9 January: Cuba-Mexico-USA

rani's picture


Leaving Cuba

We finished packing at about 1am in the morning and only caught a bit of sleep until 4am. At 5am, Fuente, Tya, and Puput picked us up to get to the airport.

Even in such an early time in the morning, the airport is quite busy with early morning cubana flight to Bogota and Mexico City. The Mexicana check in counter is tucked in between Cubana check in desks, and people had started to line up. While we were lining up, Noe played with Tya and Puput, running around in the airport.

After a long queue, we checked in, and it took a bit of time because the printing machine was broken. After about one hour, we finally finished checking in. We went to the cafetaria to have breakfast: toast with cheese and Cuban coffee.


Difficulty in the Immigration Desk

We had a really exciting farewell conversation when we realize that it's close to the boarding time. So we rushed to the immigration counter.

We were really stressed out because the immigration procedure took us about half an hour! The officer kept asking questions, testing, observing our faces, etc etc, repeatedly. It is the first time I went to a country, where it is difficult to get out of the country (as well as to get in). The officer kept asking me trick questions and trick statements about Noe, making sure that Noe is not a Cuban baby that I tried to smuggle. Apparently she had to also make sure that we were not Cubans who are trying to sneak out of the country. Once we got through immigration it was already the last boarding call. We rushed to security check, which was fairly straightforward, then rushed to the money changer to exchange our remaining Cuban dollars, and run to the the boarding gate, where all passengers had been seated except for us. I was totally tired and had to take two panadols.

Beautiful Scenery of Mexico from the Flight

After 40 minutes flight, we stopped by in Cancun and cleared Mexican immigration. Then we continued the flight to Mexico City for 3.5 hours. The weather above Mexico City was very clear, and we could se a snowy mountain at the left side of the airplane just before entering Mexico City metropolitan area. We were flying very close to that snowy mountain, and I wished, the next time we're in Mexico, I wanted to visit this mountain.

Stop Over in Mexico with a Great Torta Lunch near Extramadura

We arrived in Mexico City about 11am in the morning and had to transfer to the domestic terminal to get our luggage. But the instruction given by the airport official was too confusing, and we ended up making three rounds back and forth between international arrival and domestic arrival. Moreover, there was tight security check between the two terminals. After one hour we finally managed to get out of the airport. We store our luggages in the locker and got an official airport taxi (Damn expensive!) to go to Carlos's house.

Carlos house in Extramadura was a 1950s building with old but neat fixtures. He put a lot of Indonesian ornaments and decoration in the house, and there are a lot of rooms, so we definitely could stay with him if we go back to Mexico City. We then rush to pack our mexican souvenirs to cardboard boxes.

Then Carlos took us for lunch one block from his house to a torta place. Although the torta was a bit expensive, the size was really big and lots of Oaxaca cheese. It was delicious but I only managed to eat half of it, and packed up the rest. We drank a lot of Jamaica and Horchata at the shop.

Then we tried to haul a cab but couldn't get one until a VW beetle cab stopped in front of the house after 20 minutes of waiting. It was amazing how such a small cab can fit our luggage. We arrived on time in the airport and walked from the locker area to the international departure area, which is a bit far, especially with heavy luggages. We rushed to check in, and got through security check which was not very tight (unusual for an US-bound flight, but we're thankful of that). Then we spent the next hour just chilling in the boarding area, catching our breath.

The flight to LA took about 3.5 hours. We departed about 5pm, so we couldn't see the amazing Mexico City night lights. But the weather was very clear, that we could see really far down the horizon even at 30000 feet. Occasionally we could see other jet plane passing by in the airspace, because of the clarity. We could see the deserts.

Arrival in LA

We arrived in LA at 7pm and it was nice experiencing fast and efficient service after the Cuban experience. Immigration was pretty straightforward, we were attended by Mr. Eatman (yes, that was his name, but he was actually a very nice guy). He asked whether we went to other country while in Mexico, and of course, to avoid trouble, we said we just stay in Mexico.

Then we went to clear the Customs, and we were almost got searched because the gatekeeper directed us to the search area after seeing two suspicious cardboard boxes. Luckily the lady in the search area just let us go after we said that we only have few bottles of rums in the cardboard box. Probably seeing that we were carrying a baby, we were unlikely to smuggle anything illegal. And indeed we didn't have anything illegal.

Lesson learned: do not pack in cardboard boxes because these tend to raise suspicion.

We were tired but have to still continue walking, down to the bus pickup area in order to catch Alamo bus that brought us to the car rental. We knew that we're in California when we saw the bright city light (much in contrast to Havana), and big big SUV cars all over the place. LA is indeed a place of lavish over consumption.

We reported our car reservation, and had to secure it using our credit card. Funnily enough, the credit card showed up as debit card, probably because it's not US based. Because of that, the Alamo lady needed to see our air ticket. I didn't see what air ticket had to do with confirming our credit card status, but we obliged anyway. Then Indi went to get the car. At fist we expect to drive a small compact car just like the one we rented in Cancun, but it turned out that compact car includes a big spacious Saturn car. It even has CD MP3 player!

So we drove comfortably to Oceanside where our (young) aunt Ira lives. The expressway in California has six lanes for each direction, all filled with big SUV cars mostly with one person in each car. What a waste of fossil fuel!

After 90 minutes of driving we arrived at Oceanside town, but we're too hungry to continue searching Ira's house, so we decided to stop in Denny's and had dinner there. There were a lot of military young kids having dinner there, and yep these young kids were like the ones that got sent to the Iraqi front.

We knew we're in US when we got our orders and it was HUGE portion. Luckily I decided not to order any food, rather, I would eat from Indi's plate.

At 11pm we arrived in Ira's house, took a nice warm shower (with strong water, unlike trickling shower in Cuba), and went to bed.


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