After two good first days, the third day homesickness hit me like a cold shower over the head. I spent the morning wasting time in my room and feeling generally sad, low, alone.
Perhaps it was the normal state of realising that this is the beginning of a year of travel, including two months by myself in the beginning. I never had time to really realise this in Geneva before leaving, and probably the realisation slowly dawned on me.
The following is what I jutted down, sitting by the sea on top of the Malecón after a tear filled phone call with Nuno. To reassure you, about half an hour later, it started to rain, first a tiny bit, then like if the ocean decided to jut up into the sky and throw itself on the city. I got trapped in the middle,
trying to cross the suddenly heavily trafficked street for protection but being stuck for the few minutes of warning time allotted. First few minutes saw the back of my body completely drenched through while my face and the front of the body was dry, as I made my way away from the sea, and hence from the wind. As soon as I turned though, the rest of my body was also soaked through in a few seconds, with so much rain falling down that I could hardly see where I was going!! A lady pulled me into a small shop as she saw me huddling for cover next to a building. The poor shop owner saw me dripping like a wet dog all over his floor, but didn't say a word.
Bizarrely, this whole episode of getting drenched into the skin as thoroughly as if I had been dropped into the sea and taken out again, put me into a super good mood :D The rain wiped away all negative thoughts and put a smile on my face for the rest of the day and the next as well. Ended the day with a super tasty dinner at El Gato 'something' (the one eyed cat) in Vedado. Had pork in rum – so yummy and in a beautiful surrounding with Picasso style paintings on the walls, the latter which were painted in red and green. Really cool. Looks expensive from the outside. But the main course was 8.50 CUC for a huge portion of meat and some lovely roasted potatoes.
Impressions from the day:
The 3rd day of my stay in Havana, and also of my year of travel, was a day of feeling lonely, tired, frustrated and mostly down and sad. Being all by myself in a place where a lone girl seems to be an invitation to every guy under 50, has started to take its tolls already after only two days.
Havana is lively, colourful, hot, humid, and beautiful in some rough, unattended way. But it's also poor, dirty, polluted, politically repressed, with jineteros every few meters. During the days, it's mostly fine, people stare as soon as one gets a few blocks away from the tourist centres, and some catcall or rather hiss after you (a favourite way of calling for girl's attention it seems, not that it works, at least not on me as I'm not a cat) but mostly leave you alone.
At night, however, the 'flirting' as Lonely Planet's male writer so nicely calls it, picks up a notch. And it is extremely tiring! Yes, this happens also in other cities when one walks alone, but for me, never to this extent.
It's not that it feels unsafe or dangerous in any way. It's just very uncomfortable and it takes away a big part of the pleasure from the city's many nice parts. It has also rendered me extremely reluctant to go to a dancing place or even entering a bar/restaurant with mostly Cubans – as considering the unwanted attention a single girl gets waling in the street at 9pm, I can just imagine what it must be like in a bar or if out dancing.
Hence I feel reluctant to try out the night life in Havana and this is depressing as it was one of the major attractions of going here. I love the kind of music that the play here and I was looking forward to get better at salsa, and perhaps try some of the other music styles (rumba, reggatone...).
So, today is a low day when I pain to understand the thrill of Havana, the 'super cool' place that all my friends told me about. But then again, almost everyone I know that have been to Cuba went in a couple or at least with friends, and as soon as you walk with a guy, even a non-Cuban guy, you're left alone. Walking with another girl is not as good a dissuasion but it's a lot better than walking by oneself. Only one of my friends warned my about that the attention can get tiring as it had for her. Somehow I thought she exaggerated. Somehow, I believed I had lived through similar hustling before (being a blond, tall Swede usually brings a lot of unwanted attention, even in Geneva). But I was definitely wrong.
So now I am pondering what to do? Should I leave Havana with this bad impression of the city? Travel to one of the other cities or beaches around Cuba and hope that the situation is better there? Or should I stay a bit longer, try to appreciate the city despite of its negative sides, dare the night life and continue my Spanish classes with my wonderful teacher? I am not sure, but will keep you updated!