CubaNews notes from Havana, November 8, 2003

Walter Lippmann walterlx at
Sun Nov 9 14:57:52 MST 2003

Sunday November 9, 2003

Dear Friends  -

Just a few quick impressions now that I'm back here in Havana
for another extended visit. It was so chilly one had to really
bundle up Friday when I went to Los Angeles International
Airport, but it's rather warm and muggy in the Cuban capitol
now. Cuban friends tell me it's been unusually warm here in
recent times. It's also been raining here, something we don't
usually have in Los Angeles.

Most of  yesterday was a wipeout after the very long and
tedious trip. It took over two hours longer than usual and it
can't be completely attributed to our indiviual interviews at
the door to the plane by Homeland Security. They turned
out to be politice and not terribly intrusive, beyond asking
for, and insisting on looking at, exactly how much cash
we had on us.

Most people, the overwhelming majority on my plane, the
regular weekly charter out of Los Angeles run by Cuba
Travel Service, were middle-aged and older North Americans.
There were nearly no Cubans on the flight. Most had never
been to the island before, from what I gathered. Getting out
of Los Angeles was slow and so was getting into Havana with
its own security procedures. The plane got in around ten PM
and we got out of the airport sometime after 11:30 PM.

Yesterday I mostly recovered from the trip and visited with
neighbors in person and friends by telephone. Last night
Cuban television showed, and I watched L.A. CONFIDENTIAL
followed by MUHAMMAD ALI starring Will Smith. Smith does
a great job as Ali in a movie which presented him in a very
sympathetic light. The night before Cuban TV had shown the
Vietnamese feature THE SCENT OF GREEN PAPAYA. And the
late night movie last night was DEATH WISH starring Charles
Bronson. I watched about twenty minutes before finally

Today I've been out walking from Vedado where I stay down
through Central Havana. This is being written at the internet
cafe at the Capitolio. I was surprised to find it open and also
to find a few free computers. The price has gone down a bit
to $5.00 an hour. It's still a dialup connection. Tomorrow I'm
hoping to get my regular account opened and then will be
able to work at home as usual.

A few quick impresions of the streets: They've finished up
the exterior painting of the FOCSA building, a project  which
has been going on for years. Other repair projects are also
moving right along. We still see no one we would describe
as "homeless" in Los Angeles, though there are a few men
out on the street with missing limbs and Saint Lazaro figures
who are begging.

The city is relatively clean and in most places quiet, though
in certain parts of Central Havana there's a great deal of
noise with a loud carnival going on. Lunch with one friend
at my favorite local restaurant, the Casa de Castile on
Neptuno cost a grand total of $6.60 including food for two,
one desert, a couple of beers. An amazing bargain and a
place I recommend with enthusiasm for good food at the
most reasonable prices other than street stands.

Just wanted to check in and give you a quick sense of what
seems changed in the past three months since my previous
visit. I plan to send regualar reports of things seen and done
while here, as in the past.



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