Thursday, June 1, 2017

Havana Running Part 10- Good Morning and Goodbye

Dawn breaks over Havana, the Moon and Venus bright.  Looks like a beautiful day to fly.

Preview: What Would Hemmingway Do?

Part 1: Relaxing

Part 2: I Promise Not To Call This Sleepless In Seattle

Without fail, the rooster work me up the next day well before my alarm.  And my alarm was early, so this chicken was the definition of the 'early bird.'  I'm not bitter.  Not at all. I got myself up and dressed in time to see the sun start to rise over the city.  I have to groggily admit it was beautiful. 

I'd arranged for a taxi the day before with the owner of my casa, and the driver was waiting at 6:30.  I said goodbye to Jorge and got in the car, which this time was one of the classic cars I'd seen around the city.  It just completed the check list of 'things to do in Havana' for me.  Sure it was slow, bouncy, and loud, but it's 'what you do' here at least once.
They tell you to arrive at HAV airport early- at least hours, if not 3, for flights to the US.  I get the precaution, as I've heard about long slowly moving lines for check in and passport control, but I could have been through all the checkpoints and waiting at the gate in 20 minutes or less this particular morning. As a caveat, I wasn't checking luggage, and I could use the priority check in for AA, which didn't have much of a line.

What my return luggage looked like. 
 Why I didn't make it through to the gate in 20 minutes, though, was that I hadn't calculated perfectly the money I changed to do my cigar shopping, and as a result had some extra CUCs to change back.  This was probably the first time I really understood some of the frustration with getting things done in Cuba.  There clearly was a money exchange by the check in.  When I went there and got to the front of the line asking for USD back, they promptly acted like they were closed, didn't speak any English, and told me to go downstairs.  I went downstairs, and they sent me upstairs.  This continued for several go-rounds until the original place grudgingly decided to understand me finally and changed my money back.   
Of course there was a fee in addition to the one I'd paid to change it in the first place. If you plan well enough, bring Euros or Pesos for a better exchange rate, but for a short trip I didn't bother.

 The Havana airport is small, unsurprisingly, but does have some places to get a quick snack or coffee, as well as some duty free shops that were well utilized.  The departures hall for international flights is basically one room and serves everything.  I saw non-stops to Madrid and Berlin, alongside the little guys headed to Cancun and Miami.
As would be expected, the gate on the boarding pass wasn't the one we actually departed from, and I don't remember hearing any kind of formal audible announcement about the gate change.  However, it didn't matter much since everything was in such close quarters.  I saw the inbound plane pulling in, and just moved over to where it eventually parked. As always, it's a comforting thing to see the "American Tail" roll up to the gate in a foreign country.  Familiar in the foreign. 
Impressively, we boarded more or less on time and with minimal confusion and pushed back on schedule.  The flight crew was pleasant, even though (or maybe because) they seemed new to the job, and even more new to international flights.  We took off and got a last look at Havana out of the windows before heading back north.  It was a bit of a hazy morning, so the views weren't as dramatic as the way up, but still worth the time. 
 I had mixed feelings about hearing the initial decent announcement- mainly that my phone would finally work again....but also that my phone would work again.  Inevitable is as inevitable does though, and when we touched down I hurriedly switched back off of airplane mode to see what the world had been up to in the last 48 hours.

After we got off the plane, we had a long hike from one end of MIA to the other to go through customs.  Much to my relief, I had absolutely zero issues getting through.  I have Global Entry, and it worked exactly like it does for every other destination.  No one wanted to see my proof of being a journalist or otherwise.  I was through and into the departures area again in a matter of minutes.

One more flight down, a few more to go.


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