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Short Stories


"Short Stories" is a collection of real life stories and articles, written by people who travel often to Cuba, live with their families or real good friends...enjoy the 'A Lo Cubano' Novellas


A modest, practical tip for sneaking around Apartheid

My Spanish is really pretty good, although spoken with an accent- so I can never pass if subjected to a lot of scrutiny. Here's how I avoid the scrutiny:
Let's say I want to go to the Tropicana and pay in pesos, or take a taxi ride long distance in a shared taxi, or eat at a peso place. First- I try to dress Cuban- a pair of partially broken shoes, locally bought clothing. Next, I carry a copy of a Spanish language newspaper, or better yet, a ragged Spanish language book from one of the local bookstores (well, not to the Tropicana). Most importantly- I'm with some Cubans, and the prearranged plan is that when we pass through inspection, someone talks to me in Spanish as rapidly as possible and when there is a pause I interject something innocuous like " asi, no" or "olvidalo". It could be as simple as 'si' or 'no'. The idea is to pretend that you are involved in a complicated discussion and don't have any attention left over for the guy who is looking for extranjeros. This little trick has worked many times.
A big success along these lines was on a shared car from Playa del Este to Havana. Even after the newspaper and the long conversation, the driver looked at me and asked, "Turista?" I answered 'Ojala!" and went back to my paper. The ojala here means something like "IF ONLY I was a tourist! Everybody laughed and I paid just a few pesos.
And this trick works the other way too! If I want to pass any Cuban friend into any hotel, or onto a prohibited beach area, or wherever- When we approach the guard, I get involved in a rapid fire conversation with my friend, something like, "If you're not feeling up to it right now, we could rest for a while before getting something to eat, or would you rather go out and look for something now?" The longer the sentence the better. My Cuban friend knows in advance to say 'not now' when I pause. Then I go on with another couple of hundred words, and when I pause, my friend says "OK then". The trick is to pay no attention whatsoever to the guy doing the inspection, like you are so involved in a discussion that as far as you two are concerned he doesn't exist.
It seems that very few guards dare to break up what seems to be an important conversation between 2 yumas, especially when the 'Cuban yuma' appears to understand really rapid fire English! (or Italian, French or even Dutch)
The other method for passing the boundaries is, of course, bribery, which I think is more difficult. However, years ago any Cuban friend could buy me a Cuban train ticket for 5 or 10 dollars from Havana to Santiago. Some of the money went to the person selling the ticket, and some of the money went to the woman in charge of each train car. I was even told that this was possible for air travel, although that's something that I've never tried. It's been years since I've travelled on a Cuban train ticket, mostly because I've spent so many miserable nights on Cuban trains that now I would probably go by Viazul even if the trains were free. Although the trains are MUCH more interesting, for the people who have never been on them!

This post is more for the lurkers who are afraid to ask for advice. For you old wooly Cubanites...please add your two pesos worth. One of the most annoying things about the casa particulars I have stayed in are the matches used to light the gas cooking stove. They are not like normal matches but then again....these damn fire breathing things they call stoves are not normal either!!! The matches that the Cubans have are about half the normal length and about a quarter of the with of what we are use to. Also most of the burners on the stove are home made. Every time I try to light one of the things, I lose most of the hair on the back of my arm clean up to the arm pit!!!! One my next trip I'm taking one of those $3.00 barbeque lighters with the flint in them. This will save my knuckles second degree burns. The other thing I"m taking are hand operated egg beaters. The cuban women had never seen this "miracle machine" before and had one woman offer to spend the night if I let here have the one I had brought. Alas...I had promised it to the Cuban granny already so my virginity stayed intact. (Ya...Right).

The Grandmother of one of my Cuban friends is the same age as Fidel. She had her son translate this joke for me as she does not speak English. She claimes that she wants to die before Fidel because it will be a hell of a long wait if she is behind him while he explains his life to God.

The Chess Game

I was walking about 4 blocks north of the University late one afternoon when I heard this funny clacking noise coming from a bar. Curiosity got me so I popped in to have a look at what was happening. Behind the bar was a young guy about 25 with an old man sitting on the other side. Between them was an old chess board, so worn that most of the black squares were just about gone. The game was just under way and the clacking noise was the fast and furious movement of the cheap plastic chess pieces between the squares. The old man turned and looked at me for a second when I came in and the poor old guy sure looked funny. He had really thick glasses but in the middle was extra lenses that looked like two magnifying glasses. They made the pupils in his eyes look so big that with his unkept hair he reminded me of one of those Great Horned Owls we get here every so often.
The pieces were moving very fast and it soon became apparent that the old guy was loosing badly. Several of his key pieces were already gone. Three more moves and he lost 2 more pawns and a rook. The kid started to grin when the old man moved his queen and said something I did not catch but the smile quickly vanished of the bar tenders face. Checkmate!!!!! I almost cheered for the old guy. The kid was so busy attacking, he forgot to watch his ass. The old man received a beer from the cooler, obviously the wager, and motioned me to sit down and try my luck. "No way buddy". This guy was a master and I left a dollar on the table for him for giving me another one of those special lessons in life that I like to collect. He shook my hand and we parted but I know that this is one guy I will never forget.

My friend "P" is an amazing guy. He called me over one night to have dinner with him and his family. This was just the beginning. It was made of fish like tuna mixed with mayo, topped with spaggetti and a boiled and peeled quail egg. He tried to convince me that the eggs were from his budgies. You got to love Cuban humour.

Special story just for the Dutchies

On my second trip to Havana I learned just how much the Cuban love licorice. They do not seem to care if it is black, red or blue.....they just go nuts over the stuff. I had just unpacked in a casa on Neptuno when another Canadian showed up with a couple of girls on his arms. "Want to go dancing in about two hours?" he asked. Just then, one of the girls spied a small bowl of Dutch type licorice bits I had just poured out. Before I could stop her, she grabbed one of the little nibs and popped it into her mouth. I don't know if the Yanks on this board are familiar with Dutchie Licorice but the stuff is half licorice and half salt!!!!! This cute little black girl got a real funny look on her face and a second later, that hunk of licorice was jet propelled across the kitchen. Her tongue hung out so far she could have given Hope II a run for her money. she ran to the sink and started to suck up water and spit it out to wash the taste out. The other girl stood there with huge eyes and looked like she was going to rabbit. I almost pissed my pants laughing. The funny thing is that almost ALL Cubans I have met are polite to a fault and would have asked if they could have some licorice. Serves her right for not asking.
I invited the old guy and HIS two girls back later for dinner but only two of them showed up. I guess the litle black girl was afraid I would poison her again.

When I was down in Havana during August, I gravitated to my favorite haunt, The Sofia Cafeteria on La Rampa. I love watching the interaction of the locals, police, tourists, hookers and street hustlers. I was also keeping an eye out for the "Toad from Montreal". The last thing I wanted was to get hosed down with recycled Crystal beer. EEEEEEEEEEEEEEuck!!!!
After about two hours, I headed back for my casa when I passed a bar. I noticed a twenty something black girl dressed real trampy come out but when I went to step around her she suddenly grabbed me by the wrist. "I suck and fucky fucky real like?". "No thank you, I'm not interested" I replied. "No no, I show you" and she made a grab at my crotch. I side stepped it and repied more forcefully that I was not interested and to let go of my wrist. She refused to let go. Suddenly she changed tact. "Give me dollar...just uno dollar, you give me dollar". "No!" I replied, starting to get a little pissed with this fool. "I'm not going to give you anything Period!!!". Just when I thought she was going to let go of my wrist, she moved forward and BIT ME on the shoulder!!!!!! Son of a BITCH that hurt!!!!!!!! She let go right way and ran down the street. Mean while I'm hopping up and down, pissed right off knowing the bite was going to leave a hell of a mark. I checked quick. No broken skin but I had a pretty good sized welt comming up on the meaty part of my shoulder. "Damn" I thought. "This is going to be fun explaining to Mrs. Rainbow. I had five days left so I figured it would be gone by the time I got home but NOOOOOOOOO! It turned from the initial red to black and blue to yellowish green as it healed. It still looked like shit when I got back to Canada. I could have tried the "dog bite story" but there is no way my woman was going to fall for that one so I told her the truth. "Honey.....I was minding my own business walking down the street and got bit by a Cuban Vampire". All I got was "That's nice dear....come to bed just had a bad dream". Sheesh! I think I will try the truth more often!!!!!!!


Before you read-on....
If you want to attend a baseball-game in Havana, here are some tips from
'Rainbow', a member from the GreenScreen.

1) Make damn sure you hit the washroom BEFORE you go to the game. The bathrooms
in the stadium are enough to make a goat puke.
2) Don't eat anything that looks like a hamburger. It ain't beef baby and we are
still not sure what it was but the mongrel dogs outside refused to eat it too.
3) Don't sit anywhere near a HUGE black guy dressed from head to toe in blue
spandex and a white wig, swinging an 8 foot fiberglass bat. He is like a mascot
and has a set of lungs you can hear in Miami.
4) Follow the Cubans. Scream and jump up and down when they do. It does not
mater if you know why. Just do it.
5) Have a blast. Baseball does not get any better than this.

Cubans pay HOW MUCH for electricity?????

Russ, Mary, Diana and I are sitting around the dinner table, wolfing back a pretty good meal even if I say so myself, when the girls start in about how much it is costing them to maintain their homes and eat. Diana starts in about he increase in the cost of power so Russ naturally askes just how much it was last month. "IT COST ME $1.05 LAST MONTH!!!" she howels. Poor Russ almost choked on his pork chop and went to say something but Diana had up a head of steam and kept right on going. "60 cents for water and $1.65 for gas....When is it going to end!!!!!!!". Russ just sat there with his mouth open in disbelief but he saw me shaking my head and kept quiet. After dinner he pulled me aside and asked if he should let the girls in on what out hydro, water and gas bills were last month. "No you had better not", I told him. "NO unless you want to send them both to hospital with heart failure", I laughed.
From the reciepts she has given me, she pays about 8 cents a kilowatt for power and 4.9 cents a cubic meter for gas. I know we now pay 4.3 cents per KW in Ontario but we are HUGE energy hogs compaired to the Cuban. Then again, they are not freezing off their cute little butts at -20. My hydro bill last month was probably more than a whole block of Cubans.
This is kinda like comparing apples and watermelons but I thought it might be interesting anyways.

Ihad to get some money, so I went to the nearset bank in the city, must have been on Indepencia. When I crossed the street, some employee opened the door for me, and I was glad to see there were only 3 people before me...By the time I was finished and stepped outside and my Cuban friend told me if I had seen the row at the corner? I didn't, at least 20 people were waiting there to do their banking....foreigners don't have to line up. If I had seen this earlier I would have lined up as well.....Very handy to know is that when you come in you ask "La Ultima?" and then you know who is the one before you....

Be carefull with Cuban home-made rum...While we where walking exploring Camaguey, we found out Polo Montanez was performing that night at the Plaza de la Revolution. We decided to go on with our trip a day later then we planned, now I know it was a good decision because Polo died November 2002. Anyway, at the concert it is usual to bring your own bottle of rum, we bought a bottle Havana Club 7 anos at the dollar store, but Cubans bring their own home made rum which tastes awfull but at these ocasions you won't mention the difference :) After 2 plastic cups of this alcohol I was totally drunk. My Cuban friend warned me, but I wouldn't is POISON!

This time I found a perfect casa particular with a relaxing patio in the middle of the city. The woman had worked for Batista as a secretary in the years before the revolution, al of her family are living in Miami, she was the only of the family who was still living in Cuba togetter with her gay son who was a fantastic cook. By leaving the Casa, because I was moving on, I got a very cute neckless with a tiny turtle on it. At the ride back, I passed Camaguey again, and the gift worked...I stayed in the same Casa.....I've heard this Casa is closed now....thats a shame, it was such a fantastic place to stay.

Fun to see how the barbers are working in these very old furnished shops. A friend of mine has a very funny tradition. Wherever he is in the world, he always visit a barber. Same for Cuba. The first time he payed $2, and the year after he asked a different barber what he had to pay after his hair was done...."You may decide yourself..." he said. I guess Cuban barbers aren't used to foreign customers....

Things Cubans can teach the world

1) How to get 120 watts of noise out of 40 watt speakers in the back of a Lada
2) How to cook and eat every part of a pig INCLUDING the squeal!!!!
3) How to cook rice perfectly in those weird pressure cookers.
4) How to rebuild a carburator with an old screwdriver, pliers and a safety pin
5) How to bullshit the cops better than anyone else in the world.
6) How to drive a 57 Volkswagen to Havana Airport with NO BRAKES and make it!!
7) How to build rafts out of any damn thing that floats and paddle to America.
8) How to teach this old dog some new survival tricks even I had not thought of.
And finally how to laugh at their situation and themselves each and every day. I swear that it is this ability that keeps them sane!

There is an old bag lady who lives on the street in Ciego de Avila. She is something out of Charles Dickens. She wears rags and sometimes only one shoe, different shoes, or no shoes. She never begs. She washes herself in any flowing water she can find on the street.
We were eating chicken legs in an outdoor cafe and put a plate of bones on the ground for the dogs. She ran up and grabbed the plate over the objections of the dogs. They started barking furiously as soon as they saw her approach. Those dogs knew her. She got the plate, and the dogs chased after her barking all the way, while she was sucking on the bones and swatting them.
One of the girls at our table grabbed a plate with an uneaten leg and chased after her to give it to her. The damn dogs knew exactly what she was doing, and chased after her barking like hell.
I have never seen anything like this. The dogs treated the bag lady as if she was one of them and competition for their food.

In a Casa Particular in Cienfuegos a guy found himself a special job....Most tourists have a problem "Where do I park my car for the night?" The owner of the Casa said "no problem, park your car to the other side of the street and no one will touch it"... When I had to go to the bathroom at 3am that night, I saw a guy sitting in the window watching our car....For a whole night guarding he gets $1

After arriving in Cienfuegos and got my stuff placed in a Casa Particular I searched for a Paladar to have diner. So it seemed the owners of the paladar were 2 gay guys and the place was full of single men, so I thought this might be a gay meeting place.....Wrong...this paladar was a place to pick up Jineteras. After some research, it seems that Cienfuegos is one of the cities with the most sextourism

I was near Neptuno street (Habana Centro) when an old guy came past with an old milk crate with these little green fruits that are on stems kind of like grapes but a little bigger. I got 10 for a peso and tried one. HOLY SHIT!!! they are the worst thing I have ever had in my life. I would rather drink a bottle of Buckeys than eat one of those things again. Damn.... they were horrible and all the Cuban kids cracked up laughing at the fat white guy with his tongue hanging down around his waist. One of the ladies felt sorry for me and brought out a glass of water so I could wash the taste out of my mouth. I gave the rest to the kids who took great delight in munching these things down in front of me just to watch me shiver at the thought of them. It will be an aweful cold day in hell before I eat one of those again.
The kids told me what they were but I think my mind has blocked it out as a safety mechanism because I can't remember what they were called. As far as I am concerned they should be called "Batista's Revenge!!!".

March 2002 - Six Canadians are believed to be among 17 people killed when their plane crashed in central Cuba Thursday afternoon. Aerotaxi plane Cuban aviation authorities notified the Canadian Embassy in Havana, said a Foreign Affairs spokesperson. Reported on board were six Canadians, including a child, five Britons, two Germans and four Cubans. The plane, described as a state-run Aerotaxi, went down about 4:30 p.m. local time near Santa Clara, about 105 kilometres east of the capital Havana. It was travelling from Cienfuegos to the island resort of Cayo Coco when it crashed near Baez.

My curling iron and eyelash curler generated a lot of discussion and questions. Everyone wanted to try using them, even the guys. The girls were amazed at how quickly I could put a bounce in my hair with the curling iron. But after using the eyelash curler, the consensus was "not needed". Their eyelashes already curl!

I've met a Cuban in a Casa in Bayamo. This guy was a cook in a hotel but had a very lausy salary of 350 pesos a month. His friend, he told me, was living in Germany and has a Italian restaurant. "Please..." he said "...put my picture on your website and ask the people that I want to get married to a German girl...ANY German girl...then I can get out of Cuba and earn $1000 a month!"

I was clowning around writing letters to "P" in Havana when I suggested that I should get a discounted rate on the apartment that I rent. He said "Sure...and I will even supply a girl for you when you come for the week". Mrs. Rainbow and I laughed like crazy because you know what kind of a joker "P" is. Well I guess I should have taken him a little more seriously. I arrived at the Havana airport and "P" was there waiting just like he said. "The apartment is all ready for you and so is the girl", he said with a wicked grin. I figured that I stuck my foot in it this time.
When we got to the apartment, I unpacked and there was a knock at the door. "P" was standing there and he informed me that "My Girl For The Week" was waiting to see me. Out from behind him stepped his 78 year old mother with a big grin on her face, welcoming me to Havana. She had no idea that the little bugger had set both of us up!!!!!!!!!!!! I laughed until I almost peed my pants. You have to love the Cuban sense of humor. I owe him one when I get back to Havana next month.
When a Cuban offers a discount.....BEWARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I had a blast in Bayamo. I went to more bars and discos then I can remember. The city has many historic sights and bulidings, museums and galleries. It is also a beautiful area with hills and rivers. Did you swim in the river? Dance at Artex? Hear great live bands at Casa de la Trova? On weekends there is live music in the main square for families and in a park for the singles. Did you windowshop along the brick lane that is prohiblted to traffic? Vist the marketplace? Attend Mass in the church? Sit on the porch of the Royalton Hotel and peoplewatch? Visit the many parks and squares? Bayamo also has a very rich history - it is considered the birthplace of the revolution.
I met so many warm and entertaining people that my 3 day trip turned into 8 and still I didn't want to leave. Did you travel by horse and carraige at twilight? Oh - I could go on and on.....

After an evening of much dancing, drinking and laughter, the coach pulled up to the house. We stumbled out of the carraige and up to the door, where my boyfriend began to pound on the door calling his mother's name. A few minutes later, the door was unlocked and into the bedroom we went - all three of us. As my boyfriend and I sat on the bed, his mother began to untie his boots. In seconds his boots and socks were off. I stared in amazement as she then began to remove his pants - to my horror - as his pants came off I saw he was not wearing underware! It all seemed so perfectly natural to them. My naked boyfriend laying across the bed, his mom putting his things away.

Every TV in Cuba is on and tuned to a popular novella. Walking down the streets of Bayamo, I hear the program coming from every household. There are children sitting on the steps peering in, neighbors without tv look in through the shutters. Conversation has stopped and the music is off.

I just got home after working 11 hours hauling hose up and down stairwells and the wife is waiting for me at the door. I can tell by the look in her eye that all is not well and the old man (me) is about to get dumped on. "Your friends were here again" she growled. "What friends....I don't got no friends" I tried. "Then explain THIS!!!!!". She is holding up 4 large bags but for the life of me I have no clue as to what's inside. Could be dope for all I know!!! At his point she starts dumping them on the hall carpet. Bag one is eye glasses and medicines. Cool!!! Just in time for my trip to Havana. Bag 2 is small kids clothing and shoes. Some Cuban momma is going to be real happy with me. Bag 3 is pens, chalk, paper and a couple of pocket spanish-english dictionaries. I already have to school in mind for them. Bag 4 is mainly made up of women's under garments I can't wait to spread these around!!!I use to be an expert fitter and sizer during my mispent youth. HaHaHa!!! Turns out that they were dropped off by one of my customers.

It oftened rained in Bayamo at about 5 or 6pm. One day it rained cats and dogs! what fun I had explaining that idiom to my friends. It had been so hot that I stood in the rain until I was soaked. Several neighborhood children joined me. Soon my "mother in law" brought out soap and shampoo and we bathed the kids, even removing their clothes and scrubbing them, redressing them with wet but clean clothes!

Walk around Havana, sort of randomly, for a few days. Walk all over the old city, and then from Capitolio down a main street in Centro, either Reina or Maximo Gomez. At night, you will be energized to walk some more. 7 days you should walk at least 50 miles!
If you have a little money, go with a Cuban friend you meet in the casa, or somewhere, and rent a car and driver for a day. Ask them to drive you all over town, take you places they like- Colon cemetary, Parque Lenin. Havana is huge, although the core, out to Vedado is walkable.
Another option if you don't have so much money- take a guide book ( Moon is best), and then just take a bus, randomly. Get on the bus, see where it goes, sit by the window with a map. You'll see things that lots of regulars never see.
A day or two at Playa del Este (it is the middle of winter). Since you wrote asking about how much money you need, here's a cheapskate tip- take the 400 bus. Go to the first stop, near the train station. If you don't speak Spanish, just ask Donde esta guagua cuatrocientos al playa del Este. It costs about 5 cents. Go early in the morning, because the line might be almost an hour- although, not so bad, because Cubans think the ocean is too cold right now
Go with the flow! Cuba is a great place for random events. Pop into a disco for the chiciticas- the 15 and under crowd! Just poke around. Drink a beer on the Malecon, talk to the hustlers. Talk to the casa owners. Keep your eyes open. Don't worry if you are missing something, or seeing the places you should be seeing. Every night, walk past the Capitolio.

I must be the luckiest woman in Cubaland. The men I am surrounded by are not only handsome and thoughtful, they lift weights! Their muscles are huge and rock-hard, stomachs flat and defined. There is a gym in Bayamo where they work-out and Nani has joined the craze. He is looking buff. His arms and chest are much more developed now and to see the flex of his bicep as he simply lift his arm - WOW! Can you image how wonderful it feels to have those arms around you?
His friend "superman" (as we call him) continues to win competions. He is the undisputed strongest man in Bayamo and seems to even be getting stronger. Life is beautiful.

Nani's dog, Bruto, is very strong and fierce. Everyone fears bruto, man and beast alike. I am happy to say Bruto likes me. He nevers barks or snaps at me the way he does to others (except household members that is). One afternoon as Iwas returning to Nani's home, I saw there were many people on the street, much than usual. Nani stood in the middle of the street with bruto on his chain. I said hello to Nani and he told me there was a problem for his dog. I had not noticed the other dog, a pitbull and his owner. The crowd of people increased as the owners and dogs moved to a smaller sidestreet. About 20 ft apart the dogs, still on their leashes, and owners faced each other. Nani's sister in law suddenly put the instant print camera in my hands. the two men allowed the dogs to get within inches of each other, then pulled them back. This went on several times before the leashes were removed. Finally the action began. the owners released the dogs and they went at each other with such intense aggression. biting and ripping and tearing at each other, the blood flowed from both dogs. I got as close as I could to take photos. The crowd chanted "Bruto, Bruto, Bruto!", as Nani's dog dominated the fight. After a few more minutes the owner of the pitbull conceded the fight. The dogs were pulled apart by their owners. Bruto was covered with blood, but he was only slightly injured. Nani and his friends bathed Bruto as neighbors passed around the pictures I had taken. Bruto, winner and still champion!

I was treated with herbal remedies for each of my many injuries. When I crashed the scooter, most of the top layers of skin on my left side was torn away. My friends would take me to the beach, a short distance from their home, and make a seaweed mud pack. They applied it to my wounds. After several days of this, the healing was remarkable, with very little scarring. When I fell in Bayamo and needed stitches across my eye, Nayna prepared a hot herbal tea, then soaked a piece of cloth in it and placed it upon my eyes. Amazing how quickly the bruising and swelling went down. She also treated my broken nose in a similiar manner. It only took 2 weeks for me to look myself again!

How to drive a Cuban NUTS!!

When I went to Havana in January I took a couple of jigsaw puzzles with me for my Cuban family. The poor grandmother could not figure out why anyone would take a really nice picture and cut it up into 750 pieces just to put it back together again. She just could not get her head wrapped around this "strange" idea. I got a letter yesterday from the granddaughter claiming that "granny" has now put together and taken apart Niagara Falls 3 times and wants to know if I would be kind enough to bring down some more of these funny pictures. I should just for the fun of it bring down a couple of those 1500 piece monsters and drive the poor woman completely nuts. Since the only flat surface would be the kitchen table, I wonder where the family is eating these days?????

Cucuruchus Driving from Guantanamo to Baracoa you will see people next to the road trying to sell you "Cucuruchos". A cooked mixture of sweet coconut with sugar, milk honey and little pieces of the Fruta Bomba (Papaya). After the preparing of this mixture they put it in little "bags" made of banana leaves.

Canadian Embassy in Havana

During the last week I shared a casa with an older fellow Canadian who had not been to Cuba since 1958. This old guy would spend hours down at Fortunos on Neptuno buying drinks for all the girls in the bar and come wobbling back in a Coco taxi very much later. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that within 3 days he was broke. No problem he thought. "I got my American Express". HaHaHa!!!!! It did not matter who he talked too, the answer was alway the same. No! No! No!. This guy was a little weird as well as he would spend most of his mornings hung over, hunting cockroackes with his slipper!!!!!!!
I suggested calling the Canadian Embassy whose number I had and they said they could help. Off he went and came back a couple of hours later with a big grin on his face. He met with a Carrie Duranza who arranged everything and could not have been more helpful. They arranged phone calls home for him and the money was there the next morning. Our embassy has taken some flak here on the board in the past but they seem to have come through for this fool just great. I will just bet Carrie has some great stories to tell about crazy Canadians who wind up on their doorstep broke and a long way from home. Full cudos to the Embassy staff for this one. Just one question thought. Who owns the V Star motorcycle at the embassy and are we really paying the clerks that much to be able to afford such a Cadillac of motorcycles?????? Only kidding
Makes you proud to be Canadian no matter what country you are in.

Laundry Most women of Baracoa do their laundry in the river in an old fashion Indian way. They don't use soap, but "hit" the clothes with a piece of wood, in this way the dirt goes out

Well they werent really knives, more like broken metal sticks, but just as dangerous.
We were having a party with a pig roast at my friends home. about 20 of us were enjoying life when a commotion arose from the street. We all went out to see what was happening. the neighbor across the street was engaged in battle with another man. Now the neighbor looks very "different". He has a large tatoo of donal duck across the right side of his face and the longest fingernails i ever saw on anyone. well there was lots of yelling and screaming between the 2 men and of course from the crowd. I watched in horror as the neighbor took a blow to the arm, but it only made him fiercer. he violently attacked his opponent landing a severe injury to the other man's shoulder and chest. The blood flowed and the man turned and ran away!

Returning from the railstation and vending area Isaw it, well, actually Iheard it first, that unmistakable sound of a pig in transport. I have seen pigs moved from one place to another in many, varied and unusual ways, but this experience struck me as histerical. The pig was large and its front hooves were placed on the handlebars of the bike. Its body was straddled on the crossbar and its tail rested in the set. A man sat behind the seat on one of those luggage rack. He wasnt peddling, but balanced the bike with his legs on both sides of the back tire and his hands were placed on the ends of the handlebars. He gently but continuously stepped one foot in front of the other.I watched and listened to them travel several blocks. My laughter was so loud and contangious that within moments everyone was squealing in delight.

Traveling by rented car from Camaguey to Las Tunas, our car broke...When I was waiting for somebody who could help me, an old man was passing us by with a rope bihind on his bike...I needed that rope so somebody could pull us to the nearest city.
In my fastest Spanish I screamed at the man "Senior, cinco dolares por la ropa!!!
I didn't understand the man didn't stop, to sell his rope for $5....

Now I know why, ropa is Spanish for clothes...

A Cuban boy from Cardenas, came home from the army, totaly upset, they had heard that morning, another boy from the army committed suicide after killing his girlfriend of 13 years old...she slept with another guy.....

It's fun to have family in Miami, they brought us a DVD player, and now we can Karaoke the WHOLE DAY LONG!!! The neighbors are used to our noise allready, the whole Calle Calzada knows we have a DVD.....

Cubans are often sitting in the open doorway, this time a woman came hurry and wanted to hide...she was sneaking at her husband, while HE was after another woman...."El Torro" is the name those kind of men get in Cuba.

The mother of the woman next door, died last week, and her husband run away the day after, now she is living with her old and always drunk father and her son Carlito of 4 years....What a mess...

A Cuban couple decided to escape to Florida, 2 ways to do this...Raft...or arrange a hustler from the US who will pick you up. They thought the last was the best option. This costs lots of money, so they sold their house and all their stuff illegal. All this in secret of course......they managed....

Finally the shower is fixed, because of the hardness of the water we had to shower with a cubita (bucket), to fix this problem, all pipe lines had to be replaced...which is a very expensive matter for a Cuban family.


In Cuba, the plastic bag is king. (By Gary Marx)

Not the white, kitchen-size bags or the triple-ply, super-strength bags that are sold in droves in the United States. But your average, razor-thin plastic shopping bag found at U.S. supermarket checkout counters, used once and tossed out or, less often, recycled.

In Cuba, where there is a shortage of everything and nothing is thrown away, the plastic bag has become as important to daily life as the monthly food ration card. Called a "jaba," it is used to carry everything from rice to clothing to books to musical instruments to fishing tackle to just about anything else.

Cubans sell tomato sauce, vinegar and even ice cream in jabas. Shampoo, milk and yogurt are sold in specially sealed jabas. Bigger, stronger jabas are used to lug potatoes and oranges. Fancy jabas, the ones with lettering on them, are used to carry gifts on special occasions.

Women here plop a jaba on their head and, when combined with the tropical heat, it acts as a makeshift hair-dresser. Kids turn them into kites.

A couple of jabas tied together make a clothesline. They also are used to seal pipes and plug leaks in a country where rubber gaskets and caulking are impossible to find.

The jaba has special significance during the holiday season, when the lucky few are given a plastic bag filled with cooking oil, chicken, soap and other hard-to-find items by their employer as a bonus.

After passing Rancho Luna and getting on the road to Trinidad I saw a thin Cuban woman in her 30s standing all alone in the middle of nowhere on the side of the road.Her face looked like it was in the sun a lot.She was probably younger than she looked.I stopped, she gets in the car and a Cuban guy about 25y/o pops out of nowhere and jumps in too.Where the hell did he come from? These people had a long journey ahead of them.I wonder why they even bother.It must take hours to get around and there is nothing in between, no water either....













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