On my second day of old habana travel I walk roughly five miles from hotel to old habana, ducking into a restaurant; literally missing a huge down pour by minutes. The restaurant is across from the malecon whose mostly walls of prison cell bars provide constant fresh air and people watching opportunity. The $2 mojitos on the chalk board catch my attention and I order one and a bottled water.
Within minutes I start a conversation with a guy from Brazil – Paulo, sitting at the next table. We continue talking to one another the entire time without once moving from our own table. Paulo tells me he is in Havana fulfilling his mother’s death wish that he visit Cuba and also become a Cuban citizen.
He goes on to explain that when he was just a baby just after the revolution his family migrated to Brazil. His family never returned to Cuba, not even for a visit, and both parents have since passed away. He goes on to tell me that part of his citizenship requirement is to stay in country for a period of one month.
What the hell I say; after noticing that my mojito glass is much smaller than his! We both laugh after deciding that his mojito is off the main menu and will likely cost twice as much as my $2 special. The time is now near 11:00 a.m. and we’re on our second mojito waiting for our main course to arrive. Life has a way of slowing way way down in old habana way. Not holding onto or even carrying a cell phone probably played a big role. We continue reflecting on our life’s curves and near misses.
Paulo and I decide that you cannot do any travel justice without doing a lot of walking, talk to the locals and see life, even if for a short period, from their perspective. By the end of our lunch we both feel we are extremely fortunate to have run across each other. Such is travel.
“With the notable exceptions of rum, drinks, black beans, fat brown cigars, the smiles of pretty girls, hot yellow sunshine, and fat men with guitars and bongos playing mambos, rumbas and boleros late into the night, nothing in Cuba comes easily.” – J. Miles