Things I Learned in Cuba
December 22, 2012Last updated on November 5, 2016
Last week I secretly snuck into Cuba to celebrate a close friends 30th birthday.
It was like traveling through a time machine back to the 1950s and I was shocked how many of the locals were excited that I was from Estados Unidos (United States for those non-Spanish speakers).
I was fascinated by some things I wanted to share with y’all:
- Options are good and bad. Most of the food is government controlled and they are limited with their food trade. Hence at the super market there is generally only 1 type of product or not at all. Compared to our 50+ options for cereal they have one and DON’T even have almond butter. Yes, I know. At times it was convenient, the country’s rum, Havana Club, was delicious and cheap but eating Ham & Cheese Sandwiches got tiring quickly.
- Be Patient. With communism there is less incentive for achievement or moving faster than everyone else. This is not a bad thing as I practiced being more patient as the people of the country aren’t always in “hustle” mode. This isn’t to say that some don’t have pride in their work but unlike other 3rd world countries they don’t harass when you tell them you don’t want to buy their trinket.
- Look at the positive. There is hardly any internet, television channels and very little text messaging. It was such a NICE thing. People were outside conversing, not staring down checking email 24/7 and were way more present when interacting. It’s easy to complain about this or when there wasn’t a lot of things going on. Instead recognize what you want is there all along.
- iPhone Challenge, my iPhone can surprisingly last 7 days on 1 charge when not using phone / data. Challenge yourself to only charge your phone once this week and see how long you can make it for 🙂
- Being poor sucks. Having money to save you time and make things more convenient is (almost) always better. As we were trying to fly back from Cancun we had 20 minutes to change terminals, get our tickets, go through customs, security and run to the game. The terminal was a mile+ from where we were so we bribed an Avis bus driver $20 to take us there. Also, numerous times we bribed people so we didn’t have to wait inline. You can phrase the question so you don’t feel awkward. “Can I pay for VIP access or a premium not to wait in line?” or “Is their a first class line here?” I’m not as comfortable trying to slip money into someones hand.
- Freedom is all mental. There is an embargo and it’s hard to physically leave Cuba. The Cubans generally make $30 / month. Total! They are able to travel to far ends of the world through music, art and alcohol. Read Viktor Frankel’s – Man’s search for meaning – to read about how a guy did this during the Halocaust.
- Go with the flow. We went to one of the popular restaurants in town and found out they were shut down since they were out of gas. WTF? When does that happen in the States. Anywho, there are tons of restaurants out there and way more important things to sweat.
Another time we got to security to get our bags with 1.5 hours until our flight took off. An hour later our bags were still not there (the security was checking every bag for drugs). Get angry! Panic! Yell at security! Sometimes you can change the situation but other times being an asshole or complaining won’t change the situation.
Can you do anything about it?
Is it actually important?
- You are smarter than you think. Card Games. While chilling I said next trip I am going to bring a deck of cards. Then I thought, shit, I don’t know any card games to play. Then I was like, well there is War, blackjack, poker and my friend started suggested some Vegas games (Paigow, 888, etc…) and after awhile there were 15 games that I did know. Try and focus. Don’t get stuck with your old script. You know more.
- Richness is a state of mind. My buddy Ramit mentions wealth is not just how much cash you have. Yes, this may be seem hypocritical from my above point about being poor but that’s not the point 🙂 These people make $30 / month and are happy. What’s the point of life? Being fulfilled. They don’t need to work 80 hour weeks. They hang with family, live in really crummy houses, cook the same type of food every night and all generally seem happy.
- Spice up life. I kept joking how the restaurants differentiate with silverware since they all have to share the same limited number of ingredients. A buddy of mine called me out how that’s kinda true in America… But which ingredients to include, which order, which spices, how to pick the right tomato in the stack, etc…is what makes the difference.
- Be a barman. We asked a cab driver how much he makes a month, it was around $500 USD. Then he mentioned his brother (a doctor) makes around $40. :O Damn, my brother would be pissed about that. The government helps with some $, relatives help with the rest and the people live in poverish conditions. The doctor’s live that way cause they love what they do. The real winners are barman who live off propinas (tips). $5000 USD a month…
- Being present is priceless. Personally I didn’t check email, text, internet, television for a week. Loved it. Takes a day to get used to but afterwards you forget about them. You listen to the people talking to you and you enjoy the moment while you are in it instead of constantly tweeting about it. Take today and evaluate how much of Facebook, Twitter and the emails you are reading / writing really made your day better. Compare that to how you feel having a great chat with a friend…
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