Sunday, May 3, 2009 We awoke early and said our goodbyes to the Sanchez family. Tiffany the youngest child ran up to Cory and Elaine and gave them a big hug. Karla her mother said hasta la vista baby, which Tiffany then started parroting. It was quite cute. After catching a shuttle to the airport we had a short wait until it was time to catch our flight. We flew to Panama City and changed flights to connect to Havana, Cuba. One thing that I noticed in the airport at Panama was many people were pretending to be Doctors getting ready to head into surgery. You see everywhere I turned there were people wearing masks. They came in an assortment of colours - red, green, blue, and white. Cory and Elaine explained to me that the people weren’t really doctors, just passengers being cautious about the recent outbreak in Mexico of the Swine Flu. As we mentioned in our previous entry, only one person per time is allowed at the customs booth, or at the money exchange place. The customs guard didn’t see me sneak through in the carry on backpack. Once Cory had exchanged some money and we had enough to catch a taxi to Old Havana, we headed off. We had a very friendly taxi driver who phoned our casa particular to make sure everything was OK. We had arrived approximately an hour after we had anticipated and were quite late. A casa particular is a house in Cuba, where people who live there rent you a room, and give options for meals. It is a nice alternative to a hotel. We arrived at our casa around midnight. We had made reservations online two nights earlier. The people welcomed us into their home, and then said they had no room for us. Oops, slight panic. What were we going to do? However, no need to worry, they had made arrangements with a friend, who also had a casa. They phoned him, and he came down, and picked us up, and walked us to his house. Now, Elaine might not admit it but there was a brief moment when they were following Juan through the streets of Old Havana, which she wondered, if everything was OK. Juan showed us to our room, and bid us a good night. We awoke the next morning for breakfast. Our expectations weren’t much, and we were pleasantly surprised by fresh squeezed juice, a large plate of fruit, bread and jam and scrambled eggs. Before we left Juan wanted to know if we were interested in switching rooms. Another room had come available and it had a private bathroom. We jumped at the opportunity. The room was amazing and they told Juan it was like a fancy hotel room. He had done a great deal of work on the room and was quite proud of his handiwork. Later he showed us another room that was a work in progress. The bathroom was done in Black Italian marble tile. It was amazing. The only things missing were gold plated faucets. After breakfast we went in search of a money exchange. Easier said than done. Once that was done, we headed off for a walk around the city. We started toward the malencon. The malencon is a large sidewalk that goes for miles along the waterfront. It was during this walk that Cory and Elaine stopped for a drink and I took the opportunity to go fishing. Fortunately someone came by who was able to take my picture, because nobody would have believed my story. We walked for quite a while, somewhat in awe of this historic city. It is a city of contrasts. First, there are the old historic buildings, many of which have been restored and you can imagine the rich and powerful going out to dinner or taking in the theatre. These grand buildings are side by side with what can only be termed slum buildings, many of them our country wouldn’t allow people to live in. Dryers are very costly so people hang their laundry from wherever they can. The very poor exist side by side with the wealthy. We saw no friction but we were disturbed to witness that tourists are given priority in all line-ups, with the locals moving aside for them. Traffic comes to a stop for us to cross the road safely, making us stand out and feel very uncomfortable. There are monuments everywhere as well. These monuments are of different military heroes and diplomats that distinguished themselves in the founding of present day Cuba. We made an excursion into the Capitolio building. It was quite an impressive building, as the pictures will show. The building was modeled on St. Paul’s basilica. You will also recognise the similarity to the White house in the United States. After dinner it was time to return to the casa, catch some sleep, as the plan for tomorrow was to take the Havana bus tour.