Arriving to Cuba!
Tracy E. Hill, Ph.D.
After missing the connecting flight from EWR to MIA due to an unexpected snow squall in the North East, I arrive at HAV five hours late, but with a happy Cuban taxicano. He speaks no English and I speak little Spanish but together we manage to understand each other. As he drives me from the airport to my Airbnb stay outside of Old Havana, he plays the local music on his radio and turns it down every once in a while, to educate me on the history of Cuba’s sites passing us by. We pull up to the Airbnb house and it looks exactly as pictured on the website. It appears that I’m where I’m supposed to be, and it seems nothing short of a miracle. A short 25 minute cab ride sets me back $35 US. I am perplexed thinking that Cuba would be an inexpensive country to visit. How that thought would come back to haunt me the very next day.
Later during the trip, I met a young man who is a student at the University of Havana (Universidad de Habana). He eloquently explained to me that although his father is a lawyer, the taxicab drivers in Cuba make more money than lawyers and doctors. How could this be I wondered aghast? As the young man told me, taxis are owned by the government. Drivers are paid on average $60 US per hour whereas lawyers earn that salary in an entire month. The typical ride to or from the airport was a $35 cab fare from the most common areas surrounding the airport. Imagine a taxi doing this only five times a day. That’s more than $5,000 per month which is way above a doctor’s $45/month salary in Cuba. Taxicab drivers, the one percenters. Hmmm.
Tired, hungry and feeling dirty from a full day of battling snow, waiting and travel; I knock on the imposing door to Villa Costa Habanera. A warm smile and welcoming woman answers the door to let me in. She hugs me and takes me upstairs to my home away from home during my stay in Havana.
A gorgeous room with windows on two walls and ceilings at least 25’ tall embrace me. The queen size bed is made up with all white sheets, an intricate patterned white blanket and several pillows with freshly pressed white cases. I lay down on top to breathe and relax.
I’ve made it to Cuba. Tomorrow, I will wake up in a Communist country on my 57th birthday.