One of the things we learned about in class was how Cuba had loved sticking tourists in all-inclusive
resorts. All-inclusive resorts that they explicitly forbade Cubans from staying in. That way, the tourists
would talk to the people at the front desk, they would talk to the waiter, they would talk to whoever
drove them there, and they would talk to the bartender. And that was it.
So I was rather surprised when we pulled up to the Playa Giron Hotel. While our teacher was checking
us in and the rest of us were waiting around, someone came by with orange juice. Then we went up to
the front desk to receive a pink wristband, like what you'd get at a waterpark. That bracelet got us
everything from dinner to free admission to a dance area. (I didn't go, but some people did.)
Dinner was a buffet. There were several kinds of meat, bread, salad, and soup. There was also decent-
tasting spaghetti and desserts. One of the drink options was a carbonated light green liquid that one of
my dinner companions said was cactus juice. If it is, and the juice is anything like cactus fruit, than I
have a newfound appreciation for my name.
The resort was on the beach, and it also had a swimming pool. I sat by the beach the next morning for a
while, but didn't swim. I was kind of terrified of sea urchins. The last time our teachers had stayed at
this resort, one of the students went out swimming. She kicked off against the break wall, and came
away with a sea urchin in each hand and foot. Apparently, the proper procedure was to wait until they
left on their own, which was a slow, painful process, and she walked gingerly for the rest of the trip.
No one got sea urchins embedded in them, so so far so good.
We all have mental lists of things we miss. (Things of the non-human variety, because there's no nice
way to say “I miss pickles more than my friend Bob,” even if it might happen to be true. They're
missed in different ways that it's not really possible to compare.) The top of my list is probably “my
music library.” I have 25 songs. 14 of them are Japanese rock. I keep waking up with a song stuck in
my head, and I can't listen to it, so I'm stuck with the 30-80% of the lyrics I remember. It's irritating.
Anyway, other people have American coffee listed pretty high on their list. I'm the opposite. I think I'll
miss Cuban coffee when I go back to the states. It's strong, and a lot of people saturate it with sugar, but
I like it fine plain.
This morning, after breakfast, we walked to the bank. Unlike at the other hotel, they could not
exchange money at the desk. So we had to walk about a block, wait for the exchange bureau to open,
and then wait in line for a bit. But it was OK, because we got to look at a small shop and talk with
I sometimes try speaking in Spanish, often with mixed results. Between their English and my guess at
cognates, I can have conversations, though they're not exactly smooth. Fortunately, certain things, like
buying jewelry, are simple. “Hola,” “Cuanto?” either knowing Spanish numbers or talking with
someone who knows English numbers and can tell you're an English-speaking tourist, holding up the
money and object you want to buy, and “gracias.” There can be more to that transaction if you're
familiar with the language, but there doesn't have to be.
We left that place at noon as well. I wasn't sad about that. It was a nice place to spend a night, but any
more than that would have felt frivolous and boring. Lying by the ocean was nice, though. I'm going to
miss that a little. Won't miss the sea urchins though.