august 21, 1 am
Today we began to settle in. First we had a meeting to go over the "rules" I unpacked after breakfast, then we went on a little tour of the neighborhood in small groups. We went to the "cadeca" and the "agro." The cadeca is where you change money. I gave them American dollars and got some of it in moneda nacional (the traditional cuban peso) and part of it in CUC (convertible pesos, originally designed for tourist use and now circulating among lots of folks). The agro is a farmer's market and there was lots of fresh produce. After checking the map I'm starting to get an idea of north/south/east/west. The streets are set up numerically and alphabetically, so I'll figure it out soon.
After lunch and the tour, we took a trip to the beach! We all got in the mercedes vans again and traveled about 30-40 minutes to the beach. They were incredibly crowded, saturday on a hot summer day. Lots of buses in the parking lot. Maya rented a little picnic table with an umbrella made of husks or straw or something else. The water was incredibly warm, very clear (you could make out your feet), and the sun and sky were gorgeous. We had a really fun time, and now I hope to go back as often as we can. The cristal is a good light beer that we had there. The bucanero is a more full bodied beer and equally popular it seems.
A few words I learned at the beach: ako (disgusting) which is short for asceroso. Reason I learned this is that there were little pieces of shit floating around and we kept being chased by them. Lots of babies, so I guess it happens. Actually come to think of it, probably larger than baby size...but so many people, it's bound to happen. Luckily no contact!
After three hours roasting and swimming on the beach, we got in the vans to head home and I passed out shortly because the beach really makes you tired. We got home and had a nice dinner, rice, beans, pork that was really tender and had this great sauce on it, the usual cucumber green bean platter, bread and butter, and for dessert, arroz con leche (rice pudding) that was too sweet but of course, delicious. Excited to gain some weight. Maybe I'll bulk up? Wishful thinking. But after going to the beach, maybe the cuban men will entice me to gain some physique. Plenty of good bods, and they're very happy to show it off.
After dinner we took a break and then had some rum and coke in the bar and played a drinking game. All of us together, pretty fun! But after we left the bar we headed to the malecón again, this time with a few cuban friends who were close with the girls who came here last year from sarah lawrence. They're cute and very nice and smiley. And they took care of us when we went to the malecón, where there were hundreds of people. A huge crowd, drawn by the entertainment. Sometimes a DJ would play American music we knew. For a while, though, there was great live music. Traditional afro-cuban, I think, with trumpets, piano, guitar, voice, etc. Everyone tipsy, dancing, the cuban boys who came with us were GREAT dancers (I really have to watch and learn). MIchelle of course looked so beautiful and so natural dancing with them, and impressed them all. Kayleigh also met a very cute guy and had a fun time dancing. Over all, GREAT first night out unchaperoned. Felt very safe. I put my wallet inside my shorts as a precaution. We actually stood next to the police. There always seem to be awkward older cuban men watching, and sometimes they danced with us. And then we'd save each other from them after a while. For a second, there was a stampede towards us and I quickly grabbed whoever was standing around me and ran. But it was just a little disruption and we only had to run like 15 feet away to be safe. There was a fight, and the police must've broken it up very quickly--couldn't see it, though.
Love to feel the rhythms in my steps, or mis pasos. I was pulling out a lot of tap stuff, because Kelly Southall taught us cha cha and other vaguely latin looking things. I think my goal is to learn how to dance with partner and feel very comfortable. And it's so sexy!