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  • The summer I got married we decided to go to Cuba for our honeymoon. Everyone was so encouraging and happy about our decision. They made the happiest, most optimistic predictions about how we'd spend our beautiful 15 days. "It's hurricane season over there! You'll die in a hurricane! ". "People there are starving. They'll rob you and kill you!". "You do know they don't have a democracy there, don't you? You must be careful what you do, where you go, what you say or else you may end up in prison!".
    And so we went (to Cuba, not to prison).

    We had chosen a wonderful hotel at Varadero and decided to rent a car so we could explore the island. "Hire a caar???? Why don't you just hire a gunman while you're at it? They'll hijack your car and kill you!", exclaimed the prophet of doom (in other words my mother). It seems, however, that hiring a car in Cuba, at an all-inclusive is harder than expected. The hotel people refused to help us. "There are no road signs", they said. "You'll get lost". "Petrol is extremely expensive too. Why don't you go on one of our very interesting guided tours instead?". We thanked them and went to town to hire a car. The taxi driver took us to a car hire agency where the people only spoke Spanish. "We want to rent a car", I said speaking as clearly as I could. "Auto o yip?" the rental person asked. "What the hell is "yip"? I asked my husband. "How should I know?", was my answer. "You're the one who did spanish at university?" "Yes, and I can order a beer fluently but I don't know what "yip" is!" "Yip, Yip", said the man and pulled us to the window to show us a jeep. "Oh, jeep! No, no just a plain, little car will do". So we hired the car, we signed something we didn't understand a word of (and that could be binding us to give the agency all our wordly posessions instead of a fee) and left.

    Soon enough we realised that there are indeed no road signs. We couldn't get out of town. We had to ask for help. We stopped at a corner where I, the Spanish speaking person in the car, very eloquently asked a fat Cuban lady : "Trinidad?" "Si, si", she said. "What is she saying", my spouse asked. "She knows where it is, she'll tell us how to get there". But the fat Cuban lady just opened the car door and got in. "What is she doing?" asked my spouse again. "I don't know!!!!". "Vamonos, nina. Trinidad", said the lady. "A la derecha, nina", she said and pointed for us to turn right. "I guess we must turn right", I said. And we did. Every now and then the woman tapped me on the shoulder to give me directions.

    When we reached the outskirts of the city and before getting on the highway, a lady in a yellow uniform stopped us. She said something that must have meant "where are you going, oh you wonderful and helpful tourists? ". "Trinidad" we said. So she turned to a crowd behind her and shouted "Trinidad!!". At least ten people stepped forward. She chose two and pushed them in our tiny car. "What's going on?" my husband asked. "I guess they're coming with us too", I said. "Vamonos nina", said the fat Cuban lady. And we went on.

    Truth be told not everyone was going to Trinidad. The fat lady stopped us at some village saying "nina, aqui", and she got off. We continued with the rest of our passengers who guided us to Trinidad. We chatted in broken Spanish, english and a little Italian and had a lot of fun finding out about Cuban life. "Beware of speeding", our passengers said. "Traffic police have no equipement to check if you're speeding". "So?", "So they stop you and say: you've been speeding. And that's the end of the story. You can't prove you haven't. So if a car coming from the opposite direction flashes it's lights to you, that means there's traffic police further on and you must immediately reduce your speed. Go with ten miles per hour if you can. Fines are very very high".

    Trinidad was beautiful. We had a lovely time. And on the way back we had no passengers but we knew the way. Somebody did flash their lights to us and we immediately slowed down. We spent half an hour going at zero miles per hour, but we didn't see any trace of traffic police. I guess that driver was just saying "Hello there fellow travelers", as we were the only ones on the road.

    We saw no hurricanes, no robbers, no car hijackers and got back to Greece in one piece. Everyone thought we had been very brave to hire a car. And we let them think so.
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