Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Rossi and I travelled on to Santiago de Cuba and them back to Baracoa where hurricane Ike removed many of the sea front dwellings. Fortunately Ike had a sense of the aesthetic because he kindly removed a couple of the Soviet style blocks which heavily marred the view. Unfortunately three remain. The Baracoans are happy enough with their fate - the government has helped with wood - and they have tomatoes. In the face of hardship it must be uplifting to be given tomatoes. The tourists have not come to Baracoa this year. One night I counted as many as seven, including us. The Baracoans are stoical and with staggering patience will spend two days trying to sell you one bar of chocolate for 1 peso. Clearly this is expensive, but as there is so little trade to be had it seems churlish to haggle. A sixteen year old girl attached herself to Rossi for two nights because she needed some new trainers.

It is widely thought that all the best food has been sent to either Pinar del Rio or Baracoa because in no other place can be found tomatoes. Fortunately the hens are laying again and my essential egg for breakfast is once again achievable.

Returning to Trinidad I find that it is not possible to buy cement for love nor money, so the little house has to wait before the water tank can be installed - possibly for months. Someone came to measure up for tiles, but thoughts as to what tiles may eventually appear, or indeed if any tiles will appear, is abandoned to the great mystery which is Cuba. Even our old friend the Black Market is found wanting these days. We have been trying to buy a matress for the bed, but only cheap sponge is available for 360 cuc pesos - a joke. There are no matresses in Santiago, but in Santiago there is soap. It is both laughable and frustrating. I have found a barely adequate casa particular to rest in - if the sound of air conditioning fans, music and general Trinidadian life can be equated to rest.

Even more than the last visit, I discover the extent of the black market. Everyone is on the make. Prices are going up quite rapidly and the Government does not pay enough to live. It is essential to be doing something other than the day job. They work 2 or 3 hours for Fidel (Raul) then really get down to it. Little back yard restaurants, street vendors; intense energy employed to make a sandwhich for the tourist or to fetch a bottle of water. I have gone native on the water front and having drunk the staff of life in three cities direct from the tap, have class A intestines and no side effects. This is a great saving on effort and dinero.

At night the sky is alight with sheet lightening over the mountains. It is exhilerating. Sometimes it rains in great torrents. Then the cobblestones are almost washed away from under your feet and any decent shoes will be ruined, but the music lives on from the ever present Son, to pulsating Reggaeton and all points in between, and neither rain nor misplaced economic theory can remove the smiles from a sunny Cuban face. They wait. They hope. Any change will be better than no change.

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