CUBA TRAVEL JOURNAL

A Fine Party It Was & We Secure Ice!

July 7, 1998 1:40pm

We had an outstanding good time at dinner last night. Nara and her mother had spent the day shopping and preparing the meal. They purchased about ten pounds of pork and some avocados at the market. I've been to the market and the conditions are something to forget while you are eating. Butchered pig laying open on a dirty wood block while the butcher waves away flies is just how it is. They went to the peso store (where locals receive their ration of staples) for rice and beans and to the dollar store (for tourists and people with American dollars) for canned beans.

 
  They were still cooking on the new stove Chris had purchased for them when we arrived at 5:00. The household chairs were brought outside and we spent the next several hours talking and laughing while we enjoyed the beer we bought.
     
   
A family Friend...   Nara (left), her father, sister
and daughter, Adys.
  Nara's Mother
prepares our feast.
         
Yasmell and I took several empty rum bottles to be refilled but were delayed for a while, as he tried to change dollars to pesos because the vendor was not allowed to accept dollars. Later the girls wanted to walk for sodas and when we returned Beybe insisted I go to her home to visit and to meet her father who was sleeping when I visited yesterday.

As I understand from my strained Spanish, he is a fisherman on the north coast and works twenty-five days on and twenty-five days off. He asked many questions about our boat and what it's like in California.

 

I gave Belkis the rest of my batteries for the cassette. Her sister came to me later to give me a present. She handed me a 1962 Cuban centavo piece. She explained the currency is no longer good but some people say the coin is good luck and she wishes I should have good luck.

   

Yasmell suggested we go next door to the "Palace". This building apparently was literally a Palace over 200 years ago but now is in complete ruins. Even so, it is home to several families though it quite clearly is about to fall down and it is a wonder they are able to move through the structure without falling through the floors or stairs.

Later in the evening, the religious man who lives next door to Yasmell (about three feet away) brought his cassette out and asked for batteries. The ones from my camera flash brought a smile to his face and he happily passed the music to all so we could hear his favorite tape of Mexican music. He returned later with a small sack of pyrite (fool's gold) and gave a piece to Chris and me. This also was to bring us luck.  
     
  My Girls....  

Adys (Alice)

Photos Courtesy of
C. Pritchard

Beybe (Barbi)

We talked and practiced our Spanish and English until quite late. I suggested it was time for the children (and Chris who was bleary eyed) to sleep and we left in the company of Yasmell and Alexis.

Back at the wall we chatted with passerbys and finally retired absolutely exhausted.

I've slept until 10:30 and came to the boat. I think Chris is still asleep at the Casa Particular.

I'm quite frustrated at our ice and water situation and have decided to take matters into my own hands. I left the boat and cycled around until I found a restaurant near the hotel. Though it was closed, a young man came to the door and invited me in. Michele had difficulty understanding me when I explained I was looking for a large block of ice. Finally he got the idea and brought me to his boss who agreed.

I was led to a walk in freezer through a kitchen that can only be described as frightening and offered one of three large blocks there. There was little I could do with it on a mountain bike. As Michele and I discussed how I was to leave with my prize, I spotted a tricycle with a wagon in back. He immediately agreed to ride to the Marina with me.

Once the ice was safely in a cooler I asked him "how much?". He said nothing, it was free. He was delighted with the three dollars I gave him.

An average month's wages in Cuba is from seven to twenty dollars and it was explained to us last night that the meal we had organized would take three to four months of labor to save for!

Chris still isn't here, I've run the engine for an hour to charge the battery and will leave to check on him. I'm sick since yesterday and he didn't look well either last night.

Hopefully our water situation will be sorted out this afternoon. Yasmell and Alexis have agreed to come to the marina and help us try to fix the marina pipes enough to fill our holding tank.

Last night when the water came on at five, I watched Yasmell use a pump from an old washing machine to draw water from the street into several fifty-five gallon drums at his home. Maybe that could work here and I've asked him to bring it.

  I've noticed from my evenings in people's homes that when the water comes on for several hours, one person after another (children first) casually leaves and returns bathed until everyone has had a chance.

Floors are washed, buckets of water are thrown to the concrete outside the doorway to clean debris and water gathered in buckets and pails until it turns off again.

After "Bath Time"    

1998 John Petrak

Next Journal Page

Return to Index