Slow dial-up speed access costs $4.50 an hour at the sanctioned government places, but you can’t use your laptop. It goes up to $10 an hour for high-speed at the five-star hotels where there is no workspace as such and people have to precariously balance their computers on their knees. But you can send documents to get materials printed for 50 cents a page.
So getting my escape-to-Medellin, Columbia ticket – where they have free wi-fi-everywhere – rivaled a Charlie Chaplin movie. It took two days to find a site to book the ticket. The reservation was confirmed, but for some reason they couldn’t process the credit card details. Damn good thing, too, as I had managed to book another ticket. I didn’t confirm the first one within 24-hours so it was cancelled.
The confirmation was sent to my email address to I had to go to the hotel to have it printed. Fine. The address was the longest I have ever seen and I made a mistake so I had to get the woman who worked there to type it in for me.
With my confirmed ticket in my hot-little hand I felt safer and more secure. But this was Cuba and one can never take anything for granted.
For example, when I arrived on Cubana de Aviacion (CDA) – after a 24-hour delay in Madird -neither of my bags showed up on the conveyor belt. There was a group of about 25 people all yelling and pushing and shoving at some poor official cowering behind a glass wall who was trying to sort out claims. I wonder if he got danger pay as the Latinos weren’t pulling any punches.
A European woman who spoke Spanish told me that as the flight had doubled they had arranged another plane that went via Caracas. As it was a longer flight, the CDA people had convinced a number of passengers – she and her partner included – to go that route as it was “safer.” The bags didn’t make the connecting flight so they were in Venezuela.
Late the next morning the casa particular where I was staying received a call saying my bags were at the airport. They were filthy and covered in some sort of white powder. But at least they were in Havana. It took three hours and a taxi fare of $30 to retrieve them.
The next task was finding an Air B&B type of accommodation in Medellin. After waiting an hour – there are only four computers available and one has to wait – I gave up as it was so slow. I Decided to just find a hotel near the airport for the first night and organize something in the city center via wi-fi.
Cuba is a delightful country, which oozes old world charm. In 1978 I was there on a holiday – on my Canadian passport – and so much has stayed the same. The villas, however, are in even more need of repair, the old cars are still running, being stuck together with snare wire and a bit of chewing gum.
The contradiction of introducing 21st century technology will definitely change that. For the better or the worst is yet to be decided. And with the Americans in control, I do have reservations about how the situation will develop.