Hotel Nacional, Vedado, Cuba — May 14, 2003
After a hot and sticky day touring Havana, there is nothing better than to take a dip in the Hotel Nacional swimming pool. There are several, but the pool I frequent is off to the left of the back grounds. In theory, the price is US $15/day for pool use; in practice, it is free if you don’t get caught. I jump in. The feeling is exhilarating as the days sweat is replaced by water of the perfect temperature. Since I do carry a money belt with me, I hide it under my hat near the pool edge. Sometimes I just swim with money in my pockets. One time, while I was swimming, a guy yells at me from the second story window. He looks official. I mutter to my friend, “Oh man, I am busted.” Instead, the man points behind me, “Sir, your money is floating all over the pool.” I looked behind and laugh. There are about 10 bills at various depths sinking to the bottom. To make matters more exciting, they were Pesos Nacional bills, local currency — something no guest at the Hotel Nacional would use (or even have access to.) The man didn’t notice the bill type, nor did he care. He simply laughs at the spectacle of money floating all over the Hotel Nacional pool. I quietly collect the notes, miss some, am yelled at again, and then gather the rest. After the swim, I walk down the Malecón and let the cool sea breeze dry my wet soul. In the evening, I pass out wet notes to various sellers. The locals seem to get a kick out of wet money, and it makes it look newer anyway!