1. Eucalyptus trees are used a lot in medicine in Cuba but they take a lot of iron in the soil so they're only planted in certain places.
2. Two years of military service is mandatory for Cuban men (on a voluntary basis for women) and usually it's completed between the ages of 17 and 19.
3. Coconut palm trees have coconuts, but all other palm trees have different kinds of palmiche fruit, and the national tree of Cuba is the royal palm.
4. Havana was attacked by pirates of many nationalities, but only the English were able to take it from the Spaniards, and only for 11 months.
5. Trinidad in Cuba is known for its pottery, which is transported all over the world.
There were a lot more things that he told us, but I can't remember all of them. I really liked Ramon, because even though we were learning a lot, he was never boring, because he gave us his opinions and told a lot of jokes, especially about his mother-in-law!
We stopped briefly at a place with bathrooms and some souvenirs after about two hours or so on the road. I bought two mystery novels in Spanish and a refresco de limon (my favorite flavor of the Ciego Montero pop here is the lemon!).
Our first stop was at the Che Museum and Memorial in Santa Clara. Ramon told us that the statue of Che wears a cast on his arm because he had one when he was fighting in Santa Clara. The Museum had a lot of artifacts from Che's life and from some of his friends. I liked seeing his famous hat and uniform, rifles and other weapons, the microscope he used in his study of medicine, and the chess set that they used when they were fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains. (It was funny to see that because Madison and I had just played a game of chess on the bus ride there!)
The Memorial had the remains of Che and others who fought with him in different places around the world. There were even two women buried with him. Later Ramon told Madison that Che was married three times and had five daughters; he also had a mistress and she is one of the women buried at the Memorial.
After visiting the Che Memorial, we went to the tren blindado (armored train) in Santa Clara, the site of some explosions set up by Che and the guerilla soldiers to prevent the materials on the train to reach Batista's army. Ramon said that this event was so important that it caused Fulgencio Batista to leave Cuba two days later, and the victory of the Revolution was declared. It's really amazing that one man can have such a large impact on so many countries in the world.
We went to the plaza in Santa Clara, where we visited the library and Madison and I people-watched and enjoyed the goats pulling carts full of children around the plaza. (It almost seemed like having your kid ride on the goat carts was some kind of day care while you're out shopping!)
Lunch was at a hotel/resort with a large buffet. If you'd seen us, you probably would have thought that we'd never seen so much food before! In reality the food was only so-so, but it was amazing to have options again!
Then the bus took us to the city of Santo Espiritus. It's a small city but really pretty, with colorful colonial architecture and the oldest stone bridge in Cuba. We explored it for about an hour before continuing to Trinidad.
Just like when we went to Vinales and Soroa, the Cuban countryside is really beautiful and tranquil. There are cows, horses and goats in the fields, royal palms, little green mountains, people in carts pulled by horses, and, when we went to Cienfuegos the next day, views of the Caribbean sea.
When we arrived in Trinidad it was a little late so we went to the hotel first. It's called Las Cuevas and had, as I had hoped, a pool! We went to our rooms to get ready to take a dip.
Madison adn I shared a room and she called dips on the bathroom first. While I was changing my clothes for swimming, I heard her scream. She came out and told me that there was a frog in the toilet! I looked and indeed there was. I took a picture of the small green frog, but we still needed to use the bathroom so we used Brittany and Cassi's bathroom next door. We asked Pepe and he said he would help us with the whole frog situation, but we found a hotel employee and he removed the frog for us. We were glad that it wasn't worse--after all, it could have been a snake or a rat!
The pool was smaller and not as deep or clean as the one in Soroa, but we had fun in the water and it felt great after a long day in the heat. We also took some fun photos together in the pool with my underwater camera.
When I tried to shower after being in the pool, there was a green lizard in our shower. I told Madison and she was not excited about that. I thought that it was cute but we shut the bathroom door and went to dinner (another buffet) where we told Pepe about the lizard.
He helped us after dinner and caught the lizard, which we had decided to name Alejandro. Alejandro decided that he liked Pepe and stayed on his arm for quite a long time after he took him outside. Madison was tired but I wanted to see the little dance show that went on near the hotel's restaurant. Brittany, Pepe and I met with the other girls and watched some songs before the show was over.
Afterwards, the dancers made the other girls go on stage and dance too. Pepe and I took video and it was pretty fun. Brittany, Pepe and I had some drinks and talked a bit before returning to our rooms.
There was a scary hopping black spider in our room when I returned, but we decided to leave it because we hoped that it would eat the insects in the room and because it didn't move from the corner (between the wall and the floor). In the morning (6am or so) I woke up and needed to use the bathroom. I looked in the toilet and lo and behold--there was another frog. It seemed smaller but the same species as the other frog. I was extremely glad that I looked in the toilet before sitting down. The more you know...
I woke up Madison and told her. We couldn't believe that it happened twice while we were here (and no times to anyone else in our group). Madison had to go to the bathroom too and we agreed that we should just board off the bathroom door in our room and never use it again, even if they were to remove the frog. We went to the lobby of the hotel to use the bathroom.
I couldn't sleep afterward, so we watched some Grey's Anatomy before we went to breakfast. The spider was gone and we didn't think too much about where it might have gone, but then we saw it on the floor. It moved with a strange hopping motion and we got very excited to leave the hotel for good.
I looked in the toilet again and there was no frog. I told Madison and she was mad at me and I thought I was going mad. I looked one more time before we left the room and--there was a frog, bigger than the one the day before and it jumped and I screamed and slammed the toilet lid and ran onto the bed. I went back and took a picture to show the others too. We joked that between the two frogs in the toilet, the lizard, and the hopping spider, we hadn't known we'd signed up for the jungle experience!
At breakfast (yet another buffet) we told Pepe and showed a picture of the frog to Ramon. He wanted to see the spider also but I didn't have a very good picture of it.
He told me, "Spiders can be dangerous, you should have told someone."
Me: "I thought there weren't any venomous animals in Cuba."
Ramon: "Well, in the countryside there are."
So that was awesome... Later, when I gave him the room key, I said that he should tell the hotel about the frog in the toilet.
"They know," he said.
"Does that happen a lot?"
"Yeah, it's a big problem here."
"It is? In all the rooms?"
"Yes. Some people are more scared than you, though. They sleep here," he said, gesturing toward the sofas in the lobby.
Needless to say, we were ready to leave! We went to a ceramics workshop called Familia Santander. The pottery was beautiful and I bought a vase (later Olvis called it a borrachon). We got to see the kiln and Pepe spun a pot on the wheel.
We visited the main plaza in Trinidad and the Museo de Decorativas Romanticas (also called Palacio Brunet). There we found the view that all the tourist photos of Trinidad have--the yellow church tower with the mountains in the background--and I took a lot of photos, including some pretty good panoramas.
Ramon told us a story about how the father at the church we were going to had kicked him out about four months ago for answering a client's question during mass. He said because of that he wouldn't go in; as it was that father wouldn't let any tourists in that day so we didn't see inside, and Ramon said many people were complaining about that Father.
We had a little time to explore and then we went to la Canchanchara, where we had the drink of the same name. It's made from honey, water, lemon, ice and aguardiente, which is a bit similar to white rum. I really liked it and I think it helped with my cough/cold. They also had a band there (with a flutist!) that I liked and I bought their CD. I'm excited for my new collection of Cuban music.
We walked a little more around Trinidad and I got some pretty photos there. We ate lunch in Trinidad at a restaurant that used to be a prison. It was another buffet and I am tired of buffets at this point, so I mostly just ate ice cream. Ramon took us to a plaza after lunch but when he opened the door nobody moved. We said that it was too hot and we were tired... we just wanted to stay in the air-conditioned bus. Ramon just laughed and we left for Cienfuegos.
It was a longer trip there, and we watched music videos. Madison and I discovered that we hate Franco de Vida--we had to listen to and watch eight videos of his in a row and they were just boring concerts, not actual music videos.
In Cienfuegos we picked up Olvis. We were invited to her house there and we all had some mango juice. (Have I mentioned how amazing the mangos are in Cuba? I always thought that I didn't like them but it turns out I just don't like the not-so-fresh ones we get back home). Ramon recognized how tired we were, so the rest of the tour didn't involve any walking, just driving around Cienfuegos.
Cienfuegos seemed like a really interesting city, and I'd like to go back. Everybody told us that it's the cleanest city in Cuba. It has interesting architecture, its own Malecon, and two buildings that were modeled after the Parthenon and the Alhambra. When I go back to Cuba someday (with Ryan) I think that this city would be a good weekend trip out of Havana. This weekend was way more fun and we did so much more than I expected--and now I'm feeling really good about my last week here!