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8 days in havana cuba

if it seems i have been off the map lately, it’s true. i spent 8 days in havana, cuba, where US cell phones and credit cards do not work, and the internet is sparse and difficult to access.

feliz año 2013

it was the first time since 1994 that i have gone an entire week without checking email. slightly refreshing, slightly alienating.

kevin’s dad has wanted to go to cuba for decades, and online research led him to a cuban arts and culture tour run by a US college professor, they booked it, invited us along, and there we were 2 days after christmas in the miami airport boarding an unmarked charter plane for a communist country.

unmarked plane back to the USA

the weather was endlessly perfecto. 70-80 degrees and not a drop of rain.

the air was deplorable. many of the cars driving around the streets are from the 40’s and 50’s and have no catalytic converters, the newer cars and buses were just as bad, and the smell of carbon monoxide exhaust was omnipresent and overpowering. everything was covered in a dingy gray film.

horse & buggy vs. autobus
we were on a tour (and tourbus) with 20 other americans. the group tour thing can be tough, especially for people used to having control, but we really lucked out and everybody was flexible and positive and intelligent. the bus was newer and comfortable, though it smelled of stale cigarettes and urinal cakes. i may be overly sensitive to air quality. i would not recommend an extended trip to havana to anybody with respiratory illness.

agua potable
potable water. our tour bus in the background.

we were told not to drink the water, or eat produce washed in the water. for somebody who would be thrilled to have salad and only salad to eat every day, this was a challenge. most of my meals were chicken and rice, most of my vitamins came from the peppermint in the mojitos.

the buildings are made of concrete because it is cheap and resistant to hurricanes. many buildings are in ruins. the ones not in ruins are painted vibrantly and kept neat. the streets are treated like a garbage can. littering was rampant. there were also many street cleaners so it didn’t accumulate, but it’s still jarring to see people throwing trash on the ground 4 feet from a dumpster.

tidy mint green

the people in havana are not aggressive or hostile. i did not see one person who seemed strung out on drugs. didn’t even catch a whiff of weed. (sad face). seems like rum, rum, rum is the drug of choice. 

mojitos at el nacional

the street dogs were awesome.

dreaming dog

more stories and photos to come.

(found this cuban woman’s blog last night: which speaks out against the human rights violations, repression, and censorship cubans are experiencing under the castro regime. not surprisingly, we were exposed to very little of this sentiment on our state-sponsored tour.)

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the drive between cherokee and maggie valley is littered with awesome signs. 

it’s as if time stopped in 1981.  

granny's casino
granny’s restaurant – happy birthday angela – cherokee casino in background

cool valley motel
cool valley motel (no pool)

tribal bingo

“he plays that choctaw bingo every friday night, drinks that johnny walker at the club 69” – james mcmurtry

hemlock motel
hemlock motel seems to have gone the way of many carolina hemlocks

country vittles
all you can eat country vittles!

seriously back in time

dish barn
sweet spot for a dish barn

starvin marvins
starvin’ marvin’s – stop! and shop i need your money!

smallest house in the world
smallest house in the world? but room for a porch.

stompin grounds
stompin ground for all your square dancing and clogging needs

abc store
abc store for all your grain alcohol needs

chainsaw bears amish jams
chainsaw bears, amish jams 

joeys pancake house
i bet the flapjacks are good here 

tarheel kountry kitchen
tarheel kountry kitchen – home of the BIG biscuit, biker wear
we were out there to go to sequoyah national golf course, which is a really wild place, and another story for another day.