Last update from Cienfuegos

Posted on February 27, 2007 by


So this is it, last day in Cienfuegos.

During the morning yesterday, Danaysi spent a lot of time downloading all my photos and videos to her computer so she could have a copy of them. I think it may be for blackmailing me later with a few embarrassing videos of me dancing… 🙂

For lunch yesterday, Oscar took me to a restaurant on the Malceon plaza because his house is still under repairs and it is difficult for him to entertain. It was a nice place, and we had plenty of food – pork steaks, Chinese butterflies, chicharitas (fried banana chips), fresh salad with tomatoes (mmmm), and rice with beans (arroz congris), with a couple of soft drinks. I even tried Bucanero Malta (a sort of sweet, non-alcoholic beer). The entire meal came to 82 Cuban pesos (about $3.20 in foreign money), very cheap, although that is a large portion of Oscar’s salary. Oscar refused to allow me to help him pay, he said it was his invitation. They may not have much money in Cuba, but people like Oscar appreciate friendship, have more class than I could ever try to explain here, and will give whatever they do have to make you feel comfortable and welcome! I am still awaiting word from the Vatican about my request to have him canonized as Saint Oscar of Cienfuegos (’Santo Oscar de Cienfuegos’) for all the work he does for us and time he spends with us while we are here!

Yesterday afternoon, there was a book fair on Prado and the Boulevard. Every year they have one, and it celebrates a different country (I assume it is Latin American or Spanish normally). This year, the celebration was about Argentina. There was a carnival-like atmosphere in the streets, and Prado was closed to vehicular traffic near the boulevard so that pedestrians could shop in relative safety. Paula, Viviena’s daughter, was singing in the concert that accompanied the fair.

Supper (sena) was at Casa Viviena, with Laura, Anna Rosa, Paula, and Viviena’s mother also present. Before supper, we played dominoes, and the team of Laura and Chris were the winners, with Laura and I being labelled as ‘bota gordas’ by Paula and Anna Rosa for always managing to get rid of the big dominoes quickly. We had a lot of fun. Supper included a lesson in the kitchen on how to cook tachinos (fried banana chunks) and how to make ‘Coffee Cubano’, and also included meatballs, rice, potatoes (a rare find in Cuba), and a salad with tomatoes (I can’t get enough of their tomatoes!).

After supper, I walked Anna Rosa and Laura to their homes (well, until they could catch a coche), then met Oscar y Monica, Fuster y Meili, Daima y Danaysi, and Daylin y Kadir at a oacked Teatro Tomas Terry for an orchestral concert. The name of the group was ‘Camerata Romeu’, and it was made up of all female string players. They started with very conservative classical music, then moved into more contemporary Cuban music (but done with strings!), a ‘dueling banjoes’ style of performance by two violin players, and also a percussion piece written by a Cuban composer in which they used the bodies of the string instruments to create the percussion sounds, and at one point during the percussion piece, one of the players got out of her seat and danced Cubano style, much to the delight of the crowds. The concert ended with two encore performances, something almost unheard of in Cuba from what I was told, and no less than three standing ovations. The entire performance was amazing. Taking a classical performance and converting it into a hybrid of Cuban-Latino music was simple genius. I will post some of the videos and pictures on YouTube and the blog when I get back.

Today, I will spend most of the day getting ready to leave and picking up the last of the trinkets. I am heading back much lighter on trinkets this time than last, since most of the ‘tourista’ stuff I brought back last time. More coffee this time, to stock up on, and Henry is still trying to find some Cuban cigars for Craig (I think he forgot)!

Tonight is supper (sena) at Casa Danaysi in Tulipan, a district in the North of Cienfuegos. It is my Farewell Party (’fiesta de despedida’), and expected to attend are Daima, Oscar y Monica, and Fuster y Meili.

Everyone is remarking about how quickly I picked up Spanish (espanol), and although I am sure much of what they are saying is just them being friendly, I know I am able to carry on simple conversations and then use ‘Spanglish’ to get my point across even when I am alone. I am even learning some nuances of Cuban Spanish – that espousa means wife but also means handcuffs is a favourite joke of the Cubans. Also, there are some jokes they love to tell here over drinks, like the subtle terminology surrounding ‘papaya’ (a fruit, but also polite slang for a woman’s reproductive area…) and ‘con queso’ (meaning ‘with cheese’, but also polite slang for not having ‘mingled’ with a member of the opposite sex for a while and becoming frustrated about it…). You will understand my surprise when I saw ‘papaya con queso’ as a dessert on the menu yesterday, showed it to Oscar, and once we stopped laughing, Oscar said that since I am noticing these types of things, I must now be a true Cubano!

Tomorrow morning, Leonardo is taking us to Havana early in the morning so Henry and I can walk around Old Havana for a few hours before the flight leaves. As long as all goes well with the flight schedules, I will be home sometime after midnight tomorrow!

I am very excited to get home to my family, but at the same time sad to be leaving such good friends. Hopefully we will be able to extend this project and enjoy more time with such good people!

Voy Tumbando!

Cubano Boy Chris


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