Cuba, where the tonic costs more than the gin

Many might not know that Principal Tim Blair, CCIM, CPM, is an avid runner. So avid, in fact, he has completed the great feat of running a marathon on each of the world’s seven continents – yes, even in Antarctica!

Since travel recently opened up in Cuba, and its certainly uncharted territory, Tim decided it was time to add another rare jewel to his marathon collection. He registered for the Havana Marathon on November 15th.

Upon his arrival, he quickly realized that Cuba was a distinctive city. Although filled with a bright, spirited culture, the surroundings were literally crumbling around him. Newsflash: Havana is old. In the 1600’s, the western hemisphere was anchored by Havana, Cuba and Buenos Aires, Argentina. America is only an infant in comparison. This long history has unfortunately caused many of its buildings and structures to deteriorate. Unlike much of Europe, which takes pride in its rich history, Cuba has lacked the government preservation efforts needed to maintain the precious architecture.

“At every turn I was faced with contradiction, and a topsy-turvy perspective on how Cubans allocate value. For example, a gin drink was $3, a Martini $4; however, a gin and tonic was $9. In what world is the tonic twice as expensive as the gin?”

Living in a free, democratic nation allows us freedoms that many around the world are not so lucky to exercise. As the Christmas holiday rolls around, let us be thankful.

TEN quick thoughts on Cuba:

  1. One can actually tire of nothing but rum drinks.
  2. Catholic Mass in a different language is always cool. You know what’s happening – well, kinda.
  3. Imagine a population that is well-fed, well-educated (99% literate), and well-cared for (longer life expectancy than U.S.), in a completely crumbling infrastructure.
  4. As Cubans tell it ‘The Crisis’ isn’t the great recession – it’s the fall of the Soviet Union.
  5. Rice and beans are very filling and very delicious and very much a part of every meal.
  6. Cubans are very clear that they are Socialists, not Communists.
  7. 80 degrees and 80% humidity is not optimal marathon weather. The 2nd lap of marathon was death march. Probably my last marathon…
  8. At the beginning of the week, there were many buildings that I thought were abandoned, but by the end of the week,
  9. The Pyongyang marathon is in April over the beloved leader’s birthday…maybe I got one more in me (North Korea)!
  10. Most people didn’t speak English. Curiously reassuring.
At every turn I was faced with contradiction, and a topsy-turvy perspective on how Cubans allocate value.

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by Tim Blair