. . . . It was a most brilliant trip, but a very hard trip, starting with the schedule which had built in a day of recovery from the travel day itself for me, which never happened due to the storm Thursday (the 4th, when we were scheduled to leave) delaying our departure for a day. This happened to all of us Postmamboist Institute Travelers who are in New York state and city, which were 8, including Our Fearless Jefe, and myself.
The other Travelers, from other parts of the country where the storm wasn't happening, got to Havana on the 4th, even R, in New Orleans, whose flight was delayed due to the plan's being de-iced. (New Orleans, like Miami, Mobile and other parts of the Gulf got snow from this storm as well.) As all the other flights to Havana were delayed too, this group managed to arrive in Havana's José Marti Airport together, where they were met by members of Postmambo's Cuban ground crew, and thus had all the first day events as scheduled, even without el Vaquero -- though they had to buy visas to enter Cuba, as el V had them, and he wasn't there.
Eight of we NYers departed on Friday then, (the 5th ) getting up at 5 AM in 6 degrees, and heading to JFK, which was a shambles. As it turned out, our 8th NYC Traveler couldn't get a flight to Havana until Saturday -- partly due to two planes colliding wings on the runway and everything getting set back again. She was met on the 6th by Postmambo Cubans (she speaks Spanish, which helped a lot), taken to dinner, given a tour of Havana, and then driven the next day to meet us in Santa Clara, quite far from Havana.
The full story of what has happened at JFK, and which has made air travel a shambles for at least two weeks -- even when we returned on the 14th -- is here on Slate dot com.
Everything That Went Wrong After the Bomb Cyclone Hit JFK Airport
“People were screaming, ‘Give me the application, I’ll become a flight attendant!’ ”
Under the circumstances, we New York Travelers -- S, C, M, D, J, el V and I got off easy. The second S -- well, she didn't get off easy, but she did get out, finally and join us. At least she was at home, and not having to camp out in JFK -- which doesn't sell diapers anywhere, a previous Postmambo traveler told me, who was there for two days, trying to get to Paris. There were a LOT of babies in JFK . . . .
S2 remained a trooper through it all: trick knee, etc. Cuba is filled with the kindest people you will ever meet. Moreover, their religions don't see disabilities as curses but as gifts of the orishas. They loved S2. Everywhere we went, good looking young Cuban men danced with her, just as long as she wanted to dance -- S2 loves to dance. Everyone loved conversing with her. She made Cuban friends wherever she went.
This may have been the largest number of Postmambo Travelers on a single tour of professionals who were not musicians, though we did have a professional musician who is also a professional DJ (LCD Sound System) and another pro DJ. with advanced degrees in anything from anthropology to law to finance -- all of whom adore music and are experienced travelers. There was a husband-wife with us who could dance Cuban styles fabulously.
And, as per usual, about half way through the trip, I fell in love with everybody on the bus.
|Most of of Cuban ground crew. On the far right is Yosvani, our incredible bus driver. At one point he even herded cattle with our bus!
Again, we had the best bus driver, and the Cuban ground crew performed above and beyond.
We were constantly moving and there wasn't even enough time for me to take the kind of notes I usually do. To make up for it I took far more photos than I usually do, which I haven't begun to sort through. There was no time to go online either, though I had my little travel laptop and wifi was available. Nobody else went online either.
However, no internet meant we didn't have to see, hear or speak of the unspeakable for this whole time, and all that space that is increasingly taken up by the sheer insanity of this nation, squeezing intelligence sut, got to be opened up, cleaned and breathe fresh air. It helps one to keep going, all right. But I crashed in every way, even before I got home again. The home travel day was excruciating -- and Ft. Lauderdale, where we had to change flights and terminals, was still a wreck, on the 14th. JFK didn't look so good either. The married couple I mentioned above didn't get their baggage, though it did get to Ft. Lauderdale, which we know because we had to re-enter our luggage along with ourselves at passport control to get back into the country.
Anyway, many adventures -- and -- you will not believe this, many excellent meals, of food I'd never think I'd eat in Cuba, in places in Cuba where I never thought even a minimally decent meal would be be had. Lamb! beautifully prepared, presented and served, for instance, in Cienfuegos. How did that happen? This trip is the only one on which I didn't lose weight. Partly from eating so well, but also because it's the least walking on any Cuba trip ever. It was sitting, sitting, sitting, for hours and hours and hours on the bus, and then in restaurants, and most of all at the music events of which there were always at least 3 a day, and often more than that.
Still, things went so well! The Travelers were thrilled. Even if things went wrong, which one has to expect will happen, due to weather, humans and Cuba, el Jefe and the ground crew resolved them seemingly effortlessly, and the Travelers were kept comfortable -- or at least a comfortable as possible in the circumstances.
The weather in Cuba was quite unpleasant for Cuba, due to the storms and weather disturbances in the US. What happens in el Norte always impacts Cuba, at least on the northern, Atlantic side. Havana is only 90 miles from Miami and not that much further from New Orleans -- and both Miami and New Orleans got snow from that storm in the first week of January. As it stayed cold here too, it was cold on the north side of Cuba, relatively speaking. The people in Havana where it was windy, rainy and down in the 60's in the daytime wore parkas (those who have them) and were certain the end of the world had arrived. The Caribbean, southern side, was, of course, exquisitely warm and sunny, exactly what one wants when NYC is sitting at 8°.
Nor were there any whiners or hysterics. This has been the case with all the postmamboist trips, which probably explains why I fall in love with the Travelers.
Almost all of us are not group kinds people. But we effectively function as a group quickly. Ya, without traveling with a person, in situations in which things can't always be predicted, including the weather, that person is not known.
We were in Central Cuba, the Cuba least visited by tourists, and with the largest population of truly poor people, because this is the agricultural heartland of Cuba: cattle, chicken (for the eggs principally -- they import a lot of their chicken), pigs, goats, sheep, rice and other cereals -- and, of course, like everywhere in Cuba, sugar cane.
Sugar labor was always black i.e. slave labor, so these are the people who started off already far behind everyone else when the Revolution came -- and they supported it almost to every single person. But they're still, as a group, not achieving the equality of white Cubans.
And now, we see the Russian billionaires' effect from the last year or so down there in lovely, Caribbean Trinidad -- their yachts are filling the bay of Cienfuegos too. The Casa in which we stayed our one night in Havana was having an elevator installed in the building -- the elevator parts and design are Russian, as is most of the agricultural machinery. This wasn't the case even up to 2016. As el V and I have been saying, the unspeakable has handed off Cuba to Putin and Russia by trying to erase what Obama achieved in the reconciliation of the US and Cuba.
Thank goodness the the JetBlue flight from Ft Lauderdale to JFK had a movie channel and it played that truly stupid movie, Victoria and Abdul. My brain power was below even that level, and the film lasted the length of the flight, ending in time for me go to the bathroom and ready myself for descent. Thank goodness we had such a strong cold wind blowing behind us to shorten the flight. Thank goodness el V had booked me extra leg room and the aisle seat.
Because -- the flight out of Lauderdale to NY was filled with many passengers who are not like Postmambo Travelers, and their horrible children who were too old to be screaming like that. For reasons unfathomable to me, they all wore pink 'leisure wear' that had PINK written all over in black felt or something. Next to me was a person who flowed into my seat. She was a nice passenger though, who, when she kept shutting off my tv with her arm, leaned forward most of the flight. There were also the HUGE football players on this flight, one of whom was carrying a trophy that was as tall and wide as a six year old child. Plus a large contingent of Jewish Orthodox males and their male children who put up fusses about everything, including sitting next to strangers. So sleeping on the flight was out of the question. There wasn't a single seat that wasn't filled.
El V remained behind to do accounting and attend Havana's Jazz Fest and do other business. He also arranged for a big Postmambo Event later this year. He had a wonderful time. He was able to decompress from herding so many people, putting out so many fires and translating all the time.
I was so glad to be back. It was something like 18 degrees and blowing hard when B picked D and me up at JFK to bring us home. The wind was freezing. Yet, I was so happy! Or as happy as anyone in my glazed state could be. Every bit of me hurt and had been hurting for some time, and stayed hurting even at home. I worked out most of it, except for the lower back -- then came down with the muscle aches of the flu.
The first 10 days back I slept most of the time, made chicken-chili-tortilla soup -- no appetite for anything else. (Now with the flu still have appetite for nothing else) Did the alps of laundry. I grazed in James Lee Burke's maybe final novel, Robicheaux, soon shut off the lights and went to sleep instead. There was also a day in there in which it either snowed or rained freezing rain all day and night. Fortunately, I had prepared for something like this before we left. I had everything I needed, including milk in those long shelf-life cartons, so I never even left the apartment until Thursday (returned on a Sunday night). I've drunk gallons of tea, herbal and oolong and green.
If / when I go back to Cuba, I am NOT riding in a bus and rushing from one event and place to another. I'm staying put and will be there only 4 days maximum!
And I think this is going to happen, sooner than expected . . . . Some incredible things are in the works.