Monday, February 20, 2012

What happens in Cuba, Shared in Cuba

Had the good fortune to go to KOBA! Suz & Chloe gave me a trip to Cuba for a present. Didn't I go get sick a week before the trip, and I am still sick. A lesser man would be in the fetal position, but not me, I don't even whine about it. I just kept coughing and hacking and being stuffed up, with a pounding headache. But I didn't say one word about it to nobody who wouldn't listen. Anyway the trip was fantastic. We left on a Sunday and went straight to Cuba, Varadero. We stayed in a hotel called the Iberostar Playa Alameda. The place did not disappoint in anyway. I am not sure how much it cost, my wife took care of that.
We did the tourist things, like going to Havana (Habana), checking out a museum, a jeep safari, and a bus ride into the town to meet with the "locals". It was a very nice trip. The people are in fact warm and friendly. We took a number of little gifts, baby clothes for folks out there. We know we can't have an effect on the life of people, but maybe we can brighten one smile for at least one moment in time. We know it's arrogant to think like that, but it makes me feel good anyway. I think most people want to think they can help in some small way. In any case, we took stuff and gave people stuff. No big deal, but to us we made a conscious choice to that.
Of all places we met some Indians that we know out there. The Fontaine family and the Wilson family of Peguis First Nation arrived on Wednesday.They took a lot of gifts for the people as well.
EJ & Steve

We had a good time talking and visiting with EJ and his wife Eva.
Suz & Eva

Their brother Don Wilson and Anita got married and went out there to celebrate. They took their parents along for the trip. Typical old Indian guy didn't want to leave the reserve. It was great to see them and it made us very happy to see them having a good time. I like that. We reminisced about childhood days, made jokes and told some stories. That Don was funny. We were having some drinks in the evening and he was telling Suzie that he thought he saw us at the beach. "But (he said) I thought it was Steve but it didn't look like Suzie, and he was hugging and taking pictures with this girl". That guy.
My beach woman

In some cases that would have been throwing gas on a fire, but Suz just laughs at my exploits. Me I think that all those KOBAN women were really saying "I like you" when they were saying "hola" or "gracias". At least that was what I was told that gracias means I like you.

The place we stayed at was filled with mostly Canadians. The Canadians are a funny bunch. Not very rowdy. But do they ever like to smoke. I was quite surprised at the amount of smokers that were about. Our hotel had mostly older folk and families with small children staying there. Older folk, I mean people around 40 and up. There were live bands ever night playing salsa, merengue, rumba and other Latin styles. Made you want to jump up and shake your booty, you know? Do the forbidden dance - dirty dancing. Can't you just imagine Baby and me? Me as Patrick Swayze aka Johnny?

We did go out and do a jeep tour. It was very interesting and fun. We went to some beach and the people on tour had a chance to go snorkeling. I am not a fan of the ocean, the beach or the heat. But I figured what the heck, I'll give it a try. You have to remember I was sick as well. So going into the ocean with this apparatus on my face, was not my idea of a good thing. Still. We took off into the ocean. After several attempts to put on the breathing apparatus, I finally put my head under the water. That is when it happened. I wouldn't say I had a spiritual experience or anything but it was close. Close to dying as I think. I must have swallowed a pint of sea salt water. It came out of my nose, my eye sockets, my ears. I could not breath, I could not see. I almost lost consciousness. The world was slipping away. I put my head in the water and came close to death. Panic. Panic. With an act of pure heroism, I pulled my head up,out of the water, I turned on my back, waved my arms like an octopus. Splashing around trying to get my bearings as I felt the cold grip of the deep dark water fill my lungs. I managed to look at the beach shore and I was way out in the ocean. I looked out to the ocean and my fellow jeep groupies were out there away from me; frolicking in the blue ocean like no ones business. All the while my darling wife and beautiful baby girl were watching snails on the beach, oblivious of my impending doom and my peril. I was in mid-scream when a beautiful Brown Angel appeared; A brown Mexican.  In this case, a Cuban. He was just there bobbing in the water, with snorkel pulled up on his head. He was one of the crew that was taking us out into the ocean. He asked if I was okay? I nodded and said, "yyyyyeahhh". "Want to go back?" He asked. "No, I am okay" I said. So we tried to go again. He told me to breath slow and close my mouth over the snorkel. Okay. It was beautiful once I did that. Breathe through my mouth and keep my head straight ahead. I was a natural. I should have kept my mouth closed the first time I put my head in the water. Now, I was guided by my Mexican angel to the group. I felt the assurance of other prey in the water. So I was not alone if something came looking for food. Although I might add, I would have been a good meal, having been a little meatier than those young slimmer swimmers. What I saw in the Coral Reefs was like in the movies. I was swimming where adventurer's such as Jacques Cousteau swam before me. I was in the clear pool of blue water, surrounded by schools of aquatic wildlife.
I became one with the coastal ecosystem of the coral reefs. I was a God! (Not "THE God, but "A" god)  Actually I still had some close calls of panic with me swallowing water. Holy heck that water burns your throat. (Actually, what happened was that I swallowed a bit of water and coughed it up)
Galloping on a Steed

We hired a local driver to take us to Habana (Havana).
We choose not to go on the hotel tour bus, and took our chances to venture on our own. A very affable guy named Ridel picked us up at the hotel in the morning. He was driving some old blue English car. He told us it was built in 1956. It sure ran like it. It was fun and an experience. It became apparent half way to Havana ( a 2 hour drive from our hotel) that our guide did not know too much English. So he and I were saying "Yes" to everything we said to each other. In Havana, he did not know where he was going. It was like he had never been there before. We kept stopping and talking to people on the street. He spoke in Spanish so I didn't know what he was saying. We did manage to go to some very busy places. We took lots of pictures. One of the buildings we went to, was incredible. It had marble everywhere and the architecture was spectacular. A very pretty and friendly guide showed us around the building. There was an art exhibition by Kcho. It was very interesting and I enjoyed it.
Kcho work of art
We got directions from the girl to go to the Poncho's restaurant. It was nice restaurant with eye candy servers. The Prices were about equal to Canadian prices for a nice restaurant. Not expensive but not cheap. In the restaurant this Cuban man was walking around. He came over and shook my hand. He was very nice, spoke no English so Ridal translated for me. Turns out this guy was an Olympic boxer. He was in Montreal 1976, and won Gold. I asked his name but it escaped me. So I asked his kilo class. He understood kilo and told me 81. So he is Teofilo Stevenson. He did tell us he won three gold medals. It was a nice visit with him. We gave him a sweater. I was told by Ridal that Teofilo is not  treated as well as he could be. His accomplishments have not been rewarded in riches.
Teofilo & Steve
We left Havana with Ridal driving. Oh I forgot to tell you, when we were walking around the city, Ridal asked me if I wanted a beer. I said no thanks. He said he was going to "have one and that's it". I am not sure but he must have had a few, as he kept buying them from the street vendors and had one or two in the restaurant that we went to. He was funny that guy. He took us to his home for a coffee. A very nice, and a very small home.
Ridel's home.

I had a good time in Cuba.


  1. Kia ora Steve,
    Wow, what an amazing trip! Maybe next time you can make it to Aotearoa :). Man, Teofilo was the bomb! He was a fantastic boxer, and I remember at the time there was a lot of talk about him fighting Ali, but with all the political stuff it never came off. Had he been a pro at that time I am sure he would have been mentioned in the same breath as all the big guns of heavyweight boxings halcyon days back then ( Ali, Frazier, Foreman, Norton, ect.). Great trip. Hope you are feeling better now. Kia kaha.

  2. Hey Rob, yeah, we are planning on heading out to the north island, not sure if it is going to be this december but you never know.


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