Category: travelling

CUBA- A Day in Havana

Cuba is the new place to be. Wherever I go people tell me that they want to go to Cuba, that they are so fascinated by the country and now even Chanel went there.
So it appears that a lot of people ask me questions about the place and my experiences.
Most of the questions are not about the nature or the politics but about the flair and the life there.
That gave me the idea of trying to capture a day in Cuba. I know that I won’t even come close to the feeling. But one can try, and you’ll get an idea of it.
Once more, if you happen to have any questions about Cuba or my experiences there, don’t hesitate to ask. I will be very happy to answer your questions. Also if you have made other experiences than I did, I ould love to hear about it!
I am going to describe a typical day in Cuba. . .

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Wherever you go, there is art in Cuba! Viva Cuba!

I usually got up pretty early. At the beginning because I had a jet lag and later because the sun would wake me up. ( Which is a pretty good way to start the day)
Then I’d go to the kitchen and clean this little cup I had. Then I started boiling water. And added vinegar to it ( to clean the cup that I used for boiling water), then take some more water ( without vinegar) and start to boil the actual water for the tea.
I like to drink tea in the morning, and in Cuba this meant a very long procedure, for a very small cup of tea.
While waiting for the water to boil I used to have very long discussions with myself, if I was in the mood for a cold shower or if I’d rather shower later.
As I didn’t have hot water ( until the very last day), and my bathroom was a little bit scary ( due to animals living right over my head) I wasn’t to keen on spending too much time in there. Also you couldn’t really rely on the lamps, so it was very dark.
That’s also why I used to brush my teeth in the kitchen…

IMG_7343This was my terrace. The whole apartment was flu of plants and very green! So beautiful! I actually had hummingbirds flying around the flowers all the time!

 
So if I had decided to take a shower, I would take some of the boiling water to clean my cup and to clean the teabag ( by holding it over the kitchen sink and pour some hot water over it) as there were a lot of ants, and they preferably lived in my teabags, no matter how good I tried to pack them. And then finally put the teabag in the cup to start brewing my tea. In case there were some more animals interested in my tea, I covered the cup with paper towel . Then took a quick shower, while boiling some more water.
After the shower I could finally start to drink my tea, while letting cool down the other hot water.
Between all of this I was getting dressed and cleaning some of my stuff with hands .
After I finished my cup of tea, I went to the kitchen to brush my teeth.
I used the boiled water to moist my toothbrush, then use the water to clean my mouth and to clean the toothbrush.
The leftovers from the hot water,I would use to clean my cup and everything else I used and then put it in the fridge, so the bacteria colonies had no chance to grow.

It might seem a little paranoid, and now when I think of  what I did to have clean water and clean utensils it seems a little crazy, but you only have to see the water from the tab there, and you will understand. Believe me.
Plus the experience of almost drinking an ant because I didn’t realize that they also came out of the teabags. It makes you…let’s say…a little more careful.

IMG_6812 La Casa de Morales! This is the place where I lived. I think it used to be white! 😀

Then it was time for going to La Habana Vieja.
As I lived right in the middle of Vedado, one of the three big quarters of Havana, it was quite a long way.
Most of the time I’d walk a bit to one of the big streets and catch an “Almendron” which is something like a taxi for actual Cubans.
You just try to stop one (most of the time they drive the same round over and over again), hand the driver 10 CUP and tell him where you wanted to get off. This is one of the easiest ways to get from one point to another in Cuba. Though it’s quite important that they don’t get that you are a tourist, as they will make you pay more.
So on my first days, when I didn’t speak a single word Spanish, I would just pay him and give him a sign and stay quiet for the rest of the time.
One time, there were two American tourists in the Almendron . They really payed 20 CUC ( so 20$),normally the price for getting to and back from the airport ( which is super far away).
When the weather was good and the humidity wasn’t too high so you didn’t expect a thunder storm, I also liked to walk to Havana Vieja (Old Havana). This would usually take me a couple of hours, as it is quite a long way and I stopped at the Malécon for like half an hour to enjoy the sun and the beautiful sea.
Also you meet lots of people on the way down there.

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On my way to Havana Vieja, I walked along the Malécon!

This is a very special thing about Havana.
It is impossible to NOT meet a person again. When it comes to that ,the city is like a village. You just know people.
There was not even one person I talked to, that I only met once. It doesn’t even matter where you are, if Havana Vieja or not, you will meet them again.
That’s sort of fun, because you are never very lonely, and as the Cubans love to be friends with everyone and are very spontaneous, you will always find people you can spend time with.
Sometimes, I was actually glad, when I made my way down to the port without lots of people joining me.

Once I got to Havana Vieja I would go right away to the center to a street called “O’Reilly’s”, to meet Pablo and David and sometimes Mileidi.
Pablo and David were both musicians so we used to spend most of the time going to different places and sing and dance and make music with other people. Talking to people.
Or trying to find interesting art galleries and a good and cheap place to eat.
Once we spend a whole day, looking for salad with olive oil, as Pablo was craving for it. Luckily he doesn’t get as grumpy as David when he’s hungry, and we actually found a place where they had it.
Also we spend a lot of time reading or trying to connect to the western world- which was more or less successful.

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One of my favorite places in Havana and probably one of the best art galleries I have ever been to!- El Ojo Del Ciclón.

At about 5 o’clock we would go back to their place to take a nap. Time for siesta!

(Oh you can’t imagine how messed up my sleeping schedule was, when I came back home.  I got so used to my little siesta-I really had a hard time, letting go of it.)

Once we had enough sleep, it was time for food.
We had this one place, that we would always go to.
It was very hidden and I doubt that it had an actual name. It was a place that only Cuban people went to and we would have never known about it if we hadn’t spend so much time on the streets.
On the third floor of an old ruin, we had the best food in town.
It was right next to a place called ” El Patchanka”, where an old man would entertain the guests every night, making a really good show-like you’d imagine the 50’ies in Cuba.
So this restaurant doesn’t really work like an actual restaurant. They used to have about one to three dishes of the day, not something like a menu.
Most of the time it was one dish with chicken and one with fish. They had huge plates.
A typical dinner there was rice, black beans, some sort of salad and chicken in lemon sauce. It was great!
Sure, you get sick of it, after some time, but then also it wasn’t the exact same thing every day and we only had to pay about 2-3$ for a meal and drinks.

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This is in El Patchanka. Musician taking a short break and a big Mojito!

After eating we would stop by at El Patchanka, saying hi to our friend there and then went to a park that’s right between the two streets “Obispo” and “O’Reillys”.
Until we were there we had usually a lot more people with us. There was always someone with a guitar or a flute or some other instrument. And if not, our bodies functioned as instruments.
As Cubans aren’t really welcomed in most of the places you would want to go to, we barely spend time in bars.
Instead, we bought some rum and stroll around the streets until we had found a place where there was good music and nice people.
We would dance salsa on the street, no matter if there was music or not, and we were friends with everyone.
The Cuban nights were special.

I always took a cab back home. I didn’t feel comfortable in the Almendrons night time, plus I would have to walk quite a bit until I would arrive at home.Most of the time I knew the drivers, so they gave me quite a good price ( 6CUC) and then I went home, climbing up all the stairs to my apartment on top of the building, and falling into bed.

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Yes, cars in Cuba are still pretty cool and people use them not only for the tourists!

So even though, basic things like a cup of tea or stuff like that were pretty hard, you forget about all of that, once you feel Cuban.

 

The Hot Yoga Experience

“I am dying.
I am dying a hundred deaths. What did I do to deserve this?”
-Tamara Fatum

That’s actually exactly what I thought after my first 30 minutes of so called “Bikram Yoga”.
Okay, who am I kidding? It was after like 20 minutes…I had emptied my whole bottle of water after 30 minutes. After 20minutes, I was practically done with this whole thing. No thank you, I have had my share of struggle!
But then I don’t quite like quitting and I saw all these people,sharing the same pain ,saw them struggling too ( apart from that super small and talented chinese girl next to me who didn’t hesitate to adjust my postures whenever she wanted to). So I stayed.
I kept on telling myself that there was only one hour left- how I was supposed to survive the next sixty minutes without spilling the whole bottle of water over my head or opening all the windows, was a thing that I hadn’t figured out yet.
But let’s go back to the beginning…

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The first time that I had the feeling that this class wasn’t the best idea of all times was when I entered the room where the class takes place. I had decided to do Hot Yoga because it was a combination of two things that I like. I like it warm and I like Yoga- why not try hot yoga?
Also as a lower east side New Yorker there should be at least one cool thing that I do, I thought (ironically of course!)

So I went to the place with the pink door and I had a good feeling about it.
The people were nice and friendly and everyone was in a good mood. Also I wasn’t the only one who was there for the first time.  They gave me towels and a mat and after I got changed I entered the room. I was nervous but also looking forward to the experience.

It was hot like a sauna and the people that left the room who had hit the class before mine looked like they had just taken a shower.
But they didn’t. It was their sweat. My feelings could be pretty much described with the words “eeewww”.
Most of the people were only wearing sport shorts and sports bras.
From couples in their sixties, with a lot of free time to girls in high school, there were all different types of people.
Me, the naive little girl that I sometimes am, asked if I needed a water bottle, the girl smiled at me with a sense of pitfulness…
Silly me! I would have collapsed without the water.
Then I saw this man doing a handstand for soooo long! His head had gone all red, tomato-ish and his arms were shaking. Bit he stood still.
And my first thought was “Oh fuck, I can’t even do a handstand without a little help from a wall”.
Then I saw the wet spots on the floor …sweat….mmmmhhh yummy!
Let’s say I have entered rooms that were sort of more enjoyable…
But leaving was not an option, I made a commitment when I entered the room , I wasn’t going to quit.
I mean I could also skip some postures!
So I took my mat and placed it somewhere random in the room.
I liked the temperature and thought that this wasn’t going to be too hard.

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The class started with a breathing exercise ( which was not too much of my thing, and soooo cliché!). I was worried that this was the only thing we were going to do for the next 90min.
Hell no, I wouldn’t do more than 3 breathing exercises. I didn’t come for some advice how to use my lungs.
But after two sets of this breathing exercise ( which I learned is necessary to open up your lungs to make the postures easier), the actual class started.
Quickly,I had already realized that this petite Chinese girl next to me was more than over motivated and she gave me the feeling that this is a competition.
But no! Calm down Tamara, this is definitely not the thought behind yoga!
So I tried to focus on my postures.

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After 20 minutes my sweat was dripping and I was all dizzy. The whole room was breathing heavily and some also sat down to take a break.But I didn’t want to do that. Please, I am young and I didn’t want to seem weak.
What I did instead drew way more attention.
I jumped out of my postures and ran towards the door! I needed fresh air. I NEEDED it. I couldn’t stay one more minute in this room.
But then the instructor asked me if I was okay.
So what do you say in a moment like that?
All these suffering people around you and none of them leaves. So I told him I had to pee.
It was a very weird moment. But at least I could spend three minutes sitting in front of the ventilator in the changing room. Breathing.
But I had to go back. Back to hell.
It wasn’t the movements that were so hard. Some of them were difficult of course, but you can work on postures- that’s not the problem.
There were several other problems though. First of all my circular flow was in a horrible state, the next thing was that it is pretty hard to hold your leg in the air only by touching the ankle, when your whole body is wet. Then I wasn’t allowed to drink water in the middle of a posture and moreover there was over 45 minutes left. Also I was sort of distracted because yes, sometimes it’s a little ugly when you have the other persons sweaty foot right in front of your face, scared that it might touch you.
The problem was, that my first class of Hot Yoga was on a weekend so there were way too many people in the room. Usually there is more space between people.
I can definitely tell that Bikram Yoga is not nearly as glamorous as described.

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Another point is, that you have to get used to not take the towel and wash of your own sweat.
There is no short pause when you are in the middle of a posture. No millisecond where you can wash the sweat of your face.
If you have sweat slowly dripping into your eyes..well, that’s your own problem. Handle it.
And the last point: the instructors. They are actually all super friendly and nice and positive and helpful, but in my first class I felt like stabbing him, as he kept on telling us that we could solve all of our problems only by a balance of pulling and pushing.
I mean come on, I am dying and you’re telling me some riddles how to get my life into balance with pushing and pulling?
NOT the right time.
How am I supposed to pull and push if my lungs are not even able to breathe in the oxygen that I need, as I am standing in the most awkward unnatural position?
Plus the instructors are ONLY instructing, they’re not showing you the postures by doing them themselves. And even they are sweating, so for them it’s just like sauna. They don’t share the pain.

I don’t know how many times I have asked myself, what was wrong with me when I made the decision to come here.
Or how many times I’ve told myself, that after this class, I would never come back to this bloody room.
But I did.
Because after the class was over, I sort of forgot my pain and struggle.
It was like the shower washed away all of these thoughts. Actually, I felt great.
Yes, my muscles were a little sore the other day and I was super tired afterwards, but I felt great. So since then I have been there over and over again.
Most of the time I have these minutes where I ask myself what the hell went wrong with me, but then it’s fun too. Sometimes I just love it and it’s an amazing “me-time”.
Also when the instructor is good.
But then the other day, I just took my mat and my towel and was on my way to leave the room. I was tired and hungry and in a bad mood. And then the instructor pushed me to stay. Even if I was just sitting there. I heard him saying a lot of blabla and I gave him looks, that should have killed him instantly.
Oh Gosh, when I think of it now, I am getting mad again…
Seriously I wasn’t that mad in a long time. Who did he think he was?
And even more annoying: Who am I, that I let someone tell me when and how to suffer???
Of course, after the class I was thankful that he didn’t let me leave, because I would have felt horrible, but also I sort of hated him a little bit.
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(That’s a picture from my yoga place- it’s an amazing spot, a place where you can always come to…I really recommend it if you want to get started and live in the L.E.S.!)

I wouldn’t really say I would recommend hot yoga.
Well actually I would recommend it, if there was only a possibility to skip the experience of the first class…but once you get through this, you’ll love it! I promise!

Namasté guys!
You’ll hear from me soon!

5 Things that I always take with me!

Koffer

Whenever I prepare myself for a new trip to another country, I have to think of dfferent things that I have to take with me.
Sometimes I need bikinis, short dresses and sun cream, sometimes big pullovers, a beanie and long-sleeved shirts and sometimes I even need a little bit of both.
But wherever I go and whatever I plan to do, there are a couple of things I would NEVER leave without them in my suitcase.

  1. Waterboiler, Cup-of-soups and Tea! ( I swear these things saved my life more than once)
  2. Way too much medicine (Because if you take all of that stuff you won’t get ill, as you are prepared-keep Murphy’s Law in mind!)
  3. Häsi, my stuffed animal who is always there to conquer the world with me
  4. One pair of High Heels ( you never know what’s coming and classic High Heels can turn every casual outfit, into an elegant one!
  5. Too many books in a way to big handbag. ( because however lost you are, the books make everything better, and also you never know what you find in the depths of your handbag, that might save your life! )

Plus I got a lot of enthusiasm in my heart, so that I am ready for whatever might come and that I am willing to solve all the problems that might appear!

And then its’….

new-adventure

See you soon guys! And enjoy this lovely day!