Sunday, September 26, 2010

trip to Matanzas

My trip to Matanzas was an adventure.

Our group took two micros to Matanzas, which is less than two hours from Havana. There's a new museum there called the El Museo del Ruta del Esclavo, or the Museum of the Slave Route. Anyway, it's located in this fortification that was constructed to guard the port, and then eventually became a prison.

The exhibit was nice. They had some artifacts from the governor's residence (the location of the museum, safe inside the walls of the fort) including some pottery and things like that. The next room had a collection of models of the African gods, or how they are represented in Afro-cuban dance. They had a lot of cool drums and the outfits were really interesting. Each god pertains to some theme, and the dress somehow reflects that.

After going through the exhibit we got a tour of the fort. The dungeons were pretty dark and scary. I can't imagine being a prisoner there. They said it was used until 1980 or so. I'm curious what kind of prisoners were put there. Maybe political ones? I wouldn't put it past them.

Then a group of kids came and showed us a presentation of African dance. It was crazy seeing these little kids, some looked as young as 4 or 5, doing all the moves so fluidly. They did most of the moves that we've been learning at ISA in our folkloric dance class. If only we had been born Cuban. Then we would've been moving like that our whole lives.

After the amazing show we drove to Varadero, a town nearby that has the most beautiful beaches. The water was so clear and light blue. It was the most beautiful beach. The water was just the right temperature, but really salty. And the air was breezy and warm. So nice! And the chocolate ice cream cone for fifty cents. Perfect.

We left the beach and I got dropped off in Matanzas again, to meet up with Alejandro. I had the phone number of his friend Ariel, and was going to call and get directions to Ariel's house. We met up soon after, and Ariel made dinner for us. He was such a good cook. And he has this really great apartment--it's New York small, but so functional. Everything has its place, very neat and tidy. But so loud! It's on a corner on the busiest street in town. The traffic was so loud that it sounded like I was outside on the street. When we woke up I put in ear plugs to try and sleep more and it was still a dull roar.

Anyway, we had a fun night. We went out to a gay club and danced literally until 4 when the place closed. This is totally normal, too. Everyone stayed until it closed. There was supposed to be a singer that night, but their car broke down. Instead, terrible karaoke arrangements. Imagine the worst MIDI you've ever heard, and then add terrible off-key singers. All at ear-blasting volume.

We woke up and Ariel cooked an amazing lunch. He uses this crock-pot to cook chicken, and it was the richest tasting thing I've ever had. Cooked with the skin on, so that's what gives it all the fat and flavor. I forgot to mention the most amazing flan we had the night before. Gosh, I ate so well in Matanzas.

Getting back to Havana proved to be the adventurous part of the adventure. Normally buses stop on the side of the road, so we waited and waited. An hour passed, and no luck. So we went to the bus station. Next bus is in two hours. So we waited and waited. Not enough seats on the bus. Walked back to the hitch-hike location. Waited another hour. Finally someone stopped. At this point it was 9:15 and we had been waiting four hours!!!

So we got a ride back to Havana in this Land Rover that had two benches in the back where we sat facing each other. I felt like I was some sort of outlaw, flying through the night in back of this truck with 8 other people. Up and down, bumpety-bumpety. For almost two hours on this little bench. But it was exciting as hell.

We got a deal on the ride. We paid 5 CUC for both of us. Everyone else paid 5 each. The driver told us to pay after everyone else so the others wouldn't know. Alejandro scribbled me a note saying not to speak English because they might try to get more money out of me. So I was silent.

We called the house before we left to tell them to save me some dinner. So when I got back at 11:15, exhausted and hungry, I was SO happy to get fed. The security guard in the back of the house heated up my dinner, and everything was delicious and he was so nice to serve me. It was nice to be home.

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