It was 12:57. I squeezed past the gate guard and stepped down into the ferry. I felt as though I had just woken up. The two museums on the Santería religion we had visited that morning felt like a blur. Would the rest of the day pass this quickly?
Bang! The entire ferry lurched as we hit the pier too hard. It felt like an electric shock, bringing life back into our day. We were in Old Havana – a quaint, colorful, and unsurprisingly older version of Havana. This part of the city is about a 15-minute drive from where we were staying in Vedado. Despite them being relatively close, geographically, the atmosphere of the two places could not have been more different. Vedado is the rich suburb of Havana. Houses do not sit directly on the street, and there is vegetation everywhere. In contrast, the narrow streets of Old Havana are hustling and bustling with tourist activity.
After a few minutes of wandering through the narrow streets we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. As a northerner, nothing drives me crazier than waiting around doing nothing. Therefore, Cuban restaurants are the bane of my existence. The food is generally good, but the service is so slow! It can easily be twenty-five minutes after you finish your meal before you see the bill. C’mon people, I could be exploring the city instead of waiting here!
Following lunch, we made our way back to the residence where we were staying. Just before I could go in, Nathaniel pulled me aside and asked if I wanted to join him and Mike in getting a Cuban haircut. Of course I did! What a perfect way to experience more of the Cuban culture! What is a Cuban haircut, you ask? A two on the sides, longer on top, and of course, the line. (A few days later, a waiter at San Cristóbal recognized the cut, and asked us if we had gotten it done at a Cuban barber).
We walked over two streets and took a seat in line. The barber was really friendly, and we talked about Cuba and the US. The theme was similar to many other conversations I’d had: “We love American people, it’s a shame our governments don’t get along.” Of all the things I learned whilst in Cuba, this thought will affect me more than any other. The Cuban people, not the government, are the ones suffering under the United States blockade. After we each cut our hair, Mike and I decided to get shaves as well. I had never had a straight edge shave before, so I was nervous. However, all my fears vanished when I realized the skill that the barber possessed. The best part about the haircut was the price! Nine dollars for the three haircuts! NINE! That’s cheaper than a single haircut back home!
After the haircuts, we hung low until after dinner. Then we went to one of the best dancing clubs in Havana, The 1830. The dance floor is outside, and sits directly on the water. There must have been over 200 people there, all dancing flawlessly to the beat. We hung back at first, but then decided to join the dancing. We quickly picked up the steps and within minutes were dancing like the pros. Okay, that’s a complete lie. We had taken lessons before, but they were of little help. I kept losing the beat, and stepping on those around me. I must’ve stepped on at least 10 people before the night was out. However, despite these mishaps, we all had a great time. Before we knew it the music had stopped and the lights were turned on. Where had the time gone? As we walked back I was so glad that the day had taken a turn for the better. Looking back on the trip, Thursday the 12th was one of the most memorable days.