By this time you must be wondering whether I did anything in Cuba except give and receive massages. I did many things, including going for excellent meals, going to the ballet, going to the cabaret, chatting to locals, having a tour of Havana in a classic car, and looking at lots of art. But, for the purposes of this blog, I am focussing on all my experiences that involved massage.
On my birthday we also went to a restaurant overlooking the sea to have a coffee. However, it was raining too heavily to sit on the balcony, the only place in the restaurant from where you got a really good sea view. Instead, we sat inside and had a lovely two-hour conversation with a 21 year old waiter called Aldo (we were the only ones in the restaurant) who spoke perfect English. We talked about life, society, life in Cuba, what is important in life… a very philosophical discussion. We exchanged contacts and he suggested we contact him in 2 days and he would show us around Havana.
I phoned him 2 days later and, true to his word, he showed us around. Instead of expensive taxis, we used buses and collective taxis (these are taxis which go along set routes, a bit like buses – some are classic American cars, although they are not as shiny and well-kept as the ones used on classic car tours) at a fraction of the cost. But, more than this, it was also an adventure, and a great insight into how Habaneros lived. We saw another side of Havana. We had tea at a hotel in Miramar (a district of Havana), briefly looked at a run-down beach, had lunch at a stylish café off the beaten track and finished our day in the restaurant in Cuba Libre. Cuba Libra was the formerly The Hilton (before the revolution). The restaurant was on the 25th floor and the views over Havana were amazing.
The day before we flew out of Cuba, Aldo invited us to his house (in a neighbourhood just beyond Miramar) for his father’s birthday. We were very touched by the invitation. He picked us up from our Casa, and we got a bus and collective taxi to his house. His mum and dad had prepared a special meal for us an also gave us some Cuban cigars. We felt touched and honoured.
At some point during all our meetings (I cannot remember where), I told Aldo I had a massage therapy practice in York. I also gave him a shoulder massage. He said he had never had a massage before. This is exactly what Chef Liuyen had said. I found this intriguing. I asked Aldo if there was any tradition of massage in Cuba. He was not aware of any. In the end I taught him some basic massage techniques.