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Thoughts on, Cuba, notebook computers & Spanish schools

antigua-105.jpgJust a final thought on why Cuba is so messed up & then I shall leave that subject to the “experts” on TA. A very nice couple from Quebec staying at my casa in Habana who had been coming to Cuba for years mentioned they had noticed the only well run & maintained hotels etc in Cuba were those that were in a joint venture with another country while those soley Cuban operated were substandard. On looking around on my travels about the island this proved to be true.

I also noticed than none of the casa owners where I stayed had no more than an extremely limited use of the English language. Now I realise that Cuba is a Spanish speaking country but as other than their neighbouring Latin American countries most visitors speak English as either a first or second language so it would be good business sense to have at least a working knowledge of the language. After all the jinteraro/s seem to realise this fact as they all are proficient in English & many in 3 or 4 other languages. This leads me to think the casa owners just don’t care & from my experience all the care about is the CUC in your pocket & I have yet to see the “great” casa moms I heard so much about!

                                Note book computers

When deciding what to take on my trip I chose not to bring a laptop due to size & security plus there are internet cafes in most places. Well in my travels I noticed a few people carrying not books & with WIFI being available most every where, Antigua even has WIFI zones in Parque Central, I couldn’t resist any longer & bought an “aecr” brand on Thursday, it is small, light & inconspicuous in a back pack, money well spent. My Spanish teacher has even put some lessons in it for home study.

                          Spanish schools

Spanish schools is a subject where there is no one answer but as many as there people & the great thing is there is a program out there for everyone. Now you will hear ” I am too old to learn” this is a cop out by people that are lazy & have been out of school so long they have forgotten how to study (or never learned how), same as the sob story “I would like to quit smoking but can’t”. BS if you make up your mind to do it you will, 10 days short of 6 months without a smoke LOL, now the Spanish is a work in progress but I have faith that by the time I return to Canada simple conversations will be possible.

Personally I had 2 weeks in Antigua with home stay, another 3 in Habana & now another week back in Antigua. I won’t offer advise as every one has a different agenda but can list some options. The school I am in now, Guate Linda in Antigua, offers a beginners course of 8 weeks which seems about right. You have the option of home stay, living at the school or else where.

The best option would be to take 8 weeks straight with home stay & probably not in Antigua, where there is too much opportunity to speak English but one of the small towns with schools. However that is not an option for most.

I would say Guatemala is the cheapest country for lessons with the Antigua area offering the best selection of schools with the most options. However there are schools in all Central & South American countries so a couple weeks in each of 4 countries might be a nice option.

As to lessons in Cuba, a week just to get a feel for the difference won’t hurt but they don’t speak the language either the way the rest of Central America does or the way it is spoken in Spain so there isn’t much point in going to the expense of spending much time there, my opinion from personal experience.

Of course the way things worked out I am living on 9a Calle Poiente & 5a Avienda Sur while the school Guate Linda is at the other end of town North of 1a Calle Oriente & 7a Avienda Norte but this gives me an opportunity to explore the town by taking a different route every day. Also the really cool thing is that my teacher Juan Carlos is an ex-Guatemalean  guerrilla from the civil war who was trained in Cuba!

However you decide to learn it, it’s a great second language to know!



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10 Responses to “Thoughts on, Cuba, notebook computers & Spanish schools”

  1. Oncearound says:

    Hola Dave, that’s an interesting observation you make on Cuban run properties – I’ll be sure to avoid them on your advice. As for the second language, know this – that french is similar in many ways and it would not be a gigantic step to add that and be trilingual. I know my french upbringing is a help in learning spanish for me, though I agree, immersion is the best way to learn.
    Happy trails
    :-)

  2. Dave says:

    Whoa rein in the horses for a minute. What I made was a general observation (my bad), not meaning stay away from all Cuban run properties.
    One example was a 5* hotel in Habana Vieja that they visited 5 yrs ago when it had been recently restored with UNESCO money, on a return visit this year they found it lacking in preventative maintence ie;paint in heavily used aread shabby, an elevator not working, little things cheaply fixed that escelate & I niticed similar instances around the country.

    However Giavota operates properties in remote areas of the country where your choices are limited to them or CP’s & the few properties I saw looked OK from the outside especially in the vicinity of Vinales & Baracoa, actualy the Anacon Resort at Trinidad looked all right from the outside as long as you don’t count the Rusian barracks looks.

    Sure go to the Govita properties & enjoy. the point I was trying to make was we needn’t feel all that sorry for them as a lot of the problems in Cuba are of their own making & there are areas of Central America that need & deserve (imho) help more ie. Nicaragua.

    You’re 100% right on the French & will be upgrading my rusty not used in 30 yrs French. Do find it a great help in conjecating verbs but can be a hinderance as get the languages mixed up on occasion but Franish is a goog language to LOL. Met a well traveled lady on the water taxi to Caye Caulker who said you can travel the world with English, Spanish & French.

    So pina you have to come to Antigua & help me with my French LOL

  3. pinamimi says:

    LOL!!!!!! that’s a good excuse!! lol
    i must agree..im perfectly bilingual and am trying to add Spanish to be trilingual…just need to find the time to continue………..total immersion = the best of both worlds….beach and learning lol….
    now…..to get moula……..lol

  4. Dave says:

    Well then you have to come, my next door neighbour is a Guatemalean who lived in France, actually his wife is still there until next month. I will speak Spanish to you & you respond in French & my neighbour can correct us both LOL

  5. Oncearound says:

    Agree about helping Nicaragua. As I said before, we are already committed to sponsorship of two kids and their families there. Thanks for the clear up!
    :-)

  6. Dave says:

    Two months of being looked at as an ATM kind of put me off Cuba especialy when it.s not at all like that here in Guatemala.
    The average AI tourist won’t see it & the out of the way Giavota properties in the country I imagine would be nice also.

  7. bellagio says:

    Dave:

    I find myself agreeing with you about Cuba more and more. If it were not for my connections there I really don’t think I would actually return. OK the resorts offer a good deal but the independent traveller like you and me are paying through the nose for a vacation.

    I maintain that I should have my casa at a discount rate the number of times I go but discounts just do not apply in Cuba. Even cervesa in the shops at 1.15 per can is still 24 x 1.15 if bought by the case, no quantity buying discount.

    For a Cuban to leave Cuba is virtually impossible without the help of relatives in the USA or a tourist. At 350 CUC’s for a PVE just to get permission to leave the country for a visiut to another country is just a rip off.

    Car hire rates are ridiculous also – currently at 60 CUC’s per day for a small car on a 14 day rental. My last holiday cost 895.20 CUC for car hire plus 350 CUC for casa rent so that’s $1385.16 US dollars before adding on the flight cost and food and drink. Certainly not cheap by any standard.

    Like you Dave, I am constantly being asked for money by the same people every day but what’s so strange is that a lot of Cubans will give money to these people.

  8. Dave says:

    This trip was surely an eye opener & fyling in from Panama & out to Guatemala gives a different perspective on the travelers to.

    When I returned to Antigua I thought I had landed in heaven, at the airport there were the shuttle operators going to Antigua with their signs but they were civilized not like the zoo animals at the Viasul terminals in Cuba. Even walking down the sidewalk is a pleasure as people automaticaly move over & if stopped to talk they position themselves so they are not blocking the way & they don’t stand in doorways so you have to push your way through then get dirty looks, sure there are a few beggars but no more than you find in Toronto & certianly nothing like Cuba.

    One of the high-lites of the trip was touring the Guardalavaca resorts with you & discussing things. Oh I met this guy while waiting for the taxi who was going to Holguin & said he would share the taxi (share not pay lol) he was nice enough so I said OK knowing that he wouldn’t have any money, but it realy peed me off when after his free ride he asked for money. Enough is enough!!

  9. bellagio says:

    I should think you were peed off Dave. I have strict instructions from Mailin to pick up no one whilst driving alone in Cuba. When she is with me we pick only people she knows other than women with babies.

    Mind you it might help if you had that ATM tattoo removed from your forehead!!! lol

  10. Dave says:

    I had been talking to him at the rapido where you dropped m off & he was nice enough that I thought what to heck give the guy a ride it’s not going to cost any more, the mistake I made (knew better) was letting him take my bag into the bus station, then I owed him, the fact that I just gave him a free ride was in the past & forgotten.

    That in a nutshell is what you encounter as an independent traveller in Cuba, it doesn’t matter how much you give or what you do for them it is never enough!!!!!

    As I have metioned before NOT one Cuban in 2 months who initiated a conversation in English failed to ask for money. The longer I am here in Antigua associating with the Guatemalians & compare it to Cuba the more bitter I get about Cuba.

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