Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. But in the margins

I’ve been in Havana for 24 hours and money has flown out of my pocket. For those that don’t know, you must bring all your cash with you if you are from the US. You can get away with booking Casa Partículares (the local houses) thru Air BNB online. But they don’t take US credit cards or ATM cards in person no can you access your money from here. You can’t even book a return flight with a US airline.

Needed a nap after the red eye but after I grabbed my guitar to head down to the Malecón. Well after my six hours of required cultural interaction per day of course. I loved connecting with the locals and using my Spanish. This is the first time I’ve really traveled in Latin America since I lived in Guatemala. I’ve forgotten a lot. But I need less time just travel. Depending on the depth of conversation.

Playing a few songs (FYI the harmonica isn’t the best for Cuban music) I loved connecting with the street musicians. Then they are like “um, we live on our tips”. So with little change I had to give them either 5 or 10 CUC (the local currency and approx equal exchange to the dollar).I mean they were GOOD, but I wanted to explore.

Bought a beer and walked thru town. Everyone comes up to you when you are traveling solo. Very few solo travelers. Easy to pick out. “Hey man where you from?” “Need a taxi?” “What are you looking for?”

After two beers my Spanish seemed better and I let my guard down a bit.

One dude asked me if I needed a taxi. I said I was looking for a local restaurant to eat. He said go this way and I will show you. He seemed friendly and clean. Not sketchy. We bantered about in Spanish. Got to the restaurant. It seemed laid back but the prices seemed high. Short story. Epic conversation. All in Spanish. I bought him two Mojitos. Some friend out of nowhere shows up to sell me cigars “because today is last day before the prices go up” and I had an ex customer I wanted to buy them for of course. Fleeced. Dinner was 40 bucks. Geez.

Then the taxi driver asks me for cash because he has two kids. I mean, this guy was going to the US next month to meet his dad who left 35 years ago when he was three!! So I gave him 10 CUCs. I felt worked over.

As I limped home with empty pockets and a bruised ego I realized I just blew thru five days of my budget. Geez. What happened there?


I like to spend time with people that have struggled but have enough emotional intelligence or education to feel fortunate when they are not struggling. There are exceptions to that but even super poor folks in Nepal or India or Guatemala have that little twinkle in their eyes that shows they feel fortunate for their little freedoms. So on Mazlows hierarchy it’s nice to meet people teetering between “food, clothing and shelter” and “self-actualization”. Especially if they CRAVE self actualization. I’ve had to dig deep for the “food, clothing and shelter” once in awhile in my life and after I thought that struggle was good. It can be a deeepening experience IF you believe you can get to the other side.

I’m not sure all the Cubans think they can get to the other side of poverty. Yet their interaction with travelers is fascinating. And they are warm wonderful people for the most part.

Off to the east. Baracoa and some rural hijinx.

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