I am ready.

It’s been really nice having off from my nanny job, but I have been still seeing clients and I have more clients then I did this time last year.

I now have sixteen clients!

I am really happy to report that.

But with the extra clients comes extra supervision, extra paper work, extra scheduling.

Fortunately I finally got my phone and my laptop calendar’s synced up so that when I make a change on my computer it updates my phone and vice versa.

Such a huge relief.

Sometimes my calendar looks like I’m playing a game of Jenga or Tetris.

Tetris for sure.

I have eight more clients to see in the next two days.

One dinner with my person tomorrow night.

One manicure/pedicure.

And a night with hanging out with some girlfriends or doing fellowship Saturday.

Supplies are bought.

Although I would love to get a market basket purse, I have not found one that works well for travel and I won’t be bringing the one I bought in Aix-en-Provence last July, it is just too precious to stuff underneath the seat in front of me on an airplane.

I realized the other day that I was unnecessarily running around trying to distract myself with buying a purse when I needed to be feeling my feelings.

Oh feelings.

Man they suck right now.

I went to acupuncture Tuesday and the doctor tapped this spot on my tummy and said, “stuck emotions” and I just about burst into tears.

Yeah.

Those.

I had reconnected with my ex in an attempt to just be friends.

It just didn’t work.

I am not at all sad or upset or in anyway regret having seen him.

I missed him so damn much.

Miss him now.

But.

Being just friends with someone you are madly in love with might be the hardest thing in the entire world.

So.

Sunday I said I can’t do it anymore.

And I really want to ball my eyes out all the time, but it just keeps getting stuck.

Like right now.

I want to cry and the tears sort of start and then my body just hunches over and it stops.

Yeah.

Stuck emotions.

Reflux.

Tummy upset.

It’s all getting internalized.

I think I’m afraid that if I start I won’t stop.

I want to reach out.

I can’t.

I haven’t.

I won’t.

I want to anyway.

I did mail him a card on Monday and then my person said knock it off, no more contact.

I almost bought him a card yesterday and today too.

I still feel like there is so much to say.

So much.

And so.

I am just over here trying to breathe and let it go.

Let him go.

Even though I didn’t want to.

I had to.

I have to change.

I have to do something different.

I recognize I’m enough but I have to act it too and saying no more to trying to be friends was a part of that.

I don’t know what else is and I’m just going to try my best and believe.

I believe something wonderful will come of all this damn work.

It just has to.

I mean.

Seriously.

It fucking has to.

I have done so much work over these last two years.

I have suffered and cried.

And I have loved.

I have loved unlike anything I have ever done before.

No regrets.

No apologies to you who may have judgments.

I did what I did and I fell in love and I don’t have a single damn regret.

I would do it all over again.

And the love hasn’t gone anywhere.

I don’t suspect that it will.

So I will go somewhere.

I will change my scenery like no one’s business and I will immerse myself in a culture and people and experience and I will bring my best self.

Even if once in a while, it may be my sad self.

I will bring it all and I will dance and I will swim in the ocean and I will meet new people and have a new experience and adventures and take photographs and grow.

I have not died.

He has not died.

Although.

Yes.

It felt like a part of me died when he walked away.

I die a little more now thinking about it.

Perhaps that is what this is too.

I am too afraid.

That if I let it all out my heart will just die.

That it will just break this time.

Oh there.

Hello.

There are some tears.

Another reason to write, it gets the emotions unstuck.

The acupuncture helped, but the blog is the best.

That and my morning pages.

I cried a little writing them today.

I cried in my towel last night after washing my face.

Surprised myself.

Howled with grief.

The gasped and stopped it all back up.

Stuck again.

I keep reminding myself–

Those things worth having are worth the work.

What I am working towards is a free and untethered love,  completely out in the light of day, in the sunshine, transparent and honest and open and I am worthy of that.

So this pain.

Though it hurts.

Hurts so damn bad.

Is worth working through.

I am worth it.

I am enough.

 

Here Again

July 11, 2019

These old memories.

They bang at my head.

A washing of blue jean sky,

Salt tenderized by the sea.

Light.

So.

Californian.

Like my soul,

Built on mussel sea shells

Found by the sea shore.

Sally sells them for a penny a piece.

(find a penny pick it up)

In a brown paper bag I left them.

Hiding, the shells–

Underneath the Volkswagen’s seat.

The bounce of light against the

Rear window in the back seat of the Bug.

Little girl.

Brown eyes wide.

Watching the clouds scroll by,

Catching glimpses of ocean blue between the dunes.

Side mirror reflections bring me back to now.

Decades later.

Decades.

(All day long you’ll have good luck)

Four to be exact.

Those days down by the sea

Watching the water foam over the shore,

Tiny sandpipers scurry.

Coppertone baby in white panties,

Already insecure in my body,

Scampering at the edges of the sand burning bright

Heat rolling up my legs from my feet.

I am.

Curly headed.

I am.

Sweet lipped.

I am.

Brown as a nut berry.

(See a  penny, let it lie)

Pink soled feet softened by the rasp of sand.

Now I am plagued by these,

Photographs of melancholia–

Nostalgia tinged with seaweed.

The cry of mermaids in the grotto.

Sun high.

Heat on high

Cooking hotdogs on aluminum foil on the hood of the Volk’s.

Sand, a grit in my teeth.

Running back to the water, the ocean nips at my feet.

I find another shell for my paper bag.

(All good luck will pass you by)

Listen for the soundtrack to these memories.

One that drifts on the radio dial of Northern California

70s folk rock.

The outlines of my heart.

The nook in the cafe.

A flash of vinyl, the undertone scratch of needle finding the groove.

The light.

The light.

The light.

The smell of salt.

The hint of driftwood bonfires at the edge of night.

Golden foiled light in the dying

Embers of my childhood.

Bespoke.

Bag of shells.

Halo of white sun as I close my eyes to

Everything.

Lost again in that bright light.

Washed out in the sun.

Freckling my face.

I am.

Softened now

By these.

Kisses of eternity.

Itinerary

July 5, 2019

I got on it today!

I mean.

I really did a lot of travel prep for my upcoming trip to Havana, Cuba.

I got my passport out.

I slowly, painstakingly, double, triple, quadruple checked how to fill out my Visa, then I filled it our correctly.

I got traveler’s health insurance.

You have to have proof of insurance for entry into Cuba, and though I am fairly certain my health insurance was ok, I didn’t want to risk being turned away for not having the proper insurance or paperwork.  So.  I just used the health insurance that Cuba Travel Services, who I used to procure my Visa, recommended

Frankly, $55 was worth not having to worry about anything.

Then.

I started booking things through Air BnB.

The Visa I am traveling under is in the category of “Support of Cuban People” which is not a traditional tourist Visa, nor was it one of the two categories the current administration squashed.

“People to People” got pulled and so did the Visa that folks use if they’re on a cruise ship.

But.

In “Support of Cuban People” is still legitimate.

Plus I did my research and what I found was that Visa’s granted before the current restrictions were put in place will be honored.

I got my Visa in the mail the day before the sanctions came down.

I am so grateful that I listened to the little voice inside which told me to take care of my Visa before I traveled.

So, so, so glad.

I will have some restrictions on what I can and can’t do with this Visa, and frankly, I’m not bothered by them at all.

I can’t shop at military run or government supported stores or businesses.

Or stay in hotels operated by the government.

No big deal.

I am staying at a private residence that is called a “casa particular” which is pretty much a family owned bed and breakfast.

I had looked up some on Air BnB, but found nothing that was quite the right fit, then I googled for places and stumbled upon a Forbes article that called the place I’m staying one of the best secrets in Old Havana and I checked it out and made a request.

And.

Yes!

They have a room for me.

For 40 Cuban Peso a night including a full breakfast.

I’m pretty sure I posted up about the place before, but I really excited that I landed in such a sweet spot.

Plus, it’s in Old Havana, which is pretty much where I want to spend most of my time anyway.

I’ll be staying in one of the Art Deco rooms in Hostal Chez Nous next to La Habana Vieja, the old square.

I will pay when I arrive.

They don’t accept American credit cards for reservations.  I literally printed off the confirmation e-mail and I present that and the money in Cuban peso for my 8 night stay.

320 Cuban Peso.

For 8 nights including a full Cuban breakfast.

Seriously good deal.

And since I will have to bring plenty of cash, first converting to Euro because the exchange rate is better for Euro than the American dollar, I decided I would preemptively book some activities.

I had never really delved into the Air BnB activities before, really only just used it to book rooms for myself when I have traveled.

New York.

D.C.

New Orleans.

Paris.

I tend to do pretty well finding what I want to see and do without having to deal with a tour guide or the like.

But a friend of mine had gone Havana within this last year and sent me a private message about places to go and things to do that he highly recommended and two of them were Air BnB experiences.

So.

I checked it out and I was pleasantly surprised.

One.

As I can pre-pay for them and thus not have to carry as much cash on my person.

And two, that all the activities I booked fall under my Visa category, “Support of Cuban People” which made me very happy.

Most of the sites I researched suggested that it would be very unlikely that I would be asked for an itinerary, but just in case, I can show one in which every day I am doing something to support the Cuban people.

My first day in I didn’t book anything.

I was going to, but I figured I’ll be jet lagged and tired and may just want to check into the casa and chill out.

Maybe wander around a little bit and take myself out to dinner in the neighborhood, but nothing serious.

The second day I am going to go to La Marca  Havana’s only legal tattoo shop, also it’s first tattoo shop.  It is also an art gallery and what appears to be a pretty hipster little scene.  I tried to book online with them but it bounced back.  So I’m just going to show up and ask for a walk in appointment.

It’s in Old Havana and maybe a ten minute walk from where I’m staying.

I also plan on going shopping at Clandestina, Havana’s first independent clothing company that happens to be run completely by women.

I’m so in.

Next, yes, yes, I did.

I booked a classic car ride to tour the seawall and cruise along the Malecon.

Ironically, I’ll need to take a taxi to get there, but I couldn’t help but want to do at least one cruise around Havana in a classic car, I mean, really, I had to.

Wednesday I left pretty open.

I figure museums and cafes and I booked a couple of hours with an art student from the university to take me on a photo tour.

This I’m looking forward to, I love street art, and off the beaten track and that’s what this seems to be.  This was also the activity my friend raved about, so two hours in the afternoon wandering around taking pictures with a local student.

Totally down.

Thursday I picked a big adventure, basically committed myself to twelve hours of tour.

I booked a historical tour to the Vinales Valley, tobacco farms, coffee farms, a tour through some of the famous caves and horseback riding in and out of the valley.

What really nailed it for me was that they host come and pick you up where you are staying and drop you back off.

There’s no Uber there.

No Lyft.

I don’t speak Spanish.

Not much really, a few tiny phrases, and something about haggling with a taxi cab driver or getting lost really doesn’t sound like fun for me, so having the pressure taken off by getting picked up and dropped back off really sold me.

Plus.

Ahem.

The ride there and back is in a classic 50s convertible.

Um.

Hehe.

Yes please.

Friday I’ll be doing a ferry trip over the bay to a little known spot in Havana called Regla.  There was something about the trip that appealed.  I don’t know the neighborhood, but I like that it’s a tour guided by a women who is an art history graduate who lives with her grandmother and shows off the markets in the neighborhood.

Plus.

Ferry boat ride.

I’m a sucker for a ferry boat.

Then Friday night I am going clubbing.

But not by myself.

I’m a pretty self-assured woman, but I didn’t want to hit the clubs solo, but there was one place I really wanted to go, FAC The Cuban Art Factory, a gallery space with art and music and djs and it looks like the place to go.

I connected with a couple of women on Air BnB who I will meet up at a cafe and head over to the club and hang out with and get the lowdown and have a safety net.  Really quite pleased with this.

Saturday I’m doing a farm to table lunch with a local chef and then.

And then.

And then.

Holy shit.

It happened.

I was able to book a night with the Buena Vista Social Club!

I am over the fucking moon.

The experience was sold out the last time I looked and it appears that more shows go added.

Basically this lovely older woman books a dinner table for you at the club, you meet her, she’s bought your ticket, you hang out with her and two or three other folks, eat dinner at the club and get to see the floor show and hear the band play.

Never in a million years did I imagine when I bought that compact disc so many moons ago in Madison that I would actually be going to Havana and getting to see a performance of the Buena Vista Social Club.

Fuck.

I feel so grateful.

Sunday morning I’m doing a cultural market and food tour with a lunch to follow with a lovely women who after I booked asked if I wanted to be included in a trip to the beach, Santa Maria beach.

Why yes.

Yes.

Yes I do.

So after the market and lunch I will go with her in a, yes, heh, classic convertible to the beach for a few hours of swimming and laying in the oh so white sand.

Pinch me.

Seriously.

Who’s life is this?

My last day in Havana I want to relax and chill out so I sent a query off to the Manzana Hotel to book a spa pass for their rooftop pool and spa facilities.

60 Cuban peso is not the cheapest, but the pool is so pretty.

I figure book a massage, lay out by the pool and just relax before I head back to the foggy fog.

I am so pleased.

And very excited.

So excited.

It feels really good to have this planned out.

And really.

I don’t think I could have done anything much better with my fourth of July holiday than work on the details for this trip.

Seriously.


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