Monday, June 22, 2009

Wednesday, 18th March

The seaboard near Malecón
by Dan Halter

I land in Havana at around 3pm on a Virgin Atlantic flight from London. Disembarking onto the gangway I am surprised to find a man waiting there with my name on a board. The man, Jorge, has my Cuban Visa and he escorts me through immigration. I feel like a VIP in front of the other passengers.

Walking out of the airport we get drenched by a warm tropical rain shower that quickly subsides. It is hot and muggy. Driving from the airport I am impressed by the old American cars on the roads that are I have always associated with the island. There are also horse-drawn carts and some newer Russian and Chinese cars.

I am taken to a government-funded house that accommodates artists and musicians from abroad. It is a rudimentary building with dormitory-style rooms filled with bunk beds. The windows are without glass, just heavy wooden shutters. There is no toilet seat and only a trickle of shower water. It is not far from the home of the original Buena Vista Social Club.

I enjoy a hearty meal of rice and beans with a Vienna sausage with my hosts. Unfortunately our conversation is somewhat limited by the lack of a common language and we use lots of hand-signals.

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