"La Vida Gorda" The Fat Life
I guess looking back on our time in Cuba, it was a Godsend, we not only visited a country that is so aesthetically pleasing to the eye, we were shown how to live on R20 a month and be relatively happy.
To be honest, even though Cuba is pretty poor compared with many places we have been to, they are wealthy in other ways. Firstly they are very much social beings. Because no one is rushing to the office, everyone has time to go out in the morning to buy the daily provisions and chat to people in the neighbourhood.
This was so close to home, especially for Kasia, who grew up in Socialist Poland in a similar climate. Memories of her own granny leaving home at the crack of dawn to buy bread, butter and eggs came flooding in, and it might have been thousands of miles away from the frosty shores of the Baltic Sea, but Cuba has many similarities.
What we found really heart warming were the early morning rituals. Families walking their children to school, the horse carriages, the bicycles, the bareback horse rides, little girls in school uniforms with pigtails and boys neat as a button. That was really heart warming as I recalled our daily morning school run hysteria, over there in Cuba, there is no rush, things are so much calmer there and people have time for each other because they are not chasing money as much as we are.
"Un regalo", he insists, smiling. A present. "Nobody is hungry - we all have food,"Every highway is littered with propaganda billboards carrying famous quotes and recognisable images of Che, Fidel and happy revolutionaries.
Cubans receive a blue ration book once a month for basic items, which they can then buy in government shops. In the beginning of Castro's rule this provided a month's worth of free food but today is reduced for about half of that, making life even more difficult.
Most people travel to the Caribbean for a beach vacation, but Cuba has a totally different allure. The legends of Fidel and Che, Cuba's communist order, the American embargo and the country's isolation have turned Cuba into a tourist magnet. People mostly come here to experience the Cuban way of life and to witness the history of Cuba, the very fabric of life on the island. And sure, the dazzling beaches are the cherry on top.
We certainly had a fair amount of Cuban conversations through various interpreters and English/Spanish Google translate, there was a lot we missed out on because we simply couldn't find a way to infiltrate that side of Cuban life.
We loved being challenged by Cuba. Vintage Cars, Cigars, and Colourful architecture is what comes to the mind of most people when they think about Cuba. But there is so much more.
We returned to Trinidad to say goodbye to granny Nieves and our Cuban family and to pick up the car we had so anxiously waited for. Renting cars in Cuba is a big headache and we advise you to rather do it online, as it is impossible to book a car at their offices because Cuban's use rented cars to illegally drive tourists around.
In Cuba today, companies operate with a laid-back mentality that might not always be ideal for some fellow travellers. But such is life in Cuba. The transportation system and companies that rent vehicles are largely monopolized by the state. Officials at these businesses have an interesting attitude when it comes to working.
Returning to Havana after a month of travelling the rest of the island feels wonderfully familiar. Bookending a trip in the same place you arrived in like this means you can pick up souvenirs, head to places you've been recommended or forgot to visit last time - and you also see the city with different eyes, influenced by all the experiences you've had across the rest of the country.
Despite the oppressive government policies, the people of Cuba that we met seemed to be happy and joyful. Cuba was one of those trips that made us think a lot, beyond just the pretty sights or local cuisine, to the heart of the Island, its people.