Day 18 - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

To ElianBi-Ci taxi driver's revenge. My feet are sore. All in all I think I went some 25 kilometers on foot yesterday. Right after breakfast I walk over to the US Interests Section, which is housed in a building not far from the hotel. A stage has been built in front of it and huge signs with pictures of Elián González have been set up. Large Cuban flags are hanging from neighboring apartment buildings. A banner reads Combatamos la maldad con la prueba continua de nuestra cariño -- José Martí.

BacunayaguaAt ten o'clock I leave for Varadero. It will be an easy drive; just get through the tunnel and watch out for the odd exit to the Vía Blanca - it's to the left. Just outside of the City of Havana a group of middle-aged men on racing-bicycles approach from the opposite direction, a sight that immediately reminds me of the Côte d'Azur in France, especially so since I'm driving close to the water. Mid-life crisis in Cuba, note the irony.

In Matanzas a young couple get in. Both are medical students and they can speak English quite well, allowing me to have somewhat more of a conversation. Thankful as ever for the ride they get out near the drawbridge that leads to Varadero. The bridge is guarded by the police, obviously to keep out Cubans that have no business on the peninsula.

"Mooohh". I cannot help but laugh when the waitress at Pizzería Capri explains to me what kind of animal produces beef. I have asked her what choices of pizza they serve and as she sums them up she wonders if 'beef' is the correct word in English. She in turn smiles when I say vaca. My dinner for today is served quickly and it's good - a cart-wheel size pizza and two cans of Cristal beer to go with it. After I have finished my meal I walk over to the beach and sit down on the trunk of a caleta tree.

The sun has set. The common living room that each two hotel rooms share has a balcony. I am sitting on it and through the leaves of a palm tree I can see the Straits of Florida. I am listening to the sound of the waves breaking and I think it's about 23 degrees Centigrade...this must be paradise. Below me a band starts to play an improvisation to the all-time Cuban classic Guantanamera...it is paradise. Their next song is 'Sacrifice', a song originally performed by Dutch female singer Anouk. Paradise lost. Bummer.