Day 8 - Sunday, December 5, 1999

Dollars only, please...Heading for Sancti Spíritus today. When I said goodbye to Miguel and Marco yesterday they offered to come along with me, telling me they could arrange for a private house to stay. So we leave at 9:00 and follow the Carretera Central. The quality of the road itself is quite good, but the landscape is kind of boring; flat, like the greater part of Holland. A couple of kilometers east of Sancti Spíritus I turn left and drive up to Hotel Zaza, where I will be staying. The entrance to the hotel is guarded, obviously to keep the place clear of unwanted Cubans.

Casa de la TrovaWhen I have checked in I return to the car to take Miguel and Marco to the place they will spend the night. I park the car at Parque Serafín Sánchez. Miguel gets out and walks towards Hotel Plaza. He returns after a couple of minutes and explains that he has to come back later, since the woman he must speak to is not in at the moment. We go for a walk through the colorful city center, which unlike Camagüey has a street pattern that is easy to figure out - at daylight...

Picture meWhen I'm taking a picture down Av. Jesus Menéndez there is a motorcycle with a trailer in front of me. The man who apparently owns it walks over and stands tall next to it in a very ostentatious way. I smile and he tells me - in German - that he has lived and worked in the former German Democratic Republic for four years, way back in the Cold War days.

It's three o'clock in the afternoon when we return to the park. Again, Miguel enters Hotel Plaza and when he returns he asks me for ten dollars for the hotel room. Excuse me? My reply in the little Spanish I know is supposed to express something like 'The simple fact that I take you along when you invite yourself does not imply that I am going to cover all your expenses, buddy. And besides, you said you were going to stay in a casa particular.' They have no trouble understanding me - anger is a universal emotion. When they get out I do give them the ten dollar, though, if only for the fact that they have to spend the night somewhere.

After dinner - my first one in a hotel restaurant in Cuba - I go outside for a walk. It's warm; I think it's about 20 degrees Centigrade. The sky is clear and full of stars, and small birds are hunting for insects on the warm asphalt of the parking lot. I hear ducks chattering on the edge of the Embalse Zaza and the sound of hundreds, maybe thousands of crickets would fit neatly in a hot-summernight-type of movie scene. But wait...I get the impression that creatures are scurrying away on the asphalt every time I make a move... The light of one of the scarce street-lamps makes my night: I am being surrounded by tens of three-centimeter cockroaches.