The exam finished after an hour and a half for all of us, but Pepe and Hope (the CIEE director) thought it would take three hours, so we had to wait for over an hour before they came. Eventually Madison and I used the pay phone to call Pepe and Hope, but it wasn't super easy to figure out and then the number for Hope didn't work and Pepe didn't answer. Luckily he showed up right after we'd tried to call him, and later we figured out the telephone situation, but it was definitely frustrating this morning.
We changed some of our CUC's (tourist money, that's tied to the US dollar) for Moneda Nacional (what the locals used--about 24 pesos MN are worth 1CUC) at the Cadeca and then ate lunch at a little stand along Calle J. I had a bocadito (ham and cheese) and a cupcake for just under $1 USD. There was a store selling books and other things next door, so I bought a book of Sor Juana's poetry for about a dollar too. I'm loving this moneda nacional thing.
It began to rain and we walked to Hotel Habana Libre. Here some of the girls used the internet but I didn't use it yet because it costs 10CUC/hour so I'd like to wait a few more days. Hotel Habana Libre was a Hilton hotel before the Revolution and it's still pretty nice. There are lots of restaurants and shopping around, and we ended up making it a nice gringa/yuma hangout of ours during our time in Cuba, mostly for using the internet.
It was still raining when we left, but we had to go back to the University of Havana for a walking tour of the campus. We were all still really tired from traveling and I think they cut the tour a little short, which was fine by me. The student that guided us was really smart and I think he must have been a history student because he knew all the names and backstory of all the student martyrs whose photos adorn the walls of the first building we visited. With him guiding it, our tour of the university also became a tour of Cuban history!
Later, after the tour we (Rachel, Lauren, Cassi and I) walked to the CIEE study center to fill our water bottles, but we also talked with Pepe and ended up staying a couple of hours. We had some pretty good conversations in English. We were glad to learn that Pepe also wanted us to have more free time in Havana, and he's even trying to get us a day or two at the beach and a visit to the Hemingway Museum. We were also glad Pepe isn't making us speak English all the time, because with school, conferences, and our home stay families, our brains are already pretty tired. After our talks of Cuba, culture, literature and movies, we left the study center and headed home.
After a nap and supper in our casa particular (a delicious dinner of tasty pork, mashed potatoes, red beans, white rice, and a fabulous dessert of guava-marmalade and a cream cheese-ish cheese), Cassi, Rachel, Lauren, Madison, Brittany and I walked to the Malecón via Paseo. It was good to be close to the ocean, with the darkness and sea breeze offsetting some of Havana's heat, but it was a little anti-climactic since we couldn't actually see the waves in the darkness, just hear them. We want to go back during sunset sometime.
While at the Malecón we did receive some piropos, the area didn't feel at all sketchy to me. We sat on the seawall and people-watched. A man played bongos with his friends on our right and later, on our left, a man serenaded two girls with his guitar. A couple walked past with their dog and men were fishing off the wall a little ways off. There weren't a lot of people, since it was Monday and not a weekend, but the atmosphere was peaceful and calm. At our backs was the cadence of the sea crashing against the rocks below us.
We went to a gas station to get some pop and dulce de leche cookies. One of the girls felt really uncomfortable about going to the gas station, and got mad when I pointed out that there were two cops sitting outside their patrol car right next to it. Havana is a very safe city with an extremely low violent crime rate, and unlike in some places corrupt cops aren't really a concern. The atmosphere among the group had changed after the gas station, so we headed back to our houses. At least I got my cookies... On the way I heard one of the girls say that she didn't want to go anywhere after dark that we hadn't already been during daylight, and I felt panicked. With our classes, dinner each night with our families, and the conferences and planned excursions, when will we have time (during daylight) to explore on our own?
Hopefully everyone starts feeling more comfortable here and we can start doing more of the things we want to do. Tomorrow is the first day of class, so I should sleep. Buenas noches.