Tag

Cuba

Getting Connected in Cuba

People queue in line for Cuban internet.While standing in “line” to purchase an internet card, I was reminded that this particular arrangement of humans is but a distant figment of my imagination, in a different world. Here, the art of squashing together serves as both a defensive and offensive mechanism. By eliminating space between yourself and your neighbor, entry is prevented from others, and your own position is advanced at the same time. No take a number and have a seat here, folks.

Coupled with misunderstandings of language, I slowly began to wriggle my way towards the front. This goes against all feelings of learned patience I have conditioned myself to have. Blast! Defeat! The most petite and unsuspecting damsel has usurped my position by politely pushing me out of the way. My mind wanders back to Japan where a form of queueing exists in its most distilled, pure form. Cual es el ultimo?! Cual es el ultimo?!

Up until this point, I had been purchasing overpriced internet cards from nice, entrepreneurial gentlemen and their cohorts in the park for an unspecified, marked up price. In a way, it’s almost worth it to not have to deal with the line, and the early AM pushing and shoving. I had mixed success with this method. One time I was sold a card that where the code had not been scratched off (think of the gray bit on lotto tickets), but upon trying to use it, there was zero time left on the hour clock. A reminder to myself to do things the right way. Anyways…

Finally! Entry into the hallowed grounds of the state owned internet provider. Again, the pleasant feeling of what-do-I-do-now-anxiety creeps over me. Perhaps I will stand here, I think to myself. I will be out of the way! Incorrect again, but inching closer. Then, our eyes met. I could read it on her face. Not another bumbling transaction with a haphazard Spanish speaker. She signaled for me to approach the counter. I read somewhere that you should stock up on cards when given a chance. Having learned the hard way the past few days, I struck. “Cinco, por favor.” The most scathing “Please, honey” espanol eyeroll was offered to me. I lowered my bid to three. Success! The most beautiful 3 hours of internet was purchased for a hefty 4.50 CUC.

Having experienced the fledgling internet services of Cuba, I have garnered a deeper appreciation of the connectivity available at home. No lengthy queues, or uncertainty if I’m going to be able to send or receive news to a loved one far away. It’s easy to romanticize a world where people are not on their phones all day and wifi is not present in the home, but I would point out that not having access to information is anything but romantic. With wealth and government connections, certain Cubans are immune to the current system.

My understanding is that hotspots in some Cuban cities have been around for 2-3 year, and certain homes are currently being equipped with routers on a trial basis. When you are walking around, and suddenly see everyone’s face lit up by their mobile device, you have likely stumbled across a hot spot. I remember being in Playa Larga, and a hot spot was available, but there were no cards available for purchase. I asked when they might become available again, and was only told “mas tarde,” aka later. The cards never arrived, and I ended up in a 4 day black hole of connectivity. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to unplug, but in this particular moment, it was quite unwelcomed.

Communication is changing rapidly in Cuba. It will be interesting to visit in the future, and see how it has changed people’s lives.

Jose Fuster’s Fusterlandia

I’m not entirely sure where I first stumbled across Fusterlandia. It was most assuredly online somewhere, and immediately my interest was peaked. For a while now, I’ve been so intrigued by large scale, outdoor art spaces. Traveling the United States, I’ve been fortunate to encounter a number of them: Leonard Knight’s Salvation Mountain, Joe Minter’s African Village in America, Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden, Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, to name a few.

Fusterlandia

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A reminder before departure.

What is it about those first steps onto soil that your feet have never met? That feeling of the familiar unknown, ever so distant in grasp. The rush of stimuli that overtakes your being; sounds, sights, smells. The moment of pause, when you realize that through a series of events, you have arrived; you are here.

For me, the vision of what a place might be is always slightly out of focus leading into a trip. It’s this abstract concept that floats around my mind. I can look at any number of guides, or photos, but it isn’t until I am there, that I begin to have the most neophyte of understandings as to where exactly I’ve landed.

It’s quite an intoxicating and disarming feeling to suddenly be immersed in a world much unlike your own. The experience lends itself to thoughts and ideas that otherwise remain inaccessible. Try hard as one might, these moments can not be replicated, or reproduced. When you find it, relish in it.

A reminder that through departure, arrival is granted.

Travel Ideas for 2017

Forever and always, I have travel ideas floating around in the furthest recesses of my mind. Sometimes they collect dust in a corner, sometimes they come to fruition with a bit of foresight. For most of us, the struggle is finding that proverbial sweet spot where the rivers of time and money coalesce, and we let their sweet brackish waters wash us over.

Someone once told me, that if you write something down, you are more apt to stay the course, and complete/accomplish it. In keeping with the whole, New Year, rebirth, phoenix rising from the ashes (I don’t think anything burnt down?), huzzah this year is going to be different mentality, I have compiled a list of destinations that have rattled through my mind at some point or another.

For those that are curious, here is my list from last year. And here are some of my personal highlights from what actually happened in 2016. It’s neat to look back, take a breath, and say, “Wow, that did happen.”

Enough staring at the clouds, let’s talk travel!

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