Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild

Santiago de Cuba – New Year’s Eve

Gunnhild had a cold, so we continued with our lazy mornings on the balcony. It was clear that New Year’s Eve was coming up, because the streets were full of people with shopping bags, cakes and live pigs. The neighbor was very busy selling vegetables, and the ones who didn’t bring their own bags had to make bundles of their t-shirts or similar. We had a few drops of rain in the morning, but that didn’t seem to bother anyone. The cheapest and most popular “taxis” in town are motorcycles, and it was quite impressive to see ladies in skirts on the back of a motorcycle, with a large cake in one hand and an umbrella in the other. It might actually be better than the ones carrying cakes around in the sun for hours though. A man with a donkey and a carriage stopped by the sidewalk, and obviously spent too long visiting a friend. The donkey got bored and started walking around in the middle of the street. There are hardly any cars here, so the neighbors just laughed and continued what they were doing. As the morning went by it was less shopping and more talking, hugging and laughing in the street. Two guys walked by with a chair and tried to sell it to us for 50 CUC. I don’t think they really wanted to sell it.

After a late breakfast we went shopping again. Since pretty much everything was closed yesterday, we were hoping for better luck today. And we found most of what we were looking for: Ice cube trays, more rum, more coke, baseballs for the kids, lozenges for Gunnhild’s throat, and on the way back we also managed to buy some plastic glasses from a street bar. When we got back to the casa a German guy and his girlfriend (who we met briefly when we arrived) were back, and occupied the balcony, so we moved down to the porch. The owner brought chairs and offered us a taste of his 15 year old Metusalem rum. Very good! Yalissy offered us cake, but we were still full from breakfast, so we passed. From the porch it was a lot easier to talk to the neighbors, and we shared our rum with several of them and with some people just passing by as well. We also gave one of the baseballs we bought to the kids.

We went back to Paladar Salón Tropical for dinner. We stopped by earlier before they opened, but had some communication problems with the ones who were there, so we were not sure if we would get a table or not. We got there a bit early, so even though they were fully booked we got a table inside. They had a special menu this evening, and we of course wanted to try the special holiday dishes, so we ordered pork and turkey. It turned out that the pork was not ready until a bit later, so we changed our order to rabbit, which we had never seen on a menu in Cuba before. We ordered a bottle of red wine, and had an amazing dinner. This paladar is really good!

Back at the casa we continued to share rum with the neighbors. We were told that New Year’s eve is normally a family event for most Cubans, so we planned to go to Ava Victoriano Garzón where we were sure that there would be people out. But free rum obviously worked fine, and when we opened bottle number two the neighbor across the street started to place chairs in the street. He played music on a small stereo inside, and we were invited in for some dancing. The roof of this house was damaged by hurricane Sandy, so we were actually dancing under the stars even if we were inside. More people stopped by, and we ran out of plastic glasses, but our neighbor had more (used, washed and saved). A neighbor further down the street had better speakers, so he took over the music and played for the entire street. People realised that we had bought a lot of rum and was sharing it all, so we didn’t have to ask anymore. It all turned in to one big street party with speaking Spanish, lots of laughter, dancing in the street and happy kids running around with their new flashlights. We showed them how they could put them on a string and swing them around as “firework”. One man brought the left overs from their pork dinner and one had a bottle of champagne for midnight. We hugged and kissed a lot of people and wished everyone “Feliz Año Nuevo”! The kids got coke and the shy little girl next door was not so shy anymore and loved sitting on Fredrik’s lap. The adults and the young kids left the party at around 1 am, and suddenly we were surronded by the older kids who had been hanging out across the street all night. They really wanted to talk to us, but we didn’t understand everything they were trying to say. So we got our English-Spanish phrase book, and they were all immersed. We had given one to Yalissy earlier that day, but we still had one extra. And when kids are this eager to learn at 1 am on New Year’s eve, there was no doubt that they should have it. We helped them for a while with the pronunciation, but went to bed before it got too late. What a way to celebrate the new year!!!