Meet Juan Daniel and Olivia

Without checking, do you know how many electoral college votes Florida has? My guess is that probably fewer than 5 percent of the USA population does.

Juan Daniel does. And he lives in Playa Baraco, Cuba, a somewhat somnolent beach town a bit West of Havana.

Juan Daniel and his wife, Olivia, operate the casa particular, a half block from the beach where my good friend of thirty years, Life Long Harborite, and I stayed during our recent visit to Cuba.

Juan Daniel would join us in the evening on the patio, at a table with a Havana Club umbrella under bougainvillea vines, with his jigger and ask for “una linea”, which is strictly translated to “a line” but means of asking for a shot of rum. He would usually end up having tres or cautro lineas, as we discussed politics, solar hot water heating systems, and wide variety of other topics, a number of which elicited hearty laughter.

Juan Daniel understands completely how a small number of rich Cuban expatriates exercise inordinate influence over the disposition of Florida and New Jersey electoral votes, and reported that Cuban TV provided election night coverage of the 2004 presidential election.

Here Life Long Harborite, Juan Daniel, and Angel are sitting at the location of our evening salons.

Juan Daniel and Olivia’s house has two rooms, complete with kitchenettes and bathrooms; and they also rent their bedroom, in which case they sleep in the dining room.

They prepare for their guests breakfasts of fruit, juice, high test coffee, eggs, and bread and dinners of chicken, fish, lobster, or shrimp, with the usual rice, black beans, yucca, potatoes, and salad.

One evening I asked Juan Daniel why houses in Playa Baracoa don’t utilize some sort of solar water heating system, since hot water is provided to the showers with the 220 volt on-demand type heater as shown in the photo. This type of water heater is typical to Cuba and if encountered in the USA, I am guessing, would cause an electrical inspector to see that power was immediately disconnected to the building. I have showered under a number of these units during my visits to Cuba and, other than an occassional mild shock, have had no problems.

Juan Daniel indicated that he thought a solar hot water heating system would be too expensive. I told him that I think, given the abundance of sun there a relatively inexpensive passive system, consisting of a wide, shallow, flat tank painted flat black would probably provide sufficient hot water. I sketched out a schematic, he indicated he knows where he can get a surplus aluminum airplane fuel tank and suggested during my next visit we build a system on his roof. I told him I will return in July.

When traveling in Cuba there is not better accomnodation than a casa particular, where one may enjoy the perspective, and assistance, of the host family. Olivia and Juan Daniel treated us very well and thanked us for being such considerate tenets.

I think they also both enjoyed the antics of we Gringos Locos.

One evening when showing Juan Daniel photos of my previous visits to Cuba when we arrived at one of the photos of the orchids in Soroa he jumped out of his chair to show me the same variety of orchid growing in his patio garden.

Another photo of a guitar playing fellow I met in Santiago, Bennie Billie, elicited recognition and a story of how Bennie Billie had played the famed Cuban siger, Bennie Moore, in the film story of his life.

Each day of each of my trips to Cuba I have fallen into experiences I will long remember. If you visit Cuba I suggest you travel independently and make arrangements for a casa Havana for the first two or three days. Your hosts in Havana will be able to arrange a driver to your next stop and probably a casa there as well. There are also a number of web sites where you can view and reserve casas. The Vedado section of Havana is quieter and safer than is Centro Havana and I suggest you not take a casa more than three floors up. I can provide contacts to casas where I stayed and which I liked very much, so if you’re going send me a message.

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4 Comments

Filed under Blogroll, Cuba, Travel

4 responses to “Meet Juan Daniel and Olivia

  1. Life Long Harborite

    I think (which is quite rare) you should put the dog shit episode in?

  2. I have been considering the matter and don’t know how I could possibly convey how incredibly funny the incident was to someone who wasn’t there. Remember, in describing it to Juan Daniel we were able to imitate the drunk fellow weaving his way down the street to his direct contact.

    If I had a video I would definitely post it as our commentary was the really funny part.

  3. Life Long Harborite

    You are a just a great guy! Thank you for being my friend!

  4. I wouldn’t be your friend if I didn’t think you were a great guy.

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