You may be asked to sing for your supper
or dance for your dessert
But warm weather comes standard
after all, it’s always sunny in Havana
Here are glasses are half full
time stands still but
hips keep moving
The beach is your backyard and
success is measured
by the length of your cigar
What can I say?
That’s just how we are…
About a month ago the biggest adventure in my life ended with an actually bigger adventure. Because of my stolen passport, there were not a lot of options left to travel back home. To make it all a little bit more challenging for myself I decided to travel from Guatemala to San Jose in Costa Rica, from Costa Rica to Havana, Cuba, from Cuba to Munich in Germany and from Germany back to Amsterdam.
In the early morning of December 10 I said see you soon (goodbyes do not exist) to Sam and Hannah at the airport and hopped on my first flight to San Jose. (Note: they do ask for a proof of an onward flight!) That was it, the end of eight months on the other side of the world. While I tried not to cry and not to make a big deal out of me leaving, I couldn’t help but cry once the plane was making its way down the runway. So many memories, so many beautiful people.
But tears don’t make the plane turn around, so once I landed in Costa Rica it was time to smile again and get ready for the next big step: Havana! But once the plane kissed the ground, everything that could go wrong almost went wrong…
First of all, I had to re-check my bags at the airport, but as soon as I figured out where to go next, I realized I also had to go through customs and actually enter Costa Rica. I was the only person in the customs hall, because it was still very early in the morning and the rest of the passengers on my flight either stayed in the plane or went on to the transit area. And right when I got up to the desk to get my stamp, the system collapsed. For about 45 minutes all I could do was stare at the woman’s face and listen to her conversations. She did not seem all too excited about her job and she also did not seem to care about me trying to catch my next flight. My time was ticking away at a rapid pace. It kinda looked like the scene from the movie Zootropolis. I was the nervous little bunny and the woman at the desk was the sloth. Hurry up! After waiting for what seemed to be an eternity, I got my stamp, ran to the baggage claim and picked up the only bag that was still left in the giant hall, my yellow banana. Next challenge: checking in my bag again at the desk of Cubana Airlines. Literally everyone I asked had no idea where that desk was and the closest that I got to an answer was “I think you have to go outside and then right and then upstairs. But I am not sure.” So I walked outside with my bag on a cart, walked all the way to the right and found out there was literally nothing there. Along the way, a dozen of taxi drivers kept yelling ‘taxi!’ at me and all I could think was: please tell me where Cubana is. Finally I found a driver who spoke a bit of English and together with three other drivers he helped me find the right way. Turned out the only way up was in the parking lot. Both elevators there were broken, so one of the drivers offered to carry my bag upstairs. Thank heavens!
Together we found the right desk, but I could not check in before I had paid my taxes, which I did not know anything about. Naive as I was, I left my bag with the taxi driver and ran to the desk a couple meters away from us, where the pin device declined my card, of course. My stress levels were already sky high, so I was not in the mood for this. Another lady at the desk offered to get another device and after 10 more minutes it, thank the Lord, worked. I ran back to my bag and all I could think was please don’t put anything in my bag, please taxi driver, be nice. My bag seemed to be untouched, so after showing my tax receipt I could finally continue to the check-inn. The kind lady asked me for a proof of onward flight again. Right when I confidentally pulled out my phone to show her my schedule, the universe yelled NO again. What, no internet? I knew San Jose had one of the best wifi networks I’d ever experienced. However, for some reason I could not connect to it. Another 20 minutes passed, my blood was rushing through my head and I could already see my plane leave without me. Finally, after trying a million times, I was finally able to connect and show the lady my flight to Munich. I could pass! As quick as I could I made my way through security. Traveling as a ‘Independent Solo Female Traveler’ was a lot harder than I thought.
Why did I want to do this again?
The last challenge before I could board my flight was to change money at the Money Exchange desk. And when I wrote everything almost went wrong, I meant everything. Once again, my card got declined twice, saying my PIN code was incorrect. I just paid with the damn thing! Right when I thought I could relax and just board my flight, another great challenge popped up. I immediately called my parents, who called the bank and the Dutch embassy on Cuba and together we tried to figure out what happened. Because flying to Cuba without cash was simply not an option. The bank told my parents that my card never made any connection with the bank. The most logic reason was that the device was broken. Thank the Lord there was another Money Exchange in the same area, but before I could go there I had to be absolutely sure that my card would not be blocked. Arriving in Havana without cash ánd without a working credit card would mean I had to roam the streets of Cuba like a hobo. Not an option. But God stepped in and my card did not get declined. I could start boarding! I almost cried of relief. And so did my parents. Why did I want to do this again?
To be continued…