Slow dial-up access is $4.50 an hour at government-licensed locations, but you can’t use your laptop. It goes up to $10 an hour for high-speed in five-star hotels where there is no actual workspace and people have to balance their computers precariously on their knees. But you can submit documents for printed materials for 50 cents per page.
So getting my escape ticket to Medellín, Columbia, where they have free wi-fi everywhere, rivaled a Charlie Chaplin movie. It took two days to find a place to reserve the ticket. The reservation was confirmed, but for some reason they were unable to process the credit card details. Very good, too, since I had managed to book another ticket. I didn’t confirm the first one within 24 hours, so it was cancelled.
The confirmation was sent to my email address and I had to go to the hotel to have it printed. Penalty fee. The address was the longest I had ever seen and I made a mistake so I had to ask the woman who worked there to write it down for me.
With my confirmed ticket in my warm little hand I felt safer and more secure. But this was Cuba and one can never take anything for granted.
For example, when I arrived at Cubana de Aviación (CDA), after a 24-hour delay in Madrid, none of my bags showed up on the conveyor belt. There was a group of about 25 people all yelling and pushing and shoving a poor official huddled behind a glass wall who was trying to settle grievances. I wonder if he got hazard pay since Latinos don’t beat around the bush.
A European who spoke Spanish told me that since the flight had been duplicated, they had fixed another plane that was going via Caracas. Since it was a longer flight, the CDA people had convinced several passengers, including her and her partner, to take that route because it was “safer.” The suitcases did not make the connecting flight so they were in Venezuela.
Late the next morning, the private house where I was staying received a call saying that my bags were at the airport. They were dirty and covered in some kind of white powder. But at least they were in Havana. It took three hours and a $30 taxi fare to get them back.
The next task was to find a type of Air B&B accommodation in Medellin. After waiting an hour, there are only four computers available and one has to wait, I gave up because it was so slow. I decided to find a hotel near the airport to spend the first night and organize something in the city center via wi-fi.
Cuba is a charming country, oozing old world charm. I was there on vacation in 1978, on my Canadian passport, and much has remained the same. The villas, however, need even more repairs, the old cars still run, they are glued together with wire and a bit of gum.
The contradiction of introducing 21st century technology will definitely change that. The best or the worst is yet to be decided. And with the Americans in charge, I have my reservations about how the situation will play out.