Trip Start Jan 24, 2009
7Trip End Feb 23, 2009
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I bid Julio and his family adieu and took a cab into Trinidad heading for Yenni's place about a block from the bus station. I bought acouple of peso sandwiches that turned out ot be vary tasty indeed. I think it was pork, a little fatty but full of flavour as I put my gastrointestinal system to the test again. I am in the upstairs room of a colonial house that has 20 foot ceilings. It is typical of where I have been staying with the exception of Julio's place that was much nicer but can still be considered very basic. I am right in the center of historical Trinidad with cobblestones outside the door and tourist stores all over the place.
I took a walk as the sun was setting to see if I could get lost here. The answer is yes but I didn't venture too far because getting lost at night takes on a whole different perspective. I visited 3-4 artist studios and was very impressed with the work they do in oils. The oils of the old cars are very tempting but I will wait a bit because I am here for 5 days. Yenni speaks pretty good English which is a pleasant surprise to know that she actually understands what I am saying. Although my vocabulary has increased a little my understanding has increased 10 fold as I can now pick out the words in a sentence whereas before it was just one long series of mumbo jumbo. My French helps a lot because many words are similar with an "o" or an "a" at the end of the word LOL
It is such a pleasure to be able to browse the shops without the high pressure tactics of the people in some countries. I had a very interesting conversation with an artist about different media as I perused his work. He uses a lot of oversized snails in his work combining the theme with semi nude women which I dared not to question. He also had some very striking street scenes but the prices are around 100CUC so I will have to count my pennies before I make my decision on what to bring back. A canvas is a good choice because it can be rolled up. I do not have much room in my packsack and I will have to forego the coffee that I wanted to bring back I really like the Cuban coffee.
The plumbing system here is not what I expected. There was no water at all so I asked if it was turned on and Yenni promptly obliged. I heard the sound of an electric pump and wondered about that. About a half hour later, the 45 gallon drum sitting just above my head on the terrace began to overflow and Yenni had to turn a few valves to solve the problem.
After my walk, I sat on the curb in front of my casa for about an hour, just people watching. The neighbours were behind me yapping away in Spanish which was good for my "Spanish ear" even if I couldn't understand a word. The breeze was warm and the atmosphere surreal as the pastel yellows and blues of the buildings succumbed to the darkness creating islands of colour beneath the several streetlights within my view. Lovers and other strangers passed on foot or bicycle bumping along the cobblestones. I wonder about the fortitude of the buttocks of the many passengers on bikes sitting on the bar or carrier as they tenderly negotiate the cobblestones. No problema ... es Cuba.
After breakfast served on the terrace I wondered the historic quarter and visited some of the museums for which there are quite a few compared to other places. I am not a museum person so I do not get impressed easily by the artifacts displayed unless they have a particular appeal to me.
Canaries singing in cages, artists going about their work, tourists bumping and tripping along the cobblestones, cigar salesmen, salsa music, and what a beautiful place this is to visit. It is no wonder that the tourists flock here because it has a charm and flair unlike the bustle of Habana or the sleepy pueblo of Vinales. I happened across the Casa de la Trova where I sat for a beer as busloads of tourists pile into the place to take pictures of the band while the locals entice them onto the dance floor to try out their salsa.
The food being what it is here, and my appetite not in the mood to be overwhelmed with large portions of rice, beans and something else, I set off to find a place to eat and ended up at the Casa de la musica where the music was live and the burger looked about right. I like my cheeseburger with relish and onions. Forget about relish, I haven't seen any in 3 weeks but I know they have onions. Not having brought my dictionary with me I made it a mission to get across that I would like a little onion on my burger. So I dug a pretend hole and pulled out a pretend onion miming the shape of it then pulling out my pretend knife and cutting the invisible onion until I showed them tears in my eyes. Ahh yes, the reaction from the waiter seemed to work and off went the waiter to prepare my burger con queso with onion . I was presented with a ham sandwich which they realized was wrong but I would have eaten it anyway. A short while later my burger appeared without the onion so don't ask me what I did wrong or maybe they simply didn't have any. What is a burger without onion when you haven't had a hot shower in 3 weeks LOL.
It has been 2 days that I have been asking my casa hostess to contact the casa in Habana to let them know when I would be there but "the line has been busy". I made my way to Los Begonias, a pack sacker rendezvous where there is one of the few phones in town AND a lady who can communicate in English reasonably well. I needed a little help to dial the Habana number and the international codes to wish my Mom a happy belated birthday. Everything went smoothly including the call to my casa in Habana where they don't speak a word of English.
Hola ....habla Julita por favor? Es Alan. Yo regresso a la habana por dos noces le 21-22 ...es bien? I know it's wrong but it worked. Hasta Luego Julito ..muchas gracias. What a sweetheart she is. I am all set .... screw the broad at this casa ... I took care of it myself LOL.
After my typical breakfast of fruit and omelette which Yenni is pretty good at making. All my breakfast consist of a plate of fruit and fresh juice. My friend Guillermina, who has been coming to see me every day so far from La Boca, lives in Ciega de Avila.
Tonight is Casa de la musica ....I am ready for a night on the town.
As I sit on the patio surrounded by chipped paint, discoloured tiles, sepia walls, and flaking cement I am transposed into a world that inspires me to photograph, paint or sculpt what my mind sees.
You can visit Trinidad in a day or two or you can spend a month here discovering something new every day. It really depends whether you travel to see it all or have the time to smell the flowers. It is full of tourists but the town is not overwhelmed with them yet. Meeting the different visitors from all over Europe also provides a bit of break for that needed conversation without exercising my eyebrows that automatically react to the rush of Spanish flowing in one ear and out the other.
It was another lucky day! I scored a rectangular bar from a guy who had a box full on the back of his bicycle. It turned out to be one big "Reeses pieces" without the chocolate. It kind of stuck to the roof of my mouth but after being in the fridge for a bit I kept going back for another bite and it's going down quick.
Browsing is one of my favourite pastimes so off again to the art galleries where I usually ended up in pretty long conversations with the artists regarding their work and their techniques. Not unlike the genius of the Cubans to keep things running forever, they use many natural sources of colour such as coffee and earth to paint with, not to mention the recycled beer cans and weather pitted boards carved into amazingly creative personas of the life here. Some are just beyond my budget at 1000CUC but many oils or acrylics are available for a reasonable price under 100CUC depending on the size.
I came across an artist who sculpts and polishes bull horns into shapes unimaginable until you see them. When I spotted a Don Quixote on his horse, I had a flash back of a sculpture that Isabel had amongst her collection that I thought was very beautiful. This one is not quite as big but I really liked the artwork and the Spanish/Cuban flavour so after walking away a couple of times I negotiated him down to 18CUC from 25. I would have paid the 25. Now the challenge is to pack it without it turning into klibutz. For the uniformed, klibutz is what happens when you put 10 pounds of shit into a 5 pound bag.
I keep forgetting to put my pen in my pants pocket because when it is my shirt pocket someone is always approaching me to have it for their kids. Unfortunately my gold and silver Parker set me back too much to give away. Next time I'll bring a pack of Bics for the kids. Incidently, my Bic lighter attracts quite a bit of attention also but lighters are hard to find around here so I need it. I haven't seen a pack of matches since I have been here so I have no idea what they light their cigars with.
I did my pub crawl at the usual places having a beer and declining invitations to salsa although I wanted to. Perhaps it is because I don't want to give the impression that all Canadians have their hips frozen to their bodies. I should have got up because their were some pitiful Europeans that must live high in the Alps by the way they moved.
I have my eye on a set of Maracas that I spotted. You can get a pair for 1-3CUC of the traditional wooden type but ones I like are wrapped in leather and I like the sound of the chuk-chuk although another salesperson pointed out that you can't get the swirling sound out of this type and they are not traditional so I am not sure. If I could only be sure that I could get a gig with the bagpipes back home then the deal would be made LOL. It seems that wherever I go I only create challenges for myself. Thaw out my hips, learn to speak Spanish, take bongo lessons, get the maraca rhythm and improve the tonality of my voice. I figure that I sing pretty good in the shower so all I need is the maracas .... I wonder if they work well when wet. Don't let your imagination go wild on that one.
I keep passing by the place where they build the bongos and they are very reasonably priced but not pack sack friendly. There have all kinds of shapes and sizes for between your legs or stand alone ..... just makes you want to bang something, no pun intended.
I finally tried one of those peso pizzas for a quarter. They are not as bad as the guide book says. Fresh out of the oven they have a nice texture but I am not sure why they sprinkle salt on them, then again there are a lot of people wondering why we put vinegar on our fries. I picked up some more of those coconut fudge things and I have a full course meal. for less than .50 cents.
The neighbour is one of many who keep pigeons as pets (I guess). They have infinite patience when they let them out for their daily fly around. Some wave flags made of plastic bags and others bang on empty coffee tins to keep them flying.
Last day in Trinidad. Yenni made me my typical breakfast of fruit and omelette served on the little patio just outside my room. I mentioned that the hot water didn't work and it didn't seem to fizz on her too much although she had said that there was hot water. It doesn't matter, I've developed a technique to wash parts of my body at a time that prevents what I call "shower shock". I am not sure whether it was planned or not but her neighbour came out with a bowl of sugar on the terrace next to mine and Yenni asked me if I thought she was pretty. So how do I get out of this one? She had a smile that could have lit up the whole plaza. Sometimes it is good not to know a language and just play stupid, which does not take a whole lot of effort for me.
It was my day to hike up the mountain on the edge of town where the vista looks promising so off I went. I strolled through the streets not frequented by tourists as I made my way north towards the 200 meter hill. As often is the case, a Cuban approached me with the usual "hola amigo" and as usual I stopped to see what he wanted. I have become accustomed to these people who can take a message. Some just want to chat a little and others are looking for a handout or to sell me something.
Sometimes I let my imagination wander to trade my Mazda for a horse and cart back home but the reality of winter puts a damper on the dream. Compared to Habana, the pollution is minimal, not to mention the plumbing.
As I make my way down the mountain from the summit I encounter several groups of children making their way up with a couple of adults in each. They are wearing uniforms with scout-like neckties and I guess it is a school outing. The adults seem to be labouring a lot more than I did on the way up but then again most of them were wearing a few more pounds that I am. As I passed by the first group, my sandals slipped and I almost fell backwards on the lose stones and sand. No big deal. But that little slip brought a sudden response like an auditorium that raises up in unison to the end of a play. A chorus of chatter from the kids and the adults was left behind me as I continued down the hill. I espied a group of older girls accompanying another group of children and when they spotted me they began to act a little crazy and wanted me to take their picture, so I did.
I finally bought a painting for 28.50CUC (25CUC and 5 CAD) from and artist in the plaza. I have been drooling over the art for the past 5 days and I found this one that fits the budget and my pack sack. It'll cost me more to frame it. Oil on Linen.
I enjoyed another peso pizza on the way back to my casa and unloaded my maracas and painting leaving the details of how to cram them into my bag for later on. There was a fiesta going on next door so I sat on the curb and people watched for about 2 hours. A man (Loius) stopped by to talk to me who was a history buff recounting the history of Thomas Jefferson and Samuel de Champlain. It turns out that he works with a wheel barrow to bring tourists to their casas. As we spoke I brought out my dictionary and he looked up the word "survival" in Spanish to get the message across. This man was not a beggar, just a man waiting for the bus to come in who had some time to kill. After about a half hour he bid me goodbye then reappeared a short while later and I understood that he did not find any customers to help with their baggage. We talked some more but before he left I gave him a 30 CUP which he did not ask for or make any insinuation for money from me. I just felt so bad for this 62 year old man who was struggling for his existence.
All the while, the music from the fiesta is blaring next door and the people are spilling from the casa into the street doing the 1-2-3 while I people watch, dog watch, horse watch the never ending scene unfold as the sun sets on Trinidad. I don't want to leave! I decide to set my alarm and pack my bags for the early morning departure before I go back out because I am not sure what condition I will be in by the end of the night and I don't want to miss the bus at 7:30.
Where I stayed