Another morning, another wake up. But this time, without an alarm, but I remembered, I set it. It doesn’t matter, I could wake up a few minutes before 9:00 AM, just in time to wash my face and get ready for the breakfast. Papi prepared a fruit plate again, brought the bread, the coffee and all the other ingredients for a breakfast. Meanwhile, a young guy appeared on the scene, who was surely not the little Mexican girl from yesterday. What else, the other family was not here anymore. Than Sebastian – what a surprising name – arrived instead of them, who is the son of Camilo. He’s here every Saturday. He’s a nice guy, just like his father, but the hairstyle is the best! He brought his toys, cars and horses and then, out of the sudden, he stole my muffin and gave it to the horses. I don’t mind, it’s nice to see him to play in his own world 🙂 In the same time, another guest arrived, a Colombian girl. She’s not much older than me, but I didn’t ask, just said hello to each other, and they sit out on the terrace with the host. After I finished my breakfast, went back to the room and later to the terrace – what was empty by that time – and read a few more pages of my book. Later, around 11:00 AM I decided to discover more of Havana. Mostly I did remember from where I came with the taxi, what else, I could walk back straight if I had to – luckily I did not have to do it. Instead of that, with my bag and sunglasses, I started the expedition to Havana without any directions and distances. First destination was the Revolution Square, than on the other side of it, down on the road until a huge junction point. There are no signs, or just for the locals so I could understand nothing, which way to go. But really, nothing like Havana Historico, Old Town. So I was alone with my instincts, and chose the way on the left side. That street – or avenue – was like home, like the Andrassy Avenue. 2×2 lanes with service roads on the outside. The “only” difference was the cars. Here, instead of BMWs, Opels and Volkswagens, you could see Plymouth, Chevrolet, Buick and others from this era. Also, the buildings were different totally, I mean they were more destroyed like at home, but still, they kept there beauty. To walk on the pavement, in the shadow of these houses, and the feeling of it, something what you can’t describe.
On the other side of the street, a tall green fence separated the tourists on the way from the visitors of the botanical park. So I made my mind to visit this place. I was under right at the gate, ready to buy the entrance ticket, when an elder man said “Hello my friend! Where are you from?”
-“Oh, Hungary! Budapest, Danube!” – he replied, and I got shocked. How does this man knows it? Than he told me, his sister used to live there, and when she visited him, she was telling stories, and from there he knows these things. I told him it was a good idea, it’s a beautiful place. Thank he asked which way I go. I said I’m just wondering around without any destination, just to the city. “Okay, I’ll show the shortest way” – he offered. Okay, why not, seems like a normal guy, kind, and local, so I trust him, hopefully he doesn’t want to take out my kidney or lung and sell it. So we started to talk, and we’re talking all the way into the city center. Sometimes he was speaking Spanish, but I replied always in English. The most surprising thing, he offered me to take me for a ride with his car. I just have to pay the gasoline, and he’ll bring me wherever I want to go. I told him, okay, I’m not sure about my days here, what and when to do, but I’ll let him know – I wasn’t sure if I could survive this day. He started to ask me, until when I’m here. How is here, why did I come, what did I already visited. Do I like the music here? I told him I just love this music, latin, son, salsa, rumba, my favorites. Then, he told me, he knows where I have to go. On the main square, close to the Capitolium, there will be a celebration with music and dance, my place is there. I said sure, my place is there, I’ll be there – at this point I was certain about it. On the way to the city, we had a nice local, fresh fruit juice, and from the change, he gave me some really local coins – not this convertible peso, what I had to use, but their own. It’s not a big amount, 1 CUP, but the gesture is priceless. Going toward, he mentioned that he’s an inspector, a quality inspector of a local cigar factory.
– “Sounds cool, it could be an interesting job” – I said.
– “Yep, it’s a really good place. I like it, and sometimes we can bring home a few boxes.”
– “Wow, sounds even better!”
– “Have you ever tried to smoke a real Cuban cigar?” – he asked.
– “Never before, but I’m planning to do it soon.” – I said.
– “Than I have something for you maybe.” – he replied, and I started to be a little suspicious. He said he has a friend who has a few boxes of cigar. He can show them to me, and if I want, I could buy on a very low price range. It was a little bit strange for me, walking on the street first on my own, than a local guy appeared, gave me a little city tour, and now he’s trying to sell me cigars under the market price. Immediately I started to pray, my God, please keep my organs in their places, but if he’s a little servant of a cartel, than I’m done in this world. Okay, I’m in Cuba, but the sentence “It’s so beautiful! I’m gonna die!” wasn’t meant literally. But doesn’t matter anymore, he went into an alley and up on the stairs on the left. I stopped at the entrance, hesitating, maybe I should run away like hell. He told me, no worries, I can come, the cigar is upstairs. And at this point, I gave myself into the hands of God. I went up after the man.
Narrow stairs were leading us until the glass door. The guy knocked on the door, and once more. And he knocked the third time as well, after that shouted inside and opened the door. The “house” wasn’t much bigger than my place here in Cuba, maximum double size, but I think smaller than that. And this size included the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and living room, so everything. For 4 person. The daughter was watching cartoons on the PC, and the mother brought out the little guy from the kitchen. And daddy, hmmmmm. That type of guy that you look at him and s**t your pants. Golden neck-chain, shirt, huge belly, fat arms, neck almost disappeared, serious face, tattoos everywhere, eyes opened – or closed? – like the Asians. Expensive shoes, jeans, and the leather belt in his hand. Yes, this is the end.
– Sit down – the old guy told me. So I occupied the side of the canape, and put down my bag next to me. There’s no point to grab it and squeeze it to me. If they want something, for sure they’ll get it. He picked up a carton box and put in front of me. In the same time, daddy, The Boss was standing at the entrance, light up a cigarette an crossed his arms in front of him. My guide started to take out the small wooden boxes from the big one. One is more beautiful, more detailed than the other, I admit. Cohiba, Romeo & Juliette, so some good staff, with known names. 25 pieces in one box.
– “You can open it, no worries. If you would like, smell it.” So I smelled a few of them, like I knew what I’m doing, but always kept an eye on The Boss. He did not move at all, not even a small smile, or some expression on his face. He’s staring at me, I’ve started shaking a little, not because of the temperature. But the fact, that I’m holding these masterpieces in my own hands, the smell of them, the touch of the wooden boxes, brings down the level of my fear, while the guy was talking about the procedure of manufacturing these. I did choose one in the end, that I’m interested in it. They take back the box, close it and wrap it, and, finally, they said the price.
I’m not that cheap guy, and usually I’m not sharing financial thing like this, out to the world, but this 240 CUC – it’s approx the same in euro – hit me in my head-heart-stomach. A little calculation, and the final result: 70.000 HUF for 25 pieces of cigar. Okay, it’s really good quality, but this is the low price? I checked my wallet with hope that in the last one and a half hour some more bills grown there, but negative. The same, like I left my apartment. I asked them, is it okay if I go to the ATM and get some cash? The Boss wasn’t too happy with this info, but he agreed. I stood up from the couch, and checked my pockets. Phone, wallet, keys are with me. Okay, let’s go, and as soon as we stepped out to the sun, I realized, what an idiot I am. I left my bag there. It’s better if you start praying that you didn’t left there anything with your name or info in the bag. The old guy came with me and showed the closest ATM. There was 7 next to each other, so we picked one line, and waited. He told me, if I wanted to do a really great business, than he give me 2 boxes for only 350 CUC. “One box is enough for me, thank you very much” answered. But I have to take 2 boxes, for friends and relatives. Also because of the boxes, they’re not selling these anywhere, only here with the cigars. And the export limit is 50 pieces, so it’s just correct. He couldn’t convince me, I stayed with my 1 box. But first, I need money for that. I was the first in the line, so I inserted my card and tried to take out 250 CUC.
PLEASE TAKE YOUR CARD
I took my card, hmm, it’s not good. The old guy asked me, everything is okay? I said somehow it didn’t accept my card, but I try it again. The same procedure, the same message on the screen. It doesn’t want to give money to me. Okay, let’s try with another one, sometimes they just ran out of that currency, or some machines are not able to give out convertible peso. So we get to the next ATM, but the same result. One more to the right. And one more, and one more. Next to us by two machines, a lady just got CUC, so we jumped there, this is the machine what we need! And now! But no, still not. I tried it again, error message again. So I turned to the guy and told him, it won’t be possible today, so tomorrow I’ll come back, but first today I have to call my bank about this problem. Okay, he says, tomorrow noon here, if it’s fine. Of course it’s fine, now let’s go back to my bag. Oh s**t, f*****g s**t, my bag is still there, I totally forgot it. So this will be the really end, The Boss will be angry, because I won’t take the product. They’ve wrapped it, so they’ll need some compensation, and I’m sure, my bag won’t be enough for him. We got back by 2 minutes walk, my guide is about to turn into the alley, when 2 brownish-colored guy stepped in his way, pushed him back to the street and shook their heads.
“Damn, this is really not good. Option one, they’re putting someone down under the water to sleep with the fishes, or they didn’t finish hiding the cocaine in my bag” I thought immediately, and one second later “Okay, if you think about the bad thing, you’ll bring it on you”. So I tried to calm down. After one minute uptight waiting, the two “bellboy” let us into the alley. We went up on the stairs to the apartment. Mommy-Son-Daughter were nowhere, or I couldn’t see them, but instead of them, 2 other guy came up earlier, just like the two at the entrance. I was panicked inside, and they teased me by shutting the door behind me. The old man told to The Boss that I have not enough money, so no business at the moment. I said a “Sorry” sadly, who was deadly serious, but a minute later he gave me a smile (???!!!), shook my hand, opened the door and let me go.
As soon I’ve took a deep breath of the fresh air, I turned to the left and go. And the old guy came with me, that he knows another, better ATM, where are the better machines. I told him sorry, if you don’t mind, I just go now, I have to talk to my bank, that’s it. He said no worries, than see you tomorrow around noon. I answered okay, sure, good bye! Started to go to the Capitolium, set down on a bench and stayed there for a few minutes. I have no idea who were them, but it get a little scary at the end. I checked my bag, everything was there – pens only -, nothing less, nothing more. I stayed there a few more minutes until my heartbeat slowed down, back to normal. When it get there, I started to wonder around again, watching my back, and always turning somewhere on the next corner – and what a corner, I’ve met the guy again. Once he was coming from the other way, but at the second time, I got the feeling that he’s following me. I just stepped into a market, but not on the main road, and he came after me, suggested me what to see if I’m in this area. Okay, we shook hands again, and I went out through the back entrance to the crowded street. And from there, left-right-left-left-right-left-right-straight-right, so I turned everywhere I could just to get rid of him for sure. I’ve checked back to the street in every corner, and I didn’t see anyone who could follow me. When I reached the sea coast, I was a little more calm, and spotted the ocean liner first. As it figured out, it was the MSC Opera. Nice one, huge one, you can see it even from a distance.
The sea wasn’t calm again, but it’s just okay like this. I sat down on the top of the wall to take some pictures. A few – okay, a lot – of minutes passed until I got back on my feet again and started to reach the source of the music near by. One guitarist, another old guy without any tooth, with 2 plastic bottles in his hands, filled with sand, and the whole point of it is, that you could shake that “instrument”. 2 nice girls were sitting on the wall and talking with the musicians. The older guy – the more attractive, of course – came to me. “Where are you from? What’s your name?” “Okay, I’m from Hungary, Budapest. My name is Adam”. “Ooh, Budapest, nice city, and Adam is a good name!”. And of course, one of the girls is Eve, what a surprise. Then the guy gave me his shaking bottles and they started to sing and play music, and I was a part of the band. It took me one minute, than I apologized them for leaving, but I had a lot of things to do. I followed the wall, walked next to the water into the bay, where the big ships – passenger and container as well – were docked. Meanwhile it started to rain, just a little, but still, I ran to the other side of the road 2×3 lanes – and stopped under the trees, and stayed dry…