Okay, it's Ian by the way. I'm sitting in an apartment in New York on 3rd April and it's late but Suzy really wants me to write up a little something about Cuba, so here goes. I apologise for the fact that it's pretty brief but I'm REALLY tired!
> Most people we met in Cuba would like to see some changes and quite a few felt that if the US administration allowed Americans to visit as tourists and stopped the embargo then the economy would be greatly improved but everyone said that they respected what Fidel and Co. have managed to do since the revolution. There is a definite desire for more freedom and potentially a move to a more democratic political system and an obvious frustration that came across in a lot of our conversations.
> People with links to the tourist industry were relatively affluent, for example, the majority of the families we stayed with had two TVs but at the same time everyone still uses ration books for staple foods. Obviously income equality is one of the main aims of the government but they quickly learnt that there needs to be distinctions for a variety of different reasons and so managers earn more and anyone who works with tourists has a higher income through tips etc. Despite this it's clear as you travel through the country that there is not a significant income gap and almost all properties are roughly the same size.
> We were surprised to learn that everyone votes every 2 years, though it is only on the municipal level for their local representatives.
> Farmers are some of the more wealthy people in Cuba as they are allowed to keep 10% of what they produce (the rest goes to the state) for "personal consumption" but obviously they opt to sell some of the produce directly including tobacco.
> In many ways Cuba feels a little like walking back in time, because many of the local "buses" are horse and carriages and many of the buildings are really dilapidated. This lends all the places we went a real charm unlike anywhere else that we visited.
> Hitchhiking is a really common way to get around and one of the guides we spoke to used it to get to and from university, which was at the other end of the country from his parents. People are very trusting and at no point did we feel unsafe but I was given the impression that crime is not much of a problem chiefly because the punishment would be quite severe.
On a lighter note:
> On a lighter note, the food is pretty terrible, especially for vegetarians, since a lot of ingredients are quite hard to get hold of and the food is very meat orientated. This meant that we often opted for the relatively safe option of pizza, though the pizza bases taste sweet for some reason.
> There were a LOT of sausage dogs and sausage crossbreeds, which gave the distinct impression that there was one seriously horny dashound prowling the streets.
> Havana streets are surprisingly dangerous but not for the reasons you would expect. Everyone plays baseball in the street so occasionally you have to duck as a stray ball whooshes past your head!