Cuba Journal: First Day On The Island… Feels Like A Different Island.

This segment titled “Cuba Journal” contains entries written from when I traveled to the country while making an upcoming film. I’m posting these journal entires completely raw, without editing them in any way. I didn’t just write these now… they’ve been written since I was in Havana the second time (I sadly didn’t keep a journal the first time through when I was with the baseball team).

I also have some videos to accompany some of these entries. These are mostly taken from a phone camera while I’m inside my room, although I’m going to try and find time to edit them a little bit to make them more interesting to watch, and to tell the stories better. Therefore, the video content in this journal “may” be edited, but the text will remain entirely untouched.

With that out of the way… Here’s entry number 3. If you’d like to watch and read any of the previous entries, just visit the rest of the journal.

Cuba Journal Day 1: On The Island

So far, Cuba is exactly as I remember it, with the friendly people, the old cars trailing black smoke behind them as their drivers hit the gas, the slight smell of sewage in the streets, and the amazing taste of the food, especially the fresh fruits. The island nation still has a similar charm from my first visit, just six months ago.

It’s not totally without difference though. The air is much more humid, and the temperature higher. The weather is also not cooperating with the film, constantly threatening a shower from above. I was looking forward to being able to just walk around with the camera on my Glidecam, but because rain is always a possibility, handheld shots with my bag around my shoulder has been what I’ve resorted to. As a result, shots are still a little shaky, and coverage is still a little sporadic.

The social atmosphere is also different in Cuba this time. No longer are the Havana streets covered with tourists, as the hot climate has driven their interests away from the island. tourists frequent Havana far more in the winter, when it’s cooler here, and very cold where they come from. This humid summer heat isn’t something you can relax and enjoy easily, and they don’t come around much during this time of year.

Also, because I’m no longer with a huge baseball team that’s being closely followed by government officials, there is a small fear associated with police and military personal. I’m not scared they’ll lock me up, or that they’ll hurt me or anything, since the risk of this is very small. I’m mostly concerned with any situation in which an official would want to speak with me. I don’t know the language, and I’d bet he doesn’t know mine well either. Any instance in which I’m not able to answer his questions, or not able to satisfy his curiosity could result in him taking my camera.

Obviously that’s a bad thing, for multiple reasons.

So far, the police and other government officials have shown no interest in me, and no sign that they’re in any way a threat. I’m constantly reminded my the people I’m with that they’re a threat, but I haven’t seen it myself. I suppose I just haven’t met the right official yet, or maybe I’ve just been fine with what I’m doing after all. I suppose I’ll be able to tell more as the week goes on.

Tonight, the group at dinner with a man named Segundo, who works for the United Nations here in Cuba. He also, because of his job, travels all over the place. Segundo, and his wife, joined us for dinner and a lot of discussion as well. Gordy, a professor at GVSU and a producer of the documentary film, has a big interest in the politics and economy of the country, and Segundo was more than happy to entertain the few people that were around him listening with plenty of cool and interesting stories and facts.

He’s also big into Scuba diving. He’s in love with the ocean, and had a lot of great stories about that as well.

The meal came out to be super expensive as far as my limited resources goes, which I was prepared for after I took a quick glance at the selection available on the menu. This was one of the only restaurants I’ve ever been in that actually lists the descriptions of each menu item in four different languages. I assume it’s because Cuba is frequented by people all around the world, and after eating here I know why. The food is amazing.

Still, my wallet took a huge hit, considering I have only a very small amount of money available for me on this trip. It’s actually eating me up inside whenever the group goes out to eat or have drinks. I don’t have any money to do these sorts of things, as I described in a previous post. All of these people seem to be quite wealthy, at least enough to support a week in Cuba with no serious hits to their lifestyle. I, on the other hand, am merely a poor college student who does well to simply survive near Grand Rapids. Plus, I had just spent over $2000 in Los Angeles on an internship that I also paid the school to give me credit for. Not a whole lot of time to recover. Needless to say, these people are going to be able to do many more activities than I ever could. They’re spending over $70 a day. I can’t afford more than $8.

After the restaurant, the group made their way down the road in a two car convoy to a small bar a few blocks from our cases. The prices here were exactly the opposite of the last place, selling beers for under $1.50, and rum for less than $2 a glass. Still, since I had already taken a huge hit at the restaurant, I didn’t purchase any drinks tonight.

I appreciate the opportunity to capture this story, and to use my skill to assemble the production with a team later. However, without any help from others, and me going into debt to people, I will not survive here. It’s sad that despite my talents and opportunities, commodity has to weigh down the entire experience of being in this place. I’m so appreciative of those who assist in allowing this project to continue moving forward, but I really wish I was capable of supporting myself right now. I’m finding it difficult to really have any fun. My mind is full of this terrible notion of worthlessness, simply because I know that with the current pattern, I won’t even be able to buy water on my own by Wednesday.

I’ve spent so much money in the last 2 months. I’ll honestly be grateful when I can stop moving around, and stop traveling. It’s sad to say it, but I’m actually thinking I’ll be much happier right now just staying in boring old Michigan working a minimum wage job 40 hours a week instead of this. Perhaps then I’d at least be able to afford a $1.50 beer at a party.

Charlie Pryor

Charlie is a media producer, writer, and a traveler. He grew up in Michigan, all of his life and attended Grand Valley State University for a B.S. in Film and Video Production. He's married to a wonderful woman named Hang, and simply hopes to one day turn himself into a man that many will remember long after he's gone.

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