Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 18, 2018

A vacation to Cuba

By Curt Swarm | Mar 08, 2017

It's really easy to go to Cuba. Contrary to the belief that you must have an “educational” reason to go to Cuba, or some such excuse, all you have to do is buy a ticket on JetBlue out of Ft. Lauderdale - $138 round trip, and you're on your way to Havana. JetBlue takes care of the Visa at the airport for $50. Just ask Kenny and Patty Madden, from Crawfordsville. They spent seven days in Cuba as part of their winter vacation.

They arranged accommodations through Airbnb and stayed in a very nice apartment, with a balcony, in Old Havana for $40 a night. Can't beat that with a stick. They had to boil their drinking water, but that was a minor inconvenience.

Kenny knows his way around the world, like a hound knows the back 80. He's a retired Colonel from the Army, spending 30 years in the military and 48 years traveling the world. Kenny's been in 65 countries, including Yemen (twice), Afghanistan (eight times), and Iraq (13 times). Jumping in a car and driving across Kingston, Jamaica or Amman, Jordan is second nature to Kenny. He's the kind of guy you want to travel with.

Cuba might be the safest country in the world to visit. There are no guns. It is safer in Havana than most cities in the United States. Everything is controlled by the Communist Party and Army. Kenny and Patty saw very few policeman the entire week. There is a camera on every corner and not all of the surveillance is obvious.

They walked the old narrow Imperial streets that were built for horses. It's like stepping back in time. The architecture is amazing—Spanish, Colonial, neoclassical, art deco—all in one block. Even late at night, people would be sitting out in the streets playing dominoes. You don't have to worry about your purse or wallet being snatched. There are no beggars. People are well-dressed, well-fed and well- educated.

The Cubans have free healthcare, free education and essentially free housing. But they don't get paid much - $30 a month is typical, even for highly educated people. The man who took Patty and Kenny to the airport was a gynecologist. He worked one day a week to keep his skills up, and made most of his money driving a cab.

If there is a bar with more than five stools, there is live music. The musicians work during the day to make their $30 a month, then perform at night for tips. Military service is mandatory for all men age 18 and over.

It's like going back 50 years. Time has stopped. There is music everywhere. But the internet is limited and controlled by the government.

Kenny and Patty were given a tour in a 1958 Plymouth Super Fury convertible. Very few cars have the emblems on them. If it weren't for Bondo, they would have fallen off years ago. Cars in Cuba are worth from $35,000 to $75,000. Most of the engines have been replaced by Hyundai diesels. Diesel fuel is subsidized by the government.

Cuba hardly has any heavy equipment for construction work. Most of the work is done by hand with wheelbarrows, picks and shovels. Farming is still done with oxen and horses. Patty saw a farmer planting tobacco one plant at a time. The few Russian tractors left behind won't run.

At one time, Havana and Buenos Aires were considered the two most beautiful cities in the Western Hemisphere. You might want to plan a stop in Cuba on your next vacation.

Prayer Request: My wife, Ginnie, had hip replacement surgery on Monday, March 6, in Burlington. Please include her in your prayers, and for the male nurse taking care of her. Beany Weenies get mighty old.

Have a good story? Call or text Swarm, in Mt. Pleasant, at 319-217-0526, email him at curtswarm@yahoo.com, or find him on Facebook.

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