Havana Life

Stunning book now available!

My senses stimulated by things that should be familiar to me, but strangely not. I'm not sure where I’m heading I have no agenda. I am here to discover, to learn and to share, and right now I feel overwhelmed if a little lost. I observe my surroundings with deep interest and with a smile making eye contact with those that pass me, eager to learn. I have that same excitement as I did when I was a child opening my presents on Christmas morning. The smell of diesel in the hot Caribbean air my first real taste of Havana; the cars polluting the air from an era before my time. A man steps out of a Bodega and heads towards me, angry because its out of rice, he tells me he has visited several now and all of them are out. He says “I can’t afford to buy it from the store”. I ask if I can help, but when I do, instantly he knows that I’m a stranger, (extranjero). He apologises for troubling me, and says “thanks, but no, I will just keep trying”.

I stop to look at the food in the window of a cafe; I'm hungry but don’t recognise what most of it is. The waitress notices my curiosity and smiles at me. I feel obliged to buy something so rather than ask I buy a chocolate cake. It’s nothing more than a small bite and considering the heat I'm surprised at how moist it still is, and it only cost a few pence. Since I know I’ll be walking for a while, although still hungry, I’m on the lookout for a place to buy some water. I’m heading towards Habana Vieja (old town) and it’s not until I get there I spot some shops. I cross a busy road to my right the Capitolio building, the atmosphere here completely different, and people shouting me from all directions for my attention. ‘Taxi my friend?’ ‘Cigars’? ‘Cigar factory?’ I politely refuse these requests and continue along the main road towards the Capitolio. I walk along Parque Central (Central Park) which is now on my left; when I reach the end on the corner I see a small food outlet.

I'm presented with some ready-made burgers sat sweating under cling film, and a few very dry looking cheese and ham sandwiches neither of which are really crying out to be eaten, but as I’m low on energy I ask for a burger. The waiter asks me something which I don’t understand, he then points to the grill, and I reply ‘Si’. He puts the burger in the sandwich grill and asks me where I‘m from. I reply in Spanish but he continues to speak in English. He asks what I’m doing here and what my plans are; I said ‘right now I’m just working things out with no real plan’. The taste of the burger considering its initial appeal wasn’t too bad; it could have been because of the amount of sauce, the fact I was distracted by the waiter, or even that I was famished. Before I left I took orangeade instead of water as I needed the sugar.

It’s now midday and getting warmer all the time. I head towards what I think is the tourist district and Plaza Vieja. Progress is slow as there is so much to take in, and the sugar still needs to work its way into my blood. Lined up in front of the Capitolio a row of classic America cars, exactly how I imagined Havana to be. Not sure why, then I remembered that this was a picture that I saw in my copy of the Rough Guide to Cuba on the airplane; I feel at this point I need someone here with me to share this moment. I am surrounded by tourists all eager to get the best shot.

The tourists and tourist shops begin to thin as I near the end of Paseo Del Prado (the road that separates Habana Vieja and Centro Habana); it’s still very busy but right now there’s not a tourist in sight. My camera causes attention to be drawn to me. My uneasiness clearly visible as I unintentionally make eye contact with what seems like everyone that passes. I’m like a mouse looking to escape the grasp of an angry cat. I continue on at a slow pace all the time my anxiety apparent. I walk down a few streets and with still no sign of tourist life or Plaza Vieja I decide to head back the way I came. As I get closer towards the Capitolio the harassing starts again and tourists begin to reappear. I should feel happy now but I don’t; the thoughts of the place causing my uneasiness whizzing around in my head. I start to contemplate my mixed emotions. What had caused my anxiety? Even more what is drawing me back?

Havana Life was written with you in mind. Most are attracted to the bright lights; I lived on the streets amongst the locals and did as they did. It took many weeks to uncover the real truth, my experiences, peoples stories and facts all shared together in a book full of hundreds of stunning photographs. Havana Life takes you on a journey to a place so little is known about.

Havana Life is now available via iTunes

 

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