Monday, July 17, 2017

Day 3: Toilet Troubles

March 17: Amanda, not surprisingly, slept in late while I read a book and relaxed until she was ready to get up. We didn't have anything planned today. Amanda almost seemed surprised that she had scheduled a day with absolutely no plans in it. To fill it up, I figured we should hit the cemetery--the second largest in the world according to some sources--that we missed two days earlier because they had already closed for the day. Amanda seemed keen on checking out the US embassy as well.

This time, when we reached the waterfront, we veered away from the Havana city center.

So we decided to make a loop of it, heading down 23rd until we reached the shoreline--the same path we took yesterday--but instead of turning right at the shore into Havana, we'd turn left along the shore away from Havana's city center.

The shoreline was wet in places where waves crashed above the sea wall, but more problematic for us were the eroded sidewalks that were surprisingly difficult to walk over. Lumpy and hard, one could easily twist an ankle if you weren't paying attention.

Further down the shoreline, we'd come to grow fond of the rough, uneven surface when we reached sidewalks in good condition. When wet from the waves and moldy from the constant exposure to water, the surface became slick as a greased slug. Amanda and I carefully tried to walk on the cracks of the sidewalks were the uneven surface helped provide at least some traction, but the going was slow and difficult. Several times, after checking for traffic behind us, we'd step out into the street and walk on the rough, dry surface around the wettest spots. And one time, I lost my balance completely and landed on the water soaking the left side of my pants from butt to ankle.

The view from the shore was nice, but there was surprisingly little of note on land. We did pass a memorial for the USS Maine which surprised me. Cuba? Putting up a memorial for a US tragedy? What bizarro world did we land in?! I wondered if the cannon and other parts of the memorial might have been retrieved from the Maine, and I wondered why the monument was here rather than closer to where the Maine sank which, if I recall my history correctly, was somewhere in Havana harbor.

We knew the new US embassy in Cuba was near the shoreline ahead, and Amanda asked me how we would recognize it. It seemed logical that there would be a sign announcing the structure as the US embassy, but she posed a good question: what if the sign was on the other side of the building where we couldn't see it? I looked ahead for inspiration to this perplexing problem and saw an American flag fluttering in the distance, partially hidden by a group of what appeared to be flag poles with no flags on them. Some sort of memorial? But the US flag was definitely there, fluttering in the wind behind it.

"I bet there's a US flag flying over it," I told Amanda.

"Ohh! Yes! That's right!" she exclaimed, seemingly blinded by my brilliance.

"In that case," I said, "I think it's just ahead where that US flag is fluttering."

She looked ahead and finally noticed the fluttering flag.

As we got closer, Old Glory came fully into view and the front of the multi-story building read "Embassy of the United States of America." Yep, that was definitely the right place. A tall, barred fence surrounded the embassy and guards were manning the entrances.

Behind the building, we could hear a generator--presumably a back-up power supply in case the Cubans decided to cut the power to the US embassy or they just had trouble keeping it running.

I asked Amanda what she thought would happen if we approached the guards and threw ourselves on their mercy, telling them we were refugees. "There's not a Taco Bell in sight!" we'd claim. She didn't think that was a very good idea. Even worse, she didn't even think my comment was funny.

The building on the right is the US embassy. See Old Glory fluttering in the wind? No idea what all those flag poles without flags are for. Some sort of memorial? Art? An unfinished construction project? No idea!

We continued our journey, eventually reaching 12th Street and headed up towards the cemetery away from the shoreline. Amanda was having a really difficult time of it now, hot and tired. We hadn't really walked all that far--not compared to yesterday, at least, but I think the wear and tear of yesterday was wearing and tearing on Amanda today.

So we stopped at one restaurant, but all of the menu prices were in the CUP currency, and we didn't have that. It wasn't clear if we could purchase food in CUCs, so we decided to go across the street instead where they definitely accepted CUCs. (We asked before they seated us--just to make sure we could pay for the meal!)

The restaurant, La Pelota ("The Ball" in English), it had a distinct baseball theme going. Both Amanda and I ordered a traditional pork Cuban meal--at least that's what they kept telling us.

The meal was good--Amanda declared it excellent--but I'm only calling it good. We lingered for over an hour before hitting the road and entering the cemetery.

Lunch time!

The cemetery was large and elaborate, but it didn't really strike me as large enough to be the second largest in the world. Maybe the second largest in Cuba? There were a lot of grand statues and headstones, however. Amanda was tired of walking and sat down near the church in the shade while I wandered around the streets of the dead for another half hour.

With nothing else on our plates to be done, we headed back to the casa particular to kick back for the rest of the afternoon. I worked on these blog entries and Amanda went promptly to sleep. She was exhausted.

She slept for a couple of hours and woke up late in the late afternoon/early evening, ready to head out for dinner. If there's one thing that will get Amanda out into the city, it's food! And drink! =)

Posing with the guy who started the Artechef restaurant and cooking school. (He died a year or two ago, and there's a photo of him behind me holding up a lobster.)
She decided on Artechef, a little-known place that was half restaurant and half culinary school where one could get 5 star meals for 2 star prices. The place certainly looked fancy with tablecloths and napkins set neatly at every table. I ordered the filet mignon--which was rather extravagant on my part being one of the most expensive items on the menu at $12. Or rather, that's what I thought I ordered. Amanda said when the waitress repeated the order, she said chateaubriand. I had missed that. Turns out, I'd wind up getting the one item on the menu that cost more--$15. I'd have thought it was a deliberate scam, but Amanda actually did hear the waitress try to confirm the "chateaubriand" which I had missed in all the Spanish flying around.

Amanda ordered some sort of fish with garlic sauce, and drank a can of a beer while waiting, then two glasses of wine with the meal, and I joked about needing to get her a taxi to make it back to the room.

The food was good, but before I left, I decided to make a deposit in the bathroom. A serious deposit, if you get my meaning. I was ready for everything... or so I thought. I had a roll of toilet paper with me. Most of the bathrooms in Cuba seem to be on a "bring your own TP" system.
My chateaubriand, which cost a whopping $15!

Turns out, this restaurant was so fancy, they actually supplied toilet paper so I didn't have to worry about that. But my first obstacle was the lack of a toilet seat. Hmm.... Surprisingly, a lot of toilets in Cuba don't have toilet seats on them.

Well, that shouldn't be a problem, I thought. I just have to squat and hover. Not like I haven't done that plenty of times in the woods. I squatted, pushed out my log and was quite proud of my progress until I turned around and realized that I had missed the bowl. Oh, $#!^!!! That never happened in the woods!

The giant log rested on the edge of the toilet bowl. I can't leave it like that! I had actually asked the waiter where the restroom was. If I left it like this, he'd know it was me that left it! Well, there were two good things about the unfortunate incident I could tell myself. First, it was a pretty solid log. If I had the runs, it would have made a whole lot bigger of a mess! And second, although I had missed the bowl, at least it was resting on the edge of the toilet seat and not on the floor. I just needed to nudge it in the correct direction and it should fall right in. Not like I had to physically pick it up and drop it in the toilet.

I unrolled a wad of toilet paper and nudged it into the toilet. Plop! All was well. I flushed the toilet. The water swirled in circles and filled up the bowl, but the log stayed in place. It didn't even wiggle. Crap.

The benefit of a solid poop was that it made it really easy to push into the toilet bowl. The downside, however, suddenly reared its ugly head. It did not want to go down the narrow Cuban plumbing.

I saw a toilet cleaning brush in the corner and wondered if I could use that to help things along. It wasn't ideal, but I didn't see anything else readily available. With a closer look behind the toilet, though, I noticed an actual plunger hidden back there. Yes! Thank God! The plunger was a tiny thing, barely the size of a refrigerator magnet, but dammit, beggars can't be choosers.

I went to work on the toilet, flushing a few times, worried that it wouldn't work. I wondered if anyone outside the bathroom could hear all the flushing and wondered what the hell was happening in here.

Finally, the solid mass broke into several pieces and cleared the toilet bowl. Who knows if it would clog something else up further down the line, but my role in this disaster would no longer be known. I was safe. Whew!

I washed my hands at the sink vigorously--God knows what other hands have handled that plunger over the years or where that plunger may have been. Then I dried my hands on my shirt and reentered the restaurant like nothing had ever happened.

When I arrived back at the table, Amanda was drinking a sambuca, a liquor that tastes like black licorice. I'm a little sad I missed it, however, because Amanda said that they dimmed the lights and served it to her while it was on fire. Sounded very cool, and I missed it because I was fighting a giant turd in the restroom at the time. They also gave her a flower.

While I battled the giant turd in the bathroom, Amanda was enjoying flaming alcoholic drinks and clueless of the disaster unfolding a short walk away. =)
Never a dull moment in Cuba.... After Amanda finished her drink and I paid the bill, we walked back to our room for the night. We'd both had enough adventures for the day!

A monument for the USS Maine?! You don't say?!
Amanda poses with the monument for victims of the USS Maine disaster.
Waves crashed high against the sea wall!
That tall building on the left.... I'd be nervous around that thing. It doesn't look right... =)
This part of the sidewalk was slippery as a greased slug, so Amanda and I would sometimes walk in the street when no cars were around to get by. I did fall once, but we both had a lot of close calls too!
They use kids as doctors here?!
Entrance of the Colon Cemetery, or--more formally--the Cementerio de Cristóbal Colón.
The cemetery, according to our guidebook, is the second largest cemetery in the world, but I kind of doubt it myself... *shrug*

The church in the middle of the cemetery.
Inside the church

1 comment:

Grrly Girl said...

With much trepidation, I looked at the photos.