The morning was spent in discussion with my Spanish teacher. Alas, little Spanish was learned but we had a very good chat about Cuba that left me feeling quite depressed. Life appears so hard here for the average Cuban that I feel very uncomfortable with my comparative wealth.
This feeling was exacerbated later in the afternoon when I returned to the Casa to collect my bags. Berta had been out since after breakfast going from small store to small store trying to find supplies. Local people have ration books for the basic necessities of rice, beans, coffee, bread, eggs, sugar and salt, which they purchase at a low price from the bogeda (government shop) in their own district. Anything else has to be bought from small stores (also government owned), which are very expensive. The average wage is approximately $30 per month but it is paid in Cuban pesos, with an exchange rate of 25 cents to 1CUC (kook), the currency that is used by tourists.
For the last ten years, it has been possible to own a private business so these Cubans tend to be better off, as are the Cubans with access to tourists by way of hotels, casas (homestays), taxis and other services, as they can receive tips in the much more valuable CUCs. However, this does not mean that there is the food available even if they have the money.
There was another salsa class this afternoon where I learned a few more steps although I hold out no hope whatsoever that I will be able to conjure them up when the occasion arises! My instructors insisted on taking a video of me at the end of the class but I am not about to share it!
After the class, Berta found me transport to the casa where I was to meet the group. I think it is unlikely that it was a legitimate taxi but it took me where I needed to go, albeit after asking for directions from one or two people!
A nasty surprise awaited me in the welcome note from the tour guide. We were leaving at 3.30am to catch a 6.00am plane. It was certainly not as dire for me, though, as for the Australians who had just arrived after several days journey.
Our group consists of five Australians, me and the tour guide and there is another tour leaving at the same time with eight English/NZ friends, whom we will, no doubt, bump into along the way from time to time.
Whilst waiting for everyone to arrive so that we could go out to dinner, a couple of the group produced a bottle of rum, with which I naturally invited myself to partake! Consequently, by the time we actually went out to a very disappointing and expensive tourist restaurant, the earliest arrivals were very merry. However, as everyone was very tired and with the prospect of such an early start, it was not too late a night and straight to bed after dinner.