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Central America and the Caribbean

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After 2 very rewarding weeks in Mexico helping at the dog shelter and learning a bit of Spanish I left for my next stop, the beautiful city of Antigua in Guatemala. I was particularly looking forward to exploring this beautiful city, renowned for its colonial architecture and surrounding volcanoes. More importantly I was working in a wild animal rescue centre where I would be looking after snakes, tarantulas, racoons, and God knows what else. I arrived in Antigua late on Friday evening, after a 4-hour taxi ride to travel the 25 miles from the airport in horrendous traffic. I checked into my ‘motel’ which was clean but basic. It had an ensuite bathroom but no air con or hot water. Unfortunately, the next day I woke up feeling a bit under the weather. I decided to press on and spent 8 hours exploring the city on foot. By the time…

In Merida, Mexico I stayed in the home of Miguel, the owner of the Spanish school where I went in the afternoons for lessons, after my voluntary work in the dog shelter. Oscar, who was the programme coordinator, also lived there. My first impression of Oscar was a highly intelligent, borderline autistic individual with strong Mexican features, cool glasses, and longish black hair. He seemed a very friendly and caring guy. The morning after my arrival Oscar was to take me into the city for a quick walking tour. I was somewhat taken aback when he glided down the stairs wearing a full length purple floral dress, glass floral earrings, which dangled past his shoulders, pink hair slides and flip-flops with socks. I completely ignored his surprise attire and we headed out on the bus. However as we wandered around the beautiful city, I was struck time and time again by…

Just in case… My journey from Havana to Merida, Mexico should have been pretty straightforward; a 21/2 hour direct flight. However when I walked out on to the Cuban runway, in the searing heat, I wasn’t entirely sure that I was going to make it. My transportation was the oldest plane, barring a Spitifre, I have ever seen. It had 2 dirty propellers and the fuselage looked like it had skidded along a runway on numerous occasions. Before boarding I took a quick selfie and sent it to my family, so that if I did disappear over the Gulf of Mexico they would know why. My concerns over flight safety were heightened when I noticed that the plane had ashtrays in the arm rests which, on inspection, had not been cleaned out. I was very relieved when, just over 2 hours later we made a bumpy, noisy but nonetheless safe…

My time in Cuba came to an end last weekend and I headed off to Mexico. Never has any country evoked in me such extreme emotions as Cuba. I had a love/hate relationship with the place. I struggled to comprehend how Cubans could be so warm, friendly and generous when they led such bleak lives. There is no question that Havana is a wondrous city full of colourful colonial buildings which are being painstakingly restored by the government, yet this is a government which cannot afford to feed its people. Havana is equally famous for its gleaming 1950s American cars, yet the reason why they are still in existence is that the importation of American cars has been banned since this time. Cars are wildly expensive, and beyond the reach of most. A 20 year old Merc with 200,000 miles on the clock sells for $100,000 dollars here. Highest paid…

The death of our Queen has sent waves of sadness to most corners of the globe but not to Cuba. It has not been mentioned here and this makes me feel strangely disconnected. Communication with the outside world is a struggle at the best of times. I queued 6 times to get a local SIM card for my phone and eventually I managed to trade 2 tubs of powdered milk I had brought with me for a precious SIM. Even so WIFi is scarce and loading the BBC News app takes an enormous amount of my data. So my news from home is sketchy. It is strange how the loss of someone I never met, but had known my whole life, has affected me so profoundly and the inability to share my thoughts and sentiments with my peers makes it so much worse. This year has been a year of…

Plane Jayne When I started writing this blog a few years ago I thought ‘How not to have a Midlife Crisis’ was a great title. However now, at the age of 57, it is hard to kid myself, or anyone else, that my desire to head off every year, armed with a case of mosquito repellent, is some form of Midlife anything. The truth is I am beyond midlife (sadly) but I still love travelling. That is why I found myself on Saturday in the departure lounge at Gatwick once again, before catching planes to Madrid and then on to Havana, Cuba. So this is a big Hello from Havana, home of the cigar, rum and Salsa. So far I have seen plenty of all three amongst the crumbling relics of what once was a beautiful city. The people are incredibly friendly and the rum is flowing but don’t come…