But she survived

Broken

img_1243I read this post above, it seems it was written with my broken friend in mind. I wrote this poem as I watched daily, the torment and pain she was experiencing. My heart ached watching her. 

She didn’t want to live in this world without him. How could we convince her, she could, she would. She would be happy again. 3 months on, she survived. She is not better,  but baby steps, one day at a time, her survival will lead towards a recovery which will lead to happiness once again. I can’t wait 

Pain etched upon your face

Please my friend

Take your mind to a beautiful place

I watch the pain raging in your heart

My friend, can I help

Dull this ache, from when he did depart

Your body aching, oh so frail 

Your broken

Shattered

Deathly pale

You must get up, I beg you please

Laying in bed

Let her aching heart please appease

It shall only be a moment, only a season

A split second in life

That he will  be the reason

You are readying to release this pain

Lose sight of this face

Gain your old self back again 

Be happy, show me the light again, in your eyes

Some falls in life 

Lead to a happier arise

May your beautiful kind heart shine on through

There is nothing more harmful

Than sharing moments with someone not meant for you

Move forward in life, my sweet friend 

The hurt the sorrow 

Conquer it, let it end 

A new tomorrow 

Make a new journey

live your life

You are so very worthy

JB may 2018

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White sands, Carribean Seas and pink cars

Travelling between towns in Cuba you can use the buses which are slow, trains which are unreliable or our choice “the collective” a share car, which also gives you the opportunity to meet fellow travellers. We have travelled with French, polish and today two gorgeous German girls. This mode of transport is somewhat squishy and uncomfortable but the fastest way at not much more than a bus in price. 

We are heading to Varadero a beautiful stretch of beach, part of the Carribean. What better day to spend our last days in Cuba. 

Along the roads, hitch hikers. No, not tourists, just locals. They stand at the side of the road with money in hand. Hoping this will entice a driver into picking them up. Why not catch a bus if you have money? That was my question too. The answer sadly is they don’t have money for a bus trip. They are poor. Only 38 in 1000 Cubans can afford a car. 

We arrive to a 20km stretch of beach on the Carribean Sea. Staying in the old part it is a mix of single and double storey houses in bright and bold colours. Some Spanish in architecture, some retro, it’s a eclectic mix. Some beach front houses are so old, neglected, leaning to one side, shutters hanging off windows, but still full of charm. At home they’d be offered a couple of mill for position alone. They are quietly unaware. Further down the road, houses turn into brightly coloured hotels, then beach resorts, a marina, one after another, huge with construction going on to build more. It was like a ghost town. Though it is not yet tourist season. 

Hues of pink everywhere in the are. Vintage cars offer ring taxi rides. Half price for you they yell (no tourists ) nearly all pink, different shades and cars but make for a truly fabulous sight. 

A day spent on white sand that stuck to your body, even after many swims in the ice blue clear carribean water, the temperature  perfect. 

Simply put, paradise. 

Our last morning on the beach. Yes again breathing in the Carribean air. Snapshot in my head. A memory forever imprinted. We soaked it in. 

People already up, joggers and walkers, swimming, fishermen who catch their fish by hand, standing in thigh deep water, remnants of beer cans from yesterday’s beach parties. At some stage someone picks up this rubbing. Cuba is clean. Boys putting out banana lounges and umbrellas ready to make their days earning. Another day behind 

Waking back along the beach road we heard singing, laughing, music.

Craig’s photographic eye saw yet another photographic opportunity. A school bus with graffiti all over it. He took photos. We read it. It was a bus that collected children. Not just Cuban and took them to this school

If you read the side of the bus it says “ the 8th friendship caravan” 

How beautiful we thought. We looked through the gates. Children dancing and singing, having fun. They were waving to us. Dancing for us. It made them happy to do this. At the end of the song they all stopped and waved with such joy to us! 

The children were a mix of intellectually disabled and mixed races. For me that was one of the most beautiful sights I have witnessed in Cuba. 

Again Cuba spoiled us with more delicious culinary treats. Each  night seems to be better than the previous. Our dinner, the service impeccable, it could not be faulted. It would rival any restaurant at home. 

10pm like clockwork the heavens opened. Not allowing us to walk off the copious amounts of food we just ate. Taxi !

Our last collective, our last meeting with like minded travellers, who have all adored Cuba. We may have different favourite places, but the common factor, we all LOVE Cuba. Our last trip is like s gift. An old vintage Chrysler. In great nick. 

Plenty of room and we are sharing it with two beautiful Dutch girls. We pass over the highest bridge in Cuba looking again at lush green trees, native bushes in valleys on our return trip to the ever exciting and colourful Havana. 

We are back. We eat street food and take in the rest of the day seeping in, all that Havana has to offer. 

Happy hour for 4 hours 👌 free salsa lessons. Pizza so big and so good, you go back for more, just one more piece. Carts on the side of the road where a Cuban wielding a big knife will chop up pineapples, coconuts, mangoes fresh for you to eat. 

We love this city. 

A night in Havana and our Cuba experiences are done. I would like to think I’ll be back. We have unfinished business here. 

Cuba is like nowhere else. Just sit back and watch. ❤️

Buenos Dias 

Adios 

From Cuba with love 

Venice Beach, grunge, vibes, wall art and vegan cafes

 

Venice Beach, a little bit grunge with an oddly great vibe

A beachfront boardwalk where art meets eccentricity with a dash of weird and wonderful. A large sprawling beach, market stalls, shops, bike hire, marijuana for medicinal purposes or not! Well it is legal here. Buskers, belting out tunes, trying to sell you a cd, singing as they play guitar on roller skates. The homeless are many, come together with travellers and take up residence in little camps together on the beach. They live in tents or makeshift tents using blankets, cardboard, whatever they can find propped up on a carts or a trolley. The homeless somehow manage to own weird collections of stuff. Golf clubs, dummies, yes mannequins, that are then manifested into a piece of art, but the grandest acquisition of all was a grand piano. Yes a homeless man playing a grand piano on the boardwalk beautifully. How he got it there astounds me.

The things you see when you travel.

A skate park and the famous Muscle Beach outdoor gym with its pumped up men parading around flexing biceps bigger than my quads. This is the ultimate in extreme people-watching.

Abbot Kinney Boulevard home to amazing shops, organic &  vegan cafe  and restaurants. I ate my every meal here, enjoying quinoa sweet potato cakes, cauliflower T bone, spring vegetable lasagne,  cold pressed juices   smoothie bowls and green tea. 10 days in Cuba, my one big miss, was green tea. 😬

Artists display their pieces, wall art painted on every free wall. A spiritual spa, have your soul cleansed or just a physic reading.  Next door the best barber in the world, well in Venice Beach.  At $55 ausdie dollars they would have to be the best, and the gorgeous blue haired lady was, with Craig being privy to a shoulder and neck massage by a hand held device. The look on his face said AHHHHH

A place to be experienced.

15.5 hour flight home. No sleep, it’s goodnight from me for a week ❤️ XOXO

 

Trinidad Cuba and my love affair

The drive to Trinidad was long. 9.5 hours to be exact. 

The drive itself is not too diverse in scenery. It reminds me of driving through an Asian country. Tropical, paddocks, little shacks.  Cubans sitting on their verandahs. In their rocking chairs passing time, smoking, drinking coffee or rum. What’s the hurry anyway. Everything manana. Everything can be done tomorrow. 

Enter Trinidad. My head turns right, left, side to side in excitement. Once again I am captivated. 

Our casa is typically Cuban style. Orange walls, gold bedspreads and gold sheer polka dot curtains. It is a feast for the eyes to enjoy. 50s Retro, Art Deco, eclectic all rolled into one. 

The streets remind me of little towns in Spain. Perhaps not as near or tidy, but as quaint and cute all the same. Cobblestone roads with the cobbliest cobbles you have ever seen, look fabulous but are hard to walk on. Colourful houses one after another all offering their houses as casas, for extra income. 

Casa, restaurant, maybe a private home, bar, casa, shop, souvenir shop, followed by another restaurant and so it goes. Shops selling paintings of Fidel and Che. Amazing artists, you will see the sitting at their windows painting and subsequently selling the finished masterpiece, trinkets of this and that, beautiful hand made (by co-operatives(groups)  of local women) crocheted scarves, tops and dresses. Hand made linen shirts, doilies, table clothes, pretty embroidered tops. Not cheap in Cuban terms, but certainly cheap for us westerners. 

Street dogs continue to break my heart. Some seem to fare okay, some are a little worse for wear.  They bark, they chase horses and bikes, they make me laugh. They are having fun. They are friendly if people gave them a chance, always looking for a feed or a pat. People are scared to touch them. This is sad for me to grasp. 

Trinidad has certainly geared itself towards tourism and why not.  There are so many restaurants. You wonder how they fill them, then buses,  full of tourists arrive and the streets are swarming. Walking tours, horse riding tours and so on. Trinidad is reaping the tourism benefits. 

This little town does seem to be a little bit more finically comfortable than what we have seen to date. As you walk past each house you see in to their living quarters. How? They only have shutters over their one front window which is covered by bars, think Spanish architecture late 1800s, they leave their shutters wide open and stand a greet people as they walk past. Hola, com esta, hello how are you?  Again friends congregate at these windows, on footpaths In the town centre. 

We walked the streets until we reached where the real Trinidad begins. Cobblestone roads turned into rocky roads turned into complete rabble. We see the poorer side once again. The people still beautiful, hola, can we please take a photo we ask? Si si, they are so accommodating. Like they are posing for a magazine,they stand, they smile. 

The textures, the colours, the unevenness all add to its appeal. This is the trinidadian life. Men walking around selling garlic and onions strung together, thrown over their shoulders. Yelling out to the locals. Every one is yelling, always yelling. 

Bike ridden carts selling fruits, horses tied up in front of houses, men in cowboy hats. Women wanting to swap clothes with me, children playing soccer in the street or small park, people with their doors wide open, barred in or not,  watching tv, which is so loud. Everything is loud in this what we thought was a quiet town. Old women sitting at their barred windows, that is their tv, never moving, when you look closer, you can see their beds tucked in behind them. This is their life. Watching the modern world develop before their old eyes. A different life to what they once knew. They always say hola. 

They stand at the front doors and smile. We ask again, may we take photo. Some say so si yes yes and pose, some are shy and wave and finger no no no.  Always giving a smile though. 

As I think back to the street dogs around the city square, I take in a whole different perspective here in this more traditional, poorer area. Dogs are house dogs, sitting well fed and protected in doors, at the barred windows. It’s quite contradictory in my thinking. 

We find a gelato store. Yum. We had to eat quickly as it drips down our hands. 

Teenagers stop and watch as we pass, they talk amongst themselves. I wonder what they are saying. 

Trinidad like Havana is a photographers delight. Every way you look. Photo opportunity. Another too good to miss. 

The number one attraction here is a history museum. Not particularly for what it has on show, but for the rickety old spiral stairs that you climb to reach the tower. I climbed them, and it was worth it for the view. Just as I was told. I could see the whole city, the mountains and glimpses of the sea. The sea is about 12km from town. 

The same opportunity was rewarded to us in a convent as in the history museum, climb the rather volatile looking staircase to the bell tower to again look over this magic city. From this view it almost took on a Moroccan feel. The colours of blues, terracotta’s and sand with shattered brick roof tops. I love this little place. 

Old cars still around in the city, probably in more disrepair than those seen in Havana. 

Shut your eyes and just listen. They chat incessantly,  they have real conversations. With passion, they yell, talk over one another, they laugh. It’s wonderful to hear. I wish I knew what they were saying! 

Dinners and drinks in roof top restaurants, offering food so cheap it seems unfair. You pay for a main meal and for example you get, bread and dips, fried plantain (banana) that is so good, soup, salad, white and black rice, black beans, croquette made from rice and vegetables, then your main meal, whatever you order and fruits to finish. Yes we eat every last bite! All for about 8-12 Australian dollars. My mojito or daiquiri around 3-4 dollars. 

Walking the dark streets at 10.30pm, it’s hard to see. Arriving at our casa just in time, the heavens opened like tomorrow was never coming. We made it. Then the electricity went off. Total blackness, feeling our way around unfamiliar surroundings. We find our room. It rained all night. Loud rain pelting, dogs crying, cats meowing, sounds I’ve never heard before. So so hot. Pillows that felt like bricks. Not much sleep was had, but I am in Cuba and that is the best thing. 

Morning, overcast, rain has stopped, still humid, the streets are slowly drying up

Everyone sits in one of the two city squares to get there internet access which you pay around 1-2 dollars per hour. 

Simple needs = simple life. 

Around 1pm daily the streets quieten down, its siesta time for those who are happy with their lot, for those still wanting to reap those touristic benefits,  you will still hear taxi? You want best cigars in town? Drink? Eat? Coffee? 

Dinner at the most amazing, you must visit restaurant called La Redaccion. The building, the food, the service, out of this world. Look out for Yardier, the best waiter, who will make you happy with just his personality. Give him a big tip. A must do is please visit the toilets in this place. Grand does not describe it. 

The last 3 nights we noticed the streets quiet early at night. A contradiction to what we have been told about the music scene and dancing. 10.30pm everything has been quiet, no dancing, just quiet. Speaking to a local this evening, we were educated to the whys of the lack of music and dancing. The country had been mourning in the loss of 119 lives in the devastating airplane accident recently. A nation united.  These people continue to warm my heart. They are probably some of the nicest, kindest, compassionate people I have met in a foreign country. 

I cried for a long time that day

Leaving Vinales

I step out on to the balcony and take in the view one last time. It is breathtaking as the sun rises over the mogotes (mountains). Feeling a little melancholy as I know it really will be the last time. I silently say thank you for the experience as I breathe in one more breath and turn and walk away. I leave my room to be greeted by my cats. “I’m sorry I have to leave you” I pat them, say goodbye and wish for them, that another tourist will come and give them food and love soon. 

I board our little bus heading for Trinidad armed with food for whoever, dog or cat I meet on the way. It does not take long. Our first stop. One nursing mum approaches me, I feed her, then another comes, and another. 3 mums, all hungry, all recently given birth, where are their babies? I feed them all I have. I pat and talk to them. My soul is literally crying. The first one in particular looked at me with such appreciation. Through her infected eyes, a sadness beyond what I was able to cope with. I saw appreciation and thanks not for only the food I just gave her but for some tenderness and affection. I patted her, tickled behind her ears, under her chin for as long as I could, I didn’t want to leave her. I had to leave. I said goodbye with so much sadness in my heart and wished her a better next life. Looking back from our bus watching her for as long as I could see her, I cried. I cried for a long time this day.  F735C578-B44F-481A-9608-E29C203925D4

Havava with love

 

 

Havana 

Will this aeroplane actually leave the ground? 

Concerning thoughts are growing as I look at the other customers boarding flight AA1447 from Miami to La Habana (local lingo) 

Everyone appears to be carrying anywhere between 50 & 100kg. Just an average. The bags are plastic wrapped in enough layers to cover the state of Miami.

The Cubans seem to come to the US to buy up big on anything and everything.  Electronics, toiletries, clothing, air conditioning units.  It is obviously worth it for the additional baggage fees they pay, not to mention taxes and fines which we find out about in a few hours. 

 

Hola. 

First tip never bring a drone in to Cuba

Wow this place. Enter. Sniffer dogs running around playing, don’t be fooled though, they do there job too. One disaster after another. Only one luggage belt working for 4 international flights, every Cuban having their imports checked. Thoroughly one by one. A drone, oh no, we wait and wait to have it confiscated until our departure. See my first top! 4 hours later. Exchange money. No can do, we don’t have enough money! What?

Leave the airport, pouring rain, actually I won’t even use the word pouring, it’s not descriptive enough, torrential, flooding streets rain. Yep welcome to Cooba, Habana. Woo hoo we are here! 

Arriving at our casa ( Cuban owned house they rent out to tourists ). We wait out the rain. As we were leaving to explore, we were warned. Be careful of walking under balconies. They can fall down. Craig laughed. No serious the lady said. 

The start to Cuba is somewhat crazy but we are still smiling and positive as are all the Cubans we have met so far. 

Think the 1950s/60s, it is like time has stood still. Nothing has moved on 

La Habana is a photographers delight. Turn left photo opportunity, turn right, look up, look down, photo opportunity after photo opportunity. Even the novice would take delight in Havana. Gorgeous people smile, yell hola, where you from? Australia, ahhh skippy. 

They want to show or tell you something amazing about their country, maybe sell you a service, like a ride around town in an old vintage cabs, a ford convertible, chevys and Buick’s, in their bold and bright colours or a maybe you prefer the bike cab. Young Cuban men cycle you around showing you the sights for 10 cucs. ($10) we did this, our man, Massile chatted to everyone as we rode, the men welcome each other with a hand shake and a kiss on the cheek, girls hold hands, when did we grow so unaffected and lose that intimacy in Australia?  Massile tried his luck chatting up girls. He was thoroughly

entertaining. He taught me a few salsa steps to prepare me for the clubs. There are little Cuban tuk tuks and bubble (that’s what they look like) cabs. But, by no means are they pushy. You say no, they smile and tell you to enjoy your day. 

A neglected city that is poor but it is still so beautiful at the heart and soul of it. It has a personality of its own. We are captivated. Love at first sight. 

We sat at the hotel inglaterra to taste my first Cuban mojito. Taking in the ambience as the band played. This is the first hotel built in Havana dating back to 1890.  Winston Churchill was even a customer here in 1895. God I live history. 

Cigar smoke twirls through the air as men and for that matter women smoke big fat cigarillos. Older men dressed like Fidel himself look totally hip and cool in this city. Murals of Fidel, Che and Camilla are painted or drawn on many walls around the city. Street corners and parks come alive with small bands, locals dance sexily, smoking cigarettes and drinking Cuban coffee.  People rest any where and everywhere, on a step, a bench, a cart carrying there fruits. Holes in the walls with locals selling 50cent pizzas. 

The colours of everything everywhere are vibrant and exciting. Old men sit on steps chatting about life. A bride and groom are being chauffeur driven through the small Havana streets in s convertible. Honking the horn constantly. Everyone including us cheers as they drive past. A group dressed up sing, dance and twirl their way through the streets, the people part to let them through. Life is to be enjoyed here in Cuba. 

We are staying at a casa in Habana Street. It’s simple. A lounge with a couch and 2 chairs. A bed room with 2 small double beds and a bathroom. Nothing else. Simple. What drew us to this place was the little roof top terrace that looked colourful and pleasant to sit for an afternoon mojito. Hahhaha the reality was vastly different. Check out the photos. We still loved it nonetheless. Next door lives an old lady, when we come home at night she is sitting in a wooden rocking chair, behind the big iron gate, in the morning when we leave the casa she is still sitting, unmoved in the same spot. I say hola with a smile, she nods and says hola back. So content with life, this lady is, as are all the locals. 

No internet, value adds to the life of the Cubans in my eyes. They live. They congregate in parks, on corners, at front doors, in the streets. They talk, they laugh, they play music, drink coffee, they live. I am envious of the simplicity. 

On the other side of our Casa,  lives a man, he plays Cuban/Latin music, all day, every day, it’s playing in the morning when we get up and it is still playing when we go to bed. Somehow it is just fabulous and does not disturb or prevent you sleeping. We are steeping ourselves into Cuban life and I like it.  

As I said earlier, there is no internet in Cuba, but occasionally someone will have paid for internet which creates a hot spot. You know when you have found one of those hot spots as there are groups of people, especially young ones sitting in the street using their phones for 5 minutes of internet. A young local will be selling the password to the street users for a small fee.  

Mojitos delicious beyond words. I had to have a mojito in memory of the legend Ernest Hemingway. We visited his favourite bar here in Havana, where I signed the wall along with thousand of other signatures. The Mojitos here are as strong as they are tasty. 

Wedges ? Sugared cornchips, sound awful, no it’s not. Quite delish actually, as are the chips they sell. The Cuban version of potato crisps. Thinly sliced potatoes fried. Both are sold around the streets in paper cones for 1 or 2 cucs. Close to the Australia equivalent. ($1or 2)

Food is cheap here, everything is cheap here. For bread, starter, main course and a few drinks 40 cucs. That is what we have been paying for 2 drinks lately in other destinations. The meals are big, fresh and they are very accommodating to dietary needs, if they understand what you mean! 

Our casa provided the most scrumptious breakfasts. Fresh, in season fruits and juices. Toasts, anything you desire. Nothing to much trouble. 

Dogs run through the streets at their will and play. They are happy, just like the people and mostly seem somewhat well cared for.

A bubble cab to the north side of town where we walked an alleyway. Painted by an artist, sculptures made from iron and bathtubs, if one word could be used, spectacular would be it. Every Sunday locals play the drums and another party has started, walk 10 minutes to the food that was truly scrumptious . A Cuban with insight to a European/Cuban mix.  Cocktails are again delicious and cheap.This part of Habana is even cheaper. 30cucs for cocktails, beers, starters and mains. So much food. Hello another 3 kg. 

We found a club. Latin music, mojitos, dancing. Locals and tourists mixing together. We strolled our at midnight. Took a taxi, with no handles on the inside and barely a seat, but 10 cucs took us back to our casa and that 10 cucs will buy the driver and his friend  a days worth of food, drinks, cigarettes etc. 

Whilst we have our daily downpour of torrential madness. We make the most of indoors. A visit to the very educational  and moving Museum of Revolution 

I learnt, I cried, I have even more respect for these strong people and their country. Viva La Cuba. 

I am further intrigued and am now on a mission to learn more. 

Second Tip ( for the girls )byo toilet paper. It is not readily available in toilets, which are few and far between unless you pop in for a drink, use the toilet, then as you have had more liquid intake, you will need another stop ( phew)  you can buy one square in some places for 50cents. Hold on girls!  

I could chat for hours about this place. So much to tell but for Facebook, this is it. 

Hasta Luego

See you later