Posted by Jasmine Howey on Nov 14, 2017
“Almost 6 weeks in the USA and then 8 days in Cuba” was my itinerary as I left New Zealand to fly via San Francisco to Sacramento on 22 September.
Old friends Val and Gene met me and I soon felt at ease in their home in the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. Val and I had been PE College room-mates back in the late 50s. We decided on a “Girls Road trip” and soon took off for beautiful Lake Tahoe. All too soon it was back to San Francisco to meet up with the other 15 members of the Wellington Friendship Force Club (FF) - including Christine.
The next 4 weeks flew past as we were hosted by FF clubs in Long Island, New York; Washington, North Carolina; and Sarasota, Florida. All clubs had organised wonderful programmes to interest and entertain us. Our hosts were all extremely welcoming and anxious for us to see and do the most interesting things in their Districts.
In between these hostings we had breaks in New York, Washington DC and Miami, in all of which we gave the Big Red Buses quite a lot of support!
All too soon it was time to catch our flight from Miami to Havana. The Visa could only be applied for at the airport where we found that in addition to the expected $US50 fee, there was a $US50 “handling fee”!
We were met in Havana by a representative of Intrepid Tours (one of the few companies running tours in this country of strict control.) I do not wish to record my observations on paper but am happy to discuss with anyone interested. Suffice to say that we found the Cuban people absolutely delightful and always felt completely safe.
The standard of living for the ordinary residents can be best described as a 3rd-World but we were “Home-Hosted” in each of the 4 places we stayed in very clean well-appointed bedrooms all with ensuites. All families were very eager to please. They provided our Breakfasts, always with a generous helping of tropical fruits, various breads and the question “you like your eggs boiled, poached, scrambled or fried”?
I learnt a great deal about Cuba as we travelled some 1,500kms in our luxury coach and listened to our highly educated and skilled guide, but many questions remain unanswered. I found it a land of Contrasts and Contradictions.
The photos will probably give a better picture than words can possibly do:
1) This is a Tobacco leaf drying store
2) The only transport to work - this must have been a rich farmer to have a tractor!
3) Only kidding - the smell was enough to put me off!!