Sunday, July 22, 2007

Havana, Day 1

I'm here and online! I'm nearly ecstatic that from this simple home, whose keeper's wife works at some sort of computer company (the details I will never understand in Spanish) and has full, complete access to the internet!

Sigh... it feels good to be able to communicate with the world. When I lived here, finding the internet was a daily battle and my coworkers and friends and I went through obscene extremes to connect. Now it isn't much easier, I just have the right connection.

I've been taking notes:

Havana morning 7/21/07

Good Morning and Bienvenidos.

Where to start? with the dawn barking roosters? the saddest puppy in the world? The complete lack of plastic or the new key lime paint and fully tiled bathroom?

Smell, I usually start with the smell, the first sensation that I've arrived in Cuba, one step off the plane. It's a heavy, humid mix of diesel and unrefined coal, mixed with tobacco. If you close your eyes, it smells like a campfire, or mesquite BBQ.

I got in late, as pointless, lame and undescriptive blog entries frustratingly banged away at the Cancun International Airport illustrate. It was passed 1:30 before I exited the Havana airport.

I slept well until the roosters, one of which lives right under my window. I'd swear he's in the room, but can't see him. The crowing started at dawn, as roosters do, and more impressive than the rooster alarm clock was after his turn, in the distance I could hear a chorus of roosters, hundreds of them from as far away as sound could travel. If it weren't for the one under my window, I'd think the whole thing impressive.

Everything's good, little has changed. The room upstairs, the guest room financed by his pupil, is finished, though not much different than last time I was here. A tree in the back yard is new, lush and towering. The one next door is gone. The scrawny puppy on the roof has been replaced by the saddest puppy in the world. He a cocker-spaniel mix, and a month ago they say, he came down with an illness. I don't understand the word for the illness and probably wouldn't recognize it, but I understand that it affected his brain and I don't really want to understand more. Now he's bone skinny and staggers around desperately trying to place his feet firmly on the ground, and often not succeeding. His nervous system has been fried and he can do little more than lie there. This morning he staggered towards me, eyes full of dry tears, and I petted his head. It was like giving water to a man dying of thirst -he closed his eyes, sighed deeply, and rested his head on my thigh. I can pet a lame puppy, I think to myself, but also I start fearing contracting whatever illness left him this way. Maybe that's what this journal will be about, most slow decent into medical hell with cerebral meningitis. I will, obviously, keep you posted.

The neighbors have a new stereo, which from my room is played at a decent volume. I'm content with someone else choosing the soundtrack for my time here, but fear a litany of non-stop reggaton. So far, so good, just Eminem and salsa.

Mario went to the market this morning, a short trek a few blocks up the street. First we went to a bodega that sold cigars (one peso each) and rum. The employee was classic government store-clerk ennui, who fully demonstrated the pain involved with walking behind the counter and handing us a carton of cigars.
Outside on the ground, an old drunk sat in his own piss staring listlessly at the empty bottle in front of him.

The market was the same, and I noted the remarkable lack of plastic. Aside from plastic bags (jabas, which are guarded like currency) the only other form of plastic in the whole vegetable market was sacks of grain.

Everyone looks the same- old clothing, sweaty skin, slow staggering. It's very calm, very peaceful.

As predicted, my failure to find a conversion plug may prove to be a significant snafu.


i couldn't stand it any more.
lying on my bed, it felt like my leg was cooking by the rays of the sun sneaking through the slats of the window.
I looked up -no sun in sight. It was the plain heat. When the fan wasn't on, everything was baking.
It's hot.
It's 3 in the afternoon.
I now know for certain that Cuba is in the eastern time zone.



The hour was spent fast forwarding through a collection of black market Jackie Chan and Jet Li DVDs that I brought over from a friend in the Philippines (thanks, C4, they'll get more use here than back home) looking for subtitles and soundtracks in Spanish. A couple were in French, a couple more in English, but the rest completely in Chinese. How will the Cubans ever understand Kung Fu if it's only in Chinese?

I have a slight headache and tightness in the temples. This could be from the spinal bendifida that I contracted from the Saddest Puppy in the World (soon this will become depressing), or it could just be a sign that I need to drink more water.

I hear thunder in the background, though the sun is hi and there's not a cloud in sight.

Every time I come to Cuba, I battle stomach illnesses. When I lived here, my naturopath gave me a bottle of wormwood tablets, and those seemed to do the trick. the last time I brought a bottle of Grapefruit Seed Extract and a box of Emergen-C packets; I squeeze 12 drops into a naglene of tap water and shake it around, and then add two packets of Emergen-C to offset the horrible taste. It's little more than hocus-pocus, but at least it keeps me from drinking straight from the tap.

Where is the thunder coming from?

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