Tuesday, November 27, 2001
I am supposed to dive today, but it is cancelled due to rough weather – it is rough off shore, but as calm as a mirror at shore. Within two hours, we see the storm moving past the island – you can literally see the line where the storm starts and ends.
Since it seems as if rain will visit, Anne Marie and I head into Varadero to the flea market. We spend a couple of hours looking at artwork, leather belts, shoes, toys, and musical instruments. The prices are practically free. Bargaining is accepted at the flea market. When I decide on a painting, I ask the man how much he wants for it. I expect to hear $20-30, but when the little man, who needs a crutch to stand (perhaps afflicted by polio?) says $6 – there is no way I can bargain. I buy the painting, buy another one, pay him the $12, and give him soap and gum as a tip. His face lights up when he sees the goodies – obviously doesn’t get a lot of soap and gum is seen as a luxury.
We decide to also go to the grocery store & "Wal-Mart" type store (although 1/100 of the size) to see what we can find. Toys that we would buy at the dollar store are $9US here. Spam is $8.63 a can. We find out that you can buy chicken-flavored chewing gum – YUMMY!!
Each night at the resort there is a "show" – I use the term loosely!! A couple of times there is the copa cabaña type show with girls in feathers dancing poorly, with cheesy lounge singers wailing "Memories" in Spanish. Tonight it is "The Ideal Couple Election" – 3 couples from Canada (Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver) and one couple from Germany – Germany wins and did provide the most entertainment – their prize? A Beaches Varadero poster, a $6 bottle of rum, and a copy of the Beaches Varadero theme song on CD (the refrain is "kitchy-kitchy-kitchy-Cuba" and there is a dance for it that we are all forced to learn that night.
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Diving – finally!!! The water is still rough from the storm yesterday, but we brave the waves. Visibility is OK, but it is still affected by Hurricane Michelle. The reef is damaged greatly – dead and broken coral is lying all over the bottom. There are not too many fish; did the hurricane claim them as well?
The rest of the day is spent at the pool.
Thursday, November 29, 2001
Diving – again!! Today we head to a Russian wreck – they found it about 3 years ago and it’s still in great condition. There are HUGE snappers and groupers, but that’s about it. Nothing has grown on the wreck. Visibility is better today and the wreck is neat, so it’s a good dive.
I head off to the pool once on land, where I find a new member to our pack – Janet has invited John, from London, England, who is a dry-wit expert, to join our little click – a good addition to the crew. The 5 of us head to the a la carte Italian restaurant where we find smoked salmon – a feeding frenzy ensues. Much better than mashed potatoes.
Tonight’s show is "Mr. Beaches Varadero" – a good excuse to embarrass the men who are standing around. 3 slimy guys and a nice one get chosen to participate – thankfully, the nice one wins!!! He’s Canadian and wearing a Roots sweatshirt.
Friday, November 30, 2001
Diving again – to the same reef as on Wednesday. Much better this time – the fish have come back – lots of snapper, a very inquisitive barracuda that nips at my buddy’s fins, and a moray eel that posed for a photo. This dive was worth the effort – visibility has cleared up a lot.
The last day is spent at the pool until 4:30pm. At that point, I retire for a nap. I turn on the TV to see that El Precio Juste is on – the Cuban version of The Price is Right. Instead of "A New Car…" the big prize is a TV and ghetto blaster combo.
Saturday, December 1, 2001
The last day in the sun ... I sit at the pool until 10:30am, when I have to have a shower and then drag myself to the lobby and spend the rest of the day waiting in airports for planes and eating airplane food – which is really tasty by this time. Duty Free is full of bargain - $5 rum, $3 banana liquor, and $5 toblerone bars.
Well – that’s Cuba – not exactly in a nutshell, but hope you enjoyed it.
YOu can see more photos at http://www.pbase.com/kiml/varadero_cuba__dry_land