22nd of January, 2014
Heading from Viñales back to Havana, our group grew to seven people, from Taiwan, Iceland, Britain, Sweden and of course Sudan. We stopped at las Terrazas for few hours, a beautiful peaceful place, too boring for my taste. In Havana, I went back to the casa where I started my trip, it felt like rejoining a family and I was happy to see them all and they were happy to see me. I came back with 4 other travelers and we were lucky that there was exactly 5 beds left. Meeting Ipek again was a beautiful unexpected surprise, I was sure that she would have left Havana by now. Nice surprise and good warm feeling. In the hostel, we had another delighting addition to the group, a 22 years old polish girl doing an anthropology research in Cuba about old cars.
We arrived late in the afternoon, relaxed for a little bit then we all went out to meet Reynier, the good Cuban friend I bumped into in Playa Larga. We met in Habana Vieja in a place known among tourists called Chanchullero. Although Rey was with his his friends, and they were obviously up for something more fun and less expensive, he insisted on being with us. He remembered that today was my birthday as I told him when we met before that one of the reasons to come to Cuba is that I wanted to spend my 30th birthday somewhere far and special.
He insisted that I should have a proper celebration cuban-style. His friends wanted to leave Chanchullero as soon as possible, as it was an extremely expensive tourist trap as far as they are concerned, they would normally pay 10 cuban pesos for a cocktail when this place charges 75 (75 is about 2 British pounds).
Anyhow, we headed from one place to another insisting on having a good night somewhere that is both nice and not a ripoff, we went around, and after 3 failed attempts, we ended up in a cool club that is normally open until 7 in the morning. Once we got in, the electricity was cut from the whole neighborhood!
Testimony to Cuban spirit, Rey and his friends, just formed a group and started dancing and singing under their lighters’ fading light. Then we recovered our friend James – who we lost somewhere along the way in one of the other clubs – and the Icelandic girl Katrin started playing on a piano in the dark. Beautiful. On that beautiful background of classical music on one side and Cuban rhythms on the other side, I was chatting with Susanna – the polish student – about all kinds of matters from the silliest to the deepest and most philosophical.
And I realized then that I was spending my birthday in the most special of ways, with people I love – although I didn’t know any of them two weeks ago, in a dark Havana club, electricity cut as if it is a Khartoum summer night, with Reynier who looks like a brother of mine, his beautiful friends, icelandic background music, beautiful company spreading the world from Taiwan to Cuba. As far as I am concerned, this is Home.