I returned from Cienfuegos, I was handed over by Nilda to Esther. My room was a three bed room. Today, I was alone, just a well, running to the loo frequently. I had not been well, a tummy bug, for a couple of days. I suspect it was the ‘dirty ice blocks’ in my mojito. It was horrendous. I had travelled to several places over the years but I must admit, this was my first experience. Not good at all. However, being ‘stuck’ in Trinidad with some on my new found amigos, was not bad at all. I barely managed to get out. Fortunately, Esther and her daughter took good care of me and provide all the meals. Their version of ‘cure meal’ – white rice with plantain only. Eventually with medication and ‘local treatment’, I was good to continue my journey. Sadly, it also meant I missed out the beaches or perhaps extra days in Havana. There was a remote chance that I might make it to Vinales, the tobacco growing region. Well, such is a journey.
I booked my tickets at Viazul Bus Company for my onward journey to Santiago de Cuba. I was still hesitant as my tummy had not fully recovered. The medication was doing its job and hopefully on my next long bus ride, expected to fifteen hours.
On my last day in Trinidad, I was heading to a classy hotel, Iberostar. Today is the finals of the Rugby World Cup 2015. New Zealand were in the finals meeting our arch rivals Australia. I was hopeful the game would be televised live. I hurried there. However, on my way, I met Sarita, who was excited to see me. She quickly grabbed my hands and brought me to her house. I was hesitant to visit her due to my limitations of communicating in Spanish. Furthermore, the rugby game. She showed off the handmade pottery and other wares that she traded at her home cum shop. The interior of her home was simple. The uncovered bed where all three slept. Furnishing was minimal. In the kitchen were a small rice cooker, a stove, a small refrigerator and a percolator which she brewed some coffee. There was running water and electricity. She had a lovely smile. When ask about her life, she was saddened and did not hide her emotions. A few tears flowed. Her husband had left her, or rather she kicked him out because he was always drunk and no work. Her two young sons were at school and she had to find ways to meet the financial requirements. She offered some flan, a local cheesecake. We talked for about 45 minutes. I left her home slightly dejected at her state of affairs. However, I took some solace from her cheery outlook. This seem to be a strength amongst Cubans. Despite all the hardships brought about by the regime and at a personal family level, they strived on and make do with whatever they had with a can do attitude. Ingenuity, determination and self-reliant. I admired these attributes deeply. I may be late for the game, but I am glad that I had this conversation with Sarita.
I rushed to the upmarket Iberostar Hotel and was disappointed to find there was no live transmission of the game. Just to give another go later, I opted to us their internet facilities. It was meant for their customers only but I managed to get the service. As in Habana, internet availability is limited to big hotels and a few other providers. In a park, just outside the hotel, the locals gathered to get connected. Although many have cell phones, most only have wifi as it is costly to buy data. Well, the game was not televised. In the end, I am pleased to have bumped into Sarita.
For reasons unknown to me, the banks were closed today. Perhaps, these staff had gone on a “siesta”. I needed to change money to pay for my accommodation. I don’t want to upset Esther. I asked around but to no avail. A well-built man approached me on the street. He offered to change money. He had a tough look with dark gold frame sun glasses, gold chains on his neck which reflected brightly against his black skin and numerous rings on almost all his fingers. In front of the CADECA office, I got what I needed and he actually offered me more than the banks rate, and without the ten percent commission. He pulled out bundles of US dollars in one hand and a cell phone in the other. I would not mess with this guy but for me, an end to a need. He was cool. A dusk, a tropical rain poured. The cobbled stone streets were flooded with fast running water. It was great as the temperature dropped.
Along any street, little business were conducted from small opening on the walls and windows of ordinary homes. I did not venture outside the colonial cobbled stone streets. Small business like these support the local communities with the daily provisions, Cuban style.
I returned to my casa early as Esther and her daughter had prepared some dinner. Yes, the local cure of rice and plantain. I was feeling all right but not a hundred percent. Nevertheless, I was concerned about my impending overnight journey of 15 hours to Santiago De Cuba the next day.