the bus ride last night was rough. a 12 hour bus ride through the night to Trinidad, where I staggered off the bus feeling dazed and then got on another bus 5 minutes later which took 2 more hours.
the town Iâ€™m in now is called Cienfuegos and is a nice small town by the sea. the owners of the casa particular that Iâ€™m staying at are so incredibly nice. the very old thin toothless man speaks pretty decent English and prefaces most things he says with “listen to me! listen to me!”. after I got settled in, he called me into his living room to show me a video about his town. how nice is that? he told me about all the things that there are to see and what prices I should pay so as not to get ripped off. this guys is so proud of his city, saying that cienfuegos is the best town in all of Cuba. actually, this has been the case all over the country… everyone that I talk to is sooo proud of their town and says that all the other cities hella suck compared to it. while in his living room, I eye his cd player, DVD player, TV, vcr, and even a computer…. thinking about everything that David told me the other day.
the main things to se here are clustered around the parque Marti in the center of town. a bunch of really impressive colonial buildings with huge columns. past that, the town has several long streets that follow the coastline. itâ€™s a long stretch and you can look out onto the bay. horse-drawn carriages take people back and forth or you can take bike taxis as well.
a tiny bit outside of town, there is a huge cemetery which is really famous. Iâ€™ve never rally been a big cemetery person, but I decided to check this one out. it actually was incredibly impressive with very huge ornamental statues on many of the graves. some of these were so good that they looked like they should be in a museum instead of a cemetery. oddly enough, there were a lot of black cats hanging out there.
at one point, I decided to go get online. thereâ€™s only one internet place in town, but it turned out that they didnâ€™t have any of the prepaid cards that you need to use the net. how can that be? they have internet, but you cant use it?! I went to the cigar store to get the cohibas that I liked, but they didnâ€™t have any. I then went to a few bars and asked for mojitos, but both of them said they had no mint. wow. a country famous for mojitos, but no mint. internet shops, but no internet. Chinese restaurants with no Chinese food. Davidâ€™s words rang in my ears… “ees sheet. in Cuba, there is only writing on the wall… but never have nothing. ees always sheet.”
today I finally broke the vicious fried chicken cycle and was able to get spaghetti for lunch. oh my god… I was ecstatic about it.
one afternoon, I decided to buy some of the local bodega cigars. I went to this tiny little shop in a squat concrete building. here people got there food rations and you could buy vegetable oil by the ounce. I bought a few of the 4 penny cigars from the man at the counter. it was really cool. here I was, in Cuba, a country that itâ€™s illegal to be in, and Iâ€™m in a tiny locals shop that probably no other tourist has ever even glanced at, and Iâ€™m buying the local cigars… not the fancy 5$ cigars that people buy to take home, but the ones that the people here smoke… the ones you see little old men smoking in the park. and not only that, but I did the whole transaction in Spanish. and I had gotten here by asking directions (in Spanish) from a nice old lady smoking a huge cigar. it was a really cool moment for me. I smoked my cigar on the malecon overlooking the ocean…
back to coppelia
this town has a Coppelia ice cream. when I walked past, the mob outside only had about 60-70 people in it, so I decided to wait it out. it was dusk, and actually kind of cool outside, so the 45 minute wait wasn’t too bad. man, these people *love* their ice cream. I looked around, and pretty much everyone there ordered 5 scoops. 5! I sat down w/ 3 kids (16 yrs old) who ate enough ice cream to feed a small army. the ice cream I had was decent, but nothing overwhelmingly crazy. it was only 7 cents for a banana split though..
they start out young here
one night I was sitting on a park bench at night, smoking a cigar, when I met the youngest hustler ever. a kid, no more that 11 years old maybe, walks up and sits down on the bench next to me, trying to look nonchalant as all the hustlers do, as if they weren’t purposefully trying to sit next to you, but just somehow ended up there. he had a younger brother, maybe 5 years old in tow. eventually he looks over at me, and starts out asking questions that he probably learned from some older hustler somewhere along the way:
“where…” “are……” “you….” “ummmm… ummmm” “from?” he asks, looking very uncertain if he was able to go correctly by the script. his younger brother meanwhile started playing with the empty cigar carton that i had left behind. the kid then slowly but surely, with many pauses in between, asks me all the usual hustler questions one at a time, everything from “how long are you here” to “are you staying at a hotel or casa”. it finally comes time for him to hit me up for money, and he asks me for a dollar.
i look down at the kids brand new nice unscuffed shoes. *sigh*… this 11 year old kid really shouldnâ€™t be out here trying to scam tourists. shouldnâ€™t he be playing or enjoying his childhood somewhere? i tell him no, and he changes strategies to asking for ice cream money. his little brother by this time is happily munching away on the cardboard box from the cigar, slowly breaking it apart. i tell the kid no again. he sits there for a while, probably trying to remember some other lines that the older kids had taught him. he canâ€™t seem to come up w/ anything for a long time. finally he gets up to leave, grabbing his brother, who had practically disintegrated the whole carton, along w/ him.
one of the nights in cienfuegos, i decided to eat dinner at my casa instead of at a restaurant. wow, the people cooked me a really delicious dinner! the main course was a huge piece of pork, which was a real change from that sad skinny strips of meat you get in the restaurants. it even had grilled onions on it. plus there was a huge salad and soup. there was so much food that I wasnâ€™t able to finish it all.
living w/ the old couple had been really cool. they were definitely two of the nicest casa owners I had met so far. back home, I had bought a few San Francisco postcards to give out. I had been writing a short note on the back, and giving them to each of the casa owners who I had stayed with. the old couple seemed really really psyched to get the postcard, and kept saying thank you over and over.