If you read my last blog, you’d know I’m going to Cuba, and you’d also know it’s been a weird process getting there. I left off at my phone conversation with the Cuban Embassy, so that’s where I’ll pick back up.
It began with one decision. I’d decided that only the Cuban Embassy could help me with my future Cuba trip. If anyone would know how to get there, they would, and although I’d heard it was both legal and illegal to travel to Cuba—depending on whether or not I was accepted for permissible travel under certain visa categories—I still wanted to have the air cleared. I needed the truth.
So I bit the bullet, Googled “Cuban embassy in Miami,” found a number, and called it. The phone rang and rang, and when a scratchy-voiced robot finally answered, I left a message that never got returned. I repeated the same process for the next three days until my patience wore rice paper thin.
Through gritted teeth, I Googled again, and this time I found an alternative number for the embassy—a 1-800 number listed in red at the top of the page. I thought I’d try it instead of the direct line I’d been calling, and guess what?
A man answered after two rings. I thought I was being punked. He sounded young-ish. Nice. Said he worked for a company that worked alongside the Cuban Embassy and that I should be aware that the Cuban Embassy doesn’t open every day, and when it does, they close at noon. Hmmmm…okay. I decided that was par for this warped course, and pushed forward.
This guy and I, we started shooting the shit about the Cuba situation—not from the hip, but I’d say more around the back.
“Do I need a visa?” I asked in my best innocent voice.
“Yes,” he directed.
“What kind of visa?”
“They have all kinds, but currently, the Cuban Embassy is only distributing business visas.”
“Okay. So…that doesn’t include me,” I admitted, and then I went there. “Are there other ways of getting down there? Like, let’s say if I were vacationing in Cancun and then I had a vacation whim—like a Cuban itch, ya know—and I just hopped on a plane. Then what?”
I held my breath. The man inhaled and exhaled slowly. Yoga breathing.
“I don’t recommend going without a visa,” he said, clearing the air.
I kept going, rolling on the inspiration of real conversation. “I have a friend that did. He didn’t have any problems.”
“How long ago?” he inquired.
And that made me nervous. I didn’t know if this guy was taking me for a ride that would end with me asking for my one phone call or if this was miles from sinister. I decided to trust.
“It was long time ago,” I answered, instead of hanging up.
“That’s why he got away with it,” the man responded in a flat tone. “You’d be surprised, but since the defrosting of the relationship between Cuba and the United States, the border is being watched even closer. They want things to progress smoothly, so they’re watching the interactions through a microscope.”
Hmmmm….very sinister indeed for the part of me that just wanted to wing it and fly to Cuba on the back of a giant eagle. But, I also didn’t want to get busted. So that meant if I wasn’t going illegally, and if I couldn’t get a business visa, which was the only visa the Embassy was granting—then what this man was telling me was that I… was… screwed. Game over. Thanks for playing. Try again later.
I slumped in my chair and was just getting ready to thank him, go to my office, and nurse my broken heart with the old school YouTube clip, “The Count Censored,” when he interrupted my grief.
“Why aren’t you just going through a travel agency?” he asked, swinging his intonation up at the end of his question.
“I’m sorry,” I marveled. “Did you just say travel agent? What year is this?”
The man laughed. “I know, but it’s the best way to get to Cuba, I promise. They’ll get you there tomorrow.”
“WHAT! Really!” I almost yelled. “Ummm…okay. THANK YOU! You’ve been a wealth of help.”
“No problem. Have a nice day, ma’am, y buen viaje.”
We ended the call simultaneously, and I immediately Googled “Cuba travel agents”—grinning the entire time. I haven’t used a travel agent since about fifteen years ago, and that was only because I wanted to explore the Outback with a group that knew how to, plus the place I worked in Melbourne was next to a travel agency with glossy posters boasting two-week treks into the wild wilderness. It was an opportunity that climbed into my lap, and that’s why I did it. But now, I’d never use a travel agency—wouldn’t know where to find one…except this once.
I searched. I found. I called, and a duded name Nestor with a thick Cuban accent walked me through the next steps to get to Cuba—and those steps got funnier with each document and email exchange.
Te gusta? STAY TUNED for more Cuba Madness.
Read Shelby’s book, Good Globe, for a hilarious look at some of her other adventures.