It’s the start of week 5 of my stay here in Havana, and it’s raining cats and dogs outside of my hotel window. This morning, after a failed attempt to film an experimental art gallery (it was closed), we went to get some coffee and I restocked my supply of chocolate at the chocolate museum. My jeans are still sopping wet, but on the plus side, I’m extremely wired on all the caffeine and thus inspired to write a blog entry.
The pace of life here in Cuba is so slow. My thoughts are slower, my actions are slower, and my breathing is slower. It’s a stark contrast to my life in New York City where I barely have time to breathe at all. Classes are great. It’s ironic; they are so much less demanding than my classes in New York but I feel like I’m learning more. My learning here is much more self- motivated, and although it can be tiring and daunting at times, it is very refreshing to feel genuinely excited and interested in the learning material.
This slowness, however, can manifest itself in other, more frustrating ways. Everything is extremely bureaucratic here. This bureaucracy is epitomized in the frustration of grocery shopping. At well-stocked grocery stores (which contain about much food as an American gas station), there are hour lines to get in the door (think Union Square Trader Joes lines.) All grocery stores are stocked with about ten different food items: meat, meat, meat, rum, hot dogs, bread, meat, crackers, canned goods, milk (if you’re lucky.) The grocery aisles are occupied by an endless supply of these food items. It’s hard to be a vegetarian here. Which leads me to talk about my favorite restaurant: Decameron.
Decameron is a paladar, which is a family- owned restaurant that is run out of someone’s home. It is technically illegal to have a paladar that seats more than ten people but since they are so effective in bringing in foreign currency, government officials usually turn a blind eye. The food at Decameron is all home cooked and delicious (at least in comparison to other places.) The best part of the Decameron, however, is the atmosphere. The walls are covered with old grandfather clocks and oddities like old typewriters and instruments. Since the paladar is hidden to outsiders, it is dimly lit and has a soft, orange glow. I eat and study there almost everyday (it feels very self- indulgent since peso stands sell food for less than 50 cents but in actuality, I never spend more than four or five dollars on lunch.)
My life here is simpler, and since everything is new, you are filled with childlike curiosity everyday. About a week ago, the ocean was roaring and huge waves crashed up and over the walls of the malecon. Propelled by this curiosity, three other students and I went and stood against the wall. The waves would crash up and over us and propel us on to the sidewalk. I have scrapes up and down my stomach and legs, but I can’t remember the last time I felt so alive.
Well, friends and family, my half- eaten dark chocolate frog is beckoning me. E-mail me questions and I will do my best to address them here.