Danger In Havana – Episode 05


ONCE all their unpacking was done, Bryony and Anna decided to go out, without any particular plan for the evening.

“Let’s just wander, see where that gorgeous Caribbean wind takes us.”

The doorman opened the glass doors on to the street. The palm fronds waved and they stepped into air as warm as soup.

“I thought you had a list of salsa bars you wanted to visit,” Bryony said.

“I do.”

Anna tossed her hair in the breeze.

“But what I’m really looking forward to is an adventure. My life was so structured at school, I felt suffocated during my A-levels. I just want to go and float around.

“It’ll be better at uni, and I’ll love studying fine art but it’ll still be work. I’ve had my head stuck in books all year. Now we’re on holiday.

“It’s nice not having a timetable. A land like Cuba is full of possibilities and because it’s reputedly so safe we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Bryony found her hand clenching tightly over her handbag. She knew Anna worked incredibly hard at her studies.

She’d been praised by her teachers for being relentless in her A-level research, burning the midnight oil while other students tended to party.

Bryony wanted Anna to have fun but she’d had to be so in control without Warren by her side she found it impossible to let go.

Interrupting her thoughts, a Cuban youth with blue eyes and the deepest golden skin careered to a halt behind them. He jumped off the taxi bicycle he was riding, tatty but charming with a little roof and two seats for passengers.

“Engleesh, you Engleesh?”

“Yes.”

“I take you see the city. Best tour, very cheap. Show you everything, just one hour.”

“I don’t think so.”

“Oh, Mum, let’s. It’ll be fine, don’t worry.”

“That bike thing doesn’t look safe – there are bits hanging off it.”

“But they all look like that. I’m sure it’ll be OK.”

“My name is Norelvis. You know, like Elvis who sing the songs. I live in Havana since my birth, no-one knows it better. Come, I am strong, I will show you.”

The boy, who was in his late teens, continued to try to persuade them.

The way he cocked his head and dusted off the seats with a clean cloth was very appealing.

A number of flags flew from his handlebars, Canadian, French, the Union Jack. The poor boy was doing everything possible to appeal to all the tourists. Making a living here must be hard.

Bryony hesitated, but Anna grasped her hand and pulled her gently towards the rickety vehicle.

“We’ll agree the price before we go. Please, let’s take a chance.”

They climbed in and as they bumped and rocked along the streets, with him pedalling like fury, Bryony started to enjoy the cool wind in her face and his knowledgeable commentary.

When she worked out in her head how little they were paying, she realised he was working hard for his money and she had to admire him.

“Here is the Museum of the Revolution,” he told them. “Many photos of Che Guevara. It was former palace of Il Presidente. Inside is all mirrors, very pretty.”

When he said this, he couldn’t help looking back at Anna.

“You feel OK, yes?” he asked. “Please hold tight, be safe, pretty ladies.”

They continued down the Malecón, returning through backstreets.

He pedalled past near-derelict buildings, which at one time would have been very grand but were now falling apart, yet the strings of clean washing strung on ornate iron balconies showed people were still living in them.

Norelvis kept going past piles of rubble where obviously bits of the old masonry still fell down into the streets.

“We love all visitors,” he told them as local people waved whilst they drove past. “Tourist money pays schools to teach men how to fix the old buildings. It is special scheme, very successful, helps tourist fund buildings they love to see.”

As they came to a part where restoration was taking place he stopped.

“Please, ladies, to get off. We show you beautiful old Cuban building.”

Some workmen, all obviously friends, greeted him warmly and proudly showed off the carpentry and work they were undertaking.

Where the buildings had been redecorated they were resplendent. In the last light of the day their ice-cream colours glowed – peppermint, cream, and very beautiful.

But right next door to a restored building there was a completely dilapidated one, with plants growing out of the guttering and a roof through which you could see the sky.

Bryony was amazed when a young woman with a carrier bag, coming back from work, walked in and went upstairs. This crumbling wreck was clearly her home.

It struck Bryony forcibly how much she had, and how little these people had, and yet they were all smiling and happy.

Bryony and Anna got back into the taxi bike and enjoyed just being ferried around. It gave them an idea of the lie of the city and how their hotel was positioned in relation to the tourist spots and the more out of the way backstreets.

 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, I have found my perfect place on the “Friend” as I’m obsessed with reading and never go anywhere without a book! I read all of our stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!