With the coronavirus pandemic bringing vacation world travel to a virtual halt, the only way currently for most Americans to visit foreign lands is to watch travel destination videos, surf the internet, or derive vicarious pleasure from the travel writings of others. Here, over the next few days, I will be posting journal entries I composed when my wife and I traveled to Cuba in 2011. This is the 2nd post. I hope you enjoy and I’m looking to going back to Cuba someday.
February 10 2011
Dateline: Miami, Florida
I woke up early this morning, fueled by pre-trip energy and filled with questions. Would Cuba live up to my 50 years of dreams? What would daily life really be like on the embargo-impacted island? Could I possibly run into Fidel Castro? How would I survive for 10 days without my iPhone and iPad?
During the months of preparing for the trip, National Geographic had sent us lots of information. Several times their letters and emails had stressed that you couldn’t bring any devices into Cuba with GPS. Such devices would be confiscated at the Havana airport and might, or might not, be returned to you on your departure. I considered disregarding the warnings, but I decided against it. I didn’t want Judy to spend 10 days saying I told you so. So I was going to Cuba with only my Kindle and Judy’s antiquated cell phone for electronic comfort.
As I looked at the 2 bags Judy had packed 2 days earlier, I reviewed the preparations we had made, some of them based on our previous traveling experiences and others specifically designed for this special journey.
Judy had changed our U. S. dollars into Canadian money, which was cheaper to exchange in Cuba. National Geographic had sent us a lengthy reading list and we had divided up the reading. Judy had read three books, including Trading with the Enemy: A Yankee’s Travels Through Castro’s Cuba written by Tom Miller, who was to be one of our three guides in Cuba; another about an American woman living in Havana; and a biography of Fidel Castro, written by a friend of a friend.
For my part, I had also read three suggested books on Cuba, re-read Ernest Hemingway’s classic The Old Man and Sea (since we were going to visit at least two Hemingway sites), and had seven more Cuban titles on my Kindle. I also had packed two books, the one by Miller which I was planning to read on the trip, and the 2nd edition of National Geographic Cuba, a guidebook which we had received free in one of our multiple mailings. Judy had created an emergency medical kit since we had been warned that many, if not most items, could be in short supply in Cuba. We each made 1 major purchase: a fashionable light-weight black sweater for Judy in case of any chilly Cuban nights and a new small orange Olympic carry-on bag for me.
After weighing our two mid-size suitcases and our two carry-ons one more time with the new suitcase scale we had purchased (together both suitcase and carry-on could not exceed 44 pounds), it was time to hit the road.
Although Cuba was foremost on our minds, there was going to be an additional benefit to our stay-over in Miami. I would get a chance to meet up with one of my former students, Scott Sayre, whom I had not seen in 21 years. Scott and his long-time partner Jeff Wetter, whom he planned to marry later this year, were also staying overnight in Miami prior to a cruise in the Caribbean. We made plans on Facebook to have lunch and a catch-up afternoon. Arriving in Miami after an uneventful flight from DC, we were able to meet up with Scott and Jeff. Four hours and one lunch later (a tasty Cuban sandwich for me), we boarded shuttles for our respective hotels.
For us, it was the Miami Airport Marriott, where we were to meet our fellow travelers tomorrow morning for the short shuttle ride back to the airport. Since we had to be at the airport by 7 a.m., we made it a really early night, turning in right after watching Fringe. Knowing all I wanted to do in Cuba, I figured it might be the last full night’s sleep for a week-and-a-half.
To follow our Cuban trip in chronological order