The next morning I had breakfast with the Australians back at the bar I helped close down the previous night. I had a toasted ham & cheese sandwich, coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice for $4. It took 45 minutes for them to serve the sandwich.
The plan was for us to meet the Americans in front of Sandra’s building at noon, and from there, head off to the beach in cabs. Actually, it wasn’t a plan so much as it was an understanding. The difference being that ‘plans’ take 37 minutes to come together and ‘understandings’ simply happen, almost by fate.
This was indeed fated to be a great day. Ten of us fit into three cabs and the drive lasted about 25 minutes. I was in the third cab with Casey and Casey. American Casey had to get money for the trip. We stopped at a couple of places before winding up at the National Hotel where he was able to get money. Conveniently, American Casey had an Australian bank account (as did Australian Casey coincidentally). American credit cards do not work in Cuba, hence the need for an international one.
In general, it’s best to come to Cuba with all the cash you’ll ever need for the duration of the trip. There are no ATMs here, and even the currency exchanges are sketchy. The system only works intermittently, and definitely not in any emergency (another fate). Soon we were off and met up with the others, who were already starting on their first round of Mojitos.
My first swim in the Caribbean Sea was memorable. As with the Black Sea last summer, the sensation of swimming uphill was something that took some getting used to. The waves were waaaaaay bigger than anything a prairie lake could ever offer, and of course, the water was salty. Actually, that’s not quite an accurate statement. Waves do get that big on the prairies, but if you’re on the water when that happens, you’re probably about to have a really bad day.
Mojitos and Bucaneros (beer) assaulted us from every angle and the sun hit us even harder. Laughs came in bunches. Memories blurred. Soon we were stupid drunk. At one point Eric was overheard saying, “I think the English ‘Office’ is funny, but the British one is even better.” We got to be pretty tight as a group and started talking about meeting up somewhere in the world a year from now. Maybe it was the booze talking, but that still seems like a pretty good idea to me.
Later that evening, I woke up from an afternoon siesta. I felt like I was stuck walking through molasses in slow motion while the world whizzed by me. I think I might even have still been drunk. Sandra and I made our way over to Habana Libre, looking to meet up with the others. We had something to eat, but we couldn’t find anyone. Just as well, I really wasn’t up for another night of intoxicating international relations. Someone stole my second wind and its best not to argue with the body when it screams rest.