Arriving | Havana, Cuba | 23rd August
Travel Latin America Cuba Havana, Cuba

There was definitely more than a single moment of doubt as the taxi driver dropped me off at the hostel in Havana. Without the context of having seen the whole city, the street looked like the dodgiest place on earth. In any other city, I wouldn’t have opened the car door.

After a brief walk along the promenade, I sat down at a sidewalk cafe and ordered up a mojito. A minute later, I was joined at my table by 3 locals, eager to talk about their politics, lifestyles, work and leisure. Of course, the drinks were on me.

This was the friendly “scam” that played out again and again: “Hey tourist, welcome to Cuba. I’ll be your friend and guide for the night if you buy me a drink, because I’m dirt poor and live in a communist country”. It’s worthwhile to take part at least once, as I had some really lively debate and conversation with them, in which they gave me candid opinions of the recent changes happening in Cuba as well as details of their daily lives. They also took me to a local club that I would never have been able to find myself, where the dancefloor came alive with salsa.

Monthly food ration books, pathetically low state salaries, shortages of basic supplies - everything you read about Cuba hits hard when you come face to face with people living the reality. And yet Cubans have a kind of steely resolve to them, steadfast in their course and unwilling to resort to crime, begging and anarchy to improve their condition. The first of many contradictions - why, in a country so desperately in need of a revolution, where revolution is glamorised and celebrated everywhere, does nobody trigger the next one?