So I’m back in my office after a very successful lecture on Cuba. The students loved my stories about the trips I made to that country. My story about the naked men was especially popular. I’m not sure if I shared this story with you, so I will tell it anyway.
The very first time I traveled to Cuba was in 1999. I was 23 and too naive and sheltered for that age. I was staying at a hotel in the middle of Old Havana because the purpose of the trip was not to have a beach vacation but to discover how the Cuban people really lived. In front of my hotel and very close to it, there was another building. All day and night whenever I would look out of my window, I would see naked men showering in the rooms of that building. There was an endless procession of these naked men who took turns showering.
Finally, I decided to ask my Cuban friend Armando what was happening.
“Is this some sort of a public bath facility?” I asked him. “But then why aren’t there any curtains in the windows?”
“Oh, Clarissa,” Armando said. “You are so naive. You are like a child. These men are renting the shower rooms in the building in front of the hotel where Western tourists are staying. They do that in order to show their goods to tourists who want to purchase sex. If you like what you see, all you have to do is go and stand in front of the building and the man you chose will come down. Then you can negotiate the price.”
Another story the students loved was the one where I was approached by a man in the streets of Havana who offered sex and was shocked when I refused.
“But why not?” he asked. “It’s just $5. Don’t you have $5?”
“Yes, I do have $5,” I responded, feeling desperate. “But I don’t want to buy sex.”
The man looked confused.
“Then why did you come to Havana?” he asked.
“To learn about the culture and improve my Spanish,” I explained.
“This is the first time that I meet such a weird tourist,” the man concluded.
He thought for a while, and then his face lit up.
“Do you prefer girls?” he asked. “Because I have a sister. . .”