Weddings in Mexico

During my short time in Mexico, I have been able to attend two weddings already. These have been a great way to meet interesting people, get familiar with the local culture and wedding customs.

Both times I was a so-called “wedding crasher”, which means that I didn’t know the bridal couple beforehand. No, I did not sneak into the wedding secretly from the back door to eat and enjoy the wedding feast. Two of my friends invited me to be their escort in these weddings so I could taste the flavor of Mexican weddings. I did not have to think twice before accepting these invitations.

All my previous wedding experiences are related to the weddings I attended in Estonia. Therefore, I’ll bring out the major differences I noticed between Estonian and Mexican weddings. These two Mexican weddings were quite similar, but even there were some slight differences, which in my opinion were due to different taste of preferences of the bridal couple and the wedding budget. Keep Reading…

¿Why Mexico?

The simplest answer would be “why not”, but it does not explain the real reasons why I decided to move to Mexico.
After arriving back from Cuba, I was hit by the reality, which was rather painful. I understood that I had to suddenly say goodbye to the life and the environment I had gotten used to during the previous eight months in Cuba.

I had to start living my normal routine and old life of working at the office from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Quite often I noticed that my body and thoughts were located in different places. My thoughts were adventuring in Cuba. All these signals indicated that I had sold my soul to Latin America. In my activities, I always try to put my happiness first as much as possible. If I’m happy, then everything seems to go much smoother at work as well in all the other places.

Therefore, I did not want to go to war with myself and I started searching opportunities how to move back to Latin America. I did not have any other opportunity to go on a long holiday, so I had to find work to buy food and to settle all my outstanding bills. The mission to find a job in Latin America was a little bit easier due to the fact I work for an international company (KPMG) with offices in the majority of countries throughout the world. I picked out three countries: Chile, Colombia and Mexico. In the selection of countries, I had two parameters: the size of the country (which gives a higher chance to get a job) and simplicity of Spanish language. Spanish is spoken in most Latin American countries, but in some of the countries (due to the use of slang and accents), it is much harder for foreigners to understand and speak Spanish. For example, Argentines have a very strong accent, which creates difficulties in understanding even for people who speak Spanish very well. Keep Reading…

See you Cuba!

I returned to home (to Estonia) approximately a week ago. During that time, I have tried to get used to the local way of life, the climate and get together with my relatives and friends whom I haven’t seen more than eight months. Most difficult is to adapt to the cold weather. Yes, this weather is rather common for autumn, but I’m used to living in a climate where temperature is around 20 to 30 degrees higher than here.

Although, it is not much easier with fruit. I tried to eat apples and bananas bought from the grocery store the other day and I made a sour face as these tasted like grass. Enough about complaining, it doesn’t help to improve the situation!

Keep Reading…

Santiago de Cuba

My Spanish classes finished at the end of July and my long-waited vacation started. I had planned to go explore the eastern part of Cuba. Initially, I intended to start my travelling in August. However, normally a carnival takes place in Santiago de Cuba during the last week of July. This year, the carnival was more grandiose as Santiago de Cuba celebrated its 500-year anniversary. Therefore, I planned to pack my backpack one week earlier than initially planned.

You can find more pictures from the gallery.

The plan to go to Santiago de Cuba was grand, but it was rather complicated to make happen, as getting bus tickets seemed like mission impossible. At the end of July, vacation period starts for most Cubans and they travel to other regions of Cuba to visit their relatives. Therefore, there is a lack of bus tickets. Keep Reading…

Tourist scams

Tourists being coaxed out of money or cheated by different schemes is quite common in most countries. Cuba is not an exception to this.

Because of today’s complicated economic and social situation in Cuba, some Cubans have come up with smart ways how to earn money. Unfortunately, a majority of these schemes attempt to cheat tourists. These people, commonly known as “jineteros” (“jockeys” in English), are normally quite decent and friendly people, and they speak English at some level. This creates more trust between them and the tourists who do not speak Spanish. They offer cheaper services to travelers such as accommodations, restaurants, excursions, cigars and taxis, but then start to take advantage of the situation. Keep Reading…

Transportation in Havana

Transport is very creative activity in Cuba, which requires knowledge and ability to take things easy. In Havana, main way to move from one point to another is to use public transport (buses and collective taxis). Bus services cover almost all of Havana, but there are two main problems in traveling with buses. At first, busses are mostly overcrowded and there is not much air for breathing in hot days (most days are hot in Cuba). Secondly, it is not possible to find any information about routes or a timetable. The only way to get some information is to talk with local people hoping they can help. Usually they know about routes, but nobody has information about the timetable. It probably doesn’t exist at all. It is very positive that travelling with busses is very cheap. Keep Reading…

My Spanish studies vol 2

In February, I registered myself for a 6-month Spanish course in the University of Havana. By now, my Spanish courses are over. Time flies so fast! It is hard to give a fair assessment for myself, but I assume that I have made a huge development in my Spanish studies. When I arrived in Cuba, I was only able to order a beer for myself (una cerveza, por favor). But now, in addition to ordering a beer, I can manage having a conservation covering simple topics in Spanish. During these 6 months, I have reached so called “advanced level”, which should mean that my Spanish level is in the range of B1 and B2. Keep Reading…

Queues in Cuba

Sometimes I feel I have traveled back 20 years. I remember, in the late 80’s and early 90’s, it was quite normal to stand in queues in Estonia to get a kilo of sausages or a pack of washing-powder. Over time, I was able to forget those bad experiences, but all these old scars have been torn open again in Cuba. It is common to wait in the queue at a bank, telephone operator, or ice cream parlor for two hours in Cuba.

I joke that Cubans speak fast because they want to make up the time loste standing in queues. During my first weeks in Cuba, I refused to stand in queues as it was so unreasonable to me. Once I realized that I did’t have any other option, the queues became a form of entertainment to me. As a positive, I meet different and fascinating people in queues and at the same time practice my Spanish skills. At least, there is something useful for me. Cubans (and now I) socialize in queues and they become one big and happy family 🙂 . Keep Reading…

Obtain a Cuban identification card

Foreign students, who study more than three months in Cuba, may apply for Cuban identification card (carnet). Having a Cuban identification card often means being able to pay lower prices on entry into museums, nightclubs and local bus transportation.

To obtain the identification card, I had to submit necessary documents to the person who is responsible for visa matters at the university.

She then forwarded the documents to an immigration office. A week later, I had to go to the immigration office to provide my fingerprints for the identification card. Keep Reading…

Magic word: internet

Some small corrections have taken place in my head in Cuba. I don’t take things I was used to having at home (in Estonia) for granted anymore. One of these things is the availability of internet. Some time ago I met a tourist in a hotel lobby when I was using the internet. During our conversation, he complained that Cuba violates his human rights as he cannot use the internet whenever he wants and has to pay a very high price for this. Keep Reading…