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Disclaimer

All people, events locations and even I, the narrator, are the fruits of my imagination. Nothing really happened, it happened nowhere and nobody was there to witness it. Any similarity with real persons, places and actually any similarity at all is the result of pure coincidence.

Nothing is what is seems in Cuba and everything is just what it is. Being identified in a book like this, which is not a “I’m a Castro fan” book, could lead to trouble. It probably will not, but I just want to be sure that no harm is done to anybody. I’m no Castro opponent either. Accepting thing like they are is a sound strategy in Cuba.

Our name is not John Doe, I have never really been to Cuba and all my friends there are imaginary. We feel like we took all the possible precautions to prevent any identification. Probably all this effort was spent in vain because I’m indeed not a Castro Fan but I’m not opposed either.

The situations we depict though could all be real. This is a book about real life Cuba with real situations that could arise although they never actually did.

About the Author(s)

Just like every thing else in this book I am/we are just a fantasy. You could refer to us as “your very knowledgeable friends from Cuba”. Any resemblance with real author(s) is a mistake, a big mistake. A very big mistake indeed.

We are the collective that took the task on ourselves to write the inside story about Cuba for real travellers who want to avoid awkward situations and get the most out of their trip to this great Island. From now on we will refer to ourselves in the first person.

Nothing you know about Cuba is true. Ok I’ll admit that it is an island somewhere south of Florida and that they have a lot of old cars, but everything else is just not true. I’ve been to Cuba many, many times and still is only half of what I think is true. This gives me still a lovely 50% margin of error. One of the most intriguing aspects of Cuba is that our usual reference frame just does not fit. Cuba is an exercise in being wrong, making the wrong estimations and predictions about situations and people. It is one big surprise.

Most things being said about Cuba are dead wrong. A well-known travel site claims that Cuban prices are about similar to those in Europe or Canada. I admit that if you do not have a clue about how things work, this is more or less true. Now, 8 years later and having spent almost 3 years in total in Cuba, costs are about 40% of those during my first visit. The intention of this book is to help you to get the most out of your vacation by showing you what could go wrong so that you can avoid all the rookie mistakes I made.

Let me give you a simple guarantee:

This book will cut your expenses by at least 30% and will enhance your understanding of the Island and you’ll have a lot more fun!

The three basic rules for every traveller can be summarized as follows:

1 50% of what Cubans tell you, I can prove a lie, the other half I’m just not sure about.

2 Nothing is what is seems. You are always wrong.

3 The former rules don’t always apply.


Foreword

‘I am going to have a look if I can recuperate part of my investment’ says a good friend, ‘Wanna come with me?’ He started some kind of business venture with Cuba a few years ago, considers the money as lost but uses it as a great alibi to go and visit once a year. (It is not a real business venture, but it involves some money and he does go every year).

Off course I said ‘yes!’ and I made my first trip to Cuba 8 years ago. Got to know the land, the people, developed a hate/love relationship with Cuba and was hooked!

Fred (not his real name) gave me the inspiration to write this book. He said to me that if you say you understand Cuba, you don’t have a clue. Fred has lived on the Island since the mid 90s and knows a lot more about the ways of the Cubans than I do. I do not pretend to understand Cuba, but at the same time I am sure that I know and understand a lot more that the average tourist. A lot more!

This book will thus save you a lot of money, give you a lot more insight about what is happening and help you to cheat a few levels in my favourite game: CUBACONGA.

CUBACONGA refers to the old arcade game Donkey Kong. In this video game you enter the screen at the bottom and work yourself trough a maze to the top of the screen. A monkey throws down all kind of stuff to hinder you. If you make it to the top, you start over again at the next level. The higher your skill, the higher the level you can obtain and the harder the game becomes. The same is true for Cuba. It is a game, with a lot of obstacles to overcome. The better you play the game, the more you know you can not predict those obstacles, the more you develop your skills and the more interesting the game becomes.

The Conga is a musical parade with exciting rhythms on everything that can be used as a percussion instrument. It is contagious, exciting, creative and fun!

Hence the name of the game: CubaConga!


A few examples of the different levels you can play the game:

Level 0: The player just arrived in his all inclusive resort and does not go beyond the gate without proper assistance of a tourist guide. This player got himself the game, but it is still in its box. To play the game, you have to insert a coin into the machine and yourself into Cuba.

Level 1: You are being ripped of by a waiter, buy cigars made of banana leaves and make new friends that are just after a quick buck.

Level 4: You don’t ask for the price of a taxi anymore, you know what it is and pay 3CuC instead of 10. You are not confused by the different currencies and spot a ‘fren’ at 50 meters. This is the level you should aspire after two weeks of the game and the help of this book.

Level 8: You realize that nothing is what is seems, that Cuba does not fit into your reference frame and have learned to accept this as a fact of life. This helps you to make the best of your stay, enjoy the people and gives you the knowledge that you can handle any situation Cuba throws at you.

Level 15: You live in a big mansion and your gardener tells the official inspectors, while pointing at an official looking name plate, that the ambassador refuses visitor at this moment. (by the way, you are not an ambassador). How and why this works is beyond my understanding, I am just a level 11 player.

Nobody knows how many levels the game contains. Nobody ever got to the highest level and talked about it.

This book is not a: You really have to see this, what are the hotspots or where do I get the best Mojito guide. Those guides are abundantly available in any bookstore. And all of them basically tell you to follow the hordes of white people wearing shorts, sandals and a silly hat.

This book is about life in Cuba, how to handle it and how to make the most of your trip. To answer the questions above: A baseball game. Depends on what your like. In the little park on the south tip of the peninsula south of Cienfuegos.

Cuba is a great county and a shit hole at the same time. It all depends on you. All you need to take with you to make your holiday a success is: observational skills, sense of humour, money, creativity, patience and an adventurous mind. The rest will come without effort!

Cuba is a luscious country and I’m not just referring to lazy man and yummy women. Cuba is proof that the socialist system was designed for a tropical climate. It does not matter how hard you work, the sun keeps shining and fruit fall of the trees. Cuba embraced the socialist system more than 50 years ago and it does not work. But everything works somehow. A lot of Cubans leave (or want to leave) the country. Most of them return after a few years.

Cubans are drenched in CUBA IS GREAT rhetoric from birth. Half the songs are about Cuba. The news is about Cuba or Cubans abroad of Cuban influence in the world. You could say that it is not very objective. (But you could say the same about our news.)

Education is good but you could blame it for a high ‘we are better’ dose. The fact that it is an island (yes, you had that right) and quite isolated from the rest of the world, helps this ‘we are better’ mentality to develop and stay on top.

Cuba has all the possible outcomes in it, and you choose if you love or hate it.

Convinced this book can ad to the quality of your holiday? Buy it now and it will be in your in box in 5 minutes for you to enjoy.

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