©2019 by Jelle.

Back in the Netherlands

29/10/2018

I’ve not been posting much on my website, lately. A long story short: My grandfather quickly and unexpectedly passed away and that’s the reason why I’m back in the Netherlands for a while. The ceremony is behind us and I’m returning to Mexico soon, because I’m definitely gonna finish the trip. I will try to summarize my lasts weeks/months into one story, bear with me because it’s a lot.

 

 

My last story is so long ago that I couldn’t remember where I was. I will try to help you to remember. I left Ken’s beautiful house (the one with the pool!) and cycled from Mérida towards Pisté. Pisté is very close to the famous ruins of Chichen Itzá. I had already seen many ruins of the Mayas, so I wasn’t sure about the added value of seeing this one. Yet, it felt like an obligation so            I decided to go. I found a cheap and simple hotel, just 5 minutes from the ruins. I arranged a late check-out and went there the next morning. I was really disappointed in the ruins and I simply don’t understand why it’s so famous. Right after you buy your ticket and enter the zone, many guides approach you and offer you a tour. Furthermore, the entire area is more like a flea market than an archeological site. There is an entry especially for the vendors, and the security guy told me that 2000 vendors are selling their stuff daily. So I didn’t really enjoy Chichen Itzá.

 

Chicxulub. The place where the comet hit the earth that caused the extinction of the dinosaurs.

 

The flea market in Chichen Itzá

 

I spoke to my parents a lot in Pisté, because we were still talking about the possibility of my parents visiting me in Mexico. It’s difficult to arrange, because I can’t plan more than a month in advance. Obviously, that’s difficult for my parents who are both working and have their obligations in the Netherlands. Eventually, we found something that could work; an All-Inclusive resort in Playa del Carmen! Since my parents bought a package deal with the flight included, I had to add myself to the hotel reservation. I tried to do this by calling them, but they apparently couldn’t do that via telephone, so I decided to just go there by bicycle. When I arrived in Playa Del Carmen, I passed two security points to enter the hotel and they were surprised to see someone arriving with a bicycle. They added me to the booking and everything was in order! I was looking forwards to seeing my parents again after 8 months.

 

The resort where my parents will visit me

 

In the meantime, I had decided to go to Cuba for 10/11 days and I immediately booked my flight. I would leave Mexico in like 3 days. I decided to go to Cuba without the bicycle and to have like a bicycle-break. I could store my bicycle in a house close to Puerto Aventuras. Andrés is the owner of the house, a good friend of Neal whom I met in Mexico-City. After Neal quit his job there, he moved to Puerto Aventuras to start something new there. We barely spoke with each other because I quickly left for Cuba.

 

On the day that I went to Cuba, I took the well-known Mexican ADO bus to the airport and arrived well in advance. An employee tried to scam me by letting me pay double the price of the tourist visa of Cuba. Didn’t work out for him! Before I left, I shared a picture of me in the airplane and said that I was homesick and would go back to the Netherlands. I wanted to immediately share another picture after arriving in Havana, but that didn’t go as planned. I didn’t know that internet was barely available in Cuba and the internet shops (where you can buy Wi-Fi vouchers) were already closed because it was Sunday. A couple days later, when I could finally say that it was a joke, I had already received many messages of people that were worried about my well-being.

 

In the cab from the airport to the city, it felt like I was part of a movie from the 50s/60s. As if the time stood still since the revolution and since the economic blockade from the United States. The cars that drove there in the 50s are still driving there today. In many houses, the Cubans still use the household equipment from 60 years. The taxi driver called the number that I got from a friend in Mexico, but he didn’t answer the phone. He brought me to a ‘casa particular’, a house with a permit to receive tourists. Without this permit, it is illegal to receive tourists in your own house….

 

The next day, I realized how different Cuba. Many things are well-organized, like the systems for health care, education and housing. Despite this (or because of this), many Cubans have financial problems. A salary of 60 dollars would be a lot. Most Cubans earn like 20-30 dollars a month, which is nothing if you have a children to raise. For that reason, many Cubans are looking for alternative ways to earn a little bit extra. For example, there are many Cubans on the street that pretend to approach you spontaneously. They talk with you and tell you about the city, and ask money for it afterwards. Or they connect you with another person that sells you something and he/she will get a commission. And that’s how it works with everything in Cuba; collective taxis, tours for tourists, casa particulares, souvenirs, cigars. The Cubans all work in networks. I hope my explanation makes sense 😊.

 

I understand why the Cubans need to make some extra money, but I don’t like the quasi-spontaneous way in which most people make money. It’s almost as if you can’t trust anyone on his/her word, and this turned out to be true on multiple occasions. For example: the owner of a casa-particular lied to me about the bus schedule because she wanted me to stay another night. Or the many occasions in which they abuse the confusion of the two currencies in the country and try to charge you up to 20x the original price…. Or the people that look so trustworthy but still try to sell you fake cigars. It all makes me really suspicious.

 

I wanted to see as much as possible from Cuba in my 10 days. I often arrived in a new city in the afternoon, did some sightseeing the next morning and left for the next city on the same day. That’s how I went to Trinidad, Cienfuegos, Santa Clara, Havana and Viñales. It’s all too much to write down so I will just show some pictures.

 

View from the colonial village of Trinidad

 

Playing together with a Cuban band, I'm playing the 'claves'

 

View from the little harbor city of Cienfuegos

 

The mausoleum of Che Guevara in Santa-Clara

 

I wanted to return to Havana by train, because I had heard that it was a horrible way of travelling. Old, rickety and often delayed trains without airco. I decided to try it. The train that was supposed to arrive at 8:30 AM squeakily arrived four hours later. I can confirm that it is indeed not the most luxurious way of transportation. But six hours is nothing with a book, some music and nice views. Just assume that you lose your entire day.

 

There it is!!

 

 

One of the many classical cars in Havana

 

Trying cigars with Joris and Michiel in the most important tabacco region in Cuba: Viñales.

 

I really liked Cuba, but I have to say that I looked forward to going back to Mexico. I went back to Andrés’ house by plane and bus and Neal and Andrés were still awake. I had to wait another week before my parents would visit me. With all the tempting parties in the touristic region of Mexico, Neal had already burned up all his savings and couldn’t realize his dream of starting a business here or cycling with me for a while (because that was the original idea). He had to go back to Mexico-City to work in an office again. I felt sad for Neal because he didn’t really try to start something. Andrés has a regular office job, so I was alone in his house for many days. There wasn’t much to do, so I was a bit bored and couldn’t wait for my parents to arrive.

 

They finally arrived the second of October. It was thirty kilometers to the resort. I arrived as early as possible. My parents would arrive in the evening, but I wasn’t gonna wait for that! They gave me this all-inclusive wristband which gives you access to the pool/beach/drinks/food/gym and I immediately went to the buffet. After all the hotdogs and hamburgers, I really liked to eat some healthy food again. My parents arrived in the evening and we were really happy to see each-other. It felt surreal. Obviously, my parents were really tired from the trip, so we saved all the stories for later. We have had a wonderful week in which my parents had the opportunity to recharge their batteries from the working-life and in which I could share my stories. Sun, sea, beach and many piña coladas, the time flew.

 

Reunited in Playa Del Carmen

My mother swimming with the dolphins in Xcaret

 

But the fun was over after a week. In two days, both my grandparents were hospitalized in Amsterdam. After some investigations, the health situation of my grandfather turned out to be so bad that my parents decided to go back. When my parents made that choice, I wasn’t worried at all. I was just sad that my parents already had to leave. My grandfather had been hospitalized before, there was a treatment plan and everything would be fine. A couple of hours after my parents left, my grandfather passed away. I immediately arranged everything to go back to the Netherlands as well. Andrés picked up my stuff from the resort (what a hero!) and I left with the basic necessities. It felt surreal (again) to suddenly be back in the Netherlands and I wasn’t happy at all. I didn’t want to be here already. The next week was busy with the preparations of the ceremony and the care of my grandmother. The ceremony was wonderful and my grandmother lives in a retirement home and is doing ok under the circumstances. Unfortunately, my aunt passed away as well and I’m therefore still in the Netherlands to attend the funeral.  I'm also quickly visiting my friends and family before flying back to Mexico in the beginning of November. I have to admit that I’m not looking forward to flying back and continuing, I’m missing the excitement that I had in February when I left. But I’m gonna try!

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