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One of our cab drivers used to be an engineer, but he makes more money driving tourists around in his classic 1957 Chevrolet. At our casa particular in Caleton, Playa Larga, at the Bay of Pigs, the manager on-site was Jorge, a chemist from Havana who takes turns caring for the guesthouse on the beach with the rest of his family. In the evenings, he fixed us cocktails and chatted, or read his Kindle. They brought in dancer friends from Havana to put on a private dance show for us, and we all partied until we dropped.

I found all these guesthouses on Tripadvisor.com, and then looked up their information on other websites, too, I also found a small tour company called Nosotros Cubaneamos, run by a woman named Geikis, She’s a dermatologist who moonlights running a tour business, She hooked us up with English-speaking tour guides, who took us around the city and were tons of fun, for $40-$60 per day total, Not per person, I’d use them again in a heartbeat, Here’s the thing: Yes, Cuba has gorgeous beaches, architecture and such, But its people are its gemstones, There’s not much English spoken, so if you don’t speak any Spanish, you need to be flexible and have a where to buy ballet shoes for adults sense of humor..

I can only tell you that every time we left a guesthouse, or said goodbye to one of our guides, we felt like we were leaving our new best friends. And you’re not going to get that if you go on a package tour. Relax, you’re in Cuba. Here’s another tip: To enjoy Cuba, you need to relax and do what the locals do: Shrug a lot and say with a sigh, “It’s Cuba.”. Taxi driver doesn’t show up to pick you up at the Havana airport, even though you arranged it in advance? P’shaw, it’s Cuba. Just hire another cab to get you into town.

Your tour guide can’t come because her moving van never showed up? She’ll send someone else, Shake it off, It’s Cuba, You’ve asked the landlady at your guesthouse for where to buy ballet shoes for adults fresh towels for two days and they never appear? Shrug, Until you find she’s stacked 12 of them inside an antique cabinet that you’d never even considered opening, Si, It’s Cuba, You walk for an hour in sweltering afternoon heat to get to the only place to change money in town, only to find it closed early for no apparent reason..

The government of Cuba operates money exchanges called CADECAs, which are the only places you can change your foreign currency for tourist-convertible Cuban pesos. These are called CUCs, pronounced “kooks,” which is appropriate, because their use is so kooky they are being slowly phased out. Meanwhile, we can’t use any money at all except CUCs to buy anything. And my supply is getting perilously low. A sweet little old lady comes out of her house next door. “They are closed,” she says politely in Spanish, with a smile. “They are open until 6.”.

“It’s only 3:30,” I point out to her, in my bad tourist Spanish, She repeats that they close at 6, I repeat that it’s only 3:30, Ah, well, she just shrugs, After all, it’s Cuba, Then, she perks up, There’s another exchange place around the corner that we can use, that never appeared in where to buy ballet shoes for adults any guidebook or on a tourist map, We head over there, It’s open and the line is only four people deep, which in Cuba is something of a miracle, Probably because it seems to be a secret, I get to the front of the counter, I want to exchange $1,000 for Cuban convertible pesos to last for the rest of our trip.“We only have 5-CUC notes available,” the cashier tells me, behind bulletproof glass, with an apologetic shrug, After commission, that would mean I’d be carrying around 181 bills in my money belt..

“How can you only have fives?” I ask her in Spanish, feeling frustrated. This is the only CADECA open today in Trinidad, even though it’s one of the most important tourist destinations on the island. I have to get Cuban pesos now, because we’re heading to a little town in the Bay of Pigs that definitely won’t have any place to change money. “It’s Cuba,” she says, and shrugs. So I collect 181 notes and shove them into my money belt, which no longer zips all the way and makes me look pregnant. At least we won’t starve to death. Luckily, I’m later able to change the small bills for people who were only able to get large bills when they changed their money.

Drink your daily rum, The good news is, rum is cheap, I drink a lot of it, Mojitos, Pina coladas, You name it, We drank it, Yes, I gained weight, I’m not sorry, One oddity of Cuba is that there’s very little Internet access, Most Cubans don’t have it in their homes, You must go to a public park and buy an Internet card to get connected to basic Wi-Fi, You can tell these parks, because everyone’s sitting around staring at where to buy ballet shoes for adults their phones, just like at home, I never bothered, It was nice to be unplugged, Even though I found out later our friends were worried about our radio silence..

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