Then it’s off to lunch – undercooked chicken anyone? The restaurant is right next to the "Floridita" – Hemingway’s favorite bar & birthplace of the daiquiri, so we go inside to gawk. Very classy place, you can get a $6US drink here, where the average monthly wage is $40US.
We stop at the "flea market" for some shopping. I have brought along a few t-shirts, bars of soap, and gum, so I bargain myself free mugs and musical instruments!! I also purchase a wall hanging and pottery piece.
We continue on – this time driving through Havana – see the art deco buildings (are you sure we’re not in Miami?), see the water, see how the salt water spray has eaten away at the art deco buildings. We hit the hot spots – the rum factory, the cigar factory, the building with Che Guevara (fought in a war with Castro) painted on it, revolution tower and Revolution Square. We see the boat that Castro called Gramma – OK, I’m not a history buff – but I guess it’s important to the Cubans.
During the tour, I buddy up with the Tour Guide, Carlos, and ask questions. This was my beast idea yet!! I learn:
- The government does a 5-year plan to decide the numbers needed for professions.
- School is compulsory to grade 12 – there is no such thing as quitting high school.
- When you are in grade 12, you get a card to check off what your job preference is. If your grades are good, you get to do what you want (if they need 10 doctors in a province, the 10 kids with the highest grades who choose doctor get to be a doctor).
- All workers receive the same salary from the government each month – equivalent to $40US. Everyone is given a house to live in, which is 10% of the monthly salary of everyone living in the house. BONUS PAY – doctors get a car because they have emergencies.
- You are required to work in your field of education for 5 years. After that most people move into tourism, where they get tips.
I highly recommend the day trip to Havana - you can also take the trip that extends into the evening and go to the Tropicana Club. But I was much too tired for that - I was on vacation after all!!
Remember, the only way you actually visit the country is if you wander off the resort - and though the country may be depressing, it will make you appreciate your life more and perhaps give a bit of empathy for those not as lucky!!
You can see more photos at http://www.pbase.com/kiml/havana