My Digital Divide

[tweetmeme source=”connergo” only_single=false]Have you ever lost a job or revenue due to tech inequity? Watched hours of productivity get sucked into the ether by a dial up connection that poke, poke, pokes along, draining all satisfaction from the act like an inexperienced or egotistical lover? Known the frustration of not being able to perform any task involving large documents, YouTube, streaming, or VOIP? And my list of music to download? A pipe dream – along with watching Jon Stewart – until I’m off-island. Is there anyone out there who feels my pain?

Before I detail the many and sundry ways Cuba, and more specifically I personally, am far behind the tech curve, let me be clear: it’s not all bad, this technological disadvantage – knowing how to write and submit via a super slow, unreliable connection for example, helped build skills and instill patience which served me well reporting from post-quake Haiti.

Let me also point out that in some cases my technological handicap is not because the gadgets aren’t available in Cuba, but because they’re out of my financial reach – which is the same thing in the end, and a reality faced by many of the world’s poor. Something to think about the next time you hear someone defending technology as the great leveler (and when you receive text messages from Yoani Sanchez: where does she get the money? I have to wonder).

Taken together, the technical challenges (see note 1) combine with the price of buying and maintaining new technologies to create a digital divide which I’m guessing most HIH readers can’t imagine. Here’s a litmus: have you ever folded laundry, washed dishes, or otherwise had to multi-task while waiting for a page to load? No? Then you probably can’t relate.

Before anyone kicks me to the curb for being a privileged foreigner who’s insensitive to what ‘regular Cubans’ go through (see note 2), let me clarify a couple of things. First, I have access to funds many Cubans don’t and I have the ability to open an internet account as an accredited journalist. So privileged? Yes. Insensitive? No – just ask my friends and family without access of their own.

Furthermore, my livelihood in large measure depends on my ability to research and submit articles, stories, and guidebooks and update my iApp via the internet. Without those gigs, I’d be left with just this blog and empty pockets. Don’t get me wrong: Here is Havana is a great writing tool, motivator, community-builder, outlet for angst and cathartic vent, but without my internet connection, it would go the way of Obama’s campaign promises, fast.

This is the practical effect of the digital divide, but there’s a subtler, more insidious side to the disconnect: it contributes to the outsider status of expats like me. Neither entirely comfortable where we came from or wholly accepted where we’ve moved to, we’re in this limbo that is pointed up every time someone waxes orgasmic about Angry Birds or Google +. Mostly I prefer being behind the tech curve (I’ll take the Flinstones over the Jetsons any day) but when it affects The Work, I bug (see note 3).

For those interested in how a decade living in Cuba translates vis-à-vis tech challenges, here goes:

I have no cell phone. Cubans are incredulous when they discover I’m not celled up, but their disbelief is based on their assumptions that a) I can afford one (see note 4) and b) I want or need to be localizable 24/7. They’re wrong on both counts.

I’ve never used a GPS. I’m a map idiot, I admit, but the GPS concept is just dangerous if you ask me. First, any map skills someone like me may have had (or had the chance of developing), go out the window once you introduce GPS. Second, they’re useless in contexts that don’t fit the traditional mapping mold, like Cuba, Hawaii, the Mosquito Coast, and every medina. Third, they limit one’s likelihood to get lost, thereby curbing new discoveries, spontaneity and flexibility, and chances for fun.

I’ve only played Wii once. Granted it was for three days straight and was a helluva lot fun but…Here in Havana I have a friend with a Wii, who calls it ‘healthier than Playstation’ and limits his daughter’s usage (but not his, I suspect!). Tip for those looking for a gift for Cuban friends: you can’t go wrong with a Wii, (two remotes, please).

Kindle-free. My take on the Kindle is kind of like my take on sexual diversity: to each his (or her) own – as long as it doesn’t infringe on my action. In other words: you can have your Kindle, but let me have my books. This is where my old fashioned ways are a disadvantage, to be sure, since hauling books here is a real pain in the ass (see note 5), plus they require shelf space. Sure, a Kindle would make my life easier, but it would also make it less enjoyable. When someone talks quality of life to me, that involves the look, smell, and heft of books.

Blue Tooth?! About a month ago I saw a Cuban American picking his way among the busted up sidewalks of Centro Habana with one of these gadgets wedged in his ear. I burst out laughing at the newest accessory in the Miami crowd’s insatiable need to ‘especular’ (show off their material goods). I tried to imagine what was so damn pressing on the other side of the Straits that this guy was willing to pay three months average Cuban salary (minimum!) to have it mainlined into his ear. Then I remembered what Cubans do with other signs of apparent wealth like watches and cell phones: they wear them and flash them, but it doesn’t mean they work. But it’s one thing to have a busted watch strapped to your wrist or a bunk cell phone clipped to your belt (that’s how the men do it here; the women tuck them into their cleavage), while it’s quite another to walk around with a pinguita in your ear.

¿Conclusión?

My life goes along happily, swimmingly without these advances. Just don’t bring it up at deadline time or mention Jon Stewart – unless you want to see me cry.

Notes

1. Cuba is prohibited by the blockade from connecting to any US satellites or fiber optic cables. At the moment, that leaves Cuba only one choice for connectivity – an Italian satellite which transmits all the data to and from the island.

2. While it’s true Cubans have the lowest connectivity rate in the hemisphere with only 14% of the population connected, these figures don’t reflect the reality since internet accounts are widely and regularly shared here. And the famous underwater cable that has been laid from Venezuela to Cuba and promises to increase our connectivity by 3000%? When it was announced a few years ago, I counseled folks to not hold their breath. Take my advice: keep breathing and continue to file under ‘I’ll Believe It When I See It.’

3. This post was inspired by an ongoing freelance gig that I couldn’t accept because I have no access to Skype.

4. Despite the exorbitant costs (to get a cell account here costs $40, with both incoming and outgoing calls charged at $0.10-$0.45/minute), most Cubans are gaga for cell technology and spend what little money they have to get it.

5. This is also extremely costly: on the direct flights from the USA to Cuba which I’m eligible to take, any luggage over 44 pounds is charged at $1/lb – and that includes carry on.

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54 Comments

Filed under Americans in cuba, Communications, Cuban idiosyncracies, Expat life, Here is Haiti, Living Abroad, Travel to Cuba

54 responses to “My Digital Divide

  1. Dan

    Thanks again Conner for accurately describing the Cuba paradox. Just a footnote (so to speak): I live in the US and I DO have (sort of) high speeed internet but I also can say that I have ALL of the tech challenges you list (no cell phone, no Kindle, etc.) except that I have NEVER played wii. This may be self-imposed but think of the money and time that I have left to travel to Cuba!

    • Hi Dan and thanks for commenting. Wow! No cell phone in the US – you are a hold out! The one person above the age of 9 who I knew bucking the cell phone compulsion got one last year.

      I should also point out that there’s probably a generational thing happening too – the young ‘uns will definitely have a different perspective than you or me. Hey young folks! What do you think about this post?

  2. Hence the reasons I could live in Cuba: I’ve never played Angry Birds, never played Wii, would prefer not to be localizable 24/7, have never had a BlueTooth, would rather use a map than GPS. 😉

    But true- the Internet facilitates being a writer…considerably.

    • the Internet facilitates being a writer…considerably

      You are so right chica! So let me give thanks, once again, publicly, to the connectivity powers-that-be: GRACIAS for providing me a hook up (even if it is dial up!)

      thanks for reading and writing in. Happy travels!

  3. ardom

    I have lived 40 years out of the US where I was born ,20 of them as a Kibbutznik though I am not Jewish. One more bit of background in 66 I almost went to Cuba instead of Vietnam . In the end I avoided both. I love maps, books and the high speed INTERNET I have today but I remember doing dishes while something downloaded. I have heard of Wii but not seen it. Last summer we spent three weeks in Cuba on our own I speak some Spanish (from Santiago to Vinales). Our high stop was climbing Turquinos. So we have at least a taste of Cuba today. I
    continously enjoy your slant on the “paradox ” that this island is. As your pointg of view is half there and half “look from somewhere else” it is especially informative . Thanks again. Nimrod

    • Hola Nimrod. thanks for writing in and your kind words. Turquino – isn’t it great?! I recommend hiking Cuba’s tallest mountain to all who are able!

      I love hearing from other “expats” and getting their POV.

  4. Laraine in Tampa

    Yoani and the rest of the bloggers make it clear how easy it is for their readers to pay to charge their cell phones via a website dedicated to that purpose. YOU should put out a similar appeal. Just sayin’.

    • Interesting idea, though not exactly my style. however, it would be interesting to do a sort of Cuban Blogger Revenue Wrestling Challenge to see how much $$ I can raise in comparison. Would point up another angle of the digital divide in fact, since Y’s blog is translated into what? 8 languages or something?

  5. Conner,

    You had me laughing and thinking at the same time. I’ll have to read your blog more regularly. Keep writing.

    El Yuma

  6. Ro

    As a cub reporter before Internet and massive cell phone possession,
    I was extremely proud of mastering 2 skills: using my beloved Thomas Guide to get to press conferences, fires, etc., and running the fastest to beat all the other reporters to a pay phone to DICTATE my story, graph by graph (we’re talkin pre-laptops, here).
    In Havana, cell phone use (beyond possession) is definitely growing — it’s not unusual to be on the bus and hear people ANSWERING their cells now, instead of just listening to music on them.

    • HA! I love that image of running to a pay phone! Most reporters I know are flabby and not prone to running – I bet you scooped many being fleet of foot! A couple of posts from Haiti I had to dictate over the phone. That was fun…

      I also am befuddled by the idea of spending money on a cell phone and taking the bus (which in Havana can mean loooong waits and cramped, smelly conditions inside the buses, especially when its hot and rainy) than taking a faster, more comfortable maquina de 10 peso. Funny: the price of making a 1 minute call on a cell phone = 10 peso!

  7. I should reiterate that the US blockade of Cuba also contributes in other ways to the digital divide since some websites are blocked on the US end as a result (PayPal, Target, Tiger Direct).

    Read more about how the blockade affects life here: https://hereishavana.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/cuban-blockade-cruel-unusual/

  8. Caney

    Let’s see… so in one hand “Cuba is prohibited by the blockade from connecting to any US satellites or fiber optic cables” and on the other, there’s already an “underwater cable that has been laid from Venezuela to Cuba”… The delay on this last option (it was supposed to be operative since last July) is also due to the blockade?

    • The two points you cite are correct: blockade prevents from connection to US fiber optic, underwater cable (maybe that it was a US cable wasn’t clear?) and the separate Venezuela cable has not yet been connected. I never wrote there was casuality bw the US blockade and the the underwater Venezuelan cable.

      For those who are interested (including Caney, I suspect!), there are problems w the Venezuelan cable. It’s not entirely clear WHAT the problems are. Yeah. yeah. Go ahead – cite the Havana Times blog post about “word on the street this; word on the street that.” (If I believed every word I heard here on the street, I wouldn’t have survived one year, let alone ten! Also, HT has an axe to grind.). In the end, it is like everything here: we can’t be sure of the why or the when or the who until we have verifiable details (and maybe not even then!), but whatever: when all is said and done, it’s the same result: sucks to be us! (where connectivity is concerned: my next post just may be Cuba I Love Thee, Let Me Count the Ways).

  9. Hi Conner: I’ve been to Cuba a couple fo times and really enjoyed it. Not sure if I’d want to live there …

    Re technology: We moved 4 years ago to a place that has high-speed internet. Prior to that, I had dial-up as satellite connection would have been extremely pricey. With the dial-up, it took 45 minutes to send 1 high-res photo, so I know exactly what you mean about doing the dishes or a load of laundry while you wait for the transmission to complete!

    Now that we have high-speed, my life is no much simpler. Hats off to you!

    Doreen Pendgracs, rural Canada
    http://www.wizardofwords.net

    • Hi Doreen! Rural Canada – I shiver to think! Yeah, the high speed is so convenient, but I really do like my simple life here in cuba (bureaucracy and machismo notwithstanding!); most days the trade off is worth it.

      Thanks for reading and writing in.

      PS – I couldn’t access your site…Im going to try again. Cheers!

  10. I’ve never used a Wii, don’t have a Kindle, and don’t use Bluetooth either.

    I was, however, borderline angry when I found out our hotel room did not have wifi on our first trip to Varadero! Turned out to be for the best, the ‘unplugged’ vacation made it much more relaxing.

    • So true Brrr, about the unplugged vacation. I point this out in many of my travel articles and highly rec’d everyone try it – especially if you’re traveling w kids/young adults who may have never been unplugged for three days in a row in their life.

      Is there Wifi anywhere in Varadero I wonder? I don’t get out there that often and certainly not to the higher end places that might. Anyone?

      • We were pleased to discover that Sandals Royal Hicacos implemented wifi a couple of years ago. It was only in the lobby/lobby bar area & not well known – one had to find the “Internet Doctor”, an employee to fix you up. This involved not simply a password to log on, he actually had to alter settings on your device. But it did work. The range was poor. Last December they installed a router above the lobby bar & that improved the reception in that area. But the speed was terrible still. He stated to me that 128K per second is the standard throughout the entire island (your article explains why the turtle pace & bottlenecks…if everything is routed through that Italian satellite). He also stated that this year wifi would be available throughout the entire resort. But as of our April trip, that wasn’t yet the case. Also the wifi was down for our entire week, so the problems of Cuba in the digital age continue! I wonder why the Chinese don’t help out their Caribbean comrades with access to one of their communication satellites???

        Anyway, I do find our Cuban friends inventive. A waiter said that he would take any cell phone – old, broken, whatever. So I brought him my old dumb phone that did have a camera, games, and FM radio. The face was cracked but he was grateful. He liked my iPhone 3GS and said he’d give 100 CUC for it when I upgrade. But you don’t have access to the App Store, I said. No problem, he replied. The Cuban underground economy (just like with machining auto parts, making a satellite dish, or hacking into pirate TV, copying software, or CDs/DVDs) means that he knows a guy where he can get all kinds of apps for a few pesos. Not internet dependent apps but stand alone ones…tons! So they found a way to bypass iTunes & the App Store but to enjoy iPhones in a limited way. A waitress did have one & was showing the photos of her niece’s 15 year party. Gotta love the people there…

      • 128K?! That’s tony Varadero talking – for 8 or so years, I have only had 50k a handful of times and normally it’s 46k (like right now!). His projection re Wifi throughout the whole resort was probably wishful thinking about the Venezuelan underwater cable mishigas (any jewish friends who can help me with spelling this yiddish word for snafu?). Cable is laid, supposedly works, but we’re not connected. As I always say: when in Cuba, don’t believe it until you actually see it!

        VERY interesting about the blackmarket apps….Can anyone elaborate? I know there’s a blackmarket Mac store, but I didn’t know about apps. hmm.

        Yes, Cubans are loco for iPhones. Even some not-so-Conner-smart machos have asked me to bring them one. Ha! I don’t even have a cell phone. But its great for the HAvana Good Time app – I show anyone wielding an iPhone the app and they love it

        Thanks for writing in

      • 50K internet speed is probably closer to the reality, given my experience with trying to download a web page, which usually times out or crashes! The connection is ok for email but not for large attachments…It is conceivable that they could have wifi throughout the resort. They just have to install a bunch of routers but folks would still be disappointed with the speed while they try to surf in their rooms!

        I can only guess how they circumvent the Apple Apps in the black-market. The phones are likely jail broken. Their “go to Guys” might have access to a traveller who brings them Apps & they install them on a PC or Mac. Then they charge their customers for hooking up to their computer & installing the Apps.

        Yes the HGT App is great on an iPhone or iPad! Conner, think you can add the Gato Tuerto club to your next update? Nice place when we visited 6 years ago. Near the Nacional Hotel. An App I like showing my Cuban friends is the Cuban Slang App. They get a kick hearing the various phrases, like “chivatone”! Always gets a laugh & they teach me some new ones each time. It’s a hobby, collecting phrases they use. I’ve done some videos of them on YouTube…


        Would take forever for you to download but your readers might get something out of them. Hope to make another with more recent gems, such as: Suave, Fresca, y bajido de sal – Easy, fresh, and just a bit of salt. A Cuban toast & philosophy for living. I was talking about the CDR in context of snitch or chivatone & I learned about “guarapito” (my spelling might be wrong), which refers to Batista’s secret police. Their shirt colour matched the colour of green sugar cane juice when pressed, which is the literal meaning of the word. So this was a unique Cuban meaning, unlike much of the slang borrowed from other Spanish countries.

        Cheers,
        Freddy K
        Loco bombero Canadienze retiro

  11. Caney

    Hotel Solymar, as per ETECSA webpage…

  12. Candysita

    “Word on the street” is that sharks ate the cable from Venzuela!
    Seriously, I think Cuba should market itself as a “Technology Intervention Retreat”. People could pay top dollar to send their children/spouses/significant others to Cuba to defrag and get unplugged from their “addiction”.

  13. Although Cuba didn’t come to mind, this topic was on my mind recently because of people’s reactions to Steve Jobs passing away. I heard a lot of things like, “I can’t imagine life without my i____!” I was pretty amazed at how adamantly people believed that their technology defined their lives… people who are old enough to remember life before their gadgets.

    The only one of the things you listed that I have is a cell phone and I’ve never played Wii. I love having a computer and being able to keep in touch with people online or through my phone, but beyond those things, I’d rather spend excess funds on travel. Although getting certain things in Cuba is a challenge, I don’t think your lack of technology is due to living in Cuba for 10 years, it’s more about choice. After all, living in Cuba is not entirely imperative for you and you seem to have a natural inclination to stay away from certain aspects of technology. The choice to keep tech to a minimum is available to a lot of people in the States, but so many people are sipping the Koolaid.

    • Hey girlunstoppable! thanks for stopping by and weighing in. I think you’re spot on and my digital divide is a mix of circumstance and choice (and I tried to get that across in my post! I probably should have put a finer point on the impact of the blockade on tech access here). I have always felt that I was born in the wrong century.

      Not having Skype or WiFi (or broadband of ANY sort) is not a choice however – these are just not available – and makes it very very difficult (and expensive) to stay in touch with loved ones. This is one kind of challenge when you’re on a 3 week romp across the island, quite another when you live here full time, are going through the ups and downs of life and need/want to share/unburden. And then there’s the inability to update my iApp which is a fun paradox: I live in Cuba so this allows me to have the competitive edge w my Havana guide app, updated 4x a year. But I live in Cuba so can’t actually implement the upgrades/new versions from here. Ack! Sorry fot the mini rant: these things get me down.

      The larger and more interesting question your comment raises, I think, is about the intersection of financial ability, tech access, and choice. What troubles me is when people feel they “need” this or that technology (as if Cubans didn’t survive 50 years without even landlines and answering machines!) and forgo food and other necessities and make other comprimises financially so they can have the technology. Im seeing this with cell phones here (w some people: others have all the money they need for this and more) and Ive seen Cubans get infected with Mac mania (drinking the Kool Aid) spending every last cent on a Mac book and now they’re hurtin’ for certain and the laptop is good for not much more than watching pirated porn

      Enough for now. It’s too early, plus they cut the gas on my block last night, so no coffee for me…. Happy travels!

      • Macbooks are available in Cuba??? The thought of Cubans spending oodles of money on electronics that they can’t afford just triggered something that’s been on my mind lately: Do Cubans have access to news on the “Occupy” movement in the US? And if so, what are their thoughts on it?

      • Yup, the Apple craze is big, big, big in Havana right now.

        Occupy is being covered in Cuba media BIG TIME (makes sense, given the whole “capitalism is screwing us” subtext). Reactions are basically along the lines of finally, those yuma are getting off their asses and are not going to take it anymore!! Also, I think there is some thinking (wishful?) that it will be the next big movement of change in the US. Thanks for stopping back!

  14. Great take on it all once again. You are one of a kind and down to earth.
    I know many youngens who can’t stop texting for 5 seconds and the cell does not leave their hands even while sleeping.

    I don’t even have time to read all the emails I get every day, might a less be on MyTwitFace.

    Rojo Rojito
    Cort

    • Thanks for pointing out the sleeping with technology thing Cort. I just learned a few months ago that some of my young friends up north sleep with their laptop or cell phone which is wrong and totally creepy if you ask me (of course they didn’t nor would they and I love them just the same but yikes.). And the texting. You’d be very hard pressed to convince me that anything a 13 year old has to text is important enough to interrupt dinner/a conversation/a walk in the woods.

      So we all agree, I guess: put down the technology people; come to Cuba!

  15. Liv

    Thanks again Conner for another entertaining post. I have been living in Cuba for 8 months and am struggling away on my dial up account too! I just sent an a huge email rant (one which had to be composed offline first to conserve my few precious hours) to my best friend with some very similar complaints. I remember what life was like in the 90s, at the time it was like “oh cool we have internet”, we didn’t know any better, once you’ve had high speed internet you cannot go back! Being on dialup is like being stuck in a traffic jam when it’s 45 Degrees Celsius outside, your aircon is broken and you’re only getting static on the radio! Not to mention, it is expensive here too! Not that I’m saying this technology it is essential either, like you it is a more affordable way to keep in touch with my family in Australia and is essential for my work whilst I am here.
    Oh and I completely agree with you about books, kindle your heart out people, but let me smell and feel my books!
    Thanks again, I really enjoy your blog!

    • Hola Liv – Sorry you’re feeling my pain, but it’s nice to know we are not alone, eh? I heard that there’s an “old school” internet cafe in DC which is packing people in w its retro “dial up”. If I didn’t think DC was a f*cked up town before…..I wonder: how much do phone calls cost from here to Oz?

      Thanks for reading, writing in and the kind words. Hang in there!

      • Liv

        Yes, it is somewhat comforting to know that we are not alone when it comes to the daily struggles that living here can bring. That is part of the reason why I enjoy your blog so much!
        Wow, I never would have thought that the ‘retro’ trend would make dial up fashionable, as they say, “only in America” (or is that just what us Aussies say, I forget)?
        I actually have a Cuban mobile and the one thing they don’t charge you for is to receive international calls (at least from Oz they don’t), so I usually have my family call me on that number. I have used it to call them and it cost $1.80CUC per minute, an expense I have worn twice, to call each of my nephews on their birthdays.
        Unfortunately my parents are not tech savvy, so as I can’t email them to stay in touch, the deal is that I send a text at $1CUC per message when I want them to call me and that seems to work well.
        It is frustrating that there is no cheaper way to contact my family and friends, there are times when living here just gets too much and I am desperate to vent in a way that an email just can’t capture!

      • Yes – incoming international calls are free for the recipient. But now that I have a landline (yes, folks – spent the first year here w/o a landline, which is not uncommon here), my family just calls me on that. More comfortable and same price for them….

        All of these considerations led to my decision to get a PO Box about 7 years ago. Now about half a dozen friends and I communicate the old fashioned way: the written letter. Very retro, but also works well since letter wrtiting lends itself to a certain intimacy and strenghtening of relationships that I don’t think digital does all that well. Also, helps us to slow down and smell the roses so to speak. Might be a good solution for you: in a written letter you can vent and your less tech savvy folks can communicate comfortably. I tell you: there’s nothing like going to the old PO box and seeing something tucked in there!

  16. As always, it´s my guilty pleasure to read not only your posts (which accurately give the expat´s vision of day to day life in Havana) but also the commentaries that they generate. I´m a Cuban living presently abroad by choice, but I´m very well aware and suffered the same tech shortages when I was in Cuba. I´m sure that for a writer who also makes a living doing so, you must have it very tough and makes us value (the good parts) of connectivity, that we take for granted on daily basis. Sending a link to a YouTube video or any other media rich web page to any of my friends in Cuba, proves to be a challenging and time consuming task, so we rely heavily in the power of words and the ability to describe things in a manner that they can get the clearest picture possible. I have to confess that I am a gadget freak and every time I return, I do miss reading my twitter TL, or the updates on my friends FB pages or being able to send an email on the fly (by the way I could do as you say, all those things there, but upon return the phone bill would be outrageous). So may best wishes and keep on the good work.

  17. Mona

    Your post made me laugh. I live in Montreal, I do have high speed internet because I need it for work. I don’t have a cell phone, never played Wii, hate the GPS and you won’t catch my with a Kindle ever! I don’t have any i…either. I don’t tweet and I don’t have a facebook page. Maybe growing up in a communist country miles away made me more immune to these things, although I know plenty of immigrants with similar background that succumbed to the gadget-mania …I suppose human nature is somewhat twisted when it comes to priorities. I had a similar experience last year in Guatemala – where all the mayan women at the market has cell phones. I wondered how many of them went to school …All the best to you!

    • Hiya! Thanks from writing in from lovely, lovely Montreal – the city after Havana and NYC that is nearest and dearest to my heart. Wow, you’re really opting out – no cell phone OR Facebook! Talk about swimming upstream!

      Guatemala (I have a guidebook to that amazing destination) is a trip in this regard: seeing all those women in their traditional traje, handwoven gorgeous threads, chatting away on cell phones. All the best to you too and happy travels!

  18. Conner, I am sure that you get asked this often but is it worth bringing an ipad to Cuba? Have things improved? We have been about 5 times and are coming again in a week, roaming around Havana this time for 2 weeks..is there wifi in many places now? I really want to use your Havana Good Times app that is on my ipad but dont’ want to cart it if it is not worth it..yes we are spoilt here in Vancouver, Canada but love to visit Cuba..getting cold up here can’t wait to put the piggys in the sand! Will your app go on an iphone?

    luv your blog by the way..cudos to you!

    • Hola Lee. You must be very excited for your trip – November is some of the best weather here, in my opinion. Thanks for getting (and being enthused) about Havana Good Time. The iPad version is awesome (people tell me – I don’t have an iPad but travel apps are all the developers Sutro Media do and they do it better than anyone else) and will work in Cuba offline. Same with the iPhone version – totally functional without WiFi access – the photos, info, maps, everything but the hyperlinks out.

      I understand the newest verisons of iPad/Phones work via satellite and wonder what this means in Cuba. If anyone has any feedback, Id be very interested in learning about your experience. For you Lee, I’d rec’d leaving the iPad at home and bringing the lower key/easier to travel with iPhone.

      Have a great trip and thanks for reading!

      • Lee

        Hola Conner! if you are needing some gringo talk we would love to meet you and your husband.. we will be in Havana Vieja for about 4nights, then moving around the island for a couple of weeks..we have enjoyed Cuba for about 5 years now..love the people, the music and the sun..your post about the clothing was just a riot! We find you cannot out bling a Cuban..my husband has fun trying though..we call him “Sparkles”..he is not allowed to wear his cuba cloths here in Canada, needless to say..if you need anything brought down let me know. Thanks for the info on the pad..

        hasta pronto Cuba! mi espaniol is muy malo..no one to practice on here in Vancouver..:0

      • hahaha! We also have a family member known as “Sparkles.” Have a wonderful trip!

  19. Max

    Jon Stewart is funny but seeing him slobber all over Condoleeza Rice was hard to take.

    • I missed that but agree: the slobbering adoration/convenient amnesia of the media for and about evil, evil policy wonks and figures in the USA makes me ill. I was in Guatemala when Reagan died (a country ravaged, raped, and invaded by US trained and covert forces under Reagan and others) and the heroes funeral given him made my stomach turn. I heard an interview w Condo-sleeza on NPR recently and it was the same thing. These war mongerers have to go. I get that the US economy is kept afloat by war, but it is TIME TO EVOLVE beyond the military-industry complex. Please? For the sake of us? The human race? OK, rant over.

  20. Conner

    Conner let us know if you get more info…

    just read Rosa Martnez article at HT( understand what you are saying about editor there but he was burned while doing translation services and voices his concerns on other things) on Corruption and she brings up the case that had everybody talking on the Internet and why you may not have better connections, involving the first deputy minister of Informatics and Communications, Ramon Luis Linares; and Deputy Minister Alberto Rodriguez Arufe – who were dismissed from their posts for acts of corruption related to the project of laying an underwater cable between Cuba and Venezuela and its subsequent connection on the island.

    • yes, corruption is possible/probable reason for delay, but looks like we’ll have to wait for hard evidence. I’ll certainly be keen to learn about it. Any readers have leads on this? Cheers!

  21. Max

    In this corner of Canada, there is no high speed internet unless you want to plunk down for your own satellite dish. Only an eight mile telephone line to the nearest town, Cranbrook. It takes an hour for every 10Mbytes, during which time nothing else net-wise can be loaded. So, yes, once a big(>1M) download is in progress I have to get busy with something else. But I have a netbook and I can peddle into town and use the Wifi at McDonalds to download big files or updates for my home PC. Meanwhile, transmission of text is quite speedy, and I’d rather have the words w/o the pictures than the reverse.

  22. Hum

    I love hearing about the actual practical realities of living in Cuba. Thank you!

  23. Robin

    Ohhhh….the smell of books. How I love, love, love. Cannot thank you enough (again) for this wonderful blog. Which I am now enthusiastically promoting to everyone I know!!! SO looking forward to my next trip which will most definitely include at least a full week in Havana. Please do not stop writing!!

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