This is from our last morning in Havana and Cuba. We took a taxi to Fusterland. Cuban artist, Jose Fuster, pays homage to Gaudi and Picasso in developing this collection of mosaic statues and murals. Now all his neighbors have got into the act and decorated their roofs, fences, balconies and everything. Even when the houses are very basic they are a riot of colour. So symbolic of Cuba. So sorry to be going home.
Back in Havana for our last few days. Yesterday we paid for a tour of Old Havana but it was worth every peso. We gained much more than just information about the city. Wages in Cuba are between $US 15-25 per month. The goal is to increase this to $US300 per month to provide a comfortable living wage. A bottle of beer costs $US 2 so Cubans prefer rum – ‘more efficient’ apparently.
Workers pay no tax and have a monthly subsidized food entitlement (‘ration book’) (e.g. 7 eggs per person per month). Private entrepreneurs (taxis, casa particulares (Airbnb, restaurants) pay hefty license fees and they pay regardless of how much or little they earn. It’s certainly an incentive to work hard.
There are three levels of shops- the ‘bodega’ which is a small convenience store selling the basic food entitlement, markets and CUCs for alcohol, electronics, cooking oil etc.
Cruise ships are coming in at a rate of 2-3 per week and they want more because they believe it will be good for the economy. The tourism goal was achieved by November this year. The US tourists are already here. Hopefully they can manage this tourism/capitalism without an increase in inequality.
Paul, with all his travel experience, can hardly believe how stupid he is. He was pick-pocketed on a Metro train in Prague on the weekend almost exactly ten years after his previous experience by a gang that used the identical modus operandi.
He was standing near the door waiting to get off as the train pulled into the station. The first guy used his foot to stop the doors opening. Everyone (including him) panicked because we couldn’t get off and it looked like the train was about to leave. Paul reached up to force the doors open. The second guy who was behind him grabbed his wallet and pushed him out the door which the first guy had suddenly let open. So he was left on the platform and the two guys and my wallet were still in the train as the doors closed.
Off they went, with him running down the platform banging on the door of the train. Not good, but very common in Prague.
A fabulous evening cruising in the waters around Woods Hole, MA, with great food and wonderful people. The water was like glass, the weather mild and slightly foggy. No wind. The photo of the sunset, the mansion, the horses and the sailboat sums hit up perfectly.
Summer in the U.S. is so different. People who have come to the Cape for summer ever year since they were kids stand in the water with THEIR kids, chatting away instead of trying to find an unoccupied patch of sand, attacking the surf or sheltering in the shade of umbrellas. Labour day signals the end of summer and the start of school and cool nights. It’s as if winter is already here, psychologically if not in reality. Definitely summer is over.