Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cuba Day 3: Bring Home The Bacon; Battening Down The Hatches

This is Day 3 in a memorable series of adventures in search of his ancestral "roots" in Habana Cuba as told by guest writer George Roqueni; to read the first parts of his story see the following links:
A statuesque Don Quixote shops for produce
Dear Fellow Voyagers,

Today, the plan involved buying vegetables. Yesterday I discovered that supermarkets here don’t sell vegetables. You must go to a vegetable market and pay in Cuban Pesos. So I gave Jorge some CUC’s which he had to convert into Pesos. This family currently does not have transportation so almost all transactions involve walking. You’ll see many, many people walking in the streets which are the primary method of locomotion. There is no light rail whatsoever. Most people take the bus and you’ll see New Year’s Eve in Times Square type crowds at most bus stops. Passengers aboard these buses are daily packed like sardines at intensity typical of the NYC subway during the height of the rush hour.

"More Revolution" " Better Socialism"
Jorge returned with the vegetables. Then at 9:23 am there was a power outage. The buzz about the approaching tropical storm intensified and the candles came out. This household does not have any flashlights or a portable radio. When I asked when the power would be restored, I was told that sometimes people only commented that the power was on and not when it was off. We were incommunicado other than the landline phone.

An urgent call was placed to El Chino and he appeared with his 1974 Moskvich Russian vehicle which he affectionately calls “The Mostrosky.” Urgent plans were developed to buy non-perishable food stuffs and to do it quickly before there was a panicky run on the stores. This time Bertha and her wheelchair accompanied us on this shopping expedition. She didn’t want to miss any of the excitement and drama. Riding in a 37 year old car which was held together with mix and match parts, no shock absorbers and over streets which looked as if they had been destroyed by line mines is an experience not to be forgotten.
The Mostrosky and pit crew...

El Chino careened from side to side of the street in an attempt to avoid the larger pot holes. This bone rattling ride swerving back and forth to avoid the pedestrians walking in the streets could make your dental crowns come loose and make sure to bring some Dramamine. And remember there are no seat belts to prevent you from popping out the window. Air conditioning? What air conditioning! A tropical storm was on it's way and we were soaked in the humidity...

A store gets a spiffy paint job at ground level only
We arrived at the first supermarket. I was told that this one was “better” than the one visited yesterday. We’ll see. Bertha clutched her pocket book which was placed on her lap as we approached the store up the ramp in her wheel chair. She was told that we wouldn’t be allowed into the market with that pocketbook in her lap. She didn’t believe me – “that’s ridiculous, that’s where I have my money.” After much pleading, we had to pry the pocketbook from her clutches and assure her that El Chino would watch over it while waiting in the Mostrosky.

We filled the shopping cart with non-perishable supplies and the quest for bacon continued. Aha, there was a slab but it had more fat than bacon meat. Let’s look for candles. No candles. We left this market and returned to The Mostrosky. There was a conference with El Chino, Olga and Pedro. Where could bacon be found?

Some buildings fared better than others over time
The owner of the 1953 Chevy Bellaire parked next to us, upon hearing of our dilemma, offered where possibly we might find bacon. Then he said, “The only thing you’ll find in THIS store -- is disrespect. The prices are outrageous.” I discovered that one of the characteristics of the Cubans is that they will offer their opinion and advice if they should overhear your conversation. This happens all the time – it’s a Cuban thing, for sure.

On to the next supermarket, more purchases and aha – there was one slab of bacon. We purchased it faster than the speed of light. Let’s go home to prepare for the tropical storm.

Welcome home...where's the bacon?
 (Niurka and Maytee)

Cuban factoid: Eighty percent of the cars in Cuba are illegal. Why is that?

There is much here to make every moment memorable.


Laughter is the music of the soul.

"Liberty Can't Be Blocked" "Here There's No Fear"

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