Havana - Look into every doorway

There was something freeing about the chaos of Havana - we were able to walk aimlessly, look into doorways, explore alleyways and generally get lost without much fear. The trick with this kind of travel is to push yourself to look and investigate without being obtrusive or exploitative. Some people make the mistake of thinking that they’re a spotlight, illuminating a dark, lost place. During our time in Cuba, I often felt more like a cellphone in a movie theater - a light, sure, but more distracting and obnoxious than helpful.

With few resources and almost no connection to the outside world, kids blow off steam by playing handball on a plaster wall along a busy street.

With few resources and almost no connection to the outside world, kids blow off steam by playing handball on a plaster wall along a busy street.

All throughout Old Havana, street dogs and cats ruled supreme. Most of the time they found a shadow to lie in to wait out the sweltering heat. But once the sun began to set and traffic calmed a bit, it was time to play and find scraps to nibble on.

All throughout Old Havana, street dogs and cats ruled supreme. Most of the time they found a shadow to lie in to wait out the sweltering heat. But once the sun began to set and traffic calmed a bit, it was time to play and find scraps to nibble on.

Lush layers of chipped paint and plaster create gorgeous abstractions.

Lush layers of chipped paint and plaster create gorgeous abstractions.

Children play, even while the adults create stunting embargoes.

Children play, even while the adults create stunting embargoes.

Blackmarket cigars were everywhere and once someone found out that you were American it was game-on. Eduardo gave us a hard sell but we managed to walk away empty handed.

Blackmarket cigars were everywhere and once someone found out that you were American it was game-on. Eduardo gave us a hard sell but we managed to walk away empty handed.

Collisions of hard, soft, open, restrictive, rules, chaos.

Collisions of hard, soft, open, restrictive, rules, chaos.

I have to admit that I detached myself from the reality of the decay and mess of the city because the worn-down surfaces and handpainted signage was so beautiful.

I have to admit that I detached myself from the reality of the decay and mess of the city because the worn-down surfaces and handpainted signage was so beautiful.

At Havana 61 we ate and drank what we pleased, access those outside of the window weren’t permitted. It’s a cruel reality that much of Cuba’s economy is based on tourism and so all resources are directed to that industry. Even so, food access for us was very limited - many places didn’t even have rice and beans (Moors and Christians, according to the Cubans).

At Havana 61 we ate and drank what we pleased, access those outside of the window weren’t permitted. It’s a cruel reality that much of Cuba’s economy is based on tourism and so all resources are directed to that industry. Even so, food access for us was very limited - many places didn’t even have rice and beans (Moors and Christians, according to the Cubans).

These are inhabited spaces.

These are inhabited spaces.

Fixing things, just enough.

Fixing things, just enough.

During a long walk in the blazing heat, Greg noticed a building that appeared to have salt crystals forming along its columns. We crossed the busy boulevard to get a better look, only to find that rather than natural formations they were rolls of paper shoved into ever crack and hole of the building.

During a long walk in the blazing heat, Greg noticed a building that appeared to have salt crystals forming along its columns. We crossed the busy boulevard to get a better look, only to find that rather than natural formations they were rolls of paper shoved into ever crack and hole of the building.

Some say, “Paint over that!” I say, “Let it ride.”

Some say, “Paint over that!” I say, “Let it ride.”

Bicycle taxis were everywhere. Most of the bikes had either a simple, worn out seat for the driver or just a seat post with a horizontal bar wrapped with a towel or t-shirt.

Bicycle taxis were everywhere. Most of the bikes had either a simple, worn out seat for the driver or just a seat post with a horizontal bar wrapped with a towel or t-shirt.

Sidewalks, streets, doorways and storefronts are really all the same thing here.

Sidewalks, streets, doorways and storefronts are really all the same thing here.

Look into every doorway. If you feel courageous, take a step inside.

Look into every doorway. If you feel courageous, take a step inside.