NOVEMBER 16TH, 2012

i moved to a new apartment and i'm so happy i did. when i first got
here i was staying in a little apartment in vedado that was attached
to the home of two doctors with a 5 year old child and a dog (vedado
is where i stayed during my first trip too). it had a private
entrance, its own little private kitchen and bathroom, came furnished
and "decorated", someone cleaned my place every few days, and it was
all pretty sweet; but i had to get out.

vedado is kind of like…silverlake. before the revolution it was an
upper middle class neighborhood with palatial homes, gyms, private
clubs, shops, beautiful parks, galleries, music & performance spaces,
movie theaters and nice restaurants. now vedado is the same, but in a
socialist context. the homes were divided into apartments, or
dedicated to cultural and social centers, the restaurants are now
either state run or small paladars inside of private homes, and
everything else is pretty much the same. theres a mix of professional
and creative types, and basically all of havana's night life happens
in vedado. the clubs are here, half of the galleries, the theaters and
music centers, the university, and so much more. outside of miramar,
vedado houses the most embassies in havana, so there is also a lot
more police and access to resources you can't find in other parts of
the city. its very residential and quiet off of the main
thoroughfares, and most foreigners shack up in vedado to be in the
middle of it all. i moved from vedado to a more independent apartment
in centro habana.

moving from vedado to centro habana is like moving from the valley to
l.a. amplify the noise, people, cars, smog, and dogs of vedado about
10 times, get rid of most of the foreigners and you're in centro
habana. i love it. i'm in the middle of the city, close to everything,
surrounded by cubans on their grind, and my apartment is the best. i'm
on the second floor of a 4 story apartment building called 'edificio
california' (totally didn't notice this when i first moved in but i
guess it was fate). although my building is called california, its
more new york city in its design; most of my windows open up to the
interior of the building and the other ones open up to the building
behind me. although the sun only finds me for about a half hour
through a crack between two buildings in the late afternoon, i always
have indirect light. when i lay on my bed and look through the window
above me i get to see my personal square of sky, which makes me
happiest on its blue days. the only drawback to my place is that i
don't have hot water so i have to boil water and take bucket baths
(d'lo!) its not so bad though, and i actually think bucket baths are a
genius third world way to conserve water. i'm bucket bathing it up
when i get back to l.a. best believe. but for real my apartamentico es
lo maximo. its completely independent, not attached to any home or
family, no one has a key to enter but me (and the landlord of course),
and i get to decorate it all on my own. living independently has its
consequences though.

everywhere in havana, unless you're staying in a hotel, there are
moments (and sometimes hours) when the light and/or the water go. this
happens frequently, and without notice. in centro habana, this sort of
thing happens with more frequency than it does in vedado and you just have to deal with it.
theres a solution for this, however. in order to deal with the loss of
water most apartments have tanks in them. you fill these tanks when
the water comes in so that you have water when the pipes go dry again.
this delicate balance has been a very interesting learning experience
for me. i've not had water, on several occasions, because i've
forgotten to open the tank valve and let the water in. or a couple of
times i've left the building valve open at the same time as the tank
valve, and all of my water has gone to other apartments in the
building. but the best of the best experiences that i've had with the
tanks has yet to be discussed. here it goes…

before i start let me preface this with an image of my valve system.
there are three valves - seems simple enough, right? one valve to
control the water from the street, one to control the tanks in the
kitchen, and one to control the tanks in the bathroom. like i said
before, in order to get water i have to open the valve that controls
the water from the street, but i also have to make sure that the
independent tank valves are shut as well. when you've never had to
control water in this way, though, these valves turn from 3 into 15 in
your head.  you twist the nobs and listen for the water to figure out
what water is entering and leaving where, but you don't really know
what controls what. usually i don't leave the outside valve open to
fill the tanks when i'm not home, for fear, and recognition, that i
don't know what the hell i'm doing. but one desperate day, when i
forgot to fill the tanks and was without water i decided to leave the
outside valve open so the tanks would fill while i was away.
unfortunately though, i also left the bathroom valve open, and with
that ill fated move the tanks didn't know when to stop filling.

when i got home, at midnight, i came home to towels in front of my
door. my heart started racing, and my mind darted to the dammed tanks
that are my daily torture as i frantically tried to undo the 17 locks
on my door. my neighbor immediately opened her door, as if she had
been waiting for me to return all night, and told me to call my
landlord. apparently, according to the landlord, the tank valve that i
left open in the bathroom prevented the tank from knowing when to stop
filling and it overflowed, overflowed, overflowed. water just kept
pouring over the edge, so much so that it flooded the bedroom and
living room, and started leaking out into the hallway and down the
stairs. my toilet paper was soaked through, my pads were spongey, my
detergent became a weird multicolored soup, and everything else was
sitting in about an inch and a half of water. luckily my neighbor
noticed the water seeping out from under my door and called the
landlord to shut everything down, or who knows what disaster might
have occurred.

after i talked to my landlord i mopped up all the water, with towels,
bucket by bucket, until my apartment was dry and impeccably clean.
luckily the cubans are prepared for this type of experience because
everything is covered in tile. the floors are tile, the moulding is
tile and the walls are tile, so no major damage was done. also, i was
lucky enough not to leave my laptop on the floor next to my bed like
usual, so that was fine too. in the end i laughed about it, but
believe me i now know how to use my tank/valve system with sharp
accuracy.

you can imagine the panic i felt a week later when i walked into the
building and was greeted by the smell of something burning. i ran to
my apartment, but luckily it was someone else that messed up this time
and not me. oi.

love you all!!