SPEAKER

 

Mike Dungan introduced our guest speaker, Dennis Lusk. Dennis and his wife Susie recently participated in a cultural exchange tour in Cuba and had many photos to share. Dennis had been fascinated with Cuba since high school and had always wanted to visit. When the opportunity presented itself, he jumped on it…and dragged Susie with him. Apparently she did have a wonderful time once they arrived on the island.

 

A unique aspect of Dennis’ presentation was the improvised pointer – the laser sight on a stripped pistol.

 

Dennis took us on a virtual tour of Cuba, from the airport, to the taxis, to the hotel, and to many historic and scenic destinations. Clearly, one of the highlights was the taxis, as they were all vintage classic cars. The car that took them from the airport to the hotel was a ’58 Chevy. “It had the original engine…smoked like a crop duster, but it was original!” Classic car lovers should look, but not touch, though, as parts are very hard to get in Cuba, and mechanics will use whatever they can get to keep the cars running. Lurking under the hood of that gorgeous ’54 Cadillac may be a Toyota motor.

 

Dennis was also impressed with the native Cubans. “The main takeaway I had from this trip was how hardworking these people are. They will bust their butts for dang near nothing.” He also commented that they were very nice and very friendly – although they are often working a hustle. Most are also fluent in English; the better to hustle tourists with.

 

One thing that has changed since Cuba’s relationship with the USA has evolved is that it is no longer a criminal offense to use American dollars in Cuba. “You’re supposed to exchange your money, but it’s no longer criminal.” The government wants you to use CUC, which is currency specifically for American tourists. But the best way to buy CUC is to exchange your American dollars for Canadian currency or Euros, and then purchase CUC, because there is a tax on exchanging American dollars, so your money won’t go as far.

 

Cuba is frantically trying to upgrade old Havana, expecting a huge influx of tourists. Cruise lines will soon begin docking in Havana harbor, swelling the tide of tourists. Many of the historic buildings have been gutted, keeping the original facade while rehabilitating the interior. Other structures have been left partially intact, with a single wall, cornerstone, or stairway remaining in place as a reminder of its historic significance.

 

The slideshow ended with an auction of a Cuban cigar and a bottle of Santiago de Cuba rum. Both would be illegal to sell in the United States, but it is legal to donate them for a charitable cause. Doug Evans won the bid for the rum at $55. The reserve was not met on the cigar, but Dennis had another buyer already lined up, so it was all good.