January 6th, 2015
Today we chose to venture into old Havana again, this time to check out Havana’s largest outdoor market place. The market is situated in old Havana about 6-8 blocks from the parliament building. The neighbourhood it’s in is not at all touristy. The roads are made of broken concrete and dirt and the only people around were Cuban. The market place itself was quant with twenty to thirty stalls. Everything was organic as Cuba dose not use pesticides, round up or GMO seeds on their lands. The cost of produce was dirt cheap; 2 pesos for an orange ($0.05 CAN). There was a small variety of produce available since everything was grown locally. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, jalapeños, bananas, pineapples, oranges, yuca, corn, lettuce and parsley were the staple items at the market along with dried beans and one stand had avocados. The cost of an avocado was about $0.50 CAN which is expensive for a Cuban but very reasonable compared to the price we pay at home.
They had oranges to purchase and eat right away. Oranges in Cuba are quite fibrous so the way people eat them is, the skin is peeled off them and the orange is cut in half and you just suck the juice out of them and toss the remains of the fruit after consuming the juice. It was very refreshing in the 30 degree heat.
From the market we walked down a nearby street all the way back to the main tourist district. There we strolled in and out of art stores all while people watching and taking in the hustling around us.
An interesting observation today was tourist paying to take photos with dressed up Cubans and Cubans asking for money to feed their children. In this country no one starves or goes homeless. Yes people may not have much to spend on luxury items but no one is “suffering”. If you want a job you apply for one and get it. People are begging on the streets and asking for $2USD to take a photo with them because there is big money in it, really big money. The average Cuban makes $20-$50 per month. If a Cuban can get $1 from having a photo taken with you, they can easily make $25 per day! That doesn’t sound like a lot but that’s $500 per month or more! That’s ten times what the average Cuban makes. It’s really unbelievable what games are played here and how gullible tourists are.
We had lunch at a cute little cafe called “Café Bohemia”. The cafe was named after the famous Latin American magazine, “Bohemia”. The owner’s father was an editor for the magazine and had passed away a few years ago. The cafe was created in his memory. We had these really delicious drinks made of lemon juice, mint, honey and ice. They were so refreshing, a must try when in Havana. Lunch was vegan sandwiches with eggplant, lettuce and tomato on a baguette.
We explored more of old Havana after lunch and at one point sat to do some people watching. There was a young boy, his pregnant mother and a cute little puppy sitting next to us. The puppy was being picked up and played with by the boy as if he were a doll which was super cute to watch but I’m sure not too enjoyable for the puppy. We were so mesmerized by the puppy and how adorable the scene was until we saw the boy go over to some tourists and asked for money for him and the dog.
As we headed back to park central to grab a taxi back to the hotel, I bought a bottle of sparkling water. The vendor gave me the bottle and as he was collecting my change, I noticed the bottle had dirt on the top of it. My dad and I pointed it out to the vendor and instead of giving me a clean bottle, he grabbed the bottle and whipped the top with his shirt…. Gross!!! His sweaty shirt! Who does that???? I used about twelve disinfectant whips to get his germs and the dirt off the bottle before taking a sip.
We asked a few taxi drivers if they could take us to Miramar for 5 CUP. The two drivers said no but told us to hold on a second. They walked over to a nearby empty car and yelled into it… Suddenly a cab driver popped up from the front seat as he had been napping. The other drivers said we needed a ride and he took us back in his beaten up lada to our hotel…. It was a hilarious scene. It seems like no were else in the world would you find two drivers say no to a fair then wake up a third driver to take us…. It seems like in this country everything is optional and kind of done when you feel like it.