November 13, 2015
Havana, Cuba

Please let me into your country....please let me into your country....please let me into your country.

I was pretty sure I had planned everything correctly (legally) but who knows? The relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has recently relaxed; I don't know anyone that has flown from the U.S. without family ties, so I'm entering into uncharted territory. I paid an exorbitant amount of money to get to Havana - nearly $500 for the 45 minute flight from Miami to Havana, plus the $80 tourist permit and a bit of taxes - just to really make it the American way. Amateur athletic competitions are one of the twelve new sanctions to get a visa from the U.S. without jumping through hoops with the government or joining a basic tour group, so here we go.

November 21, 2015
Trinidad, Cuba 

I haaaaate horseback riding. I don't know why I think riding an animal in random countries is a good idea; I never think it's fun. It's just awkward and painful and my butt really hurts. My guide kept trying to hustle my horse along, making clicking sounds with his mouth to rouse him into a gallop while I kept pulling back the reigns, slowing him down to a trot. We probably could have walked faster. That being said, I can't say it wasn't worth the bruises because the destination was pretty rad. We rode out of our little village into El Parque de Cubano through ranchers' homes and jungle-like farms to a short hiking trail  which lead to a waterfall and swimming hole. Definitely a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, but not so crowded that I couldn't find my own space to float in the cool clear pool, taking a break from the brutal sun. The people weren't rowdy; we listened to a local man gently singing a song in Spanish while strumming the guitar. A small Charlie Brown-esque stand sold mojitos, cervezas, and cocktails in coconuts. A beautiful woman in a leopard print bikini bathed her horse in the stream, because, ya know, Cuba. 

November 21, 2015
Vinales, Cuba 

I spent the day cruising around Valle de los Ingenious in a cherry-red and white 1957 Fairlane 500. This beauty had pristine matching leather interior, a red bench seat with a steering wheel to match, the ceiling was white with tiny red polkadots. The windows were rolled down, the wind in our faces as my driver took me along crumbing roads through the mountains where the sugar trade was booming in the 1800's. I had conversation with my guide about the history of this Unesco World Heritage Site from time to time, me in my poorly practiced Spanish, he with just as much English. Most of the day we were comfortable riding along in silence; he reminded me of my dad, comfortable absorbing the quiet surroundings, thinking about the details and the history while occasionally pointing out animals, sugar cane fields and other cars. We stopped at a former sugar plantation and rum distillery, San Isidro de los Destiladeros, mostly remnants of ruins now, but the guide was able to point out a few interesting details. One being the slave quarters, instead of barracks this specific location had tiny homes. The thought being that if their living situation was a mildly comfortable environment with minimal privacy they would go on to create relationships, hopefully blossoming into families meaning turning babies into free bonus slaves. Straight fucked up.